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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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 delivers new safety and driver assistance tech to the company's 2021 model lineup.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has made public a list of proposed upgrades to the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). NCAP testing addresses the crashworthiness of a vehicle as well as the vehicle's headlight functionality. These new proposed measures go even further, putting driver assistance and safety technology to the test.

Automakers often strive to achieve the highest score possible in NCAP testing, wearing their five-start safety ratings and Top Pick designations as badges of honor in marketing campaigns.

"Thanks in part to NCAP, new vehicles today are much safer than a generation ago," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens. "Even so, there are still too many fatalities and serious injuries in crashes every year, so it is critical that vehicles keep getting safer in the future, and a modernized NCAP will better enable American families to select vehicles with the safety features they want."

The immediate planned update to NCAP testing includes four advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS): lane keeping support, pedestrian automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and blind spot intervention. Engineers have designed these four specific technologies to mitigate high-frequency and high-risk crash types.

NHTSA is currently seeking public input on how best to develop a rating system for ADAS technologies.

"These upgrades will make NCAP more dynamic," Deputy Administrator Owens said. "American car buyers want safety, and NHTSA wants to empower them with comparative safety information about vehicles in the market. This information creates powerful market-based incentives for automakers to invest in advanced safety technologies that will save lives and prevent injuries."

The NHTSA began testing vehicles in 1978. The first tests examined frontal impact protection and used data from crash test dummies. The five-star safety rating system was established in 1993 and have been steadily increasing the scope of the testing over the last two decades.

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The Bugatti Chiron Sport "Les Légendes du Ciel" edition pays homage to vintage aircraft.

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

In the aftermath of World War I, company founder Ettore Bugatti showcased the first three vehicles made by the company that bore his name. They were race cars and Bugatti found itself at the pinnacle of the sport very quickly.

By 1930, the company would begin its relationship with the aerospace industry, first with the Bugatti 100P, which never actually flew due to World War II, but served as the inspiration for a number of patents that are filed by the company. The plane went into storage as the Second World War kicked off and Mr. Bugatti would never again work on it during his lifetime.

Bugatti Chiron Sport "Les Légendes du Ciel" edition

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

Bugatti is honoring its racing and aviation past with a new series of Chiron Sport models dubbed "Les Légendes du Ciel". The drivers who piloted the Bugattis to success in the early 1900s were often time multitalented with resumes declaring them flying aces, daredevils, and technically skilled pilots.

"Bugatti has had close associations with aviation since the company was established more than 110 years ago. Many successful Bugatti racing drivers, such as Albert Divo, Robert Benoist and Bartolomeo 'Meo' Costantini, flew for the French Air Force, the French aviator legend Roland Garros privately drove a Bugatti Type 18 to be as fast on the road as in the air," says Stephan Winkelmann, President of Bugatti. "It is therefore almost an obligation for us today to pay tribute to the legends of that time and dedicate a special edition to them."

Each of the new models features a special, matte gray "Gris Serpent" paint job, which is inspired by the exterior color of aircrafts from the 1920s. The color extends front to rear with high-contrast, which gloss stripe running up the center. The front wings are adorned with the "Les Légendes du Ciel" logo. The "Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge" tricolor decorates the front area of the side sills made of exposed black carbon fiber.

At the front is Bugatti's traditional horseshoe radiator grille, finished in gloss black. The grille mesh is made of laser-cut and deep-drawn aluminum, and constructed in a dynamic pattern that that is repeated on the car's leather seats. Entry lights project the edition logo on the ground at entry while "Les Légendes du Ciel" logo on the middle console inlays.

Bugatti has covered the engine with black exposed carbon fiber with contrasting white lettering. The material continues at the back where black exposed carbon fibre and a black-coated exhaust trim cover made of 3D printed, high-temperature-resistant Inconel dominate.

The car's interior is almost entirely upholstered in leather. The leather's light brown color was chosen to be reminiscent of the natural leather in early aircrafts. On the door panels there is a hand-sketched racing scene between the Nieuport 17 aircraft and a Bugatti Type 13.

The new Bugatti Chiron Sport "Les Légendes du Ciel" edition is limited to 20 vehicles. Every model is independently numbered and costs $3.5 million.

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