As full-time RV’ers we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include at least 1 epic boondocking area, some complete with pictures and all with GPS coordinates.
Our Top Pick of the 14 Most Interesting Hidden Gems in Florida
Last week we had more people contact us through our blog than any other week in the past. Most said they had received a link from a friend. So we want to thank everyone who is sharing our blogs! It truly means a lot to us, and we are glad you’re liking them enough to share. If this is your first time, welcome! We look forward to getting to know you all.
Before we get into our tops picks, here are a few super amazing things to see that are not uncrowded, or off the beaten path but definitely must see’s while you’re in Florida. Dry Tortugas, Manatee Springs and Devils Den are our top pics for the popular places.
We love the amazing beaches and clear waters of Florida like everyone does. But if you’re looking for something just a little different to do, here’s our picks.
Crystal River is a coastal city in western Florida. Kings Bay, which is fed by springs, is home to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, sheltering manatees year-round. Boardwalks at Three Sisters Springs Wildlife Refuge offer views of the marine mammal and the natural springs.
Rock Springs Run and the Wekiva River are a paddler’s paradise with 16 miles of continuous, crystal clear spring water that will take you for a meandering ride to the St. John’s River and beyond. Canoes and kayaks are at home in this vast, natural wonderland of birds, bees and subtropical forests. Bring your camera. FYI: There is no access to Rock Springs Run or Wekiva River from the Rock Springs Run State Reserve.
Tubing/Kayaking at Rainbow River – About 2 hours north of Tampa, you’ll find Rainbow River. I mean just look at this place!! You can bring your own tube, or rent one, but it’s a super fun float experience for you and the kids. Kayaking this is great too! It’s more of a float though.
If you do nothing else water related, do this!! Super cool Kayaking trip at night!! Bioluminescent Kayaking Tours. This night tour takes you to the Florida’s Indian River Lagoon to see that waters light about with a bright blue-green glow. You light it up with the splash of your kayak paddle. There are companies that offer regular kayaks, family rafts, and the spectacular clear kayaking bioluminescence experience. Tours depart every night throughout the year. When Justin was stationed in Puerto Rico, we had only been married for a few months, and I took off work and flew out to spend our first married Thanksgiving together. There was a similar lake there, and it’s definitely something to see.
- We get so many questions on our kayaks I wanted to share the ones we have. These fit behind the theater seat in our RV and are the size of a large hiking backpack. Very small and the we’ve truly enjoyed them!! Click HERE to see what brand and model kayaks we have.
We love history, and especially history we can see and touch. There are several Sugar Mill ruins in Florida. Bulow Plantation Ruins The ruins of this ante-bellum sugar plantation are the end result of a Seminole attack during the Florida Wars of 1836. More than 20 years before Florida became a state, a South Carolina man named Charles Wilhelm Bulow bought up almost 9,000 acres of land bordering a tidal creek along the central coast, not far from present-day Daytona Beach.
If you’re a diver, check out Vortex Springs. Justin is a certified diver, but Stacy is not. We’ve heard this is an unbelievable place to visit.
Washington Oaks State Park – Palm Coast – Florida is known for the flat, white sands as far as you can see. The Rocks is a mile of unusual geological formations, caves, nooks, and crannies in the water-worn coquina rock. Whether or not the rocks appear depends on the recent weather and tides. If there has been a number of nor’easter-type storms, then you can be pretty sure that the rocks will appear.
Coral Castle – Homestead – This may or may not be on the more popular side of things to do, but I had to include it. A mysterious castle built as a monument to lost love. The castle contains many wonders including a sundial, a stone rocking chair, a 500-pound heart-shaped stone table (a “Valentine” for his lost love), and a 9-ton gate made to spin with just a light touch. It’s just a really unique story behind this “Castle” (plus, if you have kids, I think they’d love this unique place). When Ed Leedskalnin was jilted by his sweet sixteen the day before their wedding, it was to send him on a mysterious and marvelous path of creation.
Do you like ruins as much as we do? I hope so, because so many of our blogs have ruins listed. We love the history and stories behind them. Cruger-dePeyster Sugar Mill Ruins. Despite being made of a seashell mortar, the crumbling remains of this historic Florida mill are still standing.
We love the mystery behind abandoned towns. What causes people to just leave an entire town? The Ghost Town of Ellaville. This really eerie ghost town is located on the banks of the Suwannee River. I don’t think I’d go out of my way to go see this, but if you’re traveling close enough to this sight, check it out. Again, the story and the history behind this place is fascinating and sad. Directions: On the western side of the Suwanee River. Drive west on Highway 90; the sign for Ellaville can be seen as you cross the river.
Who doesn’t love the artistic houses of Frank Lloyd Wright? The Lewis Spring House is best known for being one of only two pod-shaped houses designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well the only private residential home in Florida designed by the famous architect. What’s more, this unique residence is directly tied to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Check out the Fallingwater House in PA too. We listed it on our blog HERE.
Falling Waters State Park – Waterfalls are hard to come by in Florida, but this state park is home to Florida’s tallest natural waterfall, which rushes 73 feet down the wall of a massive sinkhole. If you’ve read my blogs you know waterfalls are my favorite places. Plan your visit to coincide with recent heavy rain, so there will be lots of water. Don’t underestimate State Parks as being some of the most amazing places to visit.
Another State Park – Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka – This little-known park in North Florida doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This park with manicured gardens, footbridges, and trails created in the 1930s is magical during the springtime when thousands of azaleas are in bloom.
There are still so many places we want to explore in Florida and hope to do that after the holidays this year. Please share your own Off the Beaten Path places with us.
Yes, I know! You’ve heard there aren’t any places to boondock on the East Coast! Yes, it’s a little more challenging depending on where you want to go, and the drive to get there from boondocking locations. So sometimes you have to make some choices. But Florida has hundreds of amazing boondocking places.
- Check out the Apalachicola National Forest. There are literally dozens of places here to camp. Big, small, tent, car, van, and yes, even large RV areas. You can camp anywhere in the National Forest according to their website, and there is a 14 day maximum stay. There are some restrictions during hunting seasons, so make sure you know what those limitations are.
- Goose Pasture Campground – GPS: 30.202837, -83.967889 – Good cell service, and plenty of room.
- West Tower Hunt Camp – Lake City FL GPS: 30.323169, -82.559026
- Scott Road Beach Access: GPS: 30.58876, -81.44392 // Only 24 hours permitted here but ohhh what a view!
We hope you enjoyed this blog post and we’d love to hear from you! Remember to Live Simply, Give More, Expect Less.
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