Champaign to Sarasota Road Trip Guide


A north to south RV road trip from the northern US State of Illinois to the balmy weather of the Florida panhandle is loaded with fascinating and beautiful natural sites, and RV campgrounds perfect for your road trip adventure. The trip from Champaign, Illinois, to Sarasota, Florida, is 1129 miles long, taking Interstate 59 to exit 44, then Interstate 24 south and east through Nashville, Tennessee to exit 185A. At exit 185A take Interstate 75 south through Atlanta, Georgia, to exit 210 then take Highway 780 west to Sarasota. While staying in the Champaign region RVers can stay overnight at the Clinton Lake Campground, northwest of the city. This campground has 300 sites, some with electric hookups, and some with full hookups, and accommodates RVs up to 40 feet in length. Some sites even have views of Clinton Lake and amenities at the campground include restrooms, showers and dump stations.

The community is the location of the University of Illinois and is located about 130 miles from Chicago and Indianapolis. During your Champaign, Illinois stay, visit shopping malls, a nature center, Spurlock museum, the planetarium, or the University of Illinois Arboretum. Champaign is also home to street festivals, children's museums, and bountiful parks and natural spaces. Visit Urbana’s Market on the Square, a great farmers market, on Saturday mornings for great local finds!

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Road trip length: 7+ days
Recommend rig: any
audience: all

Point of Interest

University of Illinois Tailgating

The University of Illinois football team is a part of the Big 10 Conference and holds football games at Memorial Stadium, a venue with 60 000 seats, dating back to 1923. Don the team colors, orange and blue, and head to campus for lively University of Illinois Tailgating events two and a half hours prior to games. Games occur on a weekly basis in the football season and ticket prices are reasonable.

RV parking on site is permitted but is restricted to a single lot. RVers can park at designated lot 33 on Friday evenings and camp overnight prior to the game. The cost to park is about $40 if you purchase your spot online ahead of time, and about $50 on game day. The lot closes after the game ends, and RVs must be removed from the lot.

Make sure you have a jacket to attend fall events in Illinois, as the weather can be chilly, especially at night. For an ultimate tailgating experience pack a portable grill and a speaker to play some music for the full effect!

Oak Point Campground

Heading south on Interstate 24, though Shawnee National Forest, take Route 146 off of the Interstate east to Route 145 then head north and take Lake Road to the Oak Point campground for excellent overnight camping. The campground has 93 RV sites with tall pine trees providing shade and privacy. There are 34 sites that have electric hookups, and amenities include flush toilets, showers, and drinking water supplies, as well as picnic shelters with grills. Sites are reservable online.

Campsites are located on the lakeshore and hiking trails from the campground extend around Lake Glendale. The trails are multi-use so you can also enjoy cycling as well, and local and visiting equestrians also use the trails, so watch out for two-wheeled and four-legged traffic. The lake recreation area has a boat launch and swim beach just a short walk from the campground. The Shawnee National Forest has 289000 forested acres with scenic overlooks and wetlands and a variety of terrain. Wildlife abounds in the park and there are 11 lakes and 52 ponds where you can catch largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and sunfish, or enjoy kayaking and canoeing.

The Parthenon

As you drive through Nashville, visitors have many entertainment options, with performance venues and music museums, but if you're looking for something a bit different, visit the Parthenon in Centennial Park. The Nashville Parthenon is a full-scale re-creation of the original Athenian structure, complete with a 42-foot high statue of Athena just like the one at the site of the Grecian original. The Parthenon in Nashville was originally built for the 1897 Centennial Exposition. The site features plaster replicas made from direct casts of original sculptures at the Athenian Parthenon, dating back to 438 B.C. In addition to the breathtaking Parthenon structure, the site also contains Nashville’s Art Museum, featuring paintings by American artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as temporary exhibits and shows.

RVers can camp west of the city at the Cheatham Lock and Dam by taking route 49 south from Interstate 24 prior to entering the city to the campgrounds located there.

Raccoon Mountain Caverns

Continuing south on Interstate 24, pass through Chattanooga, Tennessee, and make a quick side trip to visit the popular Racoon Mountain Caverns. There is also a great RV campground located here, with plenty of amenities, so you can stay overnight or park your unit while you enjoy a tour of the cave system. The cave system has 5.5 miles of underground passages with natural cave formations.

A variety of tours are available, the most frequented being the Crystal Palace Walking Tour and the Wild Cave Expeditions Tours. The Crystal Palace tour is a 45 to 55 minute guided tour through a 1/4 mile of the cave system, with lights that highlight cave features, pathways, steps, and handrails. Visitors not only get to see the magnificent stalactites, stalagmites, and helictite formations, but will get to view cave wildlife such as bats and salamanders, and ancient fossils embedded in cave walls. More adventurous cavers can book a Wild Cave Expedition tour to undeveloped cave sections.

