Travel

10 Road trip-worthy Northwest Florida destinations and attractions that won't break the bank

St. George Island is a desirable jumping off point for Northwest Florida adventures.

Photo courtesy of Visit Florida

There's a lot of wide open America to fall in love with between your home and your destination. Taking the long way or the road less traveled isn't a bad thing. It can lead to new adventures that end up as fond memories.

Almost as important as the destination itself is the vehicle you choose to road trip in. Click here to see AutomotiveMap's picks for best road trip SUV and here to see the best road trip cars. Click here to see AutomotiveMap's advice for planning the perfect road trip.

The next time you're planning a road trip to Northwest Florida, consider the following destinations, which are not on the usual tourist roster.

Grayton Beach State Park

Grayton Beach State Park

Photo courtesy of Visit Florida

With over 2,000 acres of parkland, Grayton Beach State Park has something for nearly everyone. Bicycling, hiking, birding, paddling on the backwaters, fishing, a beach, and a boat ramp are among the amenities. There are camp sites and cabins available for rent including accessible camping options.

​Bald Point State Park

Bald Point State Park is perfect for budding wildlife and nature photographers. Grab your camera and your bicycle and head to explore the park where each autumn bald eagles and other migrating raptors, and monarch butterflies, all stop to take a break on their way South for the winter. The park also has beaches, canoe/kayak launch, and bathing station. There is only one primitive camp site available and reservations must be made in advance.

Downtown Pensacola ghost tour

Friends in front of Pensacola Mural

Photo courtesy of Visit Florida

Grab your sneakers and get ready to head out to learn more about the history of Pensacola, one of the earliest-founded cities in Florida, and its macabre (and often humorous) past. Each tour features a minimum of six people and starts at Fleet Landing. Though it's not long (about one mile), there's plenty of standing and listening during the one-hour tour. Want more fun? Take the ghost and graveyard tour, offered by the same company.

Deer Lake State Park

Coastal dunes are rare in Florida but if you're a fan, Deer Lake State Park should be on your list. It has a coastal dune lake, an exceptionally rare geographic feature. Additionally, visitors can enjoy the white sandy beach of the Gulf Coast, birding, and hiking on the interpretative trail. Swimming is allowed. There are no camping facilities at this park.

Florida's caverns

FLORIDA CAVERNS MARIANNA

Photo courtesy of Visit Florida

One of the best parts of the Sunshine State is kept out of the sun entirely. Florida Caverns State Park is home to large underground rooms where visitors can see the usual array of cavern features (including wildlife) in addition to chisel marks made by 1930s-era Civilian Conservation Corps workers. Guided tours of the caves are available, but sell out quickly.

Florida’s Big Bend National Scenic Byway

If you're the type that likes to put the windows/top down on your car and take in the sights and sounds of a long drive, the Big Bend National Scenic Byway may be right up your alley. The 220-mile scenic drive winds through coastal and forest portions of Leon, Wakulla, and Franklin Counties. Guides that break down the route by your specific time allowance and interest are available at the website.

Florida's highest waterfall

Falling Waters State Park

Photo courtesy of Visit Florida

Hop off of I-10 and visit Chipley, Florida, home of Florida's highest waterfall. Measuring 100 feet deep, 20 feet wide, the cylindrical pit that the water flows into starts from a small stream and falls 73 feet to the bottom. Where does it go from there? No one knows.

Adventure further and explore the Sink Hole Trail at Falling Waters State Park, which features a path that winds under a canopy of trees and includes a wooden boardwalk where visitors can see migrating butterflies, take a dip in the lake, or enjoy a picnic. Campsites are available.

World’s Smallest Police Station

The World's Smallest Police Station is located in Downton Carrabelle, Florida, next to the post office. While there's not a lot to see, it makes for a great selfie spot and Instagram moment. The best news is, seeing it is free!

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

TOPSAIL HILL PRESERVE STATE PARK

Photo courtesy of Visit Florida

The emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico serve as the tipping off point for a fabulous visit to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. White quartz dunes, old-growth pine forests, sandy scrubland, and wetlands are all part of the park's surrounds. Bicycling, birding, fishing, hiking, and paddling can all be on the agenda. Guided tours are available. Camping, cabins, bungalows, and glamping are available, as are accessible accommodations.

Dog Island

Dog Island is one of the most unique parts of Florida. No vehicles are allowed on the barrier island that sites just 3.5 miles off-shore from Carrabelle. It's a space where time slows to true island time. There's only one hotel on the island and most of the environment is unspoiled.

