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.

Trending News

 
 

Automotive auction

Mecum Auctions is ready for 2022

The Mecum Kissimmee Auction will feature a handful of rare, low-mileage supercars.

Mecum

Today marks the end of 2021, and 2022 is looking to be an exciting one for auto enthusiasts. Mecum Auctions, one of the most prominent and popular automotive auction companies around, is ready for the year with its Kissimmee 2022 auction. Though the event takes place over an eleven-day period, the automotive portion of the auction takes place from January 6 through January 16 in Kissimmee, FL.

2021 Ferrari SF90 Stradale Low-mileage exotics are just the start. Mecum

Many auto auctions feature impressive vehicles, and this one is no exception. Everything from a 725-mile 2016 Pagani Huayra to a crew of classic Corvettes will cross the block, and there will be a few full-collection auctions. The Don Salmon Collection features 62 American muscle cars, including Corvettes, Impalas, Mustangs, and more. The Gary Thomas Collection is on offer as well, featuring 33 Ford and Shelby vehicles.

In addition to classic American cars, a collection of six low-mileage supercars are on offer, including #100/106 McLaren Speedtail with just 194 miles, a 2021 Ferrari SF90 Stradale with 57 miles, a 2021 Ferrari 812 GTS with 138 miles, and a 2021 Ferrari F8 Spider with 66 miles. Two Mercedes-AMG cars join that impressive group, including a 2018 AMG GT R and a 2020 AMG GT R.

1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe As usual, the auction will feature several rare American muscle cars. Mecum

If you're hoping to bid on a lot at the auction, registration is available online and on-site at the event. The cost to register is $200, but if you just want to look around, you can buy a general admission ticket for $20 in advance or $30 at the door.

Trending News

 
 

What was your best car-related experience this year?

Chris Teague

This year has been a lot of things, but it hasn't been boring. Even if we focus only on the car world, there's plenty to talk about, from microchip-related new vehicle shortages to the wave of new electric vehicles hitting the market. That leaves us with a question for all of you: What was the best or most memorable car moment for you in 2021? I'll get the conversation started.

Porsche Cayenne GTS My SoCal Cayenne śaw snow for the first time in its nearly 200k-mile life last week.Chris Teague

I'd spent a good portion of 2021 wanting a new-old car to drive when I wasn't testing a new vehicle. That's harder than you'd think for someone who thinks, talks, and writes about cars all day, because there are so many interesting, risky, and downright funky options out there in every price range. The added headache for me was that I'd chosen to shop for a "fun" car in one of the most volatile car markets ever seen. Even the extremely high-mileage "untouchable" European cars I wanted to buy were commanding ridiculous prices.

After a solid few months of waffling between various rattletrap Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, and Audi S/RS cars, I landed on an option that had escaped me before: The Porsche Cayenne. First-generation Cayennes are a real bargain now, but the 955/957 (Porsche's internal code for the SUVs) can experience major problems that occur with or without regular maintenance and care. I was determined to buy one, and wasn't overly concerned about mileage, as long as I could count the number of owners on one hand. There was a beautiful 2009 Cayenne GTS with 90,000 miles but nine owners, a gorgeous 2004 Cayenne Turbo with a concerning engine tick, and many more just like them. Finally, I decided to risky-click a 196,000-mile Cayenne GTS in Southern California. It had one owner and one dealer-owner for a month or two prior to sale, its condition looked decent in photos, and I was able to negotiate a reasonable enough price that shipping it from San Diego to Maine wasn't a huge problem.

Porsche Cayenne GTS The pics look great, but hands-on tells another story.Chris Teague

I had two traveling Euro mechanics check the car out, and both confirmed that it was well-worn but mechanically sound, so I jumped. Ten days later, on a snowy, icy, dark Maine afternoon, the Cayenne arrived. Cosmetically, there were a few things the dealer and mechanics failed to mention, but overall, it looked good. The SUV passed Maine safety and emissions testing without problem, got a new set of Michelins, and I was on my way.

Porsche Cayenne GTS I'm in danger, but thankfully this should be a reasonable fix.Chris Teague

A few days of driving revealed what I was really in for. A check engine light revealed a camshaft position sensor error and the Cayenne displayed a nasty vibration at idle. A new sensor and motor mounts, and I'm on my way. I'll update you as more things break or miraculously work, but I want to hear your memories from 2021.

Email me at chris@automotivemap.com, and I will compile the best and most interesting stories for a story on New Year's Day. May you all have a wonderful 2022.

Trending News