Miles and miles of gorgeous beaches are awaiting you on your south-bound road trip from Tampa to Fort Myers, Florida. This mini-vacation takes under two hours on the 125 mile-trek and is packed with interesting shops, some of the best museums in the state, and pristine state parks with astounding bird sanctuaries and wildlife viewing areas. Beginning with the abundant architecture of Tampa's cityscape and winding down the coast through some of Florida's charming small towns, the route from Tampa to Fort Myers offers a sampling of the best the state has to offer, so you may find yourself wanting to linger much longer than a few hours. You'll want to stop in St. Petersburg, which boasts an impressive offering of museums and culture, and perhaps venture over to Ybor City before pressing on to more boutique areas such as Bradenton and Sarasota. Fort Myers also has a ton to offer and a visit would not be complete without stopping to see the Edison and Ford Winter Estate.
While there are no national parks on your road trip itinerary from Tampa to Fort Myers, just a short venture a couple of hours to the south will deliver you to one of the largest national parks in the U.S. Because the Everglades is practically synonymous with the Florida landscape, it's definitely worth a stop on your Tampa to Fort Myers RV road trip.
Everglades National Park
If alligators and airboats sound like your type of adventure, consider taking a day trip from Fort Myers down to Everglades National Park. The expansive natural area is comprised of over 1.5 million acres of swamplands, pine flatwoods, and marshlands. Everglades is the third-largest national park in the United States and the home to thousands of animals, birds, and native plants. From hiking and biking to paddling and camping, the Everglades provide all the activities any outdoor enthusiast would hope for.
Plenty of estuaries and alligators can be found on your South Florida venture, and RVshare has an excellent state park guide that details them.
Myakka River State Park
One of the state's oldest state parks, Myakka River State Park is a 58-mile winding preserve that is home to native Florida wildflowers, birds, and wildlife. For the best view, canoe and kayak rentals are available on-site for a first-hand glimpse at why this is one of the most popular paddling destinations in southwest Florida.
Peace River State Forest
Fossil hunters can find a treasure trove within the borders of Peace River State Forest park, which is near Arcadia, FL. Shark's teeth and even arrowheads are popular finds within the winding river there. Canoeing through this river is truly as peaceful as its namesake as the canoe trail meanders through trees dripping in moss. The trail can be followed down to Port Charlotte Harbor.
Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park
Over 100 acres of protected coastlines are included in the 45,387 acres of Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, near Fort Myers. This park is remote and primitive, so it has no restrooms or other facilities. As with most of the other parks in Florida, a canoe or kayak is a welcome accessory to observe wildlife in their natural scrub habitats, such as the resident dolphins and manatees that frequent the park. For those who prefer dry land, there are also 6 miles of marked hiking trails.
Yucca Pens Unit State Wildlife Management Area
If you are looking for a secret spot only visited by the locals, the Yucca Pens is it! This treasured preserved is located just north of Cape Coral, Florida, and is a block of untouched flatwoods and wetlands used for off-road adventures and hunting. The area is in the process of restoration, so visitors will need to obtain the required licenses and heed marked trails for select motorized vehicles.
Before departing southward, take an excursion to visit Tampa's playground located in the historic community of Ybor City. Founded by a cigar manufacturer, this neighborhood is richly flavored by its Cuban, Spanish, and Italian influences and features abundant restaurants and nightclubs to keep you entertained. Named as a National Historic Landmark District, the area boasts several buildings recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.
Salvador Dali Museum
After opening in 1982, the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, became a beacon for the arts. The museum houses one of the most complete Dali collections in the world with over 1,400 graphics, sculptures, watercolors, and paintings. The building is considered art itself as the architect, Yann Weymouth, was inspired by the surrealist artists' work. The building cost a reported $30 million, stands 75-feet tall, prominently features a fantastic helical staircase, and includes a glass bubble comprised of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass.
The Edison and Ford Winter Estates
Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were very good friends and chose to winter together in Fort Myers. Their winter estates have been preserved and are now fascinating historic homes that can be toured along with a collection of Edison's early inventions and Ford's first vehicles. The grounds surrounding the homes are 20 acres of botanical gardens, and visitors can enjoy a variety of intriguing exhibits within the laboratory and museum.
Whether you are enraptured by the bustling cityscape of Tampa and St. Petersburg or captured by the charm of Bradenton and Sarasota, the road trip itinerary from Tampa to Fort Myers is so full of wonderful scenery that you'll likely find yourself extending your stay in one of the many campgrounds or utilizing one of the dump stations available along the way.
Looping east on 275 just over the bay from the city of Tampa is the city of St. Petersburg. The waterfront skyline includes many office high rises and several parks. The city is also known as an art hub and is home to numerous museums and art centers, including the Salvador Dali Museum. There are tons of campgrounds nearby, and an overnight stay would be highly rewarded as St. Petersburg has a thriving nightlife with popular waterfront dining, bars, and clubs that are open until 3:00 a.m. If you are looking for a quick stopover, a nearby dump station can be located to keep your RV tidy.
Bradenton is an up-and-coming city that shares the artsy culture with St. Petersburg and Tampa. Not just a sleepy suburb, this city offers a planetarium, aquarium, theaters, and tons of boutique shops and art markets. If you find yourself lucky enough to drive through during one of the many festivals this city hosts throughout the year, a beautiful campground is right around the corner.
White sand beaches and crystal blue waters have made Sarasota famous, but the Ringling Museum has made this destination known as the Cultural Coast. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy boating or visiting Ed Smith Stadium while naturalists can enjoy the beaches or nearby state parks. This small city has so much to offer that you may never want to leave, and with the available RV campgrounds and dump stations nearby, you'll never need to.
Sports attractions, tons of shopping, a plenitude of natural areas, and a revitalized downtown area make Fort Myers the perfect end to a southern road trip. When combined with some of the best sandy white beaches and turquoise waters in the state, it is no wonder that Fort Myers is the ideal RV destination. The city has many campground options ranging from coastal locations, inner-city spots, and wildlife preserves in case you want to extend your stay.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Tampa to Fort Myers, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Tampa or Fort Myers.