Four Florida Beach Destinations Near Alabama

You might think a fabulous vacation requires traveling to another region of the US or another country, but sometimes you just don’t have time for that. You still need to get away, maybe for the weekend. Alabama’s neighboring state of Florida offers many great quick vacation spots, and you don’t have to fight the crowds in Miami for a lovely trip.

Where to Vacation for a Long Weekend

Here are my local knowledge recommendations for the best options for a quick getaway. Each one provides little travel time to maximize the time you get to spend enjoying sightseeing, sunning, and dining out.

Pensacola, FL

You can drive from southern Alabama to the Florida beach city from Pensacola, FL. If the weekend proves too chilly for a swim, you still have plenty to do, including exploring historic neighborhoods, canoeing or kayaking, visiting the museums, Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site, and two amusement parks. Other fun options include the prowl scavenger hunt at Pensacola Beach and the city’s multitude of inshore fishing charter options. Take an organized tour of its landmarks or the ghosts and graveyard tour of the city, which includes its spookier history. You can drive to this destination

from Decatur in northern Alabama in a little more than five hours. You can fly there in just 34 minutes. Many hotels on the beach offer vacation packages or weekend getaway rates. If you have a few days, you can find accommodations on the beach for $400 to $800 for a five-night stay.

Tallahassee, FL In Tallahassee, one of Florida’s best family vacation spots, you can explore museums, historic homes and plantations, and two major parks. Explore Cascades Park and Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park. The city offers diverse museums, including one devoted to classic cars, the Tallahassee Museum, devoted to the history and culture of the area. A few don’t miss sights include Piney Z Bridge, Mission San Luis, and the Apalachee Council House. You can plan your own trip or purchase a package. The latter option typically designs its package for two adults but check the details because many hotels let children stay in the room or suite for free.

Gainesville, FL

I know from my Etsy store, Simply Sweet Creations, that my readers love college football and not just Alabama. (Roll Tide!) Many fans of the Florida Gators, Arkansas Razorbacks, and Tennessee Volunteers also shop there. It so happens that Gainesville makes a terrific vacation spot during other seasons besides football. You can vacation on the shores of Lake Newnans, staying in an Airbnb, hotel, or rental home. The lake offers water sports, hiking, camping, wildlife viewing and photography opportunities, biking, and horseback riding. While it’s a roughly eight-hour road trip from Decatur, AL to Gainesville, FL, you can fly there in less than one hour. That leaves a lot of weekend time to enjoy. If you’re one of the many Alabamans who now have a prescription for medical marijuana, you won’t have to worry if you run out or forget to pack enough. Florida also offers dispensaries, and you can find three Florida dispensary locations close to the lake using WeedMaps on the web or its Android/Apple apps.

Jacksonville, FL

Florida’s largest city in total area and population, Jacksonville, offers gorgeous beaches and 80,000 acres of urban parks. Driving there takes an eight and a half hour road trip, nine in bad traffic, but you can fly there from Decatur with a flight time of 51 minutes. During the fall, you can catch an NFL game since the Jacksonville Jaguars call the city home. Even if you go on a road trip to this fair city, park your car at your hotel or Airbnb and take the city’s water taxis instead. You can travel the city’s 1,100 miles of navigable waters via the St. Johns River Taxi, which offers multiple downtown stops on its 30-minute loop. If you bring your family with you, visit Huguenot Memorial Park, where you can drive on the sand. It offers parking on the beach, which makes it easy to unpack your sand and surf gear. Don’t miss Big Talbot Island State Park, with its maritime forest a mile-long driftwood collection called “Boneyard Beach.” You can fish from the pier at the Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier. You have plenty of hotel options in Jacksonville, and they cost little for vacation. According to Tripadvisor, you can find hotels for less than $75 per night among the city’s top ten hotels as ranked by consumers who stayed there. These hotels offered lovely rooms, great amenities, and terrific customer service.

Start Planning

While all of the other cities in Florida remain a bit out of driving range, you can find a weekend getaway in any of these four cities. If you choose Gainesville, the only spot that’s not in the Panhandle, you can choose to stay in the city or nearby Lake Newnans for a countryside feel.

You’re not stuck with one standard vacation when you choose a Florida getaway. You can plan something nice for just the weekend or nab a week-long vacation for just a few hundred dollars.

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