Swim with Sea Creatures in This Little-Known Florida Town

Don’t worry, it’s not crocodiles or sharks

You can’t swim the length of two pools in the Bay of Crystal River without bumping into a manatee. That’s because this city in Florida is the only place in North America where you can legally (and ethically) swim with arguably one of the cutest marine creatures.

Thanks to the vital winter habitat in these warm southern waters, you’ll find tons of these gigantic gray mammals in Crystal River looking like they’re made of clay with stubby snouts and rotund bodies. It takes some imagination to see the resemblance but the closest living relatives to manatees (so-called sea cows) are actually elephants.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nicknamed the Gem of the Nature Coast Crystal River lives up to its name with aquamarine waters coursing through the area. The warm swamp lands offer lush, green trails through the local state park as well as paddle boating or kayaking on the calm waters of the river.

The quaint river-side city has small-town charm thanks to homes with white-picket-fences and a candy-cane-striped lighthouse on Monkey Island. In the small downtown area at Heritage Village on Citrus Avenue, you’ll find souvenir shops with gator jerky or manatee stuffed animals. That’s also where some of the city’s best restaurants are located offering a mixture of seafood and southern comfort with meals like shrimp and grits for breakfast or Florida lobster next to juicy beef for a surf ‘n turf dinner.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Swim with manatees

Spend the morning floating around in the slow-moving waters of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge from November 15th to March 1st and you’re basically guaranteed to have a face-to-face encounter with a wild manatee. About 400 migrate to these balmy waters every year hence the self-proclaimed title of Manatee Capital of the World.

The docile mammal grazes on water plants (it eats 150 pounds daily!) and won’t be fussed by your presence as long as you remain calm. That could be a challenge as your instinct may be to panic when you realize the massive nine-foot-long object next to you isn’t a rock but an animal.

While you’re not in any danger, raising your voice and splashing around will disturb it. The goal is not to startle the manatee so you can get up close and personal as you watch it glide slowly and elegantly through the water and maximize your time enjoying its squishy features. It’s believed that pirates often mistook West Indian manatees for mermaids as they have such a human-like face.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The gentle giant may swim right up to you and give you a smooch. But don’t be a jerk and try to touch, feed, or harass a manatee. Not only is it unethical to interact with wildlife but the State of Florida and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife laws protect manatees and harassing one can land you with a fine of up to $50,000 and a year in jail.

In fact, with no natural predators, humans are their biggest threat—mostly because of boat collisions. Manatees were one of the original species listed as being threatened with extinction in the Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1966. By 1991, there were only 1,267 manatees recorded in Florida. Manatees are a conservation success story as they’re now listed as vulnerable instead of endangered and there are at least 6,300 in Florida.

Swimming with manatees is the best way to learn about the animal but if you’re not too keen on being in the water with the creatures you can take a boat tour and see them feeding from the deck. For an overhead view of the manatees, stroll along the elevated 1,300-foot Three Sisters Springs boardwalk.

If you need more ideas, check out: Swim with the Manatees of Florida’s Crystal River

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stroll through ancient sites and wildlife-filled swamps

Swimming with manatees isn’t all there is to do in Crystal River. Go for a hike on the trails of the Crystal River Preserve State Park or rent a bike to ride along the nine-mile route. On the two-and-a-half-mile interpretive trail keep an eye out for raccoons, wild pigs, and turtles as you make your way through meadows, forests of pine trees, and a freshwater marsh. You can also rent a kayak or canoe to cruise around the area’s waterways.

At the National Historic Landmark of Crystal River Archaeological State Park, you could count each of the 51 steps as you climb to the top of enormous temples and burial mounds that overlook the surrounding marshes. Hear where Native American river dwellers buried their dead here and how they used the ceremonial hills or sift through BC arrowheads and pottery in the mid-century modern museum. You could also just basque by wandering the three-quarter mile paved loop weaving past six ancient sites where you can spot osprey, herons, and bald eagles.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Feast on Southern classics and seafood

If all that swimming with sea cows and climbing ancient graves have you feeling hungry enough to peck at some food, Crystal River offers tons of fresh seafood and southern comfort dishes. Dine with the locals at Amy’s On The Avenue for juicy roast beef on a croissant or lump blue crab bisque. Don’t leave without a slice of pie like the Pumpkin Crunch or Key Lime Cake.

At Vintage on 5th choose from southern classics including shrimp and smoked gouda grits, mac and (goat) cheese, or fried green tomatoes with apple-wood bacon. You might not automatically hear those dishes and think wine pairing but you’d be proven wrong by the selection of 25 wines by the glass.

For a quintessential waterfront dining experience, go to West 82 and eat freshly-caught local scallops or Florida beef. If you’re after crab, don’t skip the rustic Pecks Old Port Cove Seafood Restaurant and Blue Crab Farm—go at sunset to see that blood-red Florida sun reflecting off the lake water under the deck.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to camp near Crystal River

Here are a few RV parks and campgrounds throughout Citrus County to consider for your trip.

Rock Crusher Canyon RV Resort

A beautifully landscaped campground with a swimming pool, playground, fenced-in dog run, and a clubhouse for activities. Rock Crusher offers full hookups with 30- or 50-amp electric which can accommodate up to 40-foot RVs with plenty of room for slide-outs. All sites offer back-in and pull-through availability. They also have elite sites which include beautiful brick paver pads and a shed for extra storage.

Crystal Isles RV Resort

An Encore RV resort, this park offers numerous amenities including a pool, waterfront sites, and on-site laundry. Rent a boat, catch a fish in local streams, or visit nearby King’s Bay to swim with a manatee.

Rousseau RV Resort

Situated on 15 acres shaded by majestic, ancient live oak and cypress trees draped in Spanish moss, many of the sites are generous, and big rigs are welcome.  All sites are full hookups with 30-amp and 50-amp service. 

Nature’s Resort

Situated on the Homosassa River, this 97-acre resort offers RV sites and also cabin rentals. There’s a swimming pool, game room, and access to the Gulf for fishing and boating.

Worth Pondering…

A full-grown manatee which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds looks like the result of a genetic experiment involving a walrus and the Goodyear Blimp.

—Dave Barry

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary: Land of the Giants

Explore the natural side of the Sunshine State at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a biologically diverse Audubon property with the largest stand of old-growth bald cypress trees on Earth

The facility’s signage says it’s special because the endangered wood stork nested here and because it is the largest piece of ancient bald cypress forest preserved in the world.

But I think it’s special because walking its 2.25 mile boardwalk takes you into a green and liquid world where at every turn you see scenes so beautiful they could have been arranged by the world’s best floral designer. And, of course, they were.

On a warm, sun-splashed winter day, I stood on the boardwalk at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, Florida and listened as the volunteer naturalist explained how the Gulf Coast is home to protected wetlands and untouched landscapes.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary protects approximately 13,450 acres prized as a fine stand of subtropical, ancient bald cypress forest where many of the soaring trees date back at least 600 years predating the arrival of Columbus in the New World.

Corkscrew Swamp is a freshwater wetland fed solely by rainwater covering thousands of acres of pristine cypress swamp. In this vast area known as the Corkscrew Watershed, a broad sheet of water flows over the land ranging from just a few inches to a yard deep.

This wetland is what south Florida looked like at one time: The fresh water is the lifeblood of the Corkscrew Swamp and of the greater Everglades ecosystem. Over the past century, people have altered the natural flow of the water to control flooding and to create land for development but now we need to restore the natural system.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Often misunderstood, swamps full of plants and insects were marked as areas rife with disease and decay and were quickly drained, stripped by clear-cut logging practices, paved over, and built upon eventually squeezing out wildlife and their natural habitats. But in a state known for rampant development and construction, the swamp and trees at Corkscrew were saved when the National Audubon Society realized the forest needed protection, stepped in, and stopped the logging.

The sanctuary is a popular destination for birders and hikers who walk along a 2.25-mile trail and raised boardwalk that twists and turns through marsh, pine flatwoods, stretches of wet prairie, around a marsh, and finally into the largest old-growth bald cypress forest in North America. These impressive trees, relatives of the redwood, tower 130 feet into the sky and have a girth of 25 feet. Their massive branches are draped with mosses, lichens, bromeliads, and ferns. 

The forest is also home to hundreds of alligators, otters, white-tailed deer, and red-bellied turtles. A wide variety of wading birds, songbirds, and raptors can be seen throughout the year while the fabulous Painted Bunting is one of many winter visitors. Photo opportunities are available at every turn of the boardwalk trail.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The tree branches are draped with resurrection ferns; the roots of the strangler fig wrap around host trees and swamp plants like the waxy aquatic alligator flag tumble over the railings.

