Central Florida day trips and one tank trips recommended by Florida Backroads Travel are generally off the beaten path to avoid the heavy traffic of the major theme parks.
I-4 is the east-west interstate in this region. It crosses the state of Florida from Daytona Beach through Orlando to Tampa. The Florida Turnpike is a major north-south toll road in this region. It starts in Wildwood south of Ocala and terminates in Miami.
A branch of the Turnpike splits off north of Miami and heads south and east to Homestead on the way to the Florida Keys.
The interstate exits are crowded with gas stations, fast food restaurants and motels. You can travel the state quickly and easily on these highways (except during rush hours), but not see much scenery or real towns as you will on my recommended Central Florida day trips.
The town signs you do see are usually a few miles from the downtown section. The fun begins when you get off the interstate and hookup with the less traveled roads.
There are many state and county highways off the interstate that offer better scenery and a look at real towns. In Florida, some backroads are even four-laned.
Some of the towns you will visit on your Central Florida day trips include:
The maps below show are a few Central Florida day trips that I recommend.
Park Avenue from US-17/US-92 in Maitland south through Winter Park to the beautiful campus of Rollins College on the shore of Lake Virginia. Then meander along the residential streets on the lake shores south into Orlando. Beautiful old homes, sparkling blue lakes and green tree canopies. Great shopping and dining on brick paved Park Avenue in downtown Winter Park. One of my favorite central Florida day trips.About 12 miles.
State Road 535 from Lake Buena Vista north to Chase Road, then east to Windermere. Old Florida houses, well maintained orange groves, crystal clear lakes and the pretty little tree shaded town of Windermere to enjoy lunch and strolling. Surrounded by gated communities that are home to the rich and famous. About 12 miles.
US-17 from Orlando to Winter Haven and Cypress Gardens through Kissimmee and Haines City. Orange groves, small towns, big oak trees. I made a segment of this trip in April 2010. Visit Legoland while you are in Winter Haven. About 47 miles.
US-441 from Orlando to Mount Dora through Apopka. Rolling country, great art galleries and shows in Mount Dora, and a large antique center at Renningers. About 27 miles.
US-27 from Clermont to Lake Wales through Haines City. Some congestion in the area where you cross I-4, but beautiful groves and rolling hills as you get south of the interstate. About 50 miles.
US-27 from Lake Wales to Lake Placid through Avon Park and Sebring. Interesting small towns, a large observation tower in Lake Placid (closed as of September 2010), and dozens of colorful murals on the commercial buildings in downtown Lake Placid. About 50 miles.
SR-19 from Groveland to Mount Dora through Howey In The Hills, Tavares and Oakland Park. Take Old 441 from Tavares oninto Mount Dora. Rolling hills, old groves, little towns, art, antiques. Stop at Boondockers on Little Lake Harris in Howey In The Hills for a beer and good food. One of the nicest central Florida day trips. About 26 miles.
US-17 from Winter Haven to Wauchula through Bartow, Fort Meade and Bowling Green. Old Florida again, small towns, healthy little downtowns, many of them in the Florida Main Street program. About 36 miles.
Old Scenic Highway 17 from Lake Wales south to Frostproof through Highland Park and Babson Park . Rolling groveland, heart of citrus country. The smell of orange blossoms in the spring will make you want to live in Florida forever. At least that's what happened to me more than a half century ago. About 14 miles.
SR-559 from I-4 just south of Polk City to Auburndale. Rolling groveland and pretty little towns. Drive around the big lake in the heart of Auburndale and enjoy the old houses and the crystal clear waters. About 10 miles.
This trip starts from Mount Dora going west on Old US441 until it meets State Road 19. Take 19 through Eustis and Umatilla to Altoona, where you will turn west on State Road 42. Beautiful wooded rolling terrain along the south side of the Ocala National Forest. Take 42 all the way to US-27/441, then go south to The Villages. Stop in the main square for lunch, a drink, a concert, or all of those. Leave The Villages and continue south on US-441 all the way back to Mount Dora. About 60 miles.
You can use the interactive Google Map below to drill down in greater detail to learn more about the areas of these Florida day trips.