Whether you’re on a family holiday to the popular resorts, a city break to Miami, or on a dedicated spotting trip, you’ll love the opportunities for seeing aircraft in Florida.
The state has some of America’s busiest hubs, is a hive of leisure and charter traffic, has many airports dominated by executive jets, and also a thriving general aviation scene. You’ll even still find some classic jets and props stored around the state.
Here are 13 incredible spotting locations in Florida to help you make the most of your visit.
Fort Lauderdale Executive
Probably the premier biz jet airport in Florida. It acts as a reliever to Fort Lauderdale Hollywood airport which is 13 miles to the south.
It has two runways, with a maze of hangars and parking aprons strung along the northern, eastern and southern boundaries. Over 900 aircraft were based at the last count, including many stored aircraft, so it’s worthwhile visiting.
A good spotting location is the Jet Runway Café (www.jetrunwaycafe.com) off NW 55th Ct. With good food and drink, it has views and photography opportunities across the runway and neighbouring parking areas.
Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International
Increasingly opening up as an international gateway, Fort Lauderdale is one of the USA’s fastest growing airports. It has four passenger terminals in a central area, alongside a cargo terminal. Executive and light aircraft us ramps on the western and northern portions of the airport.
The official spotting location at Fort Lauderdale is situated alongside the threshold of runway 10L. It is excellent for landing and taxying shots. The fence here is possible to shoot through, or over. To reach the signposted park, exit I-95 onto Griffin Rd, heading west. Turn right onto Anglers Ave, then turn right again onto SW 42nd St. Take the first left after crossing the interstate.
Kissimmee Gateway Airport
Conveniently located for the nearby resorts and tourist areas near Orlando. Kissimmee Airport is used by corporate jets and general aviation users, as well as local sightseeing flights. Warbirds are quite common here and you can visit the Warbirds Adventures building off N Hoagland Blvd.
5th St, further south off the same road, culminates at the fence with views across the airport. Patrick St on the eastern side of the airport also leads to the fence, and Dyer Blvd off M L K Jr Blvd on the northern perimeter leads to the Signature Flight Support apron, with a small viewing area next to the fence.
Lakeland Linder Regional
This is a large general aviation airport half-way along I-4 between Orlando and Tampa. It is most noted as home to the second largest air show in America, SUN ‘n’ FUN, held each April. They operate the Florida Air Museum on site with a number of aircraft on display.
Draken International is also based at Lakeland, operating contracts for the military. There are usually plenty of corporate jets present around the airport, as well as some stored airliners at the time of writing.
Hallback’s Bar & Grill on the north side of the airport is a good place to watch movements.
Miami International Western Boundary
Spotters have long flocked to Miami for a variety of reasons. Aside from the pleasant weather year-round, the airport has long been the primary US hub for flights to Latin America, which traditionally brought in a variety of exotic airlines and aircraft. Whilst older types and prop airliners are rarer these days, Miami still presents and interesting mix of carriers, and has a large cargo operation which also brings in airlines aside from the usual FedEx, DHL and UPS seen at most other US airports. Miami is a major hub for American Airlines.
A spot on the western side of the airport is popular with photographers, and the airport authorities have even created holes in the fence to make photography a little easier. This spot is ideal for arrivals on runways 08L/R and runway 30 departures. To reach it from the 826N Expressway, exit onto NW 25th St and drive towards the airport fence.
Miami Opa Locka Airport
Around seven miles north of Miami International, Opa Locka is an airport which has a mixed civil and military role. The Coast Guard Air Station is based here, and the airport also handles plenty of GA and executive aircraft. For the enthusiast, the main reason to visit is for the many airliners and props to be found stored here, either awaiting scrapping, restoration, or a return to service. This business has highs and lows, but it’s always worth checking what is here.
For those with a car, enter the airport on Curtiss St and make your way along the various side roads which lead to the different parking areas and hangars. The stored airliners can be found in the north-eastern part of the airport.
New Smyrna Beach Municipal
Although this isn’t the busiest of Florida’s many general aviation and flight training airports, it is worth a look in if you like classic aircraft as there is a preserved Douglas DC-7 (N381AA) next to the main car park off Skyline Dr. There are also usually some other piston props at the American Aero Services hangar on the south side of the airfield, at the end of Airway Circle. This company restores old aircraft and often holds open days, alongside operating its small museum (www.americanaeroservices.com).
Orlando’s main airport is the guilty pleasure of many spotters who should otherwise be enjoying a family holiday at the nearby theme parks. Because of the popularity of the area for leisure travellers, Orlando International has become a very busy airport with links from across the country and many other countries.
The MSCP parking garage has good views from the 9th floor. From this spot you can see most of the runways and gates. You are required to sign a Use of Facilities Form to use this spot. The form must be completed in person, accompanied by a valid photo ID, between 8am-5pm, Mon-Friday (excluding public holidays), at the Public Affairs office, located on the 3rd level of Terminal A in the Aviation Authority Executive Offices (to the left of the East Security Checkpoint for Gates 70-129).
Orlando International Holiday Inn Express
This hotel has excellent views over the airport from the top floor. You will see most movements, and those on the nearby runways will be within range of decent cameras. Movements on the far runway can be tied up if you use flight tracking websites or SBS.
Palm Beach International
A busy airport in the shadow of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, but still handling over 6 million passengers per year. Primary operators include American Airlines/Eagle Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest and United. The two-pier terminal is on the northern side of the field.
A car park fronting the fence has great views of aircraft on the main runway 10L/28R, as well as anything landing on 32, and is great for photography. To reach this point, driving west along Southern Blvd, which passes the south side of the airport, turn right at the lights onto Kirk Rd (you’ll see the Atlantic hangar in front of you). Turn right onto Perimeter Rd and follow it past the end of runway 32. You’ll see the viewing area on your left.
A fairly busy airport on the Florida-Alabama border, with scheduled services by American, Delta, Frontier, Silver Airways, Southwest and United Express, plus UPS Airlines and some other local cargo operators.
The airport has two runways in a cross pattern. The recently updated terminal is in the north-west corner, with a pier and jet bridges. To its north of this is the cargo apron, and to its west is an apron for helicopter services. Flying clubs and corporate aircraft use two aprons on the south-east corner of the airfield. Between them is the Pensacola Aviation Discovery Park which has parking, seats, information boards and a small platform above the fence line for taking photographs. The top floor of the terminal car park also has views.
Handling a fair share of domestic and international traffic, Tampa is one of the busiest in Florida. It is a focus city for Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Silver Airways. American, Delta and United are also dominant carriers. The airport has three runways and a single terminal with multiple concourses spread in all directions as satellites, located between the parallel runways. To the east are FBO ramps, general aviation facilities and the cargo terminal (Atlas Air, FedEx and UPS mainly).
The top level of both the Short Stay and Long Stay multi-storey parking garages have some good views over the satellite terminal gates, with photography possible for those with longer lenses.
Vero Beach Regional
Although it only has occasional regional jet services with Elite Airways, Vero Beach is great if you love light aircraft, with over 200 based. Piper Aircraft also have a production facility here. Views from outside the terminal, and also the restaurant inside.
Our new spotting guide book, Airport Spotting Guides USA includes detailed information on where to spot at over 430 airports across America. Use it to plan your next trip, or to spot on the go. Includes maps, spotting hotels, museums and descriptions of what you’ll see.