Volunteer interpreters stroll the trail explaining to visitors how the wetlands act as filters for pollutants, reduce flood damage by soaking up water during heavy rains, stabilize the soils against erosion, and recharge groundwater during the dry months.

National Audubon began protecting the wading birds nesting within Corkscrew Swamp in 1905. During the 1940s and ’50s, cypress forests in Florida were being leveled for their timber. At the time, Corkscrew was isolated and almost impossible to access. Today it is an oasis in a made-over landscape. In other areas, many of the wild swamps and much of the teeming wildlife that was characteristic of this region less than a generation ago are gone. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s value thus becomes more significant with every passing year. 

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Florida, two extremes dominate the subtropical climate—wet summers and dry winters. The seasonal high and low water levels are a necessary part of the natural cycle and each is vital for life in Corkscrew.

Visitors load daypacks with sunscreen, water bottles, and binoculars. But according to the staff, they can leave the bug repellent at home because Corkscrew defies all swamp logic: mosquitoes are rarely a problem. A guppy-like fish called Gambusia holbrooki (mosquito fish) feeds almost exclusively on mosquito larvae.

The tiny mosquito-slurping fish get some help from the actual Corkscrew Watershed, a meandering river that flows toward the Gulf of Mexico. Although moving at a snail’s pace, the water in the swamp doesn’t become stagnant and combined with the fish this makes for a tranquil bug-free zone. The constantly moving water also is the reason Corkscrew does not have the dank smells usually associated with swamps.

According to one estimate, 98 percent of all ancient forests in the United States have been logged, so Corkscrew is a rare habitat—a combination of large trees, fallen logs, and standing dead trees that provide wildlife with a variety of places to find food and shelter. In the soupy, subtropical climate, the trees are draped with moss, lichens, orchids, air plants, and dozens of types of feathery ferns. This protected landscape is home to the United States’ largest collection of gangly looking wood storks whose nesting ground is the biggest tract of old-growth bald cypress forest in the world.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2000, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary including Panther Island received a Ramsar Designation as a Wetland of International Importance. Corkscrew is also a designated Important Bird Area and a major stop on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Corkscrew has also been recognized as a Wetland of Distinction by the Society of Wetland Scientists. 

Corkscrew Swamp draws birds and birders by the thousands. In addition to the endangered wood stork, the wetlands are home to more than 200 avian species including barred owls, painted buntings, red-shouldered hawks, white ibises, egrets, herons, and woodpeckers.

Other wildlife abounds as well. The dangling leaves and roots of the watermelon-scented lettuce plants create a safe place for small fish and crayfish to hide or nest. Alligators often sun themselves on the riverbank but they prefer the plankton-laden lettuce lakes— wide, shallow watering holes that are a favorite feeding site for wading birds, otters, and reptiles. The gators are efficient predators. They are one of the world’s largest reptiles but have a brain the size of a walnut—just enough to associate people with food if they’ve been fed by humans but not smart enough to know the difference.

The raised boardwalk makes the perfect way to observe nature from a safe and respectful distance. And it’s the ideal way to appreciate what southwest Florida must have looked like before civilization took hold and transformed the landscape.

Located northeast of Naples, Florida, the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is open daily. The boardwalk is wheelchair and stroller accessible.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Overview

Location: 375 Sanctuary Road, Naples, Florida

Length: 2.3 mile loop

Phone: (239) 348-9151

Open 7 am. Last admission 4:30 pm. Gates close 5:30 pm. Dogs are not permitted.

All visitors must pass through the Blair Audubon Center which offers a movie about the swamp, interpretive exhibits and wildlife art, a gift shop, and a snack bar. Pay your admission here.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Admission: $14 adult, Audubon member $10, student with ID $6, ages 6-18 $4, under 6 free.

Your admission is good for two back-to-back days so you can show up one afternoon and come back the next morning.

Worth Pondering…

A string of counties studded with emerald-like gulf waters, deep springs and rivers….If you’re looking for a place of stunning natural beauty, undisturbed…habitats and silence, you’ve come to the right place.

—John Muir, 1867

2024 National Park Free Entrance Days: Top 10 States to Visit

NPS has announced its free entrance days for 2024 so here are the states with the highest number of national parks and the highest concentration of national park sites

The National Park Service (NPS) sites which include national parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national seashores, national historic sites, and other protected areas are incredible public spaces to enjoy and learn about nature. Some national park sites charge entrance fees but NPS has announced six fee-free entrance days in 2024:

  • January 15: Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr
  • April 20: First day of National Park Week
  • June 19: Juneteenth National Independence Day
  • August 4: Great American Outdoors Act anniversary
  • September 28: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

A great way to take full advantage of these free entrance days is to visit multiple national park sites in one day. While that may be difficult or even impossible in many areas there are several states with a high concentration of national park sites.

10 best states for national park sites

The following states are great places to travel to visit national parks at any time of the year whether or not you make it for the free entrance days.

1. Alaska

The Last Frontier has eight national parks and a total of 23 NPS sites including national monuments and other federally preserved areas. While Alaska is the largest state, three of the national parks are fairly close together—you can visit Kenai Fjords, Katmai, and Lake Clark National Parks within one day.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. California

The Golden State has nine national parks, the most of any state. The most popular national park in California is Yosemite but even the park with the smallest number of annual visitors, Pinnacles, is incredible and worth a visit. With a total of 28 national park sites, there is no shortage of beautiful locations to visit.

Here are a few great articles to help you do just that:

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Utah

The Beehive State has five national parks (The Big Five) and they are much closer together than those found in Alaska and California—in fact, it takes about seven hours to drive from Zion to Canyonlands and stop at the three other national parks in between. However, it’s worth it to slow down and spend more time at each park so consider sticking to one park each day.

Here are some articles to help:

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Arizona

Arizona and Colorado, the next state on the list, both have four national parks. However, Arizona has a higher total of NPS sites at 22 making it a great place to take a national parks road trip. Grand Canyon National Park is the best known in Arizona but Saguaro National Park and the lesser known Petrified Forest National Park, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area also offers incredible vistas and outdoor opportunities.

Here are a few great articles to help you do just that:

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Colorado

With four national parks and a total of 13 NPS sites, Colorado is another great option for national park enthusiasts. Mesa Verde National Park is remarkable because apart from its national park status it is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it preserves the rich cultural history of many indigenous tribes.

Here are some articles to help:

6. Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands have two national parks and a total of eight national park sites which is especially impressive when you remember that’s within an area of 10,392 square miles per the United States Census Bureau. One of the parks, Haleakalā, is located on the island of Maui which was recently devastated by fires so make sure to avoid the areas closed to tourism.

Mount St. Helens National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Washington

The crown of the Pacific Northwest is home to three national parks and a total of 15 NPS sites. Mount Rainier is perhaps the best known of the three but North Cascades and Olympic both protect a huge array of diverse wildlife. Washington is also home to a former plutonium factory that makes up one-third of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

Read more:

8. Florida

This state is home to three national parks including Dry Tortugas which can only be reached via plane, ferry, or boat. The other two, Biscayne and Everglades are within about an hour’s distance of each other meaning you can visit both in one day.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Virginia

Although Virginia only has one national park, it is home to a total of 22 NPS sites. Given its area of 42,775 square miles that means there is a fairly high concentration of NPS sites within the state making it an excellent area to explore for national park lovers.

Here’s an article to help you do just that: The Ultimate Guide to Shenandoah National Park

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. New Mexico

Set in the Southwest, New Mexico boasts many breathtaking landscapes that are often overlooked by visitors. Besides all its desolate yet dramatic desert scenery, the state is home to the rearing Rocky Mountains, the roaring Rio Grande, and plenty of colorful canyons, cliffs, and caves. New Mexico has two national parks (Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands), three national historical parks (Chaco Culture, Pecos, Manhattan Project), one national heritage area (Northern Rio Grande)m, and 11 national monuments including four administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

That’s why I wrote these seven articles:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bonus: Tennessee

Tennessee is home to part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park which welcomes the most annual visitors of any national park site in the United States. It also has a total of 13 NPS sites meaning there are a plethora of exploration opportunities.

By the way, I have a series of posts on the Great Smokies:

Worth Pondering…

The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.

—Jimmy Im

55 + RV Parks: VIP Treatment

Have you heard of 55+ RV parks? If not, they’re very popular in Arizona and Florida—two states known for active retirement communities and beautiful weather.

RV life is perfect for the active retiree and 55+ RV parks cater to the growing Boomer-retiree demographic who have found they no longer want to camp with children running around. Or at least not all of the time!

