Where to Wander

Road Trip Through Florida’s Hidden Gems

Florida has a TON to offer on any vacation. Warm weather, unbelievable sites, and of course beaches. But many people miss Florida’s hidden gems!

One of the most unforgettable experiences you can have is road-tripping through Inland Florida. The coast of Florida is beautiful, but it is also very touristy. The non-coastal part of Florida is SO SO cool, and much less packed.

The adventure awaiting on this road trip will beat a coastal trip every single time. You’ll go biking, hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving, exploring, picnicking, and SO much more! Let the road trip begin.

Here’s a map that shows the location of every place we are recommending. If you’re charting your course, make sure to put at least a few of these (if not all of them) on your road trip route!

Hiking Garden of Eden Trail

Stop number 1 on this Tour de Florida is the Garden of Eden Trail. Located in the panhandle, this is about as much of a hike as you can find in Florida!

The hike itself is about 3.5 miles, involving ascents and descents both ways. Essentially halfway through the hike you are down at water-level, and then you hike up to the overlook. So essentially you are hiking a giant letter V there and a giant letter V back.

The trail ends with a beautiful overlook of the Appalachicola River. We spend a half hour watching the water rush by, sitting together enjoying the moment. We highly recommend this hike as a start to your Tour de Florida!

Check out Devil’s Den – Scuba!

We are going to be PERFECTLY honest here, Devil’s Den was a bittersweet experience for us. We were SO SO SO excited for it, because the pictures we’d seen online looked INCREDIBLE!

Then we got there, and the pictures DID actually do it justice. It was an incredibly beautiful swimming hole. But here’s the rub: that’s all it was.

We were expecting a large snorkeling area that we could explore, looking to spot some exotic fish or sea turtles. We wanted to spend 5 hours exploring, taking pictures, enjoying our surroundings.

Instead, what we found was a swimming hole the size of a city park pool, being hogged by 2 lovebirds making out the whole time. It would take about 12 minutes to snorkel through the entire place, and we only saw 1 fish in our entire time. Not worth the $15 to snorkel in our opinion.

Now, if you are scuba diving, this is an ENTIRELY different story. The scuba area in Devil’s Den is enormous! What this place lacks in surface area, it makes up for in depth.

We ourselves are not scuba certified, so we weren’t able to partake, but this is a haven for scuba divers. If you are certified, then you HAVE to add this to your bucket list.

Biking the Santos Trail

The Santos Bike Trail is located just outside Ocala National Forest, and is a MUST for anyone who enjoys hoping on two wheels. This trail is special though, because it has routes for ANY skill level of rider.

What do we mean by that? Well, usually when you stumble upon a biking trail, it is a paved trail through the woods or along the countryside. Santos DOES have those trails, but is has SO much more!

We ourselves are not expert bikers. If you are, and you are in for a challenge, Santos is THE place to be. Exhibit A:

All in all, Santos Bike Trail has something for anyone! There are bike rentals right next to the trailhead, so don’t let your lack of a bike stand in the way. This is a place you’ll want to visit on your Tour de Florida!

Snorkel in Silver Glen Springs

Silver Glen Springs is our absolute FAVORITE stop in all of Florida, not just in non-coastal Florida. Why? Mainly one reason: we were able to swim with MANATEES! In the wild!

Here is some manatee information we learned from Authentic Florida:

The manatee, Florida’s gentle giant (aka, the “sea cow”), may be spotted in the largest numbers during the winter and early spring months. When water temperatures dip below 68 degrees, manatees gravitate towards warmer waters making Florida’s 72-degree freshwater springs an ideal respite for the warm-blooded mammals. The added benefit for us is that we can observe them in the clear water.

Manatees are often found congregating around bubbly springs, within state and marine water parks, or near power plants where the outflow of warm water keeps their body temperatures constant. Right now [January] is an ideal time to look for these true Florida natives, because as summer approaches, these endearing creatures will scatter.

We would ABSOLUTELY suggest planning your Tour de Florida in the Winter months. Not only do you get to escape the cold for the beautiful Florida weather, but you will get to see one of the most beautiful sea creatures on EARTH!

Silver Glen Springs From Above

On top of seeing wild manatees, Silver Glen Springs is an awesome place to visit because it is incredibly beautiful. The water is a stunning shade of blue, boasts a sandy bottom , and is surrounded by lush green forests.

The park itself makes for an amazing picnic or kayak destination. The sunset is incredible, the weather is warm, the water is refreshing, and the views are unbelievable.

These ingredients make for an adventurous cocktail that made Silver Glen Springs our favorite stop in Florida!

See Manatees in Blue Springs State Park

After swimming with them in Silver Glen Springs, it is possible that you’ll be all manatee-d out. Never mind, that is NOT possible.

