The Best Road Trip from Buffalo to Florida

Bellina Gaskey
Apr 27, 2022 · 13 min read
We’ve mapped the ultimate Buffalo to Florida road trip that includes pit stops in Pittsburgh, Charlotte, and Savannah on your way to the sunny beaches of the Sunshine State!
Passing through eight states over 1,000 miles of driving means you might encounter some unexpected bumps in the road (beyond the big "bumps" that are mountains, of course). So before you head out, make sure you have the right car insurance.
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Buckle up and get ready to pass through the rolling Appalachians, stroll along untouched coastal isles, and stop and play in downtowns bubbling with activity.
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Key trip details

Buffalo, NY to St. Augustine, FL trip map.
Distance: 1,097 miles
Driving time: 17 hours and 33 minutes
Suggested length of trip: 3 to 4 days

Itinerary

  • Buffalo, NY
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Savannah, GA
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • St. Augustine, FL

Start in Buffalo, New York

The second-largest city in New York state and still growing, Buffalo has been named America’s Best Designed City. Notable architecture spots include the modern Frank Lloyd Wright estate, the neoclassical Albright-Knox art gallery, and the Guaranty Building, an early skyscraper from 1896.

What to see in Buffalo

A view of Niagara Falls and tourist looking at the sight.
  • Niagara Falls: Drive north for about 30 minutes to catch the best view of Niagara Falls. You’ll go through Grand Island and then ride the Niagara Scenic Parkway. Cross 1st street to park on Goat Island, where you can see the falls close-up from the Cave of the Winds or Terrapin Point.
  • Stroll through Delaware Park: If you’re interested in staying within the city of Buffalo, Delaware Park offers serene views of Hoyt Lake and two miles of winding trails.
  • Catch a sporting event: The Buffalo Bills, Sabres, Bisons, and Bandits all call Buffalo home. You’ve got plenty of sporting options here.

Where to eat in Buffalo

  • Wonder Coffeehouse ($): If you’re departing in the morning (or any time, really), Buffalo is jam-packed with quality coffee shops. Wonder Coffeehouse boasts a wondrous collection of liege waffle combinations, from sweet s’mores to savory Monte Cristos.
  • Anchor Bar ($$): If you’d rather turn up the heat, sample hot wings straight from the city that lends its name to buffalo sauce. In fact, you can still visit Anchor Bar, where the first buffalo wing was served!
  • Allegheny National Forest: The drive south from New York to Florida is filled with hundreds of acres of protected lands. Drive for 90 minutes to hit your first major one, Allegheny National Forest, which straddles New York and Pennsylvania. You won’t want to miss the Kinzua Sky Walk to observe the lush forest from 225 feet in the air. Views are especially amazing in autumn!

Leg 1: Buffalo to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

216 miles, 3 hours 20 minutes
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also known as The Steel City, is an industrial powerhouse. And the good news is that Pittsburghers play just as hard as they work, so you’re sure to have a fun stay here!
Take I-90 W followed by I-79 S to start the trip.

What to see in Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh, PA skyline on a stormy pink night.
  • Gateway Clipper Tour: For a comprehensive tour of the Steel City, consider taking a river tour on the Gateway Clipper.
  • Pittsburgh Glass Center: Learn something new by participating in a group session at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, where world-renowned glass artists come to create and teach.
  • Take in the nightlife: Save your energy, though, to enjoy Pittsburgh’s nightlife. The city’s industrial vibes pervade venues like Jimmy D’s and Howl at the Moon, while the Buckhead Saloon offers a Wild West-inspired atmosphere.

Where to eat in Pittsburgh

  • Cop Out Pierogies ($): Pittsburgh’s food culture is influenced by the large population of Eastern European immigrants who arrived at the turn of the 20th century. If you haven’t yet tried pierogi, this is your sign. Try these scrumptious potato dumplings stuffed with sauerkraut, cheese, or even blueberries.
  • For a classic Philly cheesesteak sandwich: Want to opt for some classic American fare? Order from Tessaro’s American Bar or Peppi’s for a loaded steak sandwich or cheesy Pittsburgh salad.

Where to stay in Pittsburgh

  • The Inn on Mexican War Streets: For a truly unique experience, consider visiting the Inn on the Mexican War Streets, which preserves much of the same decor from when it first opened in Victorian times. Cost per night: from $159

Leg 2: Pittsburgh to Charlotte, North Carolina

448 miles, 7 hours 10 minutes
Next up is Charlotte, North Carolina, otherwise known as the Queen City.
Get to Charlotte via I-79 S and I-77 S.

