Historic Civil War forts, manatees in the wild, cute beach towns, and the oldest city in the USA are some of the many highlights of an Orlando to Savannah drive.
Orlando, Florida, of course, is the home of Disney World, while Savannah, Georgia is an old-fashioned southern city known for its historic mansions and coastal landscapes.
As an experienced road tripper in all 50 states, I was excited to finally do the road trip from Orlando to Savannah this year. The drive only takes 4-5 hours, leaving lots of time for detours and excursions.
During the trip, I had my first manatee sighting ever in a public park, visited the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, saw a famous race track, visited interesting museums, and got in some much-needed beach time.
How long is the drive from Orlando to Savannah? What can you see along the way? And how long does it take if you stop at all the major attractions? Read on for all the details about this drive.
I’ll also include some bonus stops if you want to continue up the coast beyond to Savannah all the way to Charleston, South Carolina.
Road Trip Basics: Map, Distance, Driving Time
How far is Savannah from Orlando?
The distance between the two cities is about 281 miles if traveling by highway (I-4 and I-95.) My suggested itinerary includes a couple of detours that bump the trip up to 345 miles.
What is the drive time from Orlando to Savannah?
If you just want to take the quickest driving route, you can get from Savannah to Orlando in 4 hours and 15 minutes on the highway.
My full itinerary clocks in at closer to 7 hours of driving. That doesn’t include the time that you’re out of the car sightseeing.
You can certainly do this road trip in one day. But to complete this full itinerary, you’d ideally want two days, with an overnight stop in St. Augustine or Jacksonville.
That will provide enough time to stop and enjoy all the attractions along the way, without being rushed.
What if I want to drive from Savannah to Orlando?
Just do the itinerary in reverse order! Everything else is the same. I still suggest taking two days for the trip and staying overnight in St. Augustine or Jacksonville.
Is there an Orlando to Savannah road trip map?
Yes, here’s a clickable version with the highlights noted along the way.
Places to Stop on an Orlando to Savannah Drive
As noted, stopping at every place on this list would require a full two-day road trip. So pick and choose the activities you want if you prefer a shorter drive.
Let’s go through all the cool things to do on the Orlando and Savannah road trip, starting with Orlando itself and then hitting all the cities in between.
Before hitting the road, make sure to take advantage of the fun activities in Orlando. That obviously starts with Walt Disney World Resort.
Everyone should visit the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Animal Kingdom, and Typhoon Lagoon at least once! Don’t skip Universal Studios either.
For something less hectic, I like Lake Eola Park. It offers cool skyline views of the city. You can paddle around the lake, buy food and gifts from vendors, and see quirky spots like this statue of a woman partially buried under the grass:
She’s officially called Discovery Muse, although many people know her as the “half-buried giant woman.”
What else can adult travelers without kids do in Orlando? Check out the thrift stores in the Milk District, try some outdoor activities like biking and fishing, see the museums in Winter Park, and see the statue of a man wrestling an alligator outside the Orange County History Center.
Another worthwhile activity is stopping to pay respects at the Pulse Nightclub Memorial.
The memorial is a makeshift remembrance in honor of the 49 people who lost their lives during the 2016 incident at the LGBT+ nightclub Pulse. You can see the faces and learn the stories of those who perished in the tragic attack.
Sanford is a city of 60,000 people just north of Orlando. Some folks may want to stop here to check out the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, which hosts more than 100 species of animals from around the world.
As a quirky road tripper, I chose to pass through Sanford for a sillier reason: To see the giant MTV Moonman.
In 2004, to celebrate the MTV Video Music Awards in Miami, a 15-foot-tall replica of the award (known as a “Moonman”) was built.
Somehow, that giant astronaut has ended up in the parking lot of a company called Acme Industrial Surplus. How weird to see a giant Moonman in a place like this!
Blue Spring State Park
While I’d already seen most of the wild animals in the USA, I had never seen manatees before this trip.
So after a quick photo of the Sanford Moonman, I headed straight for Blue Spring State Park. It’s perhaps the best place to see manatees near Orlando.
Manatees are the gentle creatures known as sea cows. The North American manatee is no longer endangered, but it is still considered threatened.
Blue Spring State Park is one of the best places to see wild manatees in central Florida – if you’re here at the right time of year.
Hundreds of manatees gather in the area from November to March. They come here to find warmer waters during the winter.
Walk along the boardwalk and you may spot a few. Only their noses come out of the water, so don’t expect to get great photographs. But it’s still a thrill to see them.
I spotted a handful of manatees during the 30 minutes I spent here. What a great life experience!
The city of Daytona is famous for the Daytona International Speedway, home of the Daytona 500 NASCAR race and numerous other races throughout the year.
Sign up for a tour of the racetrack (available whenever races are not planned.) Or just view the track from the outside.
If you want some beach time, Daytona Beach is considered one of the best beaches in Florida, with its length coastline and busy pier.
One more place that everyone should see: Buc-ee’s convenience store. If you’ve never been to this part of the country, Buc-ee’s is a Texas-based chain with locations across the south.
