Hiring a car in Florida

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Hiring a car in Florida

Florida is one of the most popular destinations in the world for British holidaymakers. It is home to some of the worlds largest and most visited theme parks, white sand beaches and fantastic natural scenery. Many people are attracted to Florida by it's warm weather climate and is equally as popular with families and couples alike. The most popular way to visit Florida is Fly Drive. This combines a direct (normally charter) flight and hiring a car. This allows you to take advantage of Florida's great variety of accommodation options and also to drive to many of the larger attractions, which are based outside of the main cities.

Most charter holiday flights land at Sanford Airport, which is just north of Orlando. It is a short drive from here to the main hotel areas that are called Kissimmee and International Drive. International drive is closer to theme parks such as SeaWorld (home of Shamu, the killer whale) and Wet n Wild. Kissimmee is closer to The Disneyland resorts and Universal Studios.

About an hour drive from Orlando is Tampa and the Beach resorts of St Petersburg and Clearwater. It also home to the Amusement Park, Busch. Around an hour north of Orlando is the John F Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral.

The other popular airport for international flights is Miami. It's main Art Deco area is on south beach an in particular a section known as Ocean Drive. Many famous American celebrities choose to live in a section of Miami known as Star Island.

One reason that a large number of visitors fly into to Miami as part of their fly drive holiday is it's easy access to; the beaches of Fort Lauderdale and Naples, The Coral reef and the Florida Keys and the Everglades national park.

60-second guide to Florida

in its own head

"Florida is the FUN capital of the world!"

but more realistically

It does seem that there's no end to the variety of activities and entertainments on offer in Florida, but they can just as easily be ignored in favour of a chilled out day at the beach or a peaceful drive along the stunning coastline. With a hire car, you can have fun, your way.

the vibe

Pretty much every taste is catered for in the Sunshine State. The general vibe is one which demands you just get involved in whatever floats your boat.

the natives

Floridians appreciate tourists who appreciate Florida. Simple.

the weather

In the north, expect cold winters and hot summers. In the south expect mild winters and long sunny days. From May to September temperatures hover around 30°C. However, this heat can bring tropical rains and spectacular thunderstorms. Keep the radio on your car rental tuned in to local stations for weather updates.

the local speciality

Florida's mixed culture is best reflected in its food. A history of migration from the Caribbean and Latin America has resulted in fresh, spiced, delicious cuisine known as Floribbean. Expect seafood or poultry, barbequed or slow cooked in platters served with fresh fruits.

the celebrity

Florida is home to more celebrities than you can shake an animated stick at. Besides the cast of Disney, actors, Johnny Depp, Sidney Poitier, Megan Fox and Wesley Snipes are just a few among many who had their star-studded beginnings here.

did you know?

Crystal River is the only place in North America where it's legal to swim with gentle sea hippo, the manatee.

they say

"Walt Disney was right: Florida is a place that captures the imagination"

5 to see in town...

1. Orlando

It's impossible to talk about Florida without mentioning the fun factory that is Orlando. Theme parks, rides and entertainment are available here 24 hours a day. Just remember that if you take your children, you should stop every now and then to let them have a rest from all the excitement.

where to park?

You can park your rental car at any of the theme parks. Costs vary.

2. Arcadia

For a more sedate experience, head to Arcadia. This small town is famous in Florida for its concentration of antique traders and rodeo riders - two events that are best not mixed together.

where to park?

Street parking is available throughout the town.

3. Lake Okeechobee

This tranquil freshwater lake is an ideal location for holidaymakers interested in fishing, boating and duck hunting. The lake, or 'The Big O' as it's known locally forms part of the 110 mile Okeechobee Scenic Trail, popular with hikers, bikers and horse riders.

where to park?

There are nine designated parking areas around the lake edge where you can leave the hire car and go for a refreshing stroll.

4. Sanibel Beach

If you're one of those holidaymakers who just can't go home without a new shell then Sanibel is a must. Literally made from these sea treasures, the island is one of the best destinations in the world for shell fanciers. Collectors get together every year to flaunt their best finds. Wear shoes, take a bucket and remember to stand up straight every so often so you don't develop the characteristic 'Sanibel Stoop'.

where to park?

Street parking is available on the island for around $2 per hour.

5. Sebastian Inlet

Dude, like totally grab your board and hang ten at Sebastian. Surfing is a popular pastime among Floridians and this east coast hotspot ranks among one of the best in the state. Suitable for beginners and more experienced boarders alike. Cool.

where to park?

Street parking is available within swaggering distance of all surf spots.

and 4 to drive to...

1. North - Pensacola to Jacksonville

Start this 358 mile drive in the west and cross the entire northern state of Florida. For the all-American urban experiencestop in Tallahassee for a few days and visit the theatres, museums and shops before driving on to the Osceola National Forest. Here, you can take a break from city life to go swimming, hunting, or camping. Watch out for bears. Finally, end your drive at Atlantic Beach on the east coast and get your toes in the sand. This drive gives you three holidays in one.

how to get there?

Follow Highway 10 all the way, it couldn't be easier.

2. East - Daytona Beach to Miami

Cruise along the east coast with your windows open and your favourite songs on the radio - this drive requires a soundtrack. From Daytona Beach in the north, this coastal road takes you south alongside the Atlantic Ocean for 258 miles all the way to Miami. On the way you could stop at a hundred different beauty spots and attractions; Daytona Raceway, Kennedy Space Centre, Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge and Palm Beach all sit along the route. Your difficulty will be choosing which places to see.

how to get there?

Highway 95 will get you from north to south, but buy a roadmap before you set off to make the best of this epic roadtrip.

3. South - Miami to Key West

Voted by National Geographic as one the most scenic drives in the world, this particular route is one to behold. This trip is 162 miles of gorgeousness, most of which you will spend with turquoise waters on both sides of the hire car. The Overseas Highway connects the islands that make up the Florida Keys, over the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the Couple Bight Aquatic Preserve and several wildlife refuges. Drive slowly. Take your camera and a tissue - this one could be emotional.

how to get there?

Follow route 5 south out of Miami and keep going until you run out of road. Stop the hire car. Park up. Get out and go for a swim.

4. West - Everglades National Park to Panama City

This is one for the real roadtrip fan. At 729 miles long, this route takes you through the swampy heart of the west through an America that existed long before Disney. Keep an eye out for endangered species in the Everglades, including panthers, crocodiles and wild birds. Head north along the Gulf of Mexico through towns and suburbs until you reach Tampa Bay, where you can stretch your legs and load up the rental car with supplies for the next 395 miles. If you're looking for a wilderness adventure then this is it, there's nothing ahead of you but forests and National Parks. Pack insect repellent.

how to get there?

Route 90 will take you through the Everglades. Call in to Naples town at the Park's border to pick up detailed map of the parks and forests.