USA fly-drives: Florida and Georgia
Southern Florida is the apple of many holidaymakers’ eyes, but the north of this warm-weather-blessed state also makes appealing terrain for time away – especially the Atlantic coast, which stretches out as a long line of powdery sand and welcoming hotels. Take a family road trip along this ocean flank, and you will never be short of places to halt for ice cream and fresh air. You will also be able to discover an American ‘secret’ – that Florida is easily paired with neighbouring Georgia, which has attractions of its own. Further information: atlanta.com; exploregeorgia.org; visitflorida.com.
Orlando is the perfect starting grid for an American roadtrip – full of child-friendly hotspots, which will really begin the holiday with a bang. Walt Disney World Resort (see page 20) is perhaps the brightest light, but it has a rival in Universal Orlando Resort (universalorlando.com), which is also a must-see. Here, two distinct theme parks offer hours of fun. Islands of Adventure boasts the global phenomenon that is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter while Universal Studios Florida has rides themed around family film favourites, such as Despicable Me and Shrek. One-day passes for both parks start at £94 for adults and £91 for kids, aged three to nine.
Of course, there is more to Orlando than its amusement resorts. The 11-mile International Drive, which dissects the city, is festooned with attractions – such as Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf (hawaiianrumbleorlando.com; 18-hole rounds from £6.50), where players have to putt around fire-breathing volcanoes, tropical forests and noisy waterfalls.
STAY The Point Orlando Resort (thepointorlando.com) is perfectly located, almost on Universal’s doorstep it has an outdoor swimming pool and family rooms costing from £63.
Take the 50 east out of Orlando, all the way to the Atlantic coast at Titusville, then cross the NASA Causeway to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Here is a fascinating piece of the American soul (kennedyspacecenter.com; adults from £32; children, three to 11, from £26) – the historic site where numerous rockets have been blasted into orbit. Visitors can experience the exhilaration of a simulated Space Shuttle launch, then view the real thing – decommissioned Shuttle Atlantis. The Rocket Garden, meanwhile, is a relic of America’s last century – a retirement home for spacecraft that made it back to Earth.
STAY Continue north from Titusville on Interstate 95 and stop for the night in the popular ocean-side town of Daytona Beach. Here you’ll find the Hampton Inn Daytona Beach (hamptoninn3.hilton.com), which offers an outdoor pool, and family rooms for £78.
Distance in the day: 113 miles.
Continue north on the slow, scenic route – the A1A, which hugs the shoreline. It should take around two hours to reach St Augustine – which has the honour of being the oldest city in the USA, founded by Spanish settlers in 1565. It celebrates its place in the American story and brings its history to vivid life for youngsters – at Colonial Quarter (colonialquarter.com; adults £8.50 children, five-12, £4.50). This inventive open-air museum takes visitors back to the 16th century with costumed actors, lookout towers, gunpowder demonstrations and the opportunity to unearth hidden artefacts via an archaeological dig.
STAY The Cozy Inn (thecozyinn.com) really lives up to its name in the heart of St Augustine. Its Townhouse Suites come with full kitchens and cost from £88 a night.
Distance in the day: 54 miles.
Pick up the pace by regaining the speedy corridor of the I-95 and flitting north – through Jacksonville and over the state line into Georgia. Here, head for the celebrated Golden Isles, four idyllic outcrops which burnish the shore of Florida’s neighbour in a mesh of forests, marshes and beaches. Sea Island is a fine place to park the car for a rest.
STAY The five-star Cloister at Sea Island (seaisland.com)has a kids’ club that will keep three to 14 year olds busy with outdoor antics, and family- sized rooms for £259.
Distance in the day: 116 miles.
The trusty I-95 will fling you north into SAVANNAH in 90 minutes. The oldest city in Georgia was founded in 1733, and trades on the idea that many of its old mansions are haunted. Try the Haunted Savannah Tour (hauntedsavannahtours.com; adults £13; children, six to 12, £6.50; under-sixes are free) – which, in spite of its spooky meanderings into cemeteries and gloomy back streets, is deemed to be suitable for the youngest of tourists.
STAY The Olde Harbour Inn (oldeharbourinn.com) continues the ghostly theme and is reputedly haunted by a benign figure called Hank, who can be detected by the smell of cigar smoke. Two-bedroom suites, which are ideal for families, start from £170.
Distance in the day: 86 miles.
The drive to ATLANTA, north-west along Interstate 16 and Interstate 75, should take four hours. The Georgia capital can entertain youngsters with its Children’s Museum (childrensmuseumatlanta.org; general entry £8), and exhibits such as Exploration Station – where junior guests play games that test all five of their senses. The Georgia Aquarium (georgiaaquarium.org; adults £20; children, three to 12, £17), meanwhile, is home to more than 100,000 creatures, and some 500 species – from hermit crabs to whale sharks.
Your Hertz Hire Car
10-day car hire with Hertz starts from £292. Pick up at Orlando International Airport and drop off at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. hertz.co.uk