What to do in Charlotte

An advertisement for Coca-Cola on the Charlotte Motor Speedway racetrack in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • Carowinds: Up for more heights, even after driving through the mountains? Strap into roller coasters and water rides at Carowinds amusement park.
  • Charlotte Motor Speedway: To keep up your adrenaline rush, watch a NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, then view some cars up close and try a racing simulator at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
  • Reed Gold Mine: Ready to dig deep? The Reed Gold Mine is the site of the first gold found in the United States. Until the California gold rush, North Carolina was the country’s most active mining state. Walk through the tunnels casually or try to strike it rich in a gold panning competition.
  • Mint Museum: In speaking of money, Charlotte is America’s largest banking hub after NYC. But the Mint Museum has nothing to do with coins––it’s an impressive collection of modern art that prominently features local artists.

Where to eat in Charlotte

  • Sweet Lew’s BBQ ($$): Welcome to southern flavor! Bask in the savory aroma of Sweet Lew’s BBQ, which exclusively uses a real smoker to prepare its meats.
  • Mert’s Heart and Soul ($$): Feel the warmth of comfort food lovingly prepared at Mert’s Heart and Soul, a place run by a husband and wife and filled with family pictures.

Where to stay in Charlotte

Like your previous stop in Pittsburgh, Charlotte offers a range of lodging options.
  • Dunhill Hotel: Dunhill Hotel, formerly called Mayhill Manor, was originally half hotel, half apartment complex. Management has worked hard to add modern amenities while preserving its historic charm. Cost per night: from $139
  • Grand Bohemian Charlotte: For a royal stay in the center of Queen City, look no further than the Grand Bohemian Charlotte. Luxurious marble lines the lobby, while the ballrooms are practically exploding with personality. Cost per night: from $259

For more—stop at Pisgah National Forest

  • Pisgah National Forest: Two and a half hours from Charlotte might sound like a long detour, but the Pisgah National Forest is worth the extra time. If you’re looking for more waterfalls, you might need to allow an extra day (or two) because there are tons here! Here are just a few of the better-known ones:
  • Looking Glass Falls
  • Moore Cove Falls
  • Cedar Rock Creek Falls
  • Discovery Falls
  • Second Falls
Itching to camp? Spend a night here under the stars!
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Leg 3: Charlotte to Savannah, Georgia

253 miles, 4 hours
Next up is Savannah, Georgia. If you didn’t find any ghosts back in West Virginia, you can try again here—Savannah is considered America’s most haunted city.
Moreover, Savannah is a rare gem in its state. It’s the only major city in Georgia that General Sherman didn’t burn down in the Civil War.
For your next stop, take I-77S and I-95 S next.

What to do in Savannah

Water sprays from a water fountain decorated with sculptures in Forsyth Park, Savannah.
  • Forsyth Park: To see what might have prompted the Union general to spare Savannah, simply take a walk through Forsyth Park and marvel at the city’s natural beauty. Take a selfie in front of Forsyth’s iconic fountain, elegantly framed by gently sloping oaks, or people-watch, keeping an eye out for the regular dog-walkers.
  • Historic Savannah Theater: Drama lovers can’t miss the Historic Savannah Theater, which has delivered live shows to the public since 1818.
  • Savannah African Art Museum: Interested in world cultures? The Savannah African Art Museum holds over 1,000 items from West and Central Africa, casting a spotlight on 180 different groups.

Where to eat in Savannah

  • Narobia’s Grits and Gravy ($): For breakfast or lunch, stop at Narobia’s Grits and Gravy and enjoy the buttery goodness of fresh-baked biscuits and creamy shrimp dishes.
  • Bayou Cafe Food Truck ($): If you’re looking for seafood that kicks, head over to the Hudson Hill neighborhood to eat from the Bayou Cafe Food Truck, whose hot sauce is shipped globally.
  • Options with entertainment: For dinner with live entertainment, try Jazz’d Tapas Bar, which serves up Latin American small plates and a big sound (must be 18+ to enter). Alternatively, sit beneath some giant Easter Island head replicas in the tropical-themed Water Witch Tiki Bar.
  • Try peach cobbler: For kids and adults alike, the sweetest taste in Savannah comes in the form of a peach cobbler. Try Mirabelle Savannah’s cobbler and stay right downtown, or travel to the Oakdale neighborhood to sample Sweet Potatoes Kitchen’s rendition of this classic dessert.

Where to stay in Savannah

  • River Street Inn: Walk along the cobblestone waterfront to find the River Street Inn, where the walls are filled with artwork. The hotel is designated a National Historic Place and offers fine dining options. Cost per night: from $172
  • Lucky Savannah Vacation rentals: Check out Lucky Savannah Vacation Rentals to live more like a local. From studio apartments in the design district to multi-bedroom beach homes, Lucky Savannah’s collection of properties is sure to include something that fits your group’s needs.

