ESSENTIAL RV FLORIDA:
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO EXPLORING THE SUNSHINE STATE
by Meggen Taylor
ESSENTIAL RV FLORIDA:
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO EXPLORING THE SUNSHINE STATE
by Meggen Taylor
With 237 days of sun on average per year, Florida didn’t get its nickname, ‘The Sunshine State” for nothing. And, with all of the great weather, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Florida is one of the most popular states for RVers either—especially during the winter months. Not only are Florida’s sub-tropical weather and beaches a draw, but the state also has some of the best RV parks in the country.
Being such a large state, and offering so many destinations and experiences to choose from, we whittled it down to the top five by region: you can just hop in your RV and explore a beautiful state that quickly reveals so much more than just coastlines.
The northwest region of Florida, also known as the Florida Panhandle, stretches from Pensacola to Apalachicola and is renowned for its stunning white sand beaches, piney woods, history, charm, and outdoor adventures. Some of the state’s best-known beaches are located in this part of the state including Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City, and Apalachicola to name just a few. Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, the region is unofficially named the Emerald Coast due to the water’s striking green color.
There is a lot of ground to cover in this portion of the state. If you are looking for activities on the water (outside of the beach) you may want to consider visiting Blountstown, featuring the Chipola River to the west and Apalachicola to the east. Grab your tube or paddleboard and experience the area’s shoals and limestone bluffs. One river trail that is particularly adventurous is the Chipola River Canoe Trail, known as “Look and Tremble Falls.”
Another option is Falling Water State Park. Located in Chipley, it’s perfect for paddleboarding, tubing and fishing. The park is best known for an amazing sinkhole that spans 20 feet wide and 100 feet deep. When the water levels are high, you can see a waterfall crashing inside. If you want to check out some of Florida’s native animals, including sea turtles and nesting birds along with wispy sea oats and critical dunes, then Perido Key is a must-visit.With Gulf Islands National Seashore, Perido Key State Park, Big Lagoon, and Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park in proximity, visitors can enjoy hiking, crabbing, fishing, and surf casting.
With the Northwest region being so well known for its beautiful beaches, there’s no better place to rest your RV than a park right on the water. As soon as you open your RV doors at Camp Gulf, your feet will be planted in sugar sand beaches and your eyes will take in the vast emerald green Gulf of Mexico. Located in the heart of Miramar Beach, Camp Gulf is minutes to Destin and Scenic 30A.
Camp Gulf’s beachfront RV sites are 20-feet wide and suitable for all RV sizes and come equipped with water and electricity. For an additional charge, honey wagon services are provided. Keep in mind that, due to county and beach health codes, no pets are allowed on the sites or the beach. Family fun is at the epicenter of this park. Amenities include two heated pools and a spa, basketball and shuffleboard, a playground, a camp store, scheduled activities, free Wi-Fi and cable, and more.
While the beaches are this region’s main draw, there are tons of things do in the area. Miramar Beach, Scenic 30 A, and Destin have a variety of shopping and restaurants to choose from. The area also has world-class golf courses and a variety of on water activities. The RV park has a list of partners in the area with options for food, spa services, gyms, and more.
NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA
Known for its rich history, North Central Florida, which spans from the state’s capital city of Tallahassee to Gainesville, offers visitors the perfect balance of outdoor activities, natural wonders, and serenity with Southern charm.
If you are looking to get out and enjoy some nature, a visit to Hawthorn is a good bet. Depending on your orientation, the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail starts or ends here. Visitors can walk, bike, rollerblade and even ride a horse in certain segments of this 16-mile path that connects both Gainesville and Hawthorne together via Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and the Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area. If you are interested in seeing some the area’s pioneering history, about 15 minutes southwest of Hawthorne you can visit Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park named after the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote the book, The Yearling.
Another destination in the region that is worth visiting is Cedar Key, an island city off the northwest coast in the Gulf of Mexico, which some say is like Key West with its eclectic arts scene, abundance of fresh seafood, and natural surroundings. If you want to go offshore, the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge will immediately transport you to untouched nature where most of the islands are wild and uninhabited except to nesting birds. Six times a year, visitors can get up close to visit a 19-century lighthouse and cemetery.