Today I’m diving deep into these parks and why the majority of RVers appreciate this option.

Let’s dive right in!

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are 55+ RV parks all about?

The name says it all. The mission of 55+ parks is to create a mature environment for active seniors who enjoy a social lifestyle.

What states have the most 55 and older RV campgrounds? 

While every state has 55 and older RV campgrounds, two states take the cake in that category. Not surprisingly, they are Arizona and Florida

There are several reasons that these two states attract the most retirees. 

First, Arizona and Florida have beautiful weather. They can get pretty hot in the summer months but they are a great place to find a temperate winter climate. 

Both states are also tax-friendly for retirees appealing to many folks. 

Yuma, Arizona, is home to the most 55 and older RV campgrounds in the United States. Out of the top 25 parks in the city, 40 percent of them are age-restrictive.

Other popular cities in Arizona featuring 55+ parks are Tucson, Mesa, and Apache Junction. 

Speaking of Arizona, here are 21 Arizona RV Parks You Must Visit.

Since I’m talking about Arizona, here’s a related article: What Makes Arizona Such a Hotspot for Snowbirds?

Golden Village Palms RV Resort in Hemet, California, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why do people love 55+ RV parks? 

In short, folks are drawn to these 55 and older RV campgrounds for their age-appropriate activities. Most parks have excellent amenities that encourage a sense of community and outdoor recreation. 

Most places offer pools, tennis, and pickleball courts and even golf courses. Many parks also have a recreation center that hosts bingo nights, dinners, live music, dancing, arts and crafts, games and cards, and other hobby workshops. 

While each park is different you can expect to find some activities available to residents. Many also offer a meeting place for snowbird clubs to meet. These outside organizations have their events and are excellent places for people to meet peers and make friends while camping.

Common activities at 55+ RV parks

The active lifestyle of 55+ parks is a huge attraction for baby boomers. These parks usually have great amenities that encourage outdoor activities. Pools, pickleball courts, tennis courts, and golf courses are common features.

Voyager RV Resort in Tucson is a popular 55+ RV resorts in southern Arizona. Here’s what they offer their 55+ community:

  • Arts & crafts
  • Dancing
  • Live music
  • Games & cards
  • Hobby workshops
Gold Canyon RV Resort in Gold Canyon, Arizona, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are 55+ parks more expensive than normal RV parks?  

The answer to this question is that there is no answer. It depends on the park. 

Some 55 and older RV parks are much more affordable than others. You will pay for the amenities you receive, so parks that offer more will cost more. 

There are some ways to save money, however. Consider joining a camping club like Escapees which includes many places to stay. Escapees is perfect for every age camper not just those over 55. With your membership, they combine Escapees and Xcapers RV Club. 

When you stay at 55+ parks you will find other like-minded campers. You often become friends and find that you see each other at different places throughout the year. 

Can people younger than 55 stay? 

Again, you have to look at each park to answer this question. Some 55 and older RV parks will allow folks younger than 55 to stay. At the same time, others adhere to a strict age policy. 

The bottom line is that these 55 and older RV campgrounds want respectful people who will be aware of those around them. If younger people are approved and follow the rules, there should be no issue staying there. 

Also, be aware that the retirees in many age-restrictive parks want a quiet environment. It is not the place to bring young children. While us older folks love the sounds of children’s laughter there is a time and place that we want to hear it. 

Most parks do not have an issue allowing those younger than 55 to stay for a short period if they have the availability. 

How do you find 55+ RV Park?

One way is to just Google “over 55 RV campgrounds near me” or check your membership clubs.

Luxury RV resorts for those 55 and older

These 55-and-older RV parks are dedicated to seniors and they have some fabulous amenities.

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona

Located mid-way between Phoenix and Tucson, Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort is minutes from Interstate 10. They have over 2,200 RV sites, park homes, and activities to keep you busy all winter.

You can play pickleball, tennis, billiards, or a round of golf on their 18-hole course. Afterward, cool off in one of their three swimming pools or Jacuzzis and soak in the mountain views. They also have card games, lawn bowling, and special events planned every week.

Tropic Winds RV Resort, Harlingen, Texas

Tropic Winds RV Resort is less than an hour from South Padre Island on the Gulf Coast. The resort includes over 500+ RV sites along with a swimming pool and spa, fitness center, and a clubhouse. The RV Park is open all year with daily, weekly, and monthly sites available. 

Water’s Edge RV Resort, Punta Gorda, Florida

No matter the time of year, Florida is always an excellent option for RVers looking for a warm climate. All RV sites at Water’s Edge have full hookups and RV guests have access to the laundry room, restrooms, pool, and the fishing lake. This resort has options for full-time ownership or short-term stays so it’s possible to stay for a few days or a few months. If you visit during the peak season and want something to do expect a packed calendar of events to keep you busy every day.

Caliente Springs Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California

RVers who want an active lifestyle resort will love the amenities at Caliente Springs Resort. Caliente Springs has pickleball, water sports, golf, tennis, and more. A bonus? This park is located minutes away from Palm Springs and less than an hour from Joshua Tree National Park. This park serves the 55-and-older crowd and has RV sites for different size rigs whether big or small. 

81 Palms Senior RV Resort, Deming, New Mexico

You don’t have to venture far off I-10 to reach 81 Palms Resort in Deming. The senior resort has 106 long pull-thru sites with full hookups and access to their community amenities. They have spotless restrooms and hot showers, an indoor heated swimming pool, coin-operated laundry, and a pet run.

Gold Canyon RV Resort in Gold Canyon, Arizona, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gold Canyon RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona

Stay near where the action takes place when you park your RV at Gold Canyon RV Resort. Gold Canyon is a planned active lifestyle community with everything from park model homes to large pull-through sites with large patios and full hookups. This senior RV resort is also a golf resort and the social and service amenities are unbeatable. Since Gold Canyon is located just east of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, RVers will find entertainment, shopping, and access to adventure, all within an hour’s drive.

Golden Village Palms RV Resort in Hemet, California, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Golden Village Palms RV Resort; Hemet, California

While this park isn’t exclusive to 55+ folks it is tailored to the active adult lifestyle. The park features 1,000 full hook-up sites available for rent on a daily, monthly, seasonal, or annual basis. The amenities are top notch including a tournament level shuffleboard complex, regulation sand volleyball courts, championship billiards tables, a library and business center, pickleball courts as well as three pools and spas, modern laundry facilities, and a professional gym.

We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite Go-To places—places that draw us back again and again.

Arizona is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter. 

Worth Pondering…

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

—Les Brown

11+ Sensational Things to do in Mount Dora

Mount Dora, a laid-back, relaxing getaway just an hour from Orlando offers the pleasures of Old Florida country living

Lake County, Florida is home to over 1,000 lakes and is the state’s geographical center. It’s often called Real Florida or Old Florida—beauty and allure that pre-date Disney or Universal by decades.

To me, Mount Dora brought home the Old Florida moniker. We fell in love with this small, charming town. There are no high-rise condos…no chain hotels or restaurants. The streets are still cobblestone in some areas, everyone knows each other, and the locals still outnumber the guests. This small town in Florida is worth a visit.

Mount Dora has the feel of a small New England town but with lots of Old Florida charm and there is so much to do. No matter what kind of getaway you’re looking for whether it’s a couple’s retreat, a girls’ weekend, or a family trip, there is truly something for everyone.

Once a haven for hunting and fishing enthusiasts arriving by steamboat to escape chilly northern winters, today’s visitors flock to Mount Dora, just 40 minutes northeast of bustling Orlando to play on 4,500-acre Lake Dora and see wildlife but also to shop for antiques, soak up the vibrant art scene, and stroll the historic downtown. 

The charming, compact city center sports an abundance of restaurants, sidewalk cafes, independently-owned shops, and art galleries situated along picturesque streets studded with palms and towering oak trees cloaked in Spanish moss—a true postcard-worthy scene. 

While the pace is slow there is never a shortage of things to do. Start with my list of 11+ things to do in Mount Dora!

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Spend a day by the lake

Lake Dora is one of seven cobalt-blue lakes in the Harris-chain-of-lakes, each connected by rivers or canals for a total of 77,000 acres to explore. The waters are a haven for bass fishing, bird watching, boating, and even manatee spotting but simply taking in their beauty from the shore is a rejuvenating way to spend a day.

Mount Dora’s eastern location on the lake means gorgeous lakefront sunsets too. Camp at a local RV park or stay at historic Lakeside Inn where you can walk the shoreline, relax by the waterfront pool with a book, or dine at their on-property restaurants with the lake as your backdrop. 

