Three Great Florida Itineraries for RV Nomads
By Kevin Mims
If you’re a full-time or seasonal RVer, you know that sometimes a little planning can go a long way. With so much to see and do in Florida, it helps to have a schedule in mind, so here are three itineraries for RV nomads—separated into North, Central, and South Florida sections —that’ll put you on the road to your next Florida adventure.
On this list, you’ll find some of the best travel opportunities Florida has to offer, from remote North Florida springs to Miami Beach and beyond. You’ll find cities full of historic sites, museums, activities for every type of outdoors person—whether you like birding, hiking, biking, surfing, beachcombing, swimming, fishing, or paddling—and the best places to eat and drink, from roadhouses to upscale seaside restaurants to wineries and breweries.
Though these itineraries are grouped into sections, each section can easily be paired with the one before or after it, so you can do one, two, or combine all three for an epic road trip across the state.
Part 1: Northwest Florida and the Emerald Coast
Your North Florida road trip begins at the western edge of the Panhandle at the Florida-Alabama line. Pull in at The Flora-Bama Lounge and Package, “America’s Last Great Roadhouse” and one of the world’s most famous beach bars, for a drink and a taste of yesteryear. Then drive through Pensacola and take a little jog north—about an hour’s drive—to your first campground of the journey: Blackwater River State Park. There, you can tube the tannic river, paddle to a picnic spot on the river’s white sand beaches, or hike around the park. For dinner, cook around the campfire or check out local restaurants, including Tropical Palm and Emerald Isle Seafood in Crestview.
From Blackwater River State Park, drive east and south for 108 miles until you reach St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach. If you’re lucky enough to snag a waterfront spot, you can watch dolphins from your campsite. Spend time on the beach, paddle or swim, and watch wildlife that abounds throughout the park—it’s not uncommon to see a deer or two moseying at the edge of the campground. Outside the park, tour the bustling city, check out the surf shops, and grab lunch at Patches Pub and Grill. For dinner on the water, check out The Grand Marlin.
The drive to your next stop, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, will take you through several small towns and past Lake Talquin State Forest. At Wakulla Springs, catch a river boat ride and check out the historic lodge. Sit down for a meal at the Edward Ball Dining Room or grab a sweet treat at the Soda Fountain.
Part 2: Springs, Parks, Culture, and Arts
From Wakulla Springs, head north through Tallahassee and then west for a total of 115 miles to reach the campground at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, home of the annual Florida Folk Festival. Park your home on wheels in the shade of majestic oaks near the famed Suwannee River and get ready to hike, bike, fish, and paddle. The park is a great home base to go and see the surrounding town of White Springs and visit Big Shoals State Park. When you get hungry, venture over to Fat Belly’s Grill and Bar.
Next stop: Gainesville, a little more than an hour south of White Springs. See the Florida Museum of Natural History, walk the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, and visit the University of Florida’s Harn Museum of Art. For fine dining, go to Paramount Grill downtown, or for something ultra casual, try Satchel’s Pizza.
Part 3: St. Augustine and Flagler Beach
After spending the day in Gainesville, it’s time to get back on the road. Head 80 miles east to the campground at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine, a city founded more than 450 years ago. Hike the state park’s trails, surf, swim, or relax on the beach. Then take a trolley tour of the city to get yourself acquainted with the historic areas, landmarks, and hotspots. Be sure to visit Fort Matanzas and Castillo de San Marcos during your stay. You’ll have plenty of dining options in this city—try Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille for Cajun and Southern fare and Casa Benedetto’s Ristorante for Italian.
After St. Augustine, hit the road for an oceanview drive south down A1A. In 28 miles, you’ll be ready to check in at Beverly Beach Camptown RV Resort in Flagler Beach, where you can spend some time camping seaside and soaking in the sun and Flagler’s laid-back, retro atmosphere. Hit the shops and restaurants—Flagler Fish Company for a plate of fish and chips, and Break Awayz for fresh eats, craft beer, and an ocean view.
Part 1: Space Coast to Disney
Your Central Florida road trip begins on the Space Coast where nature and technology unite. Stay at the campground at the waterfront Jetty Park at Port Canaveral and watch rocket launches right from 35-acre park, which has a 1,200-foot fishing pier. Paddle, hike, bike, or surf the days away. Visit nearby Kennedy Space Center, take a tour of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, and find refreshment at Preacher Bar.
From Jetty Park, it’s a 65-mile drive to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, a top family-friendly destination for both RVers and tent campers. The campground has pools and a waterslide and restaurants within walking distance of the campsites. Families can have fun spotting Disney characters in action, go paddling, practice archery, and go horseback riding—all before setting foot inside any of the theme parks, which are accessible by Disney buses right from the campground.
Before you head to the Nature Coast, take a 42-mile detour north of Disney to camp a while at Kelly Park, which is home to Rock Springs, one of Florida’s most picturesque springs.
Part 2: The Nature Coast
This part of the Central Florida road trip continues the springs and nature theme. From Kelly Park, drive 77 miles west to stay at Chassahowitzka River Campground. Rent a boat from the camp store and explore the river, which hosts a mixture of saltwater and freshwater species, and its many creeks. While you’re here, take a day excursion to see Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which is eight miles from the campground, and stop for lunch at the Cuban-inspired Museum Cafe, a local favorite.