A great place to park your RV to explore the North Central region is Moonshine Acres RV, located in Fort White. Once owned by a well-known moonshiner who grew up and raised his family on the land, Moonshine Acres RV captures the spirit of yesteryear with all of the modern day conveniences one would expect including a log cabin clubhouse and a general store with antiques and memorabilia.
The property has lush and spacious grounds with RV sites that offer 20-foot wide gravel roadways. The park has 13 pull-through sites and 28 back-in sites that are 45-feet wide and range from 75 to 100 feet deep. The wide roads and angled parking can accommodate even the largest RVs with easy access. All RV sites include a picnic table and fire ring, water and sewer, 20/30/50 amp electrical, and free Wi-Fi. The park amenities include table tennis, pool tables, coin laundry, family-style bathrooms, fire pits, a playground, two off-leash dog areas, and a general store that has a variety of food and RV supplies.
If you want to explore the area further, the Ichetucknee River is the perfect outing for relaxing on the water or for an adventure. Not only is neighboring Ichetucknee Springs State Park a haven for wildlife, it is also a destination for tubing. The park’s main attraction is its eight crystalline springs that make up the river. Blue Hole, what some consider the most pristine spring run in the state, is found in the upper portion of the state park. This natural national landmark is best enjoyed and explored by either kayak or canoe during the cooler months. For those who prefer to be on land, there are three nature trails that take visitors through majestic sandhills with towering longleaf pines as well as lush forests.
CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA
Central East Florida, sometimes referred to as the Space Coast because it is home to the space industry, also has some of the state’s best bird watching along with lush parks. With Daytona Beach, Cape Canaveral, and Cocoa Beach—this is also a region known to have some of Florida’s top surfing locations.
If you love fish or are an angler, then Fort Pierce should be on your radar. Marlin, grouper, snook, marinas, fishing charters, and tournaments are abundant in this city.With both natural and artificial reefs and shipwrecks, this destination is also a favorite of divers. If you prefer land and exploring the city’s history you can check out the Fort Pierce’s main street, which houses the Sunrise Theater (built circa 1923) and Old City Hall (built circa 1925). You can also check out the city’s mural and year-round Saturday farmer’s market. Another place worth visiting if you like aquatic wildlife is the Manatee Observation and Education Center to see manatees in the wild in the Indian River Lagoon.
Looking for treasure? Then a visit to Vero Beach should be on your list. Sea Grape Trail has been known to reveal coins and other booty from the shipwrecked 1715 Spanish fleet. Or, if you want to experience a walkable row of restaurants and shops, you can explore Vero Beach’s Ocean Drive where you will find a permanent collection of art from the likes of Andy Warhol and Dale Chihuly at Vero Beach Museum of Art. If you love plants as art, you should check out the Mckee Botnanical Garden, which is a recreation of the tropical landscape of the original McKee Jungle Gardens built in 1929.
If you want to fall asleep to the sounds of waves crashing at the beach, then parking your RV at Coral Sands Oceanfront RV Resort is the spot for you. Located in Ormond Beach with miles of uninterrupted Atlantic Ocean beachfront, this destination is one of the few RV parks situated directly on the beach. Depending on what time of year you visit you may see sea turtles nesting, Right whales migrating with their calves, dolphins playing, and stunning moon phases.
All 31 RV sites are full hookup with 20/30/50 amp electric, water and sewer, and are large enough to accommodate even the largest luxury RVs. Not only does this RV park give you a prime location for your temporary home, but you and your guests can also enjoy all of the amenities the resort has to offer including an oceanfront pool, beach cabanas, picnic tables, two family-friendly bath houses, laundry facilities, and free Wi-Fi. The resort is also pet-friendly and close to grocery stores, shopping centers, and restaurants.
There are also a variety of destinations worth visiting, all within a short drive from the resort, including Daytona Beach, which is home to NASCAR’s Daytona 500, Cape Canaveral, and St. Augustine, America’s oldest city.
The southwest region of Florida is known for its cosmopolitan cities and laid back beach lifestyles. Visitors can indulge in luxury in Naples, experience history in LaBelle, or kick their shoes off and dig their feet in the sand in Anna Maria Island.