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Hunt for antique treasures

Collectors from across the country descend upon Renninger’s Antique Market, a sprawling antique center, flea market, and farmer’s market where 200 vendor booths overflow with vintage finds in all styles. During its Antique Extravaganzas, the market hosts more than 1,500 antique dealers and more than 800 booths.

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Stroll the downtown streets

The walkability of Mount Dora is a true highlight and just about any local inn or bed and breakfast will afford you easy on-foot access to all the charm of downtown. The unique downtown makes Mount Dora special; there isn’t another city like Mount Dora because of its historic downtown. With all independently owned shops, bars, restaurants, and museums, Mount Dora is truly one of a kind in Florida.

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Get out on—or over—the water

Ready to venture beyond the shoreline? Lake Dora’s water activities are plentiful with a variety of boat tours and rentals, seaplane rides, and water sports of all sorts from skiing and tubing to wakeboarding and wake surfing. Beautiful Lake Dora offers many scenic tours by way of covered pontoon boats, seaplanes, kayaks, or cat boats.

The history of the waterway and the nature you will experience on any of the tours offered is amazing. Adventure Cat Boat Tours are two-hour, guided trips on a two-person mini catamaran where you’re in the driver’s seat (after some instruction from the pros, of course). You’ll experience nature and history in the most unique way as you cruise across Lake Dora and through the famous Dora Canal.

Cruise at a slower pace on the 80-foot New Orleans-style paddlewheel boat, Dora Queen, which launches from the adjacent town of Tavares and offers two-hour rides complete with live music and cocktails on board. 

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Support the arts

Mount Dora is an artist’s and art lover’s haven with independently-owned galleries throughout town and art festivals throughout the year. The largest, Mount Dora Arts Festival takes place in February (49th annual; February 3-4, 2024) and is one of the top-ranked fine arts shows in the country. This year, 250 artists will line the streets in addition to a kid-friendly area, food and drink vendors, and live music.  

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Walk the boardwalk

A must-see for any Mount Dora visitor is the Palm Island Boardwalk on the south end of town on the waterfront. This elevated nature walk will take you out onto Lake Dora at a safe distance from the water for the ultimate viewing of wildlife. The boardwalk may be experienced on foot or via a Segway PT for the adventurous. Visitors stroll under old-growth live oaks and tall cabbage palms and among knobby cypress trees with ample opportunity to spot migratory birds and even gators.

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Visit a freshwater lighthouse

Just a bit north of Palm Island Boardwalk is Grantham Point Park, home to one of Florida’s few freshwater lighthouses. Sometimes referred to as Lighthouse Park, Grantham Point Park was created from road rubble and fill to create one of Mount Dora’s famous landmarks—the lighthouse. Built to represent the Port of Mount Dora, the lighthouse appears on many symbols. The 35-foot-tall lighthouse is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks and a great place to watch boaters and enjoy the sunset.

8. Step back into the future

Home to an impressive collection of midcentury modern furniture, Mount Dora’s Modernism Museum is a worthwhile stop for design history buffs and those who want to learn. The museum has hosted many exhibits since opening in 2013 including Memphis Collective furniture and design objects owned by David Bowie and sculptural furniture by artists George Nakashima and Wendell Castle.

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Mount Dora restaurants

For a town of 13,000, Mount Dora has a lot of good options for dining. With more than 36 restaurants and cafes in the downtown area all within walking distance you are sure to find something that will satisfy your palette. For sunset, the big patio at Pisces Rising has terrific views. In 1921, elevated fare from celebrated chef Norman Van Aken pays homage to local Florida ingredients with an eye toward modernity and sustainability. You can’t beat the clam chowder at Tony’s Clam Chowder Seafood Restaurant.

Several of the bars and restaurants have live music on weekends.

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Get into the holiday spirit 

Christmas in Mount Dora is spectacular with millions of lights throughout town and a large singing Christmas tree. Festivities kick off the weekend after Thanksgiving when over 2 million lights get draped over downtown, its historic homes, and Donnelly Park; and the Christmas tree on Main Street is officially lit. This night is arguably the most magical of the season.

Get your decoration inspiration at the 45th Annual 2023 Christmas Tour of Homes on December 2 and 3—it’s a self-driving tour of six beautifully decorated homes decked out in their holiday finest.

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Visit the oldest continually operating hotel in Florida

Whether you stop by to take in the Lakeside Inn’s spectacular Lake Dora view, grab a meal at one of its four on-site restaurants, or book a stay, a visit to this pretty yellow piece of history is a must. The oldest continually operating hotel in Florida started as the 10-room Alexander House when visitors in the late 1800s enjoyed Florida’s mild winter weather and the bounty of the lake. Today, visiting the 85-room Victorian-era inn feels like stepping back in time and is a place where you can truly unwind. 

I said I’d offer 11 things I love about Mount Dora but there are more: I love it for the sunsets over Lake Dora, all the birds you see on the lake (including bald eagles), the big Christmas light display in December, and Boathouse Row, a few blocks of boathouses converted into cottages perched over the water along Lake Dora Road. (Start at the restaurant Pisces Rising, cross the railroad tracks, and stroll down Lake Dora Road.)

I could go on, but you get the idea: There is a lot to love about this little town.

Worth Pondering…

The very name Florida carried the message of warmth and ease and comfort. It was irresistible.

—John Steinbeck

Snowbird Guide: States with the Least Snow

Planning for a future RV snowbird road trip? Need to know where it doesn’t snow? Here are the top six states with the least snow to get you started on your plans.

The seasonal migration of Canadian and American snowbirds from the greater north into southern states like Arizona, Texas, Alabama, and Florida and then back home again requires good planning.

There are many logistical issues to consider when traveling and one of the first decisions is how you’ll get from point A to point B.

Here are a few great articles to help you do just that:

Planning for the best and preparing for the worst will help you keep safe during your snowbird travels whether in sunny weather or adverse road conditions.

Here are the top six states with the least snow to get you started on your plans.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 6: Georgia

When it comes to Georgia and snow, it’s all about what area you visit. For example, parts of northern Georgia can see up to as much as three inches of snow each year. If you want to avoid snow altogether, stick to central and southern Georgia where less than an inch of snow a year is the norm. By the way, the higher snow totals in northern Georgia are due to the Northeastern mountain region.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Georgia:

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 5: Mississippi

If you hate snow and want to avoid it at all costs many areas of Mississippi are bound to deliver. The Gulf Coast and southern regions of Mississippi see an average of half an inch of snow or less each year. Central Mississippi usually gets less than an inch of snow but northern Mississippi can get up to two inches though it’s infrequent.

It’s worth noting that the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is a popular vacation destination. Winter months offer high temperatures in the 60s. Cities throughout the Gulf Coast like Biloxi, Gulfport, and Bay St. Louis offer a variety of holiday events throughout the winter months. 

Another great winter event in coastal Mississippi is, of course, Mardi Gras. Though more commonly associated with Louisiana, Mardi Gras has a 300-year history on the Gulf Coast. Numerous Mardi Gras events take place beginning in January and into February.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 4: Alabama

The Alabama Gulf Coast and southern Alabama are a great escape from the white stuff. Most cities in these regions average .2 inches or less of snow a year—not exactly the best destination for cross-country skiers. That isn’t to say snow is completely out of question. Some cities in Alabama have seen record snowfall amounts of more than 13 inches.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Alabama:

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 3: Louisiana

Average snowfall throughout Louisiana is an inch or less making the state a consistently snow-free destination. Winter highs are likely to be in the mid-60s. In addition to its temperate climate, Louisiana has one impressive draw for winter traveling: Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras has been openly celebrated in New Orleans since the 1730s. The Mardi Gras traditions began in France and then spread to French colonies. It was brought to New Orleans by a French–Canadian explorer in 1702. The traditions and celebrations have slowly grown over time to become what New Orleanians call the.

The Carnival season begins on January 6 or King’s Day kicking off a long stretch of celebrations and events. The date of Fat Tuesday changes every year and is always the day before Ash Wednesday (February 13, 2024). Bacchus and Endymion are two of the biggest parades of the season and happen the weekend before Fat Tuesday.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Louisiana:

Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 2: Florida

Summing up the average snowfall in Florida is easy: none. Don’t believe it? It snowed in Florida 16 times in the entire 21st century. Simply put, temperatures don’t drop low enough.

The average high is in the mid-60s. The consistent weather and lack of winter precipitation make Florida a great destination for vacationing. Florida is the number one destination in the United States for Canadian transplants and one in four residents in Florida are seniors.

