Brightline Train Service - Miami to Orlando

Brightline Train Service - Miami to Orlando

by Tamara Hinson - Freelance Journalist 21 July 2023

Florida’s new Brightline service offers a transformational way to travel between Florida’s major tourism hubs, with no need to hire a car. We check out the new trains and explore its potential for holidays in the Sunshine State.

Brightline trains running between Miami and Orlando International Airports from September 2023


Perhaps it’s the vast expanses of sunshine yellow, or the bespoke grapefruit scent filling the stations, but every Brightline employee appears to have consumed some kind of happy pill, whether it’s the bartenders at the Mary Mary bar at downtown Miami’s station, the employees manning the airport-style x-rays after the ticket gates or the train guards, who bid farewell to passengers with a cheery “have a Bright day!”.

America’s only privately owned intercity passenger train, the Brightline connects Miami with West Palm Beach via Aventura, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton. It will reach Orlando – more specifically, a new station at Orlando International Airport’s Terminal C – in September 2023, taking 3.5 hours to get there from Miami. The route’s final station will be Tampa, an extension that should be added within the next three years.

At the Brightline’s fittingly bright, airy stations, slick kiosks make purchasing tickets a breeze, although there are plenty of helpful staff on hand, too. I’m particularly impressed with MRKT, the check out-free convenience stores at every station. They rely on ceiling-mounted cameras – a similar concept to London’s Amazon Fresh store. Customers swipe their credit card to enter, and take what they want. When they exit, payment is deducted automatically.

Clients with Premium tickets (Smart is Brightline’s economy class) will be truly spoiled. In the plush Premium Lounges at every station, there’s complimentary food and drink. At the Boca Raton station I can help myself to various beverages, including local beers, from well-stocked fridges, while at Fort Lauderdale taps dispense wine and beer. Complimentary food includes salads, cold meats and pastries. Not that Smart travellers rough it. Waiting areas are modern, spacious and comfortable and the Mary Mary Bar is also available in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, in addition to Miami.

Trains typically have one Premium and three Smart carriages, although peak period trains have four Smart carriages. As a Premium passenger I receive onboard complimentary drinks (including alcohol). Complimentary food, presented with a wrapped towelette, includes Mediterranean or charcuterie sets. I opt for the latter – a box containing salami, asiago cheese, crackers, a Ghirardelli chocolate square and grapes.

Brightline Premium Cabin


In both Smart and Premium carriages, huge windows and 32 inch-wide aisles (the widest on any American train) create a wonderful sense of space. There are plenty of sockets and USB ports, and large storage areas at either end of carriages. The trains – the quietest I’ve experienced in America – are incredibly accessible. External doors have automatic wheelchair-friendly retracting gap fillers, while internal doors swoosh open automatically.

Ted Botimer, Visit Fort Lauderdale’s vice-president of research, strategy and revenue management, says it’s not just Florida’s theme park capital that will benefit when the Orlando station opens. “With hourly high-speed services between Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, visitors will have luxurious, eco-friendly connections between Florida’s best beach resorts and theme parks,” says Botimer. “Brightline’s Fort Lauderdale Station is under five miles from our top beach hotels and the Port Everglades cruise port, creating a seamless way to explore Florida’s best bits.”

This seamlessness – not something which necessarily springs to mind with national railroad Amtrak – was clearly a priority. “Overcoming misconceptions is crucial,” says Patrick Goddard, Brightline president. “This means adequate infrastructure, well-maintained trains, frequent services and convenient access points like parking facilities, along with access to other mass transit options and mobility services.”

Getting to and from stations is certainly a breeze. Encourage clients who spot an electric Brightline buggy outside a station to hop in – they offer free rides within eight kilometres, while Premium fares includes a complimentary Uber ride within an eight-kilometre radius of stations. Station screens also provide real-time information relating to onward transport options such as airport shuttles.

Electric Brightline buggy outside a station to hop in


Fares are affordable, too. Clients who copy my journey – a return from Miami to Boca Raton – on 12 August 2023, will pay just $12.50 (£9.55) for a Smart fare, while Premium tickets start from $37 (£28). Brightline claims there will be three million fewer cars on the road annually due to its trains. It’s hard to prove, but there’s certainly a sense from locals – many of whom complained to me about rising petrol costs and increasingly clogged roads – that it’s a game-changer.

“We love the Brightline,” says Vaughan Dugan, owner of Kapow Noodle Bar, metres from Boca Raton’s Brightline station. “We’ve seen a significant increase in passing traffic, and people are more inclined to visit from places like Miami when they can park and ride. The fact that Brightline serves major cruise and airport hubs encourages people to explore further afield during layovers. It’s also just a more luxurious way to travel around South Florida. Dinner in Boca Raton and a Miami Heat basketball game? No problem!”