By Emily J. Minor
City & Shore PRIME Magazine
Sometimes you just need to get away. Quickly.
Maybe it’s work. Maybe it’s the kids. Maybe it’s work, kids and – who knows? – the neighbors.
Whatever the reasons, we understand. Indeed, after researching these perfect Florida getaways, we’re practically packing our own bags.
But first, deadline. (Maybe that’s one of the things you need to escape.)
“It’s nice to be able to jump in the car and just go somewhere,” says Whitney Roper, a marketing manager with Reid Travel in Boca Raton.
From Central Florida’s natural springs to the indulgence of a private island in the Keys, here are five destinations you deserve.
Chances are, this is the clearest water you have ever seen. And the chilliest, so it’s nice to go in the summer. Located about a half hour northwest of Gainesville on the south side of the headwaters of the Santa Fe River, this privately owned park – yes, you pay to go here – is full of breathtaking beauty. You can swim, kayak and tube the Ichetucknee River. Ginnie Springs is also known for great scuba diving, including cave diving.
There’s primitive camping, or you can rent a cabin, which (frankly) we think sounds better. But the main thing is this: When you get out of that car and walk up to the main spring, you will be amazed. Ginnie Springs can get crowded. And it’s near a college town, so sometimes there’s partying. But in the summer, maybe even on a weekday, this road trip can be just what you need.
Contact, ginniespringsoutdoors.com, 386-454-7188.
Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa
Hmm. Jupiter, Fla. Never been? Well, this is a great place, and it might get you thinking about moving just a little farther north.
We love Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa because it has everything for a quick pampering. You can get a pedicure, a manicure, a massage, a new haircut. You can do a little shopping. You can have a Bloody Mary (or two) at the outside bar, or an evening meal inside. (The views are still fantastic.) The concierge will help you arrange golf at a nearby course. There’s tennis on site, and also a workout room. But the best thing about this place is the beach. It is unspoiled, and great for a morning walk and then a day on a chaise with a good book. Be sure to use the cabana team. They’ll set up your chairs in the morning and fold ’em up at night. Ahhhhh.
Contact, jupiterbeachresort.com, 561-746-2511
(ask about Florida-resident specials).
Yep, we’re talking the whole town here. Ten years ago, this city wasn’t on anyone’s travel radar. But today there’s a kitschiness that the locals love to share. One of the biggest draws are the barrier islands, some of Florida’s best: Lido Key. Siesta Key. Longboat Key. And Manasota Key, our favorite with its two-lane road and oak canopy. But the real jewel is arguably the sprawling Ringling complex on Sarasota Bay. Don’t think circus. Just don’t. This incredible property that once belonged to John and Mable Ringling includes the couple’s original mansion, an art museum, a circus museum, gardens and the historic Asolo Repertory Theatre. (John was one of the five Ringling brothers who started the circus.) Seasoned Sarasotans say the estate takes three days to enjoy, so plan properly. And may we suggest staying at a funky mom-and-pop place on one of the Keys? Or the Ritz-Carlton, dahling.
Contact, ringling.org, 941-359-5700.
St. Augustine, Old City
This is not a trip for lazing about. In St. Augustine, you’ll need sensible shoes, a method to stay hydrated and your reading glasses – to read the maps. Seth Wirshba, president of Grand Edventures in Deerfield Beach, makes a living booking trips for people who want to get out of Florida. But almost every year he does one in-state trip: St. Augustine – usually paired with Jacksonville over New Year’s. “People go crazy for the history,” he says. And there’s something to go crazy about. St. Augustine is the oldest city in Florida, dating back to the mid 1500s; and the walk along St. George Street is great fun. (Indulge in a bottle of water from the Fountain of Youth.) Consider a Ghost Tour, visiting the original school house or hefting a real musket in the Colonial Quarter. Dining and accommodations range from five-star to very affordable – which would mean more money for Happy Hour.
Contact, oldcity.com, stjohnscountychamber.com,
Cheeca Lodge & Spa, the Keys
This is a treat. There are no super-bargain getaway packages at this resort, 27 acres of lushness off the coast of Islamorada. And at Cheeca, a five-night stay can run upward of $4,000. But this place sweeps you away. The rooms feel like Bahamian getaways. The vegetation is amazing. Service is extraordinary. There’s a 3-par golf course, a fitness center, a private fishing pier and two heated pools. The beach is man-made, which – actually – is nice, considering many of the natural beaches in the Keys can be a little, well, underwhelming. And the 214 rooms range from private with a king bed to suites with a pullout couch. Families are welcome here, but hold on a doggone minute. Bringing the kids along is crazy talk. This is your weekend to escape. The resort fee is steep: $45, plus 12.5 percent tax. But that daily charge allows you to kayak, golf, even bike off into the sunset. Or ride off into the sunrise. Again, crazy talk.
Contact, cheeca.com, 844-993-9713.