The Daytona Beach Buc-ee’s store is massive. Imagine a 7-11 times ten. It’s got all the snacks you’ll ever want, food bars with various hot and cold foods, restrooms, and a gift shop with clothing and trinkets featuring the quirky mascot Bucky the Beaver.
Ormond / Palm Coast
After Daytona Beach, you can get back on the I-95 highway and race toward St. Augustine.
But if you’re not in a hurry, I like to continue north along the coast on Route A1A through Ormond Beach and Palm Coast.
Beach towns are always more scenic than boring highway. This part of the drive doesn’t have a lot of major attractions, but you’ll find a lot of local businesses and plenty of options for lunch.
One spot you my want to consider visiting in this part of Florida: Marineland, where you can swim with dolphins.
Established in 1565, St. Augustine has the privilege of being the oldest continuously-occupied city in the United States. As you might expect, the city has a lot of historic sites to explore.
Start with Fort Matanzas National Monument, as you’ll arrive here before reaching the heart of St. Augustine. This fort was completed in 1742 and designed to protect the southern end of St. Augustine.
Now, it’s 300 acres of coastal environment with dunes, forest, and marshland. There’s a free ferry that takes guests from the visitor center over to the fort itself. The last ferry leaves at 3:30 pm daily.
I even saw a bald eagle while driving from Fort Matanzas into St. Augustine proper!
Then head to Castillo de Marcos National Monument, a large, well-preserved fort right in the heart of St. Augustine.
For $15, you can go inside and on top of the stone fortress, seeing every vantage point of the city. Or hang out and wait for the cannon firings.
For something quirkier, head to the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park! Ponce de Leon famously searched for this mythical fountain when he explored the area.
This 15-acre park includes a natural spring discovered by the Spanish in 1513. They offer cups so you can drink the water. It tastes a little weird. But I did indeed take a sip. Fingers crossed that it works!
St. George Street is a vibrant pedestrian-only street that everyone passing through town should experience.
Among the highlights on the street is the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the U.S. It was built in the early 1700s, and visitors can go inside for a $6 fee.
St. George Street and the surrounding avenues have so many great restaurants and food outlets. Columbia Spanish restaurant has been open for more than 115 years and remains very popular.
Seafood restaurants abound in the area. Cousteau’s Waffle & Milkshake Bar is a unique eatery for dessert.
City Gate Spirits has all sorts of curious liquors for sale, from peanut butter whiskey to apple pie moonshine. Drink on-site or purchase some bottles to go. I loved their sweet tea vodka!
If you decide to stay overnight in St. Augustine, here are my top recommendations:
Upscale: Renaissance Historic Hotel. This beautiful hotel has an ornate design from the outside, and fancy rooms on the inside, plus free wifi and a fitness center.
Budget: Budget Inn St. Augustine. The top-rated low-cost option in the city is the Budget Inn. It’s a 2-minut drive from the Historic District, and each room has a fridge and microwave.
With almost 1 million residents, Jacksonville is by far the largest city on the Orlando to Savannah road trip. The city isn’t known for its tourist attractions, but they have a few spots worth checking out.
The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary and Museum of Science and History are two possible options. Jacksonville Beach is another great place to get some sun by the ocean.
If you decide to stay overnight in Jacksonville, here are my top recommendations:
Upscale: Four Points by Sheraton Jacksonville Beachfront. You’ll be right next to the ocean and in walking distance to several shops and restaurants.
Budget: Roosevelt Inn. It’s almost hard to believe how nice this place is, considering the low price point.
Fort Clinch State Park
If you want to take the scenic route from Florida to Georgia, here’s another good stop. Right up on the border with Georgia sits Fort Clinch, another Civil War-era fortress.
For only $6, you can visit the site to see the preserved fort that was controlled by both Confederate and Union forces at various times during the war.
Brunswick and St. Simons Island, Georgia
Moving into Georgia, you’ll cross the impressive Sidney Lanier Bridge, a cable bridge that leads into the city of Brunswick.
Brunswick has an old-fashioned downtown district, which leads to the F. J. Torras Causeway over to St. Simons Island. The place to visit here is St. Simons Pier Village, a busy area of restaurants and shops.
Neptune Park is a must-visit. Walk the pier at sunset, see the lighthouse, look for bottlenose dolphins offshore, watch international cargo ships pass by, and visit the quirky statue of a blue whale and its baby.
A sign nearby indicates that the whale is known as “Wally the Whale,” but that makes no sense since it’s a female. According to the internet, the whale statue does not seem to have an actual name.
The Neptune Park Fun Zone has miniature golf and a pool for families.
Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Harris Neck NWR is a protected area featuring a one-way wildlife drive and multiple walking trails. You could potentially see alligator, gray fox, deer, bobcat, or more than 300 species of birds in the woodlands and ponds.
We’ve made it to Savannah, Georgia! Savannah is known for its antebellum houses and old-time southern feel.
As a newcomer, perhaps your best way to see the elegant mansions and get to know the city is with a tour. The Narrated Sightseeing Trolley Tour is an affordable 90-minute tour that goes to all the historic and scenic areas of town.
