Detroit to Tampa Road Trip Guide


Widely known as the Motor City, Detroit is the most popular city in Michigan and the perfect location to start a solo RV trip. Featuring plenty of fantastic museums, multiple professional sports teams, and peaceful parks, Detroit has plenty of fun activities no matter what time of the year you visit.

From Detroit, you have many route options, including heading south down to Tampa Florida, where the sun is shining nearly all year round. Along the way, you will travel through the midwest of the country where you can either head through Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, or experience the surroundings of the Virginias and Carolinas. Both are great options, but if you are yearning for solitude, heading through the woods of the Virginias and Carolinas is very appealing. Going this way will also let you also explore some regional cities, awesome lakes, and gorgeous rivers, so get ready for a guaranteed good time.

The Gulf Coast city of Tampa is the perfect place to end your journey. You can take a short trip to the nearby beaches, go on the riverwalk, or simply park your van in one of the many campgrounds and chill out. So pack up your van and get ready to hit the road!

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Max RV length
Max trailer Length
Road trip length: 7+ days
Recommend rig: van
audience: single

Point of Interest

Belle Isle Park

Anyone who is an outdoor lover can't go to Detroit and not visit Belle Isle Park. Located on the Detroit River, this 982-acre park is not only beautiful, but it also has plenty of attractions perfect for a solo adventurer.

Once you pay the admission fee to the park all of the attractions inside are free, so arriving early in the day will allow you to make the most of your visit. There is an aquarium, nature center, conservatory, and the Dossin Great Lake Museum, so you won't be short of places to visit. The park also has a sandy beach and a giant slide if you are looking for some physical activity.

You will have to drive to the island and leave at the end of the day, but there are plenty of private campgrounds in the Detroit metro area that you can call home before heading out on your journey.


When you are ready to pack up your van and make the first drive on your road trip it will be time to leave Michigan. Columbus, which is the state capital of Ohio is around three hours away, making it a perfect destination for your next activities.

The city is the most populated in Ohio and is known for having the best park system for a city in the whole country. There are 16 different parks to check out in the surrounding area, but if you want a more up close and personal interaction with some wildlife, pay a visit to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The zoo is rated one of the best in the country and is open all year besides Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Want to catch some sports? If you are in town during the college football season you must try to catch an Ohio State Buckeyes game. Finding a campsite for your van will also be really easy. Head to the Buckeye Lake / Columbus East KOA Holiday to stay near the water or the Sunbury / Columbus North KOA Holiday which is 30 minutes northeast of the city center.

Wayne National Forest

It's time to leave the city and get back to nature. Wayne National Forest is an amazing area where you can feel like you're the only person on the planet due to its 240,000 acres. The forest is home to several fantastic recreational activities and the over 300 miles of trails are a big hit with hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.

Tinker's Cave within the Athens unit of the forest is one of the most special places in the forest. Named after Shep Tinker, the cave is thought to have been used by Tinker to hide horses that he stole before taking them north to sell them. If you are into exploring it is a must-visit, but be aware you will have to hike down a really steep hill in order to reach it.

Since the forest is so large you will have plenty of camping options suitable for your van. There are five RV-friendly campgrounds, but you can also stay outside of the forest in a more convenient location for the following day's driving at Strouds Run State Park.

New River Gorge National River

Welcome to West Virginia! Traveling southeast from Wayne National Forest for about 147 miles will take you to one of the oldest rivers in North America, the New River Gorge National River. You couldn't ask for a better place to visit to see the beauty of West Virginia, and along with the river, there are 70,000 acres along the river that are protected.

After some secluded time at Wayne National Forest, the New River is the place to be if you want to experience some unforgettable adventures. The river has some of the best whitewater rafting in the country, so if you are into taking on the rapids, this could become your favorite place. Rock climbing is also a popular past time with 1,400 different rock climbing routes.

All of the campgrounds within the New River Gorge National River system are primitive and there may not be water collection points available, so if you want to experience some dry-camping you've found the ideal place to stay.