Florida is home to several attractions that make it a desirable vacation destination. One of the most well-known is Disney World and some of the winter months are the least busy at the park.

Consider planning a trip in early to mid-December or January to mid-February. If you are looking for something a bit different consider a visit to the Kennedy Space Center or Everglades National Park.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Florida:

# 1: Hawaii

YES, HAWAII DOES GET SNOW!

Just not very much! But how practical is it to get your RV there? So Florida could be in this number 1 spot.

Are you really surprised? Of course not!  Much like Florida, Hawaii’s average yearly snowfall is non-existent. It also boasts highs in the 80s and lows in the upper 60s.

Weather like this should certainly make you consider saying Aloha to Hawaii in the winter months.

The only place you are likely to see snow in Hawaii is at the top of the state’s three tallest volcanoes: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Haleakala.

Worth Pondering…

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida but they turned sixty and that’s the law.

—Jerry Steinfeld

Snowbirds Bound for Florida and Alabama will Find Expanded and New RV Parks and Resorts

Snowbirds bound for Florida and Alabama this winter will find both new and expanding RV parks and resorts as well as new amenities at many of the parks they enjoy

“RV resorts in Florida and Alabama keep getting bigger and better. So new and returning snowbirds are not only finding new RV resorts but existing RV resorts with more spaces and more amenities to enhance their stays,” said Bobby Cornwell, president and CEO of the Florida and Alabama RV Park and Campground Association.

Below are highlights of new, recently expanded and improving RV parks and resorts across Florida and Alabama as well as information on plans for new parks and park expansions expected to take place next year.

Eagles Landing RV Park, Holt, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New RV resorts planned in Florida

Dreamin’ n’ Driftin’ RV Resort in Lake City

This scenic 100-site park is now open. Developed on a 33-acre lot that includes eight acres of century-old live oak trees with Spanish moss, the resort features large, 80-foot by 40-foot RV sites with 30 and 50 amp electric service, a walking and workout trail, a community center and swimming pool, and a one-acre dog park. Fifty of the 100 sites will be long-term sites with 25 sites being for seasonal and 25 for overnight campers.

Dreamin’ ‘n ‘Driftin’ RV Resort offer top-tier amenities at affordable rates:

  • Monthly stay: $550.00 + electric
  • Nightly rate: $55.00
  • Special rates available for snowbirds

Panhandle RV Resort in Gretna

Groundbreaking is expected during the first quarter of 2024 on this resort 30 miles west of Tallahassee which is expected to have 217 sites and open by late 2024. The resort will have state-of-the-art amenities including large, spacious concrete RV sites with full hookups, a fitness center with a pool and hot tub, Wi-Fi-enabled laundry services, pickleball courts, clean and private showers and restrooms as well as an entertainment barn for outdoor entertainment, an indoor venue for indoor activities, and a convenience store.

Madison Station RV & Golf Resort in Madision

Developed by Southeastern Resort Development, this 95-site park is now open. Amenities include a swimming pool, lit pickleball courts, premium Wi-Fi, and a 2-acre dog park. Rates start at $52.14.

Roserush Luxury RV Resort in Brooksville

This park 50 miles north of Tampa expects to open this fall with 50 premium RV sites and 12 luxury glamping tents overlooking a small lake and fountain. This will be a luxury boutique destination resort in close proximity to I-75 and the Gulf. Nearby activities include golf, biking, hiking, mountain biking, zip lining, boating, and ATVing.

Clerbrook RV Resort, Clermont, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southern Sands RV Resort in Arcadia

Zeman RV Resorts is building this 184-site resort as the latest addition to its Signature RV Resorts series. The resort is expected to open December 1 with an introductory construction rate as the park’s amenities are built out. The amenities are expected to be completed by May.

Florida RV resorts that opened earlier this year

Sun Outdoors Islamorada in the Florida Keys

This all-ages 136-site resort in Islamorada opened in May and features RV sites and rental accommodations with ocean views. Amenities include a heated swimming pool, state-of-the-art clubhouse, and poolside cabanas. Daily rates start at $103.

Florida RV resort expansions

Bay Bayou RV Resort in Tampa

This park plans to have eight premium RV sites in the Bayou Grande area of the resort by mid-November. The rest is along with its first pickleball court, a custom-made Gymtainer with commercial exercise equipment and restroom facilities. A Zen garden is also being added as part of the expansion effort.

Bay Bayou RV Resort offer 300 full size lots with winter rates (January-March) starting from:

  • Daily: $102
  • Weekly: $540
  • Monthly: $1,875 + electric

Breezy Oaks RV Park in Bushnell

Breezy Oaks RV Park is conveniently located right off of I-75 (Exit 309) in Bushnell surrounded by the Withlacoochee State Forest and located within forty minutes of Orlando and Tampa. All 217 sites in this park have been hard-wired with high-speed Internet service. Park owner Mike Wood is also planning to expand the park with another 181 sites available during the winter of 2023-2024.

Caladesi RV Park in Palm Harbor

The latest improvements at this park include a new gym and the installation of a new ventilation system in the park’s bathhouses. The park also continues to upgrade its campsites, putting limestone rock over the soft sand.

Peace River Thousand Trails © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cooper Lake RV Community in Interlachen

New owners have expanded this park with 30 additional lots and finished a clubhouse with bathrooms and showers and a multipurpose room. Other improvements include the asphalting of all roads, the addition of a community park, and the provision of Wi-Fi service throughout the park. Park owners are continuing to level the existing lots and add new landscaping.

Located east of Gainsville rates are reasonably priced:

  • Daily $45
  • Weekly: $250
  • Monthly: $650-700 (includes electric, water, sewer, and basic Wi-Fi

Jasmine Breeze RV Park in Old Town

Located on the Suwannee River this park is more than doubling in size from 18 to 40 to 45 RV sites. Nightly rates are $70, weekly $300, and monthly $800 + electric.

Terra Ceia Village RV Resort in Palmetto

This Encore resort has added 180 RV sites with 50 amp, full hookup, back-in and paved options. A new swimming pool, clubhouse, fitness center and four pickleball courts were also included in the expansion. Discounts are available for Thousand Trail members.

The Glades Resort in Moore Haven

Ninety-seven large pull-through RV sites are being added to this central Florida park with completion targeted for early 2024. Amenities include its own championship 9-hole golf course, an onsite restaurant, and its own freshwater marina along the Caloosahatchee River just 14 miles west of Lake Okeechobee, 11 miles west of the Moore Haven lock and 4.5 miles east of the Ortona lock.

Orlando Thousand Trails © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creekside RV Resort in Punta Gorda

The newest park in Punta Gorda, Creekside plans to begin construction next summer on its third phase which will include approximately 100 RV sites.

Florida RV resort improvements

Coastal River RV Resort in Steinhatchie

Located in Big Bend region of Florida, this park is updating its electric utilities and Wi-Fi, building a dog park, installing new tiny home rentals and adding gravel to its RV sites.

Cross City Campground and RV Resort in Cross City

Several improvements are underway at this park which was acquired by new owners in August. Improvements include the renovation of the swimming pool, clubhouse, office, bathrooms and laundry area, and the installation of new fencing and signage. The Wi-Fi system is also being updated and gravel is being added to the campsites. A 40-site expansion is planned for 2024.

Ramblers Rest RV Resort, Sarasota, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fisherman’s Cove RV Resort in Palmetto

This resort has added artificial turf to the entire clubhouse area. An artificial turf putting green has also been added as a new amenity. The resort is surrounded by 24,900 contiguous acres of serene aquatic preserve and also county and state parks such as Robinson Preserve, Emerson Point, and Terra Ceia State Park.

Flat Creek Family Campground in Chattahooche

Formerly Triple C’s Campground, this park which is just west of Tallahassee has added new outdoor fitness equipment, created walking trails on the property, and made other improvements to promote wildlife viewing.  

Idlewild Lodge & RV Park in Lake Panasoffkee

Recent improvements to this park include cabin renovations and paved RV sites along with several new amenities including pontoon boat rentals, kayaks, bait and tackle, a concrete boat launch, boat slips, vending, recreational area, laundry machines, an on-site café, pool-side cabanas. Idlewild is also a host to Swamp Fever Airboat Adventures. Swamp Fever guests can sign up for the interactive alligator experience and ride an airboat deep into the shallow waters of the Lake Panasoffkee forest where snakes, turtles, cranes, and alligators are aplenty. Idlewild was founded in 1992 as a fish camp built on three acres with 10 cabins and 10 RV sites. Located on the western perimeter of Lake Panasoffkee, Idlewild sits across a 9,911-acre state park preserving Lake Panasoffkee’s vast floodplain forest, natural springs, pine flat-woods, freshwater marshes and oak scrub forest.

