Growing up in Tennessee, we vacationed to Florida quite a bit. Everyone headed to the sunshine state for a beach vacation and this was a yearly trip for most Tennesseans in our area. When we started looking for a winter destination, locations are limited if you want warm weather while living in your RV.
We wanted mild weather to boondock and some sunshine to allow outdoor activities. It had dropped to 3 degrees in Tennessee and the snow was a blanket around our RV. We were then ready to melt our winter blues away and start exploring again.
I am going to be honest, we originally did not take Florida into consideration. We’d traveled to Florida so many times growing up and were ready for something new and exciting! I started doing the initial research of the area and although we had been in Florida multiple times, we had never really EXPLORED Florida. We had been to tons of Florida beaches, and they do have some beautiful beaches, but beaches were only the surface of Florida.
After a little research I started to get excited. We decided to make the trip to Florida this winter and dig into Florida other than our usual beach trips. Here is a few of our favorite stops along the way!
Swimming with the Manatees
One of the highlights from our Florida oasis, was having the opportunity to swim with the manatees. Every winter the manatees head to the warmer waters of the springs where the temperatures remain constant year round. It is an amazing experience getting to witness so many manatees in one place. There are lots of viewing areas in the area and several ways to catch a glimpse of these magnificent sea cows. You may just see them from a distance on the 3 Sister’s Spring Boardwalk, rent a kayak, or go snorkeling. If you have never seen a Florida Spring it is stunning!
I took a tour with River Ventures which was great. With the tour, they took you out on a boat, taught you manatee etiquette and laws, as well as provided wetsuits and snorkeling gear. It was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I would highly suggest this if you have the desire. I even got a kiss from a baby manatee! Check out our video if you want to see more.
The wildlife in Florida is incredible. If nature is your thing, then you are in luck! Take a hike in a preserve and catch of glimpse of some animals in the wild. Circle B Reserve was a stop with some beautiful trails and LARGE gators have been recorded being seen at this location.
Airboat rides are also one of the most fun ways to experience Florida nature. Myakka State Park has 2 of the largest Airboats in the world that you can hop aboard or take a trip to the Everglades and get an experience like no other.
Florida offers some beautiful zoos, wildlife preserves, and aquariums that are fun for the whole family. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is home to Winter the Dolphin from Dolphin’s Tale. Weeks after our visit to the aquarium, our little one is still talking about how she met Winter. Winter has an incredible story of loosing her tail in a tragic accident and now she swims with a prosthetic tail that saved her life.
Our first snorkeling experience was in the Florida Keys and it was a lot of fun. That is where my love for snorkeling began. If you are up for an adventure check out Devil’s Den. It is a beautiful underwater spring inside a cave. It is a unique experience.
Located off the gorgeous Fort DeSoto County Park is Egmont Key. You can catch a ferry ride to this State Park Island and do some snorkeling where you can discover partially sunken remnants of a historic fortress and a habitat for flourishing sea life. These are just a few examples of the fun opportunities to take a glimpse into the world under the sea.
Before living fulltime in an RV, State Parks were never on our radar. We did not seek them out and it was not a priority to us in the beginning. Now that we have been on the road for a while, we have seen the significance and beauty of the State and National parks in our country. Florida is no exception to the rule. They have some incredible State Parks.
If you plan on camping in these parks, then you must book ahead, especially in the winter months or hope for cancellations. We unfortunately did not book ahead and have had no success getting a reservation, but we did get to explore a few of them for day trips.
Watch a historical mermaid show at Weeki Watchee, hike a canopy trail at Myakka River, or take a glass bottom boat ride at Silver Springs State Park. There are lots of trails for hiking, biking,kayaking, or whatever outdoor adventure you choose.
There is so much to see and explore even in our own backyard. It’s easy overlook an area and not truly explore it’s potential because it has always been so close to us. I’d always associated Florida with beaches and Disney World, which don’t get me wrong are two of my favorite things in the world, but there is so much more to the places around us then what meets the eye. Go start exploring near you!