After spending two days in nature you might be feeling like a change of pace. Charlotte is known as the Queen City and is one of the most up and coming cities in the south. There is plenty of fun to be had for solo van travelers, including one of the best theme parks in all of the south.

Carrowinds is located around 11 miles from the center of Charlotte and is the epicenter of fun. The park contains some amazing rollercoasters, fun waterslides, and plenty of food options. Since you will be attending by yourself you will also have the advantage of skipping a lot of the lines. There's nothing better than hearing the operator call for a single person when waiting for a rollercoaster. You will be able to do everything you please without having to keep an eye on the time, so being solo when attending is awesome.

The park is open from late March until November, but be sure to check the website before your road trip because towards the end of the season the park isn't open every day.

Lake Marion

Continuing your solo road trip through the Carolinas towards Tampa will lead you right by the largest lake in South Carolina, Lake Marion. Featuring a 315-mile shoreline and over 110,000 acres of surface area, many refer to this massive body of water as the inland sea of South Carolina.

This will be the first major lake that you will encounter on your trip, and you won't want to leave. At capacity, the lake is the fifteenth largest in the country and the water-based recreational activities are superb. The lake arguably has the best swimming, paddling, and fishing opportunities throughout the state, and if you need to rent a watercraft or fishing gear there are many places to do so on the banks of the lake.

Visting Lake Marion will also make your camping choice for the night very simple since Santee State Park has 158 campsites, including 48 that are equipped with electric hookups. By staying at the lake you will also get the chance to see the sunrise if you are an early riser or beat the traffic on the way out of South Carolina.


Just over the border from South Carolina in Georgia is the coastal gem of Savannah. The drive from Lake Marion will be less than two hours, so you will have plenty of time to see the sights once you arrive.

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and was one of the first to be built on a grid system with gathering squares planned into the design. It has a great mixture of history and southern culture, as well as being big enough that you can spend an evening walking through downtown checking out the bars.

If you feel up for some exploring on foot, a popular activity is to walk to all 22 of the historic squares in the city where you can learn about their history. The Chippewa Square is also famous for being the site of the bench scene in Forrest Gump, so if you are a movie buff this is an absolute must-see.

To find a campsite suitable for your van you will have to head outside of the city center, but the Savannah South KOA Holiday is worth a little more driving.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Before you end your trip back in civilization, there is one more stop between Savannah and Tampa that will give you a taste of the untouched Georgia wilderness. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is just over two hours from Savannah, but you will feel like you've been transported back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the land.

The refuge contains over 400,000 acres of forests, uplands, and prairies, including miles and miles of rivers that you can share with the alligators that swim below. This is the largest national wildlife refuge on the east coast of the country and also contains the largest blackwater swamp in all America. Checking out the swamp is made possible by a guided boat ride with an experienced swamper who will answer any questions you may have and point out animals in the swamp throughout the ride.

Within the refuge also lies Stephen C Foster State Park where you can park your van and stay for the night. The campground features 66 sites suitable for your van, along with nine cabins if you want a break from van life.


You've driven from the north of the country all the way down to the south, so at the conclusion of this incredible trip, the city of Tampa is a great place to get back to city life.

There are plenty of museums worth checking out, including the Museum of Science and Industry, Henry B Plant Museum, and The Florida Aquarium. Tampa is renowned for its fresh seafood since it is on the gulf coast, so if you are a fan of this cuisine you will have to eat some seafood during your stay.

Still got some thrill-seeking left in you? Tampa is also home to some awesome theme parks, including the African-themed Busch Gardens, Dinosaur World, and Adventure Island, which is a large waterpark. If you want to get close to the water and snap some pics you should consider heading to McKay Bay Nature Park, which is 10 minutes from the city center.

All of the campgrounds close to downtown Tampa are privately owned, but if you are looking for a unique camping experience to end your trip you can head 30 mins south to the Raccoon Creek Recreation Area that has a military campsite. On this solo road trip, you've covered hundreds of miles and made memories that will last forever. Time to start planning your next van getaway!

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