Escape the Cold – Head South!
Got the winter blues? Want to escape the cold, short days of January and enjoy some fun in the sun? Pretend to be a bird and fly…er, drive…south. And what better place to sneak away to than the sunshine state – Florida! With it being the number 1 state for snowbirders and a with its plethora of options for adventure, we think Florida is a fabulous choice for a winter sabbatical. Oh, and winter is one of the sunniest times of year in Florida because it is their dry season. Can’t beat that!
There are lots of great things about RV travel, but one of the best is that you get to take your home with you when you travel. You can sleep in your own bed every single night and have homecooked meals straight from your very own kitchen. You can stop anytime you want to, enjoy the scenery, take a nap, and then move on to another destination or decide to stay for the night. And Florida has so many amazing destinations, it’s hard to choose just a few. As winter is prime tourist season in Florida, be sure to call ahead for reservations. If you’ll have your four-legged family member with you, be sure to inquire about dog-friendly areas and breed restrictions. Check out the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds for ideas and suggestions about where to stay.
The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, forming the southernmost portion of the continental United States, and home to the only living barrier reef off the continental US. A great retreat for those wanting to get away from the cold, the daytime highs average in the mid 70’s, while the lows average in the mid 60’s during the winter months. It’s 113 miles from Key West to Key Largo. Enjoy the drive and take in the beauty of the nature and wildlife along the way.
In the Upper Keys, beginning in Key Largo, is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the nation’s first undersea park. You’ll get an amazing glimpse of the underwater world with the park’s colorful coral reefs teeming with marine life. Just a few miles down the road is Islamorada. Known as the Sport-Fishing Capital of the World, Islamorada is where backcountry sport fishing and saltwater fly fishing were pioneered. The Gulf Stream flows past the islands from 10 to 20 miles offshore, bringing seasonal visitors like sailfish and marlin, kingfish and wahoo, mahi-mahi and tuna close to shore.
In the Middle Keys, Big Pine Key and No Name Key comprise the National Key Deer Refuge, established to protect the dwarf (as in dog size!) Key deer, an endangered subspecies of the North American white-tailed deer that grows just three feet tall. In Marathon, you’ll find the Dolphin Research Center, where rescued and rehabilitated dolphins, sea lions and manatees provide a wide range of incredible personalities to enjoy.
The Lower Keys, rich with history and native wilderness, is home to two national wildlife refuges, a national marine sanctuary and a state park. Bahia Honda State Park, with an award-winning beach and historic bridge, has become a favorite destination and offers some of the best beachcombing in Florida. If you like literature, you’ll want to visit the Tennessee Williams Museum and Ernest Hemingway’s home, where he produced some of his best work. And speaking of literature, Robert Frost wrote one of his best-known poems, “The Gift Outright,” while in Key West.
Whether you prefer to take in the arts and culture of the Keys, have an outdoor adventure on either land or sea, or just enjoy the wildlife and the beaches, the Florida Keys has what you are yearning for. You’ll find plenty of RV parks and campgrounds, but be sure to plan ahead. Some parks are booked months in advance. Also, be sure to check out the Ten Keymandments for Keys Travelers so you know what you CAN do while visiting the Keys!
If you prefer something more secluded and not in the Keys, Caladesi Beach is a pristine, undeveloped island haven off the coast of Clearwater Beach. Voted one of the top beaches in the US, it is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands. Accessible by a 20-minute ferry ride from Honeymoon Island, you can enjoy your time building sandcastles and splashing around, beachcombing, or exploring the near 650 upland acres and 1,800 wetland acres. Countless opportunities abound for spotting wildlife – look for gopher tortoises, armadillos, and even the occasional snake. As Caledesi Beach is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, you’re sure to spot terns, gulls, osprey and other shorebirds, as well as wading birds such as herons and egrets.
Also consistently ranking as one of the top beaches in the US, St. George Island is one of the last inhabited yet unspoiled barrier islands in Florida; a serene and pet-friendly vacation paradise. With miles of uncrowded expanses for sunning and shelling, clear waters for swimming and fishing, and pristine marshes for wildlife viewing, you’re in for a treat on the white sand beaches of St. George Island. And you won’t want to miss seeing the St. George Light, reconstructed from salvaged pieces of the original lighthouse that was built in 1848 but succumbed to beach erosion and pounding waves, finally collapsing into the ocean in 2005.
If the beach is just not your thing (gasp!), you can still take advantage of the many things Florida has to offer without getting your sun on. You’ll definitely want to check out the Everglades – the largest subtropical wilderness in the US. It also happens to be the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles co-exist and where nine different ecosystems have been identified. Everglades National Park protects an unparalleled landscape that provides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species – and it’s a park you won’t want to miss! See the lush flora that is fostered by the optimal conditions of the confluence of temperate North America and the tropical Caribbean. Amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles exist in abundance in this amazing park. Be sure to take a look at the viewing suggestions and ethics before you head into the park.
For an amazing and serene musical experience, Bok Tower Gardens is a must see. If you’ve never heard a carillon, you are in for a treat! Consisting of a 250-acre garden and bird sanctuary, Bok Tower Gardens’ highlight is the 205-foot Singing Tower, which houses one of the world’s finest carillons. The tower is built on the highest point in peninsular Florida, Iron Mountain. It is a National Historic Landmark and an experience like no other. Along with appreciating the incredible sounds, you can also enjoy bird watching, geocaching and photography opportunities while trail hiking. Close to Tampa and Orlando, Bok Tower Gardens is one destination you won’t want to miss.
Where ever you decide to visit in Florida, you are sure to leave with good memories. So get away from the cold and take advantage of the nice weather in the south. And don’t forget to send us pictures of your adventures. We like living vicariously through you!