Welcome to Florida
From the Florida Panhandle to the Keys, from the Space Coast to the Nature Coast and from the Orlando-area theme parks to the Everglades, there is much for the RVer to discover in several regions.
Start your trip on the First Coast. St. Augustine is a focal point and the inspiration for Florida's First Coast. The oldest continuously occupied city in America (1565) shares this coastline with Jacksonville, Amelia Island and Daytona Beach. The list of St. Augustine attractions is nearly endless—historic St. George Street, Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine Lighthouse, Anastasia State Park, Lightner Museum, Oldest Wooden School House and more.
Home to Daytona International Speedway and Daytona USA, Daytona Beach is known for its auto-racing spectaculars, wide beaches and Spring Break.
The Space Coast is known as the home of NASA's Kennedy Space Center and some of the best surfing in the country. Start your exploration of the Kennedy Space Center with a bus tour that takes you to the pad that launched Apollo missions. Attractions include the Apollo/Saturn V Center, Space Shuttle Atlantis, Shuttle Launch Experience and Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted.
The Emerald Coast—Florida's northwest coast—received this name from its emerald-green waters that contrast with sugar-white sand. An area on the Gulf of Mexico, the Emerald Coast is bounded by Pensacola on the west and Port St. Joe on the east. Popular RV destinations include Pensacola Beach, Gulf Breeze, Navarre Beach, Fort Walton Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Grayton Beach, Panama City Beach, Destin and Seaside.
Settled by the Spanish in 1559, Pensacola was the first European settlement in the U.S. Experience hands-on history at the National Naval Aviation Museum located at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Here you can see exhibits of military aircraft that won wars and made history.
The Sun Coast stretches along the Gulf of Mexico from the Everglades through Naples and Fort Myers to Tampa Bay. Don't overlook the tarpon-rich Boca Pass, Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda and Venice. Tour the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. For a slower pace comb the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva for some of the world's best shelling. Explore the Tampa Bay area including bustling Tampa and artsy St. Petersburg. Enjoy a side trip north to the charming Greek sponge fishing village of Tarpon Springs.
The Treasure Coast comes by its name naturally. Three hundred years ago, nearly a dozen Spanish galleons carrying much more than a hundred pieces of gold smashed aground in a hurricane near the present-day towns of Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie and Stuart.
The ships' cargoes spilled out from Sebastian Inlet on the north past Fort Pierce Inlet to the south. Today, this area boasts another kind of "gold"—great golf, natural beauty, picturesque towns, plenty of attractions and sandy beaches.
The Florida Keys are a string of coral islands strung 160 miles into the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. This series of islands is connected by the Overseas Highway's 43 bridges. Vistas of the Keys are dominated by emerald-green lagoons, deep-blue seas, swaying palms and olive-green mangroves. The Florida Keys are best known for diving, fishing and sunset celebrations, including daily festivities at Key West's Mallory Square. Stroll along Duval Street and sample key lime pie and conch (a local shellfish pronounced "conk") salad.
Orlando, Land of Theme Parks
Orlando is the theme park capital of the world and Disney World is its acknowledged leader with four theme parks—Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom—and two water parks—Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon.
Other major entertainment parks include Universal Orlando Resort (with Universal Studios Florida, Universal's Islands of Adventure and Wet 'n Wild Waterpark), Sea World Orlando, Discovery Cove, Gatorland, Legoland Florida (formerly Cypress Gardens), Fantasy of Flight and Holy Land Experience.
The Everglades spanning the southern tip of the Florida peninsula is a huge subtropical wilderness of saw grass marshes, mangrove forests and hardwood hammocks dominated by wetlands. The largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S., the Everglades has been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and Wetland of International Importance. Everglades National Park can be explored by airboat, canoe, kayak, tram tours and hiking.
Located midway between Port St. Lucie and Fort Myers, Okeechobee County is a vacation destination sure to make outdoor lovers of all types happy year-round. From freshwater fishing, air boating and hiking, Okeechobee County, Florida, gives every visitor an escape from the everyday and a laid back atmosphere that will make you want to stay forever.
In the center of Okeechobee County lies the largest freshwater lake in Florida and the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States. At 730 square miles, Lake Okeechobee is the headwaters of the Everglades and, at only 10 feet deep, is home to some of the biggest largemouth bass and large-mouth bass tournaments in the state.
Although tournament anglers flock to Lake Okeechobee for a chance at prize money, you don't have to be a professional angler to have fun here. In fact, it doesn't matter if you're a seasoned fishing enthusiast or that guy who just bought a rod and reel for the first time. Both have a good chance of snagging the big catch.
There are plenty of guide services to help you find a great fishing spot. You can also try fishing for bass from the bank, but if you really want to get one of the trophy fish you might need to venture out a little farther onto the water. You can rent a boat or bring your own. Most of the boat rental facilities are located in Clewiston, located on the lake's southwest bank.
Because Lake Okeechobee is only ten feet deep and drains into the Everglades, it lends itself to a very unique sport—air boating. Unlike conventional motorboats, airboats are powered by a gigantic fan attached to the back of the crafts. These flat-bottomed boats reach high speeds as they skim across the surface, giving passengers a thrilling ride on the water.
A number of companies in Okeechobee County offer eco-tours of the area to see Florida animals in their natural habitat. Bird watchers can see various types of waterfowl as well as a growing population of American bald eagles, endangered whooping cranes and pink flamingos.
If you've come to Lake Okeechobee to get back to nature, then you'll definitely need to check out the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, also known as L.O.S.T. This 110-mile trail encircles the lake and offers outdoor enthusiasts a chance to do some bird watching and see animals like armadillos and alligators in their natural habitat. The trail sits atop the 35-foot-high US Army Corps of Engineers Herbert Hoover flood control levee.