Seasons in the Sun RV Resort in Mims

Neat Titusville this 55-and-over Zeman active lifestyle resort is upgrading its bathhouse and laundry area with higher quality materials as well as new machines and more machines for guest use.

St. Augustine Beach KOA Holiday in St. Augustine

The latest improvements at this park include a new open-air steel pavilion. Other improvements include a new climate-controlled bathhouse with six family-style bathrooms, three bathrooms with toilets and sinks, and an indoor 24/7 laundry facility.

Eagles Landing RV Park, Holt, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sun Lake RV Resort in Ruskin

This park is upgrading 12 RV sites into super sites with pavers, adding a fenced-in dog park, and remodeling a double-wide for use as an Airbnb rental. An artificial turf putting green is also being added as a new amenity.

Sunshine Village Resort in Webster

This RV and manufactured housing resort is adding spacious new homes including 3 bedroom, two-bathroom models by Nobility and Champion. New activities are also being added for the upcoming winter season including dinner murder mysteries, Karaoke, a senior prom event, and catch-and-release fishing at Sunshine Pond which was stocked last season and is now thriving.

The Surf RV Resort in Palmetto

This 55-and-over resort has enlarged its pool lounging deck to allow for an additional 120 loungers. New loungers have also been purchased for the pool area. Astro turf has been added along the length of the pool deck by the main lake. The resort which now offers annual stays also has fully restricted access with the recent installation of new 6-foot-high black vinyl chain link fencing around three sides of the resort.

The Tides RV Resort in Palmetto

This 55-and-over Zeman Signature Resort has added a second dog park with separate sections for little dogs and big dogs. Pool gates have also been upgraded making them easier to open and close.

The Waves RV Resort in Naples

This 55-and-over Zeman active lifestyle resort is continuing to upgrade the interiors of its clubhouse and resort office.

Zachary Taylor Waterfront RV Resort in Okeechobee

This resort has added a new laundry room with all new machines.

Lake Osprey RV Park, Elberta, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Alabama RV parks and resorts and expansions

Island Retreat RV Park in Gulf Shores

A brand new Jayco travel trailer has been added to this 173-site park as a new rental RV unit for Snowbirds. Laundry and bathhouse facilities have also been updated while concrete pad replacements continue.

Homestead RV Community in Theodore

This park is adding a saltwater pool, shuffleboard and pickleball courts, and a large pool house complete with an event center large enough to accommodate 100 people. Continuously driving technology, Homestead RV Community has been actively beta-testing products for Marine Sync, Wild Energy, and CampLife and will soon be testing state-of-the-art pedestals for Motion Power.

Sun Outdoors Orange Beach in Orange Beach

This resort has added 330 new RV sites some of which have outdoor kitchens. The expansion also includes the construction of new amenities including a clubhouse, swimming pool, lap pool, bar, restaurant, arcade, playground, and dog washing stations. The new RV sites are currently open while most of the new amenities will be completed later this year.

Bella Terra of Gulf Shores © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Birmingham South RV Park in Pelham

The latest improvements at this 99-site park include eight RV sites that have newly poured concrete. Paving improvements have also continued in various sections of the park. Last year, the park made improvements to its front entrance with new paving, landscaping, and a stormwater drainage system.

Kick Back Ranch in Ramer

Located near Montgomery, this park is expanding its general store and adding more farm animals to the property this fall. Other improvements include building more rooms with kitchens. Kick Back Ranch supports agritourism and will provide even more opportunities for all ages to explore agriculture, farming, forestry, and conservation with learning stations throughout the property.

Worth Pondering…

The very name Florida carried the message of warmth and ease and comfort. It was irresistible.

—John Steinbeck

The Ultimate RV Lifestyle Destinations Guide: RV Trip Ideas Based on Location

Looking for exciting RV trip ideas and travel suggestions?

This ultimate guide brings all of my destination resources to one place! Browse LOTS of RV road trip ideas based on location or interests.

We have been living the RV Snowbird Lifestyle for over two decades, cataloging our trips from year to year. I’ve shared countless articles and resources to help fellow RVers enjoy similar travels. Now, I’m bringing it all together in this ultimate destinations guide filled with many great RV trip ideas.

You can use this guide as an index to discover new ideas or dig deeper into places or things you’ve always wanted to see. I’ve organized it into two parts: location and activities/interests.

So, whether you’re interested in Arizona or scenic drives, Texas or birding, Georgia or hiking, you’ll find excellent resources to help with planning your next adventure!

RV trip ideas based on location

In this section, I organize my many location-based articles and resources into an easy-to-scan index. You’ll see helpful articles and links to useful resources.

When something catches your interest, click through to the links to learn more!

SOUTHWEST

The Southwest has stunning and unique landscapes you can’t see anywhere else in the world. We have fallen in love with the Southwest—Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and California.  From red and orange rock formations in the desert to green and lush mountains, there’s so much to see in this one area of the country and hiking and birding that can’t be beat. Then there is the beautiful national parks, state parks, and regional/county parks—and, of course, the Grand Canyon.

Cathedral Rock, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona

Visit Arizona for the iconic red rock formations of Sedona to the majestic Grand Canyon. Or for the vibrant cities such as Phoenix and Tucson which offer a range of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico

New Mexico is a great destination for RVers due to its diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage. From deserts to mountains, RVers can enjoy a range of scenic drives and outdoor activities. The state is also home to a number of historic Native American pueblos as well as Spanish colonial missions which provide a unique cultural experience.

New Mexican cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, Native American, and Mexican ingredients and techniques. While familiar items like corn, beans, and squash are often used, the defining ingredient is chile, a spicy chile pepper that is a staple in many New Mexican dishes. Chile comes in two varieties, red or green, depending on the stage of ripeness in which they were picked.

D. H. Lawrence, writing in 1928, pretty much summed it up: “The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine high up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul.”

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah

Every state thinks its fun. Every state claims to have something for everyone. But not every state has five national parks (The Mighty Five), 46 state parks, five national historic sites and trails, and a dozen national monuments and recreation areas. While it’s mathematically impossible to finish your Utah bucket list, I’ll help you plan the trip you’ll be talking about forever!

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California

What is the quintessential wine experience in the Golden State? Where are the must-see natural wonders? Which beach is best? How do you decide which theme park to visit? Where best to spend the winter? Scroll through my favorite places to go and things to do and start dreaming about your next California adventure today. 

SOUTHEAST

Over the last decade, the United States’ southeastern portion has become the ultimate place to visit for people who love outdoor activities and sports. You will find plenty to do from whitewater rafting to camping and hiking the trails when you visit the area. The twelve states located in the Southeast include Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Kentucky.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia

From the mountains down to the coast and everything in between, Georgia offers well-known and off-the-beaten-path experiences in cities both big and small. From ghost tours and island resorts to hidden gems here are a few can’t miss attractions, stays and towns when visiting Georgia.  

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Carolina

South Carolina is a state of variety with beautiful beaches, remote islands, charming cities and towns, watery wilderness, great golf, interesting history, rolling hills and mountains, and much more. From the Upcountry mountains through the vibrant Midlands and to the Lowcountry coast, the Palmetto State amazes.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama

From the foothills of the Appalachians through countless river valleys to the sugar white beaches of the Gulf, natural wonders abound. The 22 state parks which encompass 48,000 acres of land and water provide opportunities to fish, camp, canoe, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Louisiana

Break away from the Interstate and take a road trip down one of Louisiana’s 19 scenic byways. From historic treasures and music festivals, to country kitchens and coastal wetlands teeming with wildlife, each drive offers you an authentic taste of Louisiana food, music, culture, and natural beauty. Start planning your trip here.

Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kentucky

With everything from world-class horse racing to world-class bourbon, the list of things to do in the Bluegrass State seems almost endless. But with so many options, where do you even start? Here are a few experiences that stand above the rest.

Kennedy Space Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Florida

The Sunshine State connects you to natural landscapes, vibrant wildlife, and a host of outdoor activities and interactions.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas

Mention Texas to someone from another state and they might picture cowboys herding longhorn cattle across the open range or scheming, wealthy oil barons a la TV’s Dallas. The Lone Star State which was admitted to the United States after winning its own independence from Mexico still sometimes seems—as the state tourism slogan goes—like a whole other country. And, boy, do we have a LOT of helpful articles on this popular RV destination!

