The nation’s third-largest state has long been a destination for spring break, winter beach vacations, and family trips to theme parks. Tourism and fine weather bring folks back to Florida year over year. But, rather than fly into Miami or Orlando, consider packing up the RV and exploring it in your own time.
Florida, known as “The Sunshine State,” lives up to its name with an average of 237 days of sunshine a year. The warm winter weather attracts snowbirds from the North. As a result, you’ll find a wide selection of RV campgrounds across the state catering to this seasonal trend. RV sites at desirable campgrounds may book out, but you’re never far away from another campground option nearby.
More than just a place to soak up the sun, Florida is made up of “…more than eighty distinct ecosystems,” according to The University of Florida’s Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences. Wetlands, hardwood hammocks, expansive grasslands, and freshwater lakes are just a few landscapes that attract recreators here for outdoor fun, boating, and camping. Though Florida can get brutally hot and humid in the Summer, there’s no shortage of ways to cool off in the water during this time.
It’s hard to sum up such a large state with stats. To really get to know the varied landscapes across Florida, you have to see them for yourself. So, pack your sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses, but don’t expect to just sit on the beach. If you want to experience the best the state has to offer, you’ll want an RV to help you get there.
Explore some of these hallmark natural attractions in Florida. Set up your RV at a sunny campground and start exploring.
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are made up of a 125-mile chain of islands that trail out into the ocean below the mainland state. At the end of the keys sits Key West, the southernmost point of the continental United States. Once you depart mainland Florida, you’re in for a 3-hour, 2-lane drive through the Keys. It’s here where time begins to slow down. You’re on island time, where the only thing on your to-do list is: fish, swim, sip a sour key-lime Margherita, repeat.
Key West is a famous tourist destination, made popular by Ernest Hemingway’s residence here while penning “The Old Man and the Sea.” But, there are so many more keys to explore than just Key West. Try Marathon Key, the last island before the famous seven-mile overwater bridge. Marathon has more of a residential vibe and is quieter and more peaceful than Key West. The Sea Turtle Hospital is a must-visit for any educational family excursion.
Seven-Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys is reason enough to see this area. (Image from Shutterstock)
It’s hard to think of Florida without thinking about the nation’s third-largest national park: the Everglades. Ranking after Yellowstone and Death Valley, The Everglades National Park covers 1.5 million acres. As big as that may seem, the Everglades today is just half of its original size.
Some people think the Everglades is just a big, endless swamp. But actually, it’s a slow-moving river. Travelers who love spotting exciting wildlife will enjoy exploring The Everglades. American alligators, American crocodiles, and the rare and endangered Florida panther are just a few exciting native animals you’ll find living here. Book an airboat tour with a professional to gain access to these sightings.
Want to learn how to enjoy the Everglades National Park in an RV? Explore Camping World’s Guide to The Everglades National Park.
Airboat Rides in the Everglades come highly recommended. (Image from Shutterstock)
Florida is often nicknamed “The Swamp,” because of the wetlands here. But the dry prairie is also a big part of the landscape, particularly in Central Florida. The Kissimmee Prairie Preserve Park is 54,000 acres of infinite grassland savanna. Because of its size and lack of development, this vast park is a designated dark sky park, meaning visitors can spot the Milky Way without binoculars or telescopes.
Explore Central Florida’s dry prairies by basing yourself out of Lakeland. The downtown historic district is perfect for strolling. Architecture buffs will enjoy admiring early 1900’s buildings here or admiring the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright on the Florida Southern College campus. Don’t be afraid to embark on a leisurely driving day to explore the small towns off of highway 98.
Kissimmee prairie park preserve in Florida has tons of wildlife. (Image from Shutterstock)
Florida is famous for its beaches, but there’s more than just salt water and sand on this large peninsula. Florida is actually made up of layers of limestone, rock, gravel, and sand—complex components of its aquifer system. When the filtered underground water in the aquifer develops pressure, it bubbles to the surface as an artesian spring. These clear, freshwater springs pop up all over Central and North Florida. The water stays at a consistently cool temperature year-round, making them one of the best places to enjoy Florida’s hot summer weather.
Explore Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, on Florida’s west coast. This spring has a quirky vibe to it thanks to the underwater mermaid performances that have been entertaining guests since 1959. A great family destination, two waterslides splash directly into the large pools of cool, clean water bubbling fresh from the spring.
Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida, is a must-see for any adventurer. (Image from Shutterstock)
The Ocala National Forest is a real outdoor playground. Mountain bike trails, canoe runs, freshwater springs, hardwood hammocks, and pine scrub can be found within the 673-square-mile forest. The Ocala Forest is fun for exploring, geocaching, and orienteering. You can even file for a permit to hike into the forest to cut down your own Florida Christmas tree.
The Ocala area is known for horseback riding and orange groves. Set up camp in a shady campground, with live oaks dripping in Spanish moss. Book a horseback ride through Ocala National Forest for a unique way to see this landscape.
Ocala National Forest is a beautiful place to explore. (Image: Shutterstock)
The Atlantic Coast
Florida’s Atlantic beaches often have cooler waters than the Gulf and bigger waves. On Florida’s northern Atlantic coast, the beaches are long and wide. St. Augustine serves as the perfect jumping-off point for seeing this coast. Visit Anastasia State Park, a protected wildlife sanctuary, for a look at the untouched Florida coastline.
St. Augustine holds the title of “Oldest City in the US,” and is home to 43 miles of beaches. The town is characterized by Spanish colonial architecture. Many travelers come here for the food and charming walkable streets that make it a romantic getaway. Golf, tennis, surfing, diving, and parasailing are all activities made easily accessible to visitors through tours and rentals.
St. Augustine, Florida, should be on your list of places to stop. (Image from Shutterstock)
Florida’s Gulf coast has a few nicknames: The “Emerald Coast,” and the “Forgotten Coast,” referring respectively to the jewel-toned water and the sleepy beach towns that retain their own sense of charm. The gulf beaches here have white, powdery sand and calm waves that roll gently at your feet. Boating and fishing these waters are popular among anglers who are hunting for mackerel, cobia, and wahoo.
Base yourself in Destin where you’ll have easy access to grocery stores and sundries nearby. Families will enjoy a snorkeling trip out to Navarre Beach Gulf Snorkel Reef. Take a drive along the coastline in search of freshly caught lunch from one of the fish fries or crab shacks serving local blue crab.
Crab Island in Destin, Florida, is a popular spot. (Image from Shutterstock)