North Florida Road Trip: A 4-Day Adventure
Travel through unspoiled landscapes in this four-day North Florida road trip.
With its vast expanses of untamed woodlands, miles of meandering streams, crystalline springs and abundant wildlife, north Florida offers nearly limitless options for exploration and recreation. In just four short days, you can canoe down a gently flowing river, hike beneath the shady canopies of majestic forests and stroll through a historic fishing village. Your tour can be as brisk or relaxing as you please. You'll begin near the small community of Milton just north of Pensacola, then wind through fields and forests to Apalachicola on Florida's "Forgotten Coast." Then you'll travel to Wakulla Springs, one of the world's largest and deepest freshwater springs, before concluding your travels at the renowned Steinhatchee Landing Resort. With so many natural attractions and a wealth of Old South cultural heritage, this is indeed the original Florida.
Let's begin your north Florida road trip and outdoor adventure!
North Florida Road Trip: Day One
Your journey begins at Adventures Unlimited Outdoor Center (850-623-6197 or 800-239-6864) near Milton, a small community about 16 miles northeast of Pensacola. From I-10, take Exit 7 and head north on Avalon Boulevard until it dead-ends into U.S. Highway 90. Turn right on Highway 90 east and then left on State Road 87. Continue on State Road 87 approximately 12 miles and watch for the signs off these North Florida roads. Adventures Unlimited Outdoor Center is located on 88 wooded acres adjacent to the Blackwater River State Forest on beautiful Coldwater Creek. With its majestic overhanging cypress trees, sugar-white sandy shoals and gentle currents, a peaceful ride down the river is a most inviting prospect. You can even spend the night in unique cabins, a restored cracker-style cottage or the quaint Schoolhouse Inn. Canoe, kayak and tube rentals are available.
North Florida Road Trip: Day Two
From Milton, head east on I-10. Merge onto US-331 south. In Destin, take C30A, which runs along the beach. Grayton Beach State Park (850-267-8300), 357 Main Park Rd., is a wonderful place to stretch your legs. Enjoy a stroll on the white sand beaches or go hiking in the pine flatwoods.
Continue east on U.S. 98 from C30A. From Port St. Joe, take C30 and follow signage to your second destination, the T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park (850-227-1327), 8899 Cape San Blas Rd. In these 2,516 magnificent acres surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and St. Joseph Bay you'll find camping, cabins, fishing, hiking trails and miles of natural beach. Canoeing and kayaking are popular here, as is bird watching with more than 209 recorded species. Guided walks are seasonally available. Open 8 a.m. - sunset, daily.
Your final stop for the day is Wakulla Springs State Park, (850) 561-7276, and the Wakulla Springs Lodge, operated by Cape Leisure Corporation (850-926-2000), where you'll spend the afternoon and evening. Go east on U.S. 98 until it intersects with U.S. 319. Head north into Crawfordville, then go east on State Road 61 and follow the signs. Wakulla, meaning "strange and mysterious waters," is one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, with the main spring vent opening at depths over 185 feet. The spring and the river are home to an abundance of wildlife, including alligators, turtles and nearly 200 species of birds. The guided riverboat tours are a must. The unspoiled wildness of this area has made it the backdrop for a number of classic movies such as "Tarzan" and "Creature from the Black Lagoon." You may also wish to dine in the restaurant or stay at the historic lodge overnight.
North Florida Road Trip: Day Three
From the Wakulla Springs State Park entrance, follow State Road 61 north, which merges back into U.S. 319 after six miles. A few miles beyond, U.S. 319 veers right onto Capital Circle, taking you around the state capital of Tallahassee. Follow Capital Circle 13 miles to its intersection with U.S. 90 and go east. At this point, you have the choice of two routes to your next destination: quick and modern or slow and traditional. The quick and modern route is I-10. It intersects with U.S. 90 about eight miles east of Capital Circle and will allow you to travel the 87 miles to Live Oak in a little over an hour. A more leisurely and visually rewarding route is to stay on U.S. 90 and keep heading east. The drive will be closer to two hours, but as you traverse the rolling rural landscape, you'll pass through some of north Florida's most picturesque and historic small towns, such as Monticello and Madison. Whichever way you choose, you'll cross paths with U.S. 129 at Live Oak. Here, you'll head north (eight miles from U.S. 90, four miles from I-10) to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park & Campground (386-364-1683). At various times during the year, the park is the site for concerts and musical festivals, featuring everything from bluegrass to rock 'n roll and performers ranging from local favorites to international headliners. And even when the music isn't playing, there's canoeing, kayaking and paddleboats on the historic Suwannee River and miniature golf. For accommodations, there are an RV park, camp sites, cottages and a beautiful, modern tree house.
Next, head south on U.S. 129. Drive 32 miles to the tiny crossroads of Branford and turn left on U.S. 27 south. Go seven miles on these North Florida roads and turn left on County Road 137, which you'll follow approximately two miles before turning right on 264th St. Drive another four miles. This route will take you to the north entrance of Ichetucknee Springs State Park (386-497-4690). The park features a series of springs discharging 233 million gallons of water daily that give rise to the sparkling clear Ichetucknee River. Declared a National Natural Landmark, the park offers incredible snorkeling, canoeing and swimming, but is best known as a delightful spot to learn the easy art of river tubing. There are also five miles of nature trails. Open 8 a.m. - sunset, daily.
North Florida Road Trip: Day Four
Your final day of outdoor adventure will take you to the pristine Santa Fe River and seven crystal clear springs, each one a natural wonder. From Ichetucknee Springs, return to U.S. 27 and head east for 6.5 miles to the small community of Fort White. Turn right on State Road 47 and head south for eight miles to County Road 340. Turn left and follow the signs to Ginnie Springs (386-454-7188). Covering more than 200 acres of unspoiled northern Florida forest, Ginnie Springs Outdoors offers activities such as canoeing, tubing, snorkeling, scuba diving and riverside nature trails. Camping is also available.
How better to conclude your four-day excursion through north Florida's unique beauty than at a secluded riverfront retreat, nestled beneath lush native live oaks, pines and palms? That's the Steinhatchee Landing Resort (800-584-1709), just two miles from the Gulf of Mexico on the meandering Steinhatchee River. To reach it from Ginnie Springs, head south on U.S. 47 15 miles to the community of Trenton, where you'll take a left on South 129 for a half-mile, then right on State Road 26. After eight miles, head north on U.S. Alternate 27. Drive 30 miles to State Road 51 at Tennille. Turn left and drive nine miles to the resort. Steinhatchee Landing offers its guests swimming, boating, fishing, canoeing, tennis, basketball and bicycling. If you choose to stay overnight, accommodations include 39 Victorian and Florida Cracker cottages that re-create the Florida that was.
For more information on outdoor adventures throughout Florida, contact the Florida Professional Paddlesports Association (800-268-0083, paddleflausa.com). Also call VISIT FLORIDA at 888-7-FLA USA to request our Undiscovered Florida publication and an Official Florida Vacation Guide.