Museums, thrills, and tons of parks make the Gulf Coast of Florida the perfect spot to start your Tampa to Tallahassee RV road trip. After you've had your fill of city skylines and cultural exhibits, forest-lined highways will greet you on your route north. I-75 is dotted with small towns, sapphire-blue springs, and phenomenal natural areas that are just beckoning for exploration.
Though this route is rich in coastal beauty and passes through several gorgeous national forests, no national parks are on the direct path from Tampa to Tallahassee. However, if you depart a little farther south on your route, you will find two of the best national parks Florida has to offer.
Everglades National Park
Most people imagine the white sandy beaches and turquoise coasts of Florida. However, without modern engineering, most of the state's lower half would be a large, swampy bog. These wetland areas are vital to the preservation of Florida's native birds, reptiles, and the watershed, which is why over 1.5 million acres in the state were set aside as Everglades National Park. Located just three hours south of Tampa, the Everglades is one of the largest national parks in the United States and certainly worth the slight detour. Those looking for an adventure on their Tampa to Tallahassee RV road trip can book an airboat tour to see wild Florida and perhaps meet a few of the local alligator hosts.
Biscayne National Park
Just 300 miles south of Tampa on the opposite coast of Florida is a saltwater paradise called Biscayne National Park. Fishing, kayaking, and wildlife watching are the top activities within the shallow coastal waters that span 172,000 acres. Snorkeling tours can also be scheduled at the visitors center as the best coral reefs are located approximately 10 miles from the shore and are best reached by boat.
Rainbow Springs State Park
Just 30 minutes west of Ocala is Rainbow Springs State Park. In the heat of summer, these crystal-clear waters are a very popular spot for swimming as their temperatures remain a perfect 72 degrees year-round. The water is continuously circulated by a natural series of small vents that pump 400 million gallons of water fed from an underground spring. Freshwater turtles, fish, manatee, and other aquatic wildlife make snorkeling these waters exciting.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Wild horses and bison in Florida? Yes! Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park has both roaming wild along with birds, alligators, deer, raccoon, and other native animals throughout its 21,000-acre savannah. This park is right on the route from Ocala to Gainesville and was also once home to the Seminole Indians. You can learn about the Seminoles in the educational exhibits and programs the park produces. This park is quite large, so pack a lunch for a midday meal and enjoy one of the many picturesque picnic spots. For the best view, be sure to climb to the top of the 50-foot observation tower on the Wacahoota Trail.
Suwannee River State Park
Right off I-10, just 75 miles east of Tallahassee, is Suwannee River State Park. Nearly every American has heard the old folk song singing the praises of the ancient river of Suwanee. Bicycling, boating, and birding are all popular activities within this famous park, and history buffs can glimpse the remnants of a 19th-century steamship and two ghost towns there. These ancient relics remind visitors of the significance the waterways had on trade for the early settlers.
Busch Gardens in Tampa has some of the best roller coasters ever built, many of which have broken world records. For example, the SheiKra ride was the longest, tallest, and fastest coaster in the world when it was constructed in 2005. In addition to the excitement, visitors can enjoy tastings from the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company and see the famous Clydesdale horses. The park is African-themed, and the animal exhibits treat guests with exhibits of crocodiles, lions, hyenas, hippos, and a lively family of lemurs.
The sleepy town of Ocala has more than a few secrets for visitors to unfold, such as a nearby gem called Silver Springs. There are 4,000 acres that are comprised of an underground-fed freshwater spring, surrounding forests, and the historic Silver River Museum that details how important this waterway was and still remains. The history of the area’s use dates back to the first Neolithic settlers of Florida and carries through to the Spanish explorers all the way to modern times. The best way to enjoy this park is by booking a glass-bottom boat tour, but be sure to go early as tours often fill up.
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens
Ornamental gardens, moss-lined hiking trails, and lakeview picnic spots are just some of the highlights of this fairytale setting. Maclay Gardens in Tallahassee is beautiful year-round, but those visiting between January and April receive a real treat as that is when the garden's blooming season peaks. For those interested in architecture, you can step back into 1923 with a tour of the quaint winter home of Alfred and Louise Maclay, the original owners of the property. If scheduling allows, visit during the week as this spot is incredibly popular hosting weddings on the weekends, requiring portions of the grounds to close during these events.
Departing from the hustle and bustle of the Tampa metropolis, drivers will encounter much quieter roadways on their road trip from Tampa to Tallahassee with forested scenery between the cities. It is common to see deer, wild hogs, and even bobcats through this region, and there is more than one designated "panther crossing" sign. If peace and quiet beckon, there are also many campgrounds and dump stations to offer a break along the way.
Begin your Tampa to Tallahassee road trip in this vibrant city to experience art, culture, and a perfect blend of modern style infused with a Cuban influence. It is even home to its own theme park, Busch Gardens. If you find you need more than a day to explore all that the city offers, there are several campgrounds and dump station locations nearby.
Ocala has become the "Horse Capital of the World," and numerous farms breed and train thoroughbreds, American quarter horses, Tennessee walkers, and other show horses. The equine industry hosts year-round events such as rodeos, barrel races, and draft pulls. Should you care to catch a show, Ocala has some of the state's most beautiful campgrounds that you can call home during your Tampa to Tallahassee RV road trip. The city is surrounded by forests, natural springs, and historic landmarks, so one day is not enough to fully explore all the wonderful spots Ocala possesses.
Gainesville is a town that loves its sports. To show their support for the Gators of the University of Florida, this quaint city goes orange during football season. The campus is one of the largest in the U.S., and in addition to drawing in tourism revenue from games, the school's College of the Arts provides culture. With performing arts and visual arts offerings, the Greater Gainesville region has no shortage of shows, collections, galleries, and performances throughout the year to encourage visitors to stay a little longer.
Lush and green, the rolling hills of Tallahassee are the perfect place for an extended stay. Several roads throughout the city have moss dangling from the shade of their overhead oaks, making them ideal for a rambling drive through the city. Tallahassee is home to 700 miles of trails, mountain bike courses, and running paths for outdoor enthusiasts. There are many nearby lakes and rivers for fishing, paddling, and wildlife viewing. Tallahassee is a great transportation hub as well, so if a stopover is what you are looking for, a nearby dump station can help you freshen up your RV before you embark on your next adventure.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Tampa to Tallahassee, 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 Tallahassee.