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The final versions of the McLaren 620R have been delivered to the U.S.

Photo courtesy of McLaren Automotive
McLaren recently shipped its last Sports Series cars to the U.S., marking the end of production of the popular models that have been staples of the luxury carmaker's lineup for the last half-decade. Over 8,500 cars were sold globally.

The Sports Series debuted in 2015 with the 570S, and also included the 540C, 570S Spider, 570GT, 600LT coupe, 600LT Spider, and 620R. The final examples of the series were built at the company's Woking, U.K. headquarters at the end of 2020. The 620R was the last off the line.

The McLaren 620R is a road legal version of a race car. It's based on the McLaren 570S GT4 and uses motorsport technology without the restriction of racing regulations. It is the most powerful Sports Series model ever, with a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 producing 611 brake horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque.

Final examples of the McLaren 620R

Photo courtesy of McLaren Automotive

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The 620R shares aerodynamic hardware with the 570S GT4, creating 408-pounds of downforce at 155 mph. It can handle the road (and you can hear it coming) thanks to its wider track, carbon ceramic brakes and center locking wheels, and low-exit stainless steel sports exhaust.

"As the McLaren range has matured, we've tailored our North American model line-up to closely match customers' requirements, with a car suitable for every personality," explained Tony Joseph, President, McLaren, the Americas. "Limited-numbers models with the highest levels of performance – cars like the 620R, which feels like a race car on the street or at a track day - are in demand not only because of the driving experience they offer but because they have even greater exclusivity. You can see how this has played out with the 765LT as well, with all of the available volume sold."

Of the 225 examples of the 620R produced, only 70 were slated for the North American market. All North American 620R models come with a special MSO upgrade package that features a gloss finish Visual Carbon Fibre roof with a roof scoop to maximize engine intake and exhaust sound, MSO Defined gloss finish carbon fibre roof cantrails and the McLaren Track Telemetry system with lap time function and three cameras to record on-track performance.

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The Bentley Residences will be located on Sunny Isles Beach.

Photo courtesy of Bentley Motors

Sunny Isles Beach already owns the distinction as being the home to the most Rolls-Royces at one residence, the Acqualina Resort & Residences On The Beach. Now, a strip of oceanfront land that's halfway between Miami and Fort Lauderdale will be home to a new luxury development designed to fit with the lifestyle of luxury Bentley vehicle owners.

The world's first Bentley-branded residences have been launched in partnership with Dezer Development. They've been designed by Sieger Suarez Architects, a firm that has the Porsche Design Tower (18555 Collins Avenue in Sunny Isles Beach), Trump Grande, and Residences by Armani/Casa in its portfolio.

The tower will be built at 18401 Collins Avenue, the current site of the Days Hotel by Wyndham Thunderbird Beach Resort.

Bentley Residences will contain more than 200 luxury apartments. The building will stand 749 feet and reach over 60 stories high, the same number of floors as the Salesforce tower in San Francisco and Franklin Center in Chicago. It's being billed as the tallest residential tower on any U.S. beachfront.

The residences are built-to-suit domiciles that will include an in-unit multi-car garage as well as ocean and bay views via floor-to-ceiling windows from each apartment. Homes will also have a private balcony, pool, sauna and outdoor shower. Interior amenities will include a gym, spa, whisky bar and restaurant. There will also be communal gardens.

"The modern and progressive brand identity of Bentley Residences is at work in both the tower's interior and exterior spaces, rooted in authenticity, sustainability and innovation," said Adrian Hallmark, Chairman and CEO of Bentley Motors. "We've partnered with Dezer to create a living experience that expresses the very philosophy of the Bentley brand and stays true to our vision of inspiring extraordinary journeys."

Architects have designed the tower to include uninterrupted views of the ocean and the waterways and feature sustainable materials throughout with a focus on wellness. The project is being designed in accordance with the Florida Green Building Council (FLGC) certification. Additionally, designers plan to use reduced coastal lighting to protect endangered sea turtles.

Construction of the residences will begin in early 2023. They are schedule for completion in 2026.

"Partnering with Bentley Motors, a true global luxury brand and being able to create another first in the Miami marketplace is an extraordinary opportunity," added Gil Dezer, President of Dezer Development. "With Bentley Motors, together we will create something inspiring, powerful and iconic – a true game-changer when it comes to luxury living."

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