Spelunkers will need to wear gloves and helmets with lights. Be prepared to get a bit muddy, these tours involve crawling, climbing, and sliding, and tours range from two to four hours in length with various difficulty levels. Wild Cave Expeditions induce the Canyon Crawl Expedition, Fossil Crawl Expedition, and Echo Room Expedition.

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Passing through Atlanta, Georgia, and looking for a thrilling motorsports event as part of your cross country RV trip? Motorsport enthusiasts will definitely want to coordinate their trip with a race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The speedway is well known not only for its headline NASCAR race events, that are scheduled year-round, but as an entertainment venue where events like the Georgia State Fair are held. The facility encompasses 850 acres and RV camping on site is available for events. Check schedules and purchase tickets at the website.

Several sites are available for overnight camping at the track. Choose from the infield, sites that overlook the speedway, or sites on the outskirts of the facility grounds. A family area, which is quieter, is also an option for those with little ones that need a quieter camping area. Most camping sites have full hookups and allow generator use. Book sites ahead of time to ensure you have an appropriate location to meet your needs. When you arrive at a speedway event, you will be guided to your reserved camping site. Getting around the speedway once you've arrived is easy; you can hop on a tram, which takes event attendees from campsites to the venue areas.

High Falls State Park

For a wonderful wilderness park, with plenty of camping options, stop at High Falls State Park, just east of your route on Interstate 75, as you pass through Georgia, south of Atlanta. The park contains 1050 acres of natural terrain and a 650-acre reservoir created by a dam.

No trip to the park would be complete without visiting its namesake, the waterfall on the Towaliga River. The multi-tiered falls are a spectacular sight, and hiking trails lead up the river, from campgrounds to the falls for up-close viewing opportunities. The large dam creates a vast clear lake which is ideal for watersports, boating, fishing, and swimming. RVers can visit the park year-round and it is easily accessible for RVs from Interstate 75. Stay overnight in one of the park's well-appointed campgrounds.

Lake Campground with 23 water and electric sites, accommodates rigs up to 25 feet in length with flush toilet restrooms, and hot showers. The River Camping area has 89 water and electric sites that accommodate rigs up to 50 feet long. Amenities at this campground include flush toilets, hot showers, and RV dump stations.

Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park

Interstate 75 passes just west of Gainesville, Florida, home to a national natural landmark, which has attracted passersby since the late 19th century. The Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park is an unexpected, miniature rainforest, located in a deep cover-collapse sinkhole. The rainforest is unique in that it is situated in the middle of the surrounding Florida landscape characterized by pine forests and sandy terrain.

The rainforest is located in a cavity shaped like a huge bowl, 120 feet deep, with exposed rock strata. A small stream trickles down the limestone slopes of the sinkhole and disappears into crevices in the sinkhole. The rainforest is characterized by lush vegetation that thrives in the shaded shelter of the sinkhole walls. The site has been the location of fascinating fossil finds, including shark teeth, marine shells, and extinct animals. Interpretive displays provide information on the natural history of the area, and visitors can enjoy a picnic at this special site.

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

When you arrive at your seaside destination in Sarasota, Florida, visit the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, to discover the fascinating marine wildlife native to this area of Florida. Here, visitors can discover the “secrets of the sea” through interactive exhibits such as touch pools, viewable laboratories, and technologically aided exhibits. Visitors can see sharks, manatees, and turtles, as well as 100 other marine species.

The aquarium features a 135 000 gallon shark habitat, as well as coral reef habitat teeming with jelly fish, crustaceans, and diverse fish species. You can also check out the playful river otters or toothy alligators and crocodiles that call the aquarium home. Participate in fossil discovery at the “Fossil Creek” and view a jaw from the now-extinct massive Megalodon. An ancient sea predator, Megalodon lived millions of years ago, and it is thought could reach lengths of up to 59 feet! Special exhibits and events are held throughout the year at the Mote Laboratory and Museum; check their website for more information.


Your Sarasota, Florida destination on the west side of the Florida panhandle is a great place to enjoy sandy seaside beaches, ocean sports, shopping, arts, entertainment, and dining opportunities. Camp at Myakka River State Park Campgrounds like Old Prairie, a small wooded campground with 20 sites that have electric and water hookups and accommodate RV units up to 30 feet, or Palmetto Ridge Campground, which accommodates larger units up to 45 feet.

Palmetto Ridge Campground has full hookups and amenities like laundry facilities, flush toilets, and hot showers. There's even a playground for the kids and a community campfire circle. Another alternative at this state park is the popular Big Flats Campground, with 20 RV sites for smaller RVs complete with RV electric hookups. If you want more amenities head east from Sarasota to the Bradenton KOA which is set in a rural area on a family-owned farm.

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