If you want to immerse yourself into the wild a visit to Everglades City is a must. With neighboring Big Cypress National Preserve, Ten Thousand Islands, and Everglades National Park as neighbors you will quickly see where this city gets its name. Visitors can fish the flats, paddle the Everglades Wilderness Waterway Trail or hop on a airboat tour just outside of the park boundaries with one of the many outfitters that operate in the city.
Should you rather explore the region on land, you can explore beautiful Sanibel Island with its 25 miles of paved trails perfect for biking or walking that are considered some of the best trails in southwest Florida. If you want to dive a little deeper into nature you can explore an abundance of parks that make up most of Sanibel Island and protect one of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystems in the United States, including Four-Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Pine Island’s Flatwood Preserve, and Botanical Gardens at Sanibel Moorings.
Another place worth visiting that is tucked beneath a thick canopy of oaks and pines is North Port, rich in archeological history including hot springs. Warm Mineral Springs, which has one of the highest mineral contents in the world, has a history dating back ten thousand years and maintains an 85-degree temperature all year round. This 104 square-mile community is brimming with opportunities to explore 26 parks and open spaces.
Just over the bridge from Everglades City lies the perfect location to park your RV. Chokoloskee Island Park & Marina is located in the southernmost point of Florida’s southwest Gulf coast and is a fisherman’s (or woman’s) dream. While fishing in the main activity draw for this RV park, there are endless areas to explore mangroves with a kayak. Boat tours and restaurants can be found in Everglades City and Shark Valley and 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge provide plenty of opportunities to get a look at the local wildlife. Should you want a more civilized excursion, Naples is roughly 45 minutes away and offers nightlife, shopping, and many other forms of entertainment.
Chokoloskee Island Park & Marina’s RV sites can accommodate RVs up to 30 feet in length and all of the sites include free electric, sewer and water hookups for stays up to 30 days. The park has a variety of amenities for guests to use including a bathhouse, laundry facilities, a recreational hall and kitchen with games, puzzles, books, and cable television, a pavilion to watch the sun set (or rise) with a fire pit that’s perfect to make smores, and a marina store that has bait and other sundries.
Whether you are fantasizing about a big city getaway to Miami, a luxurious trip to the Palm Beaches, or a laid back trip to the Keys, Southeast Florida offers something for everyone with Latin and Caribbean influences.
Arts, entertainment, restaurants, and shopping can be found in Coral Gables, which is located south of downtown Miami. You can explore all of the above at CocoWalk and Mayfair in the Grove. If you are prefer to step back in time and explore some of the region’s opulent history, a visit to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens—a European inspired mansion with 34 rooms and an orchidarium with five centuries of antiques throughout the property—is a must. You will be amazed that this was once just a summer home for one man. The property also boasts one of the most stunning gardens in the country. For the nature lovers out there, Bahia Honda State Park is a hidden gem.
Southern Florida has so much to offer, but nothing can be more quintessential than a visit to Key West—the United States’ most southern point. Just when you think the water can’t any more beautiful than the colors of the ocean in Miami Beach (or the Emerald Coast), the waters of the keys—and in particular Key West—immediately transport you to the Caribbean without having to leave the country.Indulge in Duval Street’s bars and restaurants, relish an iconic sunset in Mallory Square, or dive into the island’s history along Pelican Path and visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, the Harry S. Truman Little White House, or the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens. If you want to experience unrivaled diving, snorkeling, or fishing you can hop on a seaplane or boat to visit Dry Tortugas National Park, one of the country’s most remote recreational areas with a 19th Century fort.
Since there is so much to see and do in Key West, there is no better place on the island to make your home than luxury RV resort, Bluewater Key. Sites at this resort are landscaped with a variety of lush tropical foliage and trees that provide both privacy and shade, and average 35 feet wide and 80 feet in depth (or bigger).All sites have water, sewer, electric (30 and 50 amp), HD cable TV, and high-speed Wi-Fi with Tiki huts and outdoor seating. If you happen to have a boat in tow, the resort’s “Bay-Front” and “Canal” sites have private docks. The resort’s community dock has 25’ boat slips for rent for a daily rate. Other amenities include a fresh water pool, a clubhouse, a dog park, a park for guests, a laundry facility, and in close proximity are a coffee house and a market.