The Best Road Trips is a weekly summer series highlighting our favorite getaways from major cities all over the United States.

With a thriving arts scene, diverse shopping districts, the NFL’s Buccaneers, and a rich local history, the Floridian city of Tampa has a lot to offer itself. The beaches along Tampa Bay are lovely spots to take a dip and — after exploring such attractions as Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, and the historic Ybor City (once the bustling center of America’s cigar industry, and now a great shopping area and artistic haven) — a welcome respite at the end of the day. With average temperatures staying at a nice 75° to 80° Fahrenheit nearly year round, it must be hard to convince Tampanians to part from the Big Guava. But Buccaneers are known to set sail, and while the whip can’t take you off to sea, it can certainly get you to some great land locales. So pack your bags, crank the A.C., and hop in the car — we’ve got some miles to cover.

Road Trip #1: Tampa to Jacksonville, FL

  • Total Driving Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes
  • Distance Covered: 226 miles
  • Take This Trip If: You’re looking to hit the links (and maybe the shops).
Street at the One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa

Palm tree lined streets will guide you from the shops to the links in no time.

Beach at the One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa

The One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa offers a luxury stay on an expansive stretch of white, sandy beach.

Pool at the Holiday Inn Express Jacksonville Beach

The heated pool and Jacuzzi at the Holiday Inn Express Jacksonville Beach is a relaxing find in a value hotel, perfect for families on a budget.

With a lively arts scene, a great downtown district, and some of the country’s best golf courses, Jacksonville is a hidden gem located in Northern Florida. But since the weather is a bit crisper upstate (winters are too cold to play on the sand), the conditions make for ideal golf weather. And with a less-crowded beach scene, this once underrated seaside city has become a vibrant spot, with an NFL team to boot. Those seeking a luxury experience should head straight to the One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa. Situated directly on a clean, white-sand beach, this resort has a fantastic on-site spa (great for girls’ weekends or couples’ vacations), contemporary decor, and bathrooms with double shower heads. Or, save a bundle and book a space at the Holiday Inn Express Jacksonville Beach, a value hotel that offers awesome freebies like Wi-Fi, breakfast, and self-parking. Rooms are clean, the pool is relaxed, and the prices are great. And although you’re just a few minutes drive from the beach, that won’t matter — you’ve got the whip with you.

  • Top Driving Tip: While taking I-75N is faster, we recommend sticking it out an extra 15 minutes or so in the car. Take I-4E to I-95; you’ll pass right through Orlando — and maybe stop for a few roller coaster rides.

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