MIDWEST

The Midwest, also known as America’s Heartland, lies midway between the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains and north of the Ohio River. The Midwest is generally considered to comprise the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Holmes County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ohio

Ohio is home to a wide range of attractions from sprawling parks with stunning waterfalls to bustling cities and college towns. 

Shipshewanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indiana

Appreciate a slower pace of life in a state known for its rural charms, Amish communities, and architecturally impressive cities.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North Dakota

North Dakota has uncrowded, wide-open spaces, and amazing vistas that take your breath away at must-see national and state parks, and recreational areas.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota

An often overlooked travel destination, South Dakota is a land of breathtaking scenic beauty.

Here’s the thing, visit South Dakota once and the place SELLS ITSELF. Much more than just the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Badlands, SoDak is the most scenic places you knew nothing about. Until now!

Worth Pondering…

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

—Gandalf the Wizard, Lord of the Rings

Swim with the Manatees of Florida’s Crystal River

Meet a manatee

Every year, tourists from around the world flock to Crystal River. A brief drive through the charming Citrus County hamlet provides a hint as to why: You’ll find manatee-shaped mailboxes, manatee placards on the streetlights, manatee statues, and murals. The city’s logo, a smiling sea cow, is festooned upon a water tower downtown.

Citrus County is revered as the manatee capital of the world and rightfully so. Only in the waters of Citrus County are you able to legally swim with manatees in their natural habitat. Home to roughly 3,000 people, Crystal River is located 80 miles north of Tampa. For snowbirds looking for a magical getaway, this is the perfect place to get up close with these gentle creatures.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Much like other mammals (humans included), at the first sign of winter, manatees seek out a warm locale to wait out winter’s wrath. For West Indian manatees, their go-to spot is Crystal River, Florida.

For generations, West Indian manatees (also known by their subspecies, Florida manatees) have been following the same migratory pattern from as far north as New England to this stretch of warm water located 85 miles northwest of Orlando and several miles inland from Crystal Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. This is where these herbivores will stay from roughly November through March spending much of their time munching on sea grass and other shoreline vegetation (they’ll consume as much as 10 percent of their body weight a day amounting to between 100 and 300 pounds of vegetation) while floating languidly in the warm waters of Crystal River and Kings Bay which average 72 degrees thanks to their shallow nature (manatees can’t tolerate water temperatures when they dip below 68 degrees).

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Crystal River area is considered the largest natural winter refuge in the world for manatees and is comprised of 70 springs including Three Sisters Springs where between 400 and 500 manatees have been sighted during the winter in recent years thanks to its ample vegetation and temperate waters.

Because of their calm demeanor and sheer cuteness—they’re a distant relative to elephants—seeing one of these gentle giants in the wild has become a bucket-list item for people around the world. But because they’re protected under the Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers them a threatened species (there are about 6,300 manatees in Florida today a significant increase from 1,267 in 1991). Citrus County is the only place in the United States where people can legally swim with wild manatees in their natural habitat.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are manatees friendly to humans?

The manatee is the world’s most humble creature. They don’t know any form of aggression. They have no natural predators and no prey. They don’t even compete for resources.

Manatees are completely vegan subsisting on a diet of aquatic vegetation. They need to consume 10-20 percent of their body weight in wet vegetation every single day to keep their body temperature regulated. For an animal that weighs 1,000 pounds on average—that is a lot of food!

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They aren’t picky eaters; they will munch and crunch on any kind of grass, leaves, and even sweet potatoes if they can access them. Their most nutritious food sources are in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico where grasses grow in abundance and variety. In Kings Bay, they feast on the native Eelgrass which has been planted by our Grass Restoration Project to the tune of about 17 million dollars. Each acre of planted grass can support about 40,000 fish and 50 million small animals and it provides a necessary food source for our manatees.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Kings Bay, Crystal River, and Three Sisters Springs region

Three Sisters Springs gets all the attention and for good reason. It’s gorgeous: A rare freshwater spring that has never been developed as a swimming hole or park still features natural lush vegetation around its vivid and clear turquoise waters. And it’s popular with manatees as well as people.

But the Three Sisters Springs group represents just three of the 70 springs within the 600-acre bay. The Fish and Wildlife Service has maps that show areas that are off-limits to boats because manatees congregate there and those maps indicate a half dozen other manatee refuge zones in addition to Three Sisters.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two other areas are popular with swim-with-manatee outfitters and kayakers exploring on their own:

  • Adjacent to a mangrove-filled Banana Island in Kings Bay is Kings Spring, the largest and original spring that prompted the creation of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge in 1983. In the winter, manatees congregate here and boats—but not swimmers—are barred from Kings Spring.
  • Not far north of Three Sisters Spring, Hunter Spring City Park is the most popular place to put in kayaks and is close to Jurassic, House, and Hunter springs, all of which attract manatees as well as people who want to swim with manatees.
Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crystal River is a year round home for the manatee

But, this isn’t what makes Crystal River so special. Crystal River didn’t earn its designation as Home of the Manatee from the ones that visit in the winter. That’s right! Crystal River is uniquely the only place in Florida that has a consistent year-round population of 50-60 manatees that decided to become permanent residents. No matter the day of the year, you are almost guaranteed to see a manatee in the Crystal River National Wildlife refuge. Visiting before the season is a great way to get close to these creatures while avoiding the crowds.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why do manatees love Crystal River?

The life of a manatee is pretty consistent—they sleep, eat, and repeat! Because of this, Crystal River is just perfect for them. For instance, there are a lot of quiet secluded backcountry for these solitary animals to rest, plenty of fresh water for them to drink, and plenty of food here to feed their humongous appetite.

Manatees are always on the food search. They graze about 8–10 hours a day consuming about 10 percent of their body weight daily. Weighing in at about 1,500 pounds, your average manatee consumes about 150 pounds of grass a day! That’s what I call a HEALTHY appetite!

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meet a manatee

There are plenty of ways for anyone to see manatees from swimming with manatees to kayaking and stand up paddle-boarding and boat tours to visiting the incredible fully accessible boardwalks at Three Sisters Springs Refuge in Crystal River and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Homosassa.

However you choose to meet a manatee, remember to keep calm, enjoy the moment, and don’t be surprised if meeting a manatee changes your life.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All swimmers on manatee tours learn their manatee manners before ever getting in the water.

Find a tour group that takes a conservation-minded approach. Explorida is a company that starts each swim session with a lesson. These animals are protected by federal law and harassing or harming them can mean hefty fines and jail time. They emphasize the art of passive observation which involves quietly enjoying the animals from a distance. If manatees want to venture closer and touch you that would be fine but initiating contact is a big no-no.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the short boat ride, your in-water guide offers tips such as the following:

Manatees will be able to feel you coming thanks to the tiny hairs that cover their body. They are curious and friendly and generally don’t mind respectful humans. To keep them comfortable, it’s best to avoid loud noises or splashing. In other words, stay still and act like a manatee.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To spot manatees from the boat first look for a mound of bubbles. Then a whiskered nose will emerge from the water—the tip of the manatee iceberg. If the water is clear, you’ll see the round silhouette of the rest of its body under the surface.

The sleeping sea cow will hover in a cloud of bubbles. Every few minutes she/he will float to the surface to inhale before sinking back down. Small catfish may swirl around her. She won’t mind them or a group coming close to watch.

This process will be repeated several times. Find a manatee and get a peek into its morning routine.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other things to do in Crystal River

There is more in Crystal River than manatees. Here are a few other ideas:

Crystal River Archaeological State Park: An ancient Native American ceremonial site located in a beautiful setting overlooking the wide Crystal River. The mounds here are surprisingly impressive but little is known about the people who built them starting 2,500 years ago. A small museum has interesting artifacts and the picnic tables along the water are a great place to relax. Located at 3400 N Museum Point, Crystal River.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crystal River Preserve State Park: Located adjacent to the archaeological park, it has several trails with forest, marsh, and water views. Located at 3266 N. Sailboat Ave., Crystal River.