We wanted to see as MANY of these beautiful creatures as we possible could! So what was our next stop? Had to be Blue Springs State Park.

We called ahead to see if they had manatees in the park, and learned that at the time we went they had ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY manatees in the park! 190!

With all that manatee-goodness, we had to make the trip, and we were NOT disappointed. The manatees were EVERYWHERE!

Here’s the only negative: you can’t swim with the manatees at Blue Springs State Park. There are awesome docks and piers to go out over the water and get great views from above, but you won’t be up close and personal.

The park itself is a huge open area as well. Great to spend a day throwing the frisbee, having a picnic, playing on the playground, etc. Blue Springs is an absolute winner for sure!

Chill and Explore in Wekiwa Springs State Park

Wekiwa Springs is the final stop on our non-coastal Tour de Florida. This park is a fantastic stop for two reasons: walking trails and swimming.

First off, the park offers miles and miles of walking trails. Strap on those walking shoes or rollerblades, or grab your bike, and be ready to explore the forest!

If the walking trails aren’t your thing, perhaps swimming is! The central attraction at Wekiwa Springs is the auditorium-shaped hill surrounding the beautiful swimming hole.

The wonderful swimming hole surrounded by greenery, stone bridges, and a bunch of fun-loving Floridans! If you are a family traveling with kids, this is a perfect stop to let the kids swim while you grab a spot on the hill as your ‘home base’ for the day.

The hill is also a wonderful place to read a book and watch a sunset! A very relaxing park, and a fitting last stop on the Tour de Florida!

Where We Stayed

On our Tour de Florida, we did not pay so much as a penny to camp. We were able to find WONDERFUL places to stay throughout our journey through Florida!

If you aren’t familiar with our story, we are spending 2019 living out of our van we converted into a camper! Check more out here:

Living out of a van, we still need to find awesome places to park the van for the night! We love staying at farms, breweries, and wineries when we can find them! Here are 2 amazing ones we stayed at on our journey:

Far Reach Farms

A blueberry farm located near Wekiwa Springs, this was our first Harvest Hosts experience (more on that in a sec) and it was the perfect first experience.

We drove up a beautiful driveway, and were shown to our campsite, a beautiful property overlooking a sprawling blueberry farm in Central Florida.

We explored the grounds, flew the drone around, and sampled all of the jams made on-site! We loved them so much we had to buy a couple jars!

Golden Acres Ranch

This is a wonderful farm located in between Garden of Eden Trail and Devil’s Den spring! The best part of Golden Acres? The animals!

We got to hold baby goats that were birthed on-site! It was an incredible experience and one that we will always remember.

Also on site are chickens, rams & sheep, dogs, and a few geese! The place was an A+, and SO worth the trip to stay!

Harvest Hosts

Okay, now how did we stay at both of these places for FREE? Harvest Hosts! This is not some shout-out that Harvest Hosts is paying us to post, we USE their product and ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! Over 50% of our stops have been Harvest Hosts stops since we first learned about it.

How does it work? You pay a subscription fee for an ENTIRE YEAR of free overnight stays at places across the country! And this isn’t something where there is just a few stops pock-marked in inconvenient places. Here is a screenshot of the USA that I just took from the app:

As our reader, you get 15% off a subscription by using this link! If you have any questions at all, especially about Harvest Hosts, we would love to answer them and tell you as much as we can about our experiences!

Wal Mart, Cracker Barrel, & Planet Fitness

When we weren’t staying in Harvest Hosts locations, we did have to settle for a parking lot a few times. The 3 that we have used on a somewhat-regular basis are Wal Mart, Cracker Barrel, and Planet Fitness.

Of the 3, Planet Fitness is the only one that requires a membership. Of course the membership is mainly for working out (and we use it for showers), but the other perk is free overnight parking. In addition, most locations are open 24/7. So you can work-out, shower, or use the massage chair literally any time!

Cracker Barrels are great also, and the unwritten rule is that you’ll get a meal there when you stay. A great stop in a pinch!

Wal Mart is the most-used option. Usually open 24/7, we also use Wal Marts for grocery shopping, so we can knock out a few birds with one stone when we stop at a Wal Mart for the night.

There You Have It!

Your unbelievable Tour de Florida adventure awaits! You will have the time of your life road tripping through inland Florida, seeing the hidden gems most people miss when they stay on the coasts!

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2 thoughts on “Road Trip Through Florida’s Hidden Gems”

  1. This guide about Florida is incredibly helpful. The pictures are amazing as well. The water’s so clean and the goats are adorable! I’d love to go to Garden of Eden Trail and Silver Glen Springs! Thank you for this helpful resource. Saving this guide for later!

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