For more—stop at the Georgia coastline

The drive from Savannah into Florida is filled with undeveloped coastlands. This means that you can’t always drive right along the water, but there are a few beachside spots you can’t miss.
  • Tybee Island: Only 20 minutes from Savannah lies Tybee Island, otherwise known as "Savannah’s Beach." Rent a kayak to explore the coastline at your own pace or sign up for a dolphin tour to say hello to some squeaky marine friends!
  • Jekyll Island: Next up is Jekyll Island, which is wrapped in eight miles of beach. Although most of it is perfect for barefoot walks, you’ll need to watch out for the sharp objects that give Sharktooth Beach its name. Darker teeth have already been fossilized, while white teeth were recently lost.
  • Boneyard Beach: Finally, cross the Florida border and round out your treasure hunt by visiting Boneyard Beach on Big Talbot Island. It may help to know that the beach harbors massive white-bleached trees rather than human remains!

Leg 4: Savannah to Jacksonville, Florida

140 miles, 2 hours 5 minutes
Welcome to Jacksonville, the most populous city in the state of Florida and the city with the largest land area in the continental U.S. It has over 500 neighborhoods!
A commercial center, Jacksonville was one of the earlier U.S. cities to urbanize, with some of its earliest skyscrapers built in 1902.
Take I-95 S to get to Jacksonville.

What to do in Jacksonville

The low sunlight gives the Jacksonville Wells Fargo building a mirrorlike reflection in this view from across the St. Johns River.
  • The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary: For those of you who were captivated (or rather, disturbed) by the Tiger King series, visit The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary to see big cats rescued from exotic animal keepers, along with coatimundis, foxes, and horses. Rated the #1 attraction in Jacksonville, Catty Shack actively promotes public education and efforts to conserve the endangered Florida panther.
  • St. John’s Town Center: Shoppers, get your bags ready! St. John’s Town Center allows you to peruse almost 200 shops over 1.2 million square feet of space. If shopping doesn’t thrill you, iFly skydiving center is right down the street.
  • Riverside Arts Market: If you’re more into the arts and crafts scene, make sure you land in Jacksonville in time for the Saturday morning Riverside Arts Market. The vendors here include bakeries, too.

Where to eat in Jacksonville

  • The Bearded Pig ($$): This acclaimed barbeque spot, offers a cozy feel with its enclosed patio seating.
  • European Street Cafe ($$): If you’d like a juicy salad or a spread of appetizers, check out European Street Cafe. Their German food is so popular that they’ve expanded to four locations throughout Jacksonville. The Riverside location is a short stroll from a family park along the water.

Where to stay in Jacksonville

  • Omni Hotel Jacksonville: You can drive straight to St. Augustine after stopping in Jacksonville— but if you want to stay the night, immerse yourself in Jacksonville’s downtown scene at the Omni Hotel Jacksonville, a modern hotel with river or skyline views. The hotel is a six-minute walk from Jacksonville Landing Shopping Center. Cost per night: from $64
  • One Ocean Resort & Spa: If you’d rather spend an extra night by the beach, book a stay at One Ocean Resort & Spa to begin soaking up the Florida sun. Cost per night: from $213

Leg 5: Jacksonville to St. Augustine, Florida

41 miles, about 48 minutes
Welcome to St. Augustine! Established in 1565, your final destination is the oldest European-established city in America. There’s plenty of Spanish colonial influence in the colorful buildings today.
Hop back onto I-95 S to finish up your trip.

What to do in St. Augustine

A sandy path leads to a stormy beach scene on Anastasia Island, St. Augustine.
  • Relax at the beaches: St. Augustine beach is expansive. Walk along Ocean Hammock Park walkway to view swamps, shady forests, and sand dunes. Go farther south to spend some quiet time on calm Crescent Beach.
  • Anastasia Island: Stay to the north of the town and take the Bridge of Lions onto Anastasia Island. Here, there’s an Alligator Farm Park and a centuries-old historical site, the Spanish Coquina Quarries, from which material was drawn to build nearby Castillo de San Marcos.
  • Spanish Military Hospital Museum: A truly unique venue in St. Augustine is the Spanish Military Hospital Museum. Visit to see re-enactments of colonial-era surgeries and learn which herbs stocked apothecaries in the 1500s.

Where to eat in St. Augustine

  • Beachcomber ($$): Ready for fresh-catch fish stuffed and served in a pineapple? Try Beachcomber St. Augustine. This casual, family-friendly restaurant is open for all three meals and offers outdoor picnic-style seating.
  • Alta Marea ($$): For more international dishes downtown, try Alta Marea for pasta and Mediterranean fare.
  • African Love Food Truck ($): African Love Kitchen specializes in Tanzanian cuisine, including curries and chapati flatbreads.
  • Grab dessert: Later, cool off with a cone from Rita’s Italian Ice and a walk on the pier. Or add some sweet spice to the night by customizing your own churros at 904 Churros.

Where to stay in St. Augustine

  • Guy Harvey Resort: Guy Harvey Resort sits right on St. Augustine Beach. From the hotel, you can book a variety of activities, including beach yoga and sport fishing. Cost per night: from $125
  • Beacher’s Lodge: Fans of the quietude of Crescent Beach can opt for Beacher’s Lodge, with condo-style lodgings going for an affordable price. Cost per night: from $150

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