On your way to Tampa, spend a day 16 miles south of Chassahowitzka at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, an iconic Florida roadside attraction turned state park, which continues its decades-long tradition of mermaid shows in an underwater theater. Buccaneer Bay, part of the freshwater spring, is open for swimming and is surrounded by a small beach with waterslides. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a kayak or paddleboard and paddle the clear blue river as it meanders toward the Gulf of Mexico. Grab a bite to eat at one of several restaurants and snack spots in the park or take a three-mile drive to Marker 48, a craft brewery that offers food truck fare and live music.
Part 3: Tampa Bay
This part of the Central Florida itinerary takes you away from the more remote locales of the Nature Coast and into Tampa. From Chassahowitzka, drive 60 miles south to your campsite. This time choose either Bay Bayou RV Resort as a more urban option or Hillsborough River State Park for more of an escape into nature. Either campground will position you about 15 miles from Busch Gardens and put you in close proximity to Tampa Bay-area attractions. Check out the Tampa Bay art scene and outdoor activities including ziplining with Empower Adventures Tampa Bay, located two miles from Bay Bayou RV Resort. No visit to the Tampa area would be complete without stopping by historic Ybor City and eating at the renowned Columbia Restaurant.
Part 1: Sarasota, the Everglades, and Lake Okeechobee
The first leg of your South Florida itinerary begins in the city and moves into some of the wildest and natural areas of Florida. Start your first day in South Florida at the John & Mabel Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. Spend the morning touring the mansion the Ringlings once called home, then have lunch at The Ringling Grillroom. In the late afternoon, drive 24 miles east to Myakka River State Park, where you’ll set up camp. Spend the next few days exploring the park, making sure to experience the thrill of walking across the Canopy Walkway high in the treetops. Hike, fish, even go horseback riding—it’s up to you. Bike though the park’s marshes and hammocks and rent a kayak and paddle the wild and scenic river.
Next, take a 2.5-hour drive down to the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Big Cypress Reservation in the Everglades and check in at Big Cypress RV Resort. Spend a few nights relaxing at the campground and days exploring Big Cypress National Preserve and enjoying the edutainment opportunities within the reservation. Then, from Big Cypress RV Resort, head 1.5 hours north to stay at Okeechobee KOA Resort. Rent a boat to explore Lake O, hike the lake’s circumference, go fishing, or go for an airboat ride. Eat at the campground restaurant for breakfast and lunch head into town for dinner at Lightsey’s Seafood Restaurant, Pogey’s Family Restaurant, or Parrot Island Bar and Grill.
Part 2: Hobe Sound to South Beach
This leg of your South Florida road trip takes you from the inland nature scene and eases you into the beaches and urban areas of the east coast. From Okeechobee KOA Resort, drive 55 miles east to arrive at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound north of Jupiter and set up camp at one of two family campgrounds within the park. Bike or hike miles of trails that’ll take you from lake to sea and immerse yourself in nature at Southeast Florida’s largest state park.
When you’re ready to move, pack up early and head 17 miles south to Phil Foster Park for spectacular saltwater snorkeling that doesn’t require a boat. Park for the day and enjoy the snorkeling trail, which is relatively shallow and has boulders and an artificial reef where sea life is abundant. Contact Scuba Works if you need to rent equipment or would like a guide.
Once you’ve dried off, grab a bite at The Islander Grill and Tiki Bar, then go about 20 miles south to stay at John Prince Park Campground in Lake Worth Beach. Here you can settle in and spend some time exploring all the Palm Beaches area has to offer. Take a day trip or two into Miami, where arts, culture, and great food await. Hit South Beach for a trendy night on the town.
Part 3: Redland Tropical Trail and the Florida Keys
It’s time to put the city in your rearview mirror and travel the Historic Redland Tropical Trail, which runs from just south of Miami to Florida City. Follow the map to some iconic rural Florida locations, including the famous Robert Is Here fruit stand and farm and R.F. Orchids. Have brunch, lunch, or dinner at Schnebly Redland’s Winery in Homestead. Stay for wine tastings, see the tropical gardens, and check out the brewery and beer garden. Other stops on the trail include Coral Castle and Everglades Alligator Farm. Stay a night at Boardwalk RV Resort, located four miles from Robert Is Here and just north of Florida City, which is known as “the gateway to the Florida Keys and Everglades.”
For the next part of this journey, expect to be surrounded by brilliant blue water as you travel from the upper to lower keys. First stop: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, a 40-minute drive from Boardwalk RV resort. Here, you can kayak, take a ride on a glass-bottom boat, scuba dive, snorkel, or relax on the beach. Cannon Beach has remnants of a Spanish shipwreck that you can snorkel to 100 feet from the shore. There’s much more to see outside of the state park, including the African Queen, the boat from the classic 1951 movie by the same name. When in the Keys, seafood is always on the menu. Some good places to go are The Fish House and Hobo’s Cafe.
Visit Islamorada, “the Sportfishing Capital of the World,” and Marathon on your way to Bahia Honda, a scenic 67-mile drive from John Pennekamp over the Overseas Highway. This pristine 524-acre island is uninhabited and undeveloped except for state park facilities. Park right next to the water and launch your kayak or paddleboard from your campsite (or rent one at the park), or go lobstering from your front door.
The final stop on your South Florida journey takes you all the way to Mile Marker 1 in Key West, a 35-mile drive from Bahia Honda. Park your home on wheels at Boyd’s Key West Campground or Leo’s Campground and tour some of the historical and cultural landmarks of the island, including: Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, the homes of Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, and the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters Museum. Walk the town or rent a moped to cover more ground. Stop in for a drink at Sloppy Joe’s, a favorite hangout of Ernest Hemingway’s. Go shopping and dine at the restaurants at Mallory Square.