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park: 15 minutes south of Crystal River, you can see manatees every day via the park’s underwater observatory of its resident manatee population. Visitors start a visit on a pontoon boat ride down Pepper Creek to the wildlife park where you also see Florida panthers, bears, bobcats, deer, alligators, and a wide variety of birds. In winter, the gates into the first-magnitude spring are opened, and wild manatee flock to the warmer waters. On cold days, you may see dozens of wild manatees. The park has many attractions and charges an adult admission of $13. Children aged 6-13 are $5.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to camp near Crystal River

Here are a few RV parks and campgrounds throughout Citrus County to consider for your trip:

  • Rock Crusher Canyon RV Resort: A beautifully landscaped campground with a swimming pool, playground, fenced-in dog run, and a clubhouse for activities. Rock Crusher offers full hookups with 30- or 50- amp electric which can accommodate up to 40 feet RVs with plenty of room for slide-outs. All sites offer back-in and pull-through availability. They also have elite sites which include beautiful brick paver pads and a shed for extra storage.
  • Crystal Isles RV Resort: An Encore RV resort, this park offers numerous amenities including a pool, waterfront sites, and on-site laundry. Rent a boat, catch a fish in local streams, or visit nearby King’s Bay to swim with a manatee.
  • Rousseau RV Resort: Situated on 15 acres shaded by majestic, ancient live oak and cypress trees draped in Spanish moss, many of the sites are generous and big rigs are welcome.  All sites are full hookups with 30-amp and 50-amp service. 
  • Nature’s Resort: Situated on the Homosassa River, this 97-acre resort offers RV sites and also cabin rentals. There’s a swimming pool, game room, and access to the Gulf for fishing and boating.
Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

A full-grown manatee which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds looks like the result of a genetic experiment involving a walrus and the Goodyear Blimp.

—Dave Barry

The Ultimate Coastal South Road Trip: From New Orleans to Savannah

Discover the sights, sounds, and tastes along this Coastal South road trip

The dog days of summer are the perfect time to embark on a great American road trip.

One such road trip links two of the South’s most historic and poetic cities: New Orleans and Savannah.

Cajun cuisine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the route, explore the Gulf Coast—balmy shores full of quirky beach towns, Cajun culinary magic, and breweries—as well as the white-sand beaches of the Eastern Seaboard between Florida and Georgia.

Pack your sunscreen and bathing suit, and throw on a blues and Southern rock playlist. This weeklong road trip through America’s warmest (both in climate and culture) region awaits.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start your trip in New Orleans

The Big Easy. N’awlins. The Birthplace of Jazz.

New Orleans is one of America’s most storied and with deep French, Spanish, and African roots culturally distinctive cities. As the saying goes, New Orleanians are perpetually either throwing a party or recovering from one. For those seeking revelry, look no further than the French Quarter or Frenchmen Street—the latter is also one of the best places in New Orleans for live music.

Like Las Vegas, New Orleans doesn’t have open-container laws. So snag yourself a daiquiri while you stroll and admire the city’s inimitable architecture, street music, and local characters.

Related article: The Ultimate Deep South Road Trip: Savannah to Charleston

Dine at one of New Orleans’ legendary restaurants—perhaps Commander’s Palace, Arnaud’s, or Galatoire’s.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Bay St. Louis is about an hour and a half east of New Orleans.

As with Louisiana, the French colonized these shores in the late 17th century. I recommend taking Highway 90 from New Orleans. This route follows the coastline and is far more scenic than the slightly more expedient Interstate 10.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After the revelry of New Orleans, Bay St. Louis, a quiet and breezy beach town is the ideal place to catch your breath.

For those interested in blues history visit 100 Men Hall. This hallowed music venue has hosted the likes of James Brown, Etta James, and Muddy Waters. The current owner, Rachel Dangermond continues to host musicians and uses the hall for events in support of coastal Mississippi’s African American community.

The gorgeous Pearl Hotel overlooks the ocean and sits within easy walking distance of the restaurants, beach bars, and ice cream parlors of Bay St. Louis. Right across from Pearl Hotel is The Blind Tiger, a beach bar serving up delicious “royal reds,” deep-water shrimp, a coastal Mississippi delicacy.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulfport, Mississippi

Driving east from Bay St. Louis, you’ll soon arrive in Gulfport.

Be sure to start the morning with a coffee and plate of biscuits at Fill-Up with Billups, an old-fashioned gas station converted into a diner.

Related article: The Underrated Coast

Boasting a dozen well-known casinos, Gulfport is a popular gaming destination. But if gambling isn’t your thing, Gulfport also boasts world-class charter fishing and is home to Chandeleur Island Brewery.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Biloxi, Mississippi

About 30 minutes down the coast from Gulfport is Biloxi, the Playground of the South.

Long renowned for the abundant shrimp, oysters, and crabs of its warm waters Biloxi suffered tremendous destruction from Hurricane Katrina.

Now, nearly 20 years later, Biloxi is on the rise again with a slew of busy casinos, booming commercial and recreational fishing industries, and killer dining and drinking. If you’ve had your fill of gambling, take a shrimp boat tour with Capt. Mike at Biloxi Shrimping Trip. He takes passengers out into Biloxi Bay to learn about the world’s favorite crustacean.

Mississippi Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Just east of Biloxi Bay, this small town is a leafy artists’ colony that punches well above its weight for dining, coffee, and nightlife. It’s sprawling with live oaks and buildings bedecked with wrought-iron balconies and the old French influence is palpable.

Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ocean Springs comes alive at night. To find a bustling patio bar and live music, just walk up Main Street after dark. Check out Maison de Lu for excellent French-inspired seafood with a Gulf twist. And don’t leave Ocean Springs without getting a cup of joe at Bright-Eyed Brew Co., a local roastery adored by both visitors and locals.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile, Alabama

Continuing east and crossing state lines, Mobile is about an hour from Ocean Springs.

Related article: Experience the Alabama Gulf Coast along the Coastal Connection Scenic Byway

If you have time, keep to coastal Highway 90—it’s a much prettier drive than the inland Interstate 10 as noted previously.

Mobile Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As with New Orleans, Biloxi, and most older Gulf Coast settlements, the French founded Mobile in the late 17th century. Mobile also claims to be home to North America’s oldest Mardi Gras.

Beer aficionados should check out Braided River Brewing Co., a recently opened brewery that’s already garnering national awards.

Hank Aaron Childhood Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re a sports fan be sure to pay homage to one of the great ones at the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum located adjacent to Hank Aaron Stadium. Aaron was one of the best to ever play this game. Aaron played 23 seasons. He came to the plate almost 14,000 times. He hit .305 with 755 home runs and 6,856 total bases—more than 700 total bases beyond everyone else. The gap between Aaron and No. 2 on the list, Stan Musial, is more than 12 miles worth of bases.

Fairhope © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fairhope, Alabama

Consistently ranked as one of the nation’s coolest small towns, Fairhope is an upscale beach town about an hour southeast of Mobile. With wooden piers stretching out over blue waters, white-sand beaches, and gorgeous architecture, Fairhope is a town that seduces visitors to stay permanently. What’s more, Fairhope boasts some of the South’s best restaurants. Check out Tamara’s Downtown for scrumptious Gulf Coast delicacies.

Fairhope is undeniably posh (golf carts are the preferred means of transportation here). However, it also has a funky side, evidenced by the ample coffee shops, breweries, and the fact that the town once had a flourishing nudist colony.

Tallahassee, Florida

Welcome to the Sunshine State!

Tallahassee is about three hours east of Fairhope. Home to nearly 35,000 college students, Florida’s capital is one of the country’s most notorious college towns. As you would expect with an overpopulation of 18-to-22-year-olds, Tallahassee brims with rowdy bars, late-night eateries, and youthful verve.

Amelia Island near Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville, Florida

Another 2½ hours of driving will take you from Tallahassee to Jacksonville and the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Jax is the largest city in the U.S. in terms of geographical breadth. It’s also the hometown of Southern rock legends the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

In Jacksonville, the characteristic form of the Florida beach—that is, powdery white sand against placid, turquoise water—is fully realized. Not to mention that Jacksonville’s beaches are far less crowded than those farther south. For fun in the sun, head to Neptune Beach near downtown Jacksonville.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah, Georgia

Head north up the coast for about two hours to reach Savannah, the final stop on our jaunt through the coastal South. Savannah is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. and boasts some of the most stunning examples of the South’s grandiose pre-Civil War architecture.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unlike Atlanta, a city Gen. Sherman burned to the ground during the Civil War, the Union Army spared Savannah its torches—some say because Sherman had a local mistress who convinced him that her city was too beautiful to destroy. Either way, posterity is grateful that Savannah remained intact as the Historic District—with its stately fountains, mansions, and lush public parks—is a national treasure.

Related article: The Perfect Georgia Coast Road Trip

St. Marys, Georgia (just north of the Florida/Georgia state line) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bottom line

Whether your thing is American history, beautiful cities, fabulous cuisine, or gorgeous beaches, the coastal South makes for a fantastic road trip.

This route links the old and superlatively poetic cities of New Orleans and Savannah. It shows you the best of coastal Mississippi, the Gulf Coast, North Florida, and the southern reaches of the Eastern Seaboard.

Worth Pondering…

The journey not the arrival matters.

—T. S. Eliot