The Culinary & Cultural Walking Tour is also a great option. It combines food and architecture, with visits to as many as 6 restaurants and food shops for southern cuisine and decadent desserts.
Every visitor absolutely must check out River Street while in Savannah. Besides being incredibly scenic, this is the vibrant part of town with shops and eateries. I had an awesome catfish and rice meal at Dockside Seafood.
A block from River Street, near City Hall, you can find two bronze cannons personally gifted to the city of Savannah by George Washington himself in 1791. How’s that for quirky history?
Also walk around the Historic District and Yamacraw Village. Many Savannah visitors ride in a horse-drawn carriage, which you can often find in this area.
Another quirky piece of history is located in Chippewa Square. It’s the park where Forrest Gump sat on the bench!
The actual bench now resides in a museum, but at least you can walk around and know that Tom Hanks was right here when he filmed that classic movie.
One of my favorite spots in Savannah was the American Prohibition Museum, which has exhibits that examine the era when booze was illegal in the U.S.
Fun fact I learned here: During Prohibition, doctors could issue “medicinal whiskey” prescriptions. Who knew that was a thing?!
Walgreens aggressively took advantage of the chance to fill these prescriptions, and that was a key factor in growing the company into a national chain.
If you’re not burned out on old forts yet, drive over to the Fort Pulaski National Monument. It’s one of the most impressive forts in the South, in my view.
There’s a lot to explore here. Climb on the roof and look down into the huge fort. Walk inside the former soldiers’ sleeping rooms.
The best part is walking around the moat to see the damage on the outside of the fort. Unlike many forts in the south, Fort Pulaski saw action during the Civil War.
Union forces bombarded the Confederate fort for 30 hours, leaving huge indents in the 7-foot thick walls. The Union eventually repaired some of the holes after taking over the fort, but much of the damage is still visible to this day.
Interested in spending a night in Savannah? My recommendations for Savannah lodging:
Upscale: Hotel Indigo. It’s all about location! Hotel Indigo is just a couple minutes’ walk from River Street. This historic building from the 1850s is pet-friendly too!
Budget: Best Western Central Inn. This one is a little removed from downtown (15 minute drive from River St.), but it’s a nice hotel with a good price.
Itinerary for Continuing from Orlando to Charleston
If you’d like to extend the trip and go all the way from Orlando to Charleston (I did!), here are a few more places you can stop on the drive.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Hilton Head is often regarded as an upscale vacation and recreation destination. In fact, the Sea Pines area charges a $9 gate fee just to enter.
Why come here? It’s a great place to do a dolphin boat tour. I took the Hilton Head Dolphin Tour myself and saw more than half a dozen dolphins splashing around, all from very close range.
It was a lot of fun being out there on the water!
You can also jet ski, kayak, or parasail on Hilton Head Island.
This one is called Attic Trophy and was created in 1992.
Swing through Beaufort, South Carolina for one very quirky attraction: The Kazoo Museum! Yes, it’s really an entire museum dedicated to the whimsical plastic toy instrument.
This museum is attached to the Kazoobie Factory. The company wisely had the idea to add a museum to their facility to attract visitors, and it sure worked on me.
They have exhibits showing all the uses of kazoos in popular culture, from Beatles songs to Conan O’Brien and Mr. Rogers tv shows.
They have giant American flags made of kazoos. They have a little machine where for a couple bucks, you can put together your own kazoo! It is worth the detour to check out such a unique museum.
Charleston has some cool walkable areas, like Waterfront Park and City Market. One spot worth seeing is Old Slave Mart Museum.
As the name indicates, Old Slave Mart was the literal building where slaves were bought and sold. The history here is uncomfortable, shocking, and tragic.
The museum exhibits go into great detail about the stories of the folks who were brought here. This building was constructed in 1859, so it only operated for the last few years of slavery.
Thousands of slaves passed through here. Human beings were auctioned off, and lives were destroyed. The museum is haunting, but educational, and should be included on a Charleston itinerary.
Not far from the Old Slave Mart is a happier sight. Rainbow Row is a row of older, pastel-colored homes standing next to each other. It’s a cool thing to see while walking down the street.
Fort Sumter is where the first shots of the Civil War war were fired. The amount of history here is overwhelming. You can get here via a short ferry ride from Charleston.
Walk inside the fort, learn about its history, see the part of the fort that remains in ruins, and visit every corner of the fortress.
Other Areas to Explore on the Road Trip
Following a drive from Orlando to Savannah, you could potentially move west in Georgia to see places like Augusta, Macon, Athens, and even Atlanta.
In South Carolina, continue west to Columbia. See the State Capitol building and the campus of South Carolina University.
Also check out the quirky Hootie & the Blowfish Monument, a parklet dedicated to the rock group who emerged from Columbia to become superstars.
Parson’s Mountain Gold Mines are an interesting spot to see if you decide to camp in Sumter National Forest.
One other quirky attraction to visit in South Carolina: The World’s Largest Sweet Tea in Summerville. That’s a giant beverage!
Back in Florida, if you’re willing to go further south from Orlando, I have a Miami to Key West driving guide as well.
Do you have any other suggestions for an Orlando to Savannah road trip?