For a couple wanting to get away for between three and five days, the road trip from Orlando to Houston really does have an incredible amount to offer. The journey itself would normally take around fourteen hours but there are a number of places to explore along the way.
This is just to give you a taster of what this spectacular and varied region can provide in the way of points of interest. Delve a little deeper and you will soon discover that you could easily spend months traveling this route and still not have seen everything that there is to tempt you.
It is a road trip that offers a bit of everything. You have the Cajun country and bayous to explore, with their Deep South hospitality, thickly wooded forests and the cultural mecca of New Orleans bang smack in the middle. Whether you prefer hiking in the woods, savoring fine southern food, or listening to some of the world’s finest jazz and blues musicians, this route will be able to cater to your tastes. Cocooned in your comfortable self contained van, you will have the luxury and freedom of being able to change your plans easily and still not need to look for accommodation.
After saying goodbye to the bright city lights of Orlando, you might like to start off with a short hop to Jacksonville so that you can get the feel for the way your van performs and a taste for the open road. If you get an early start you can be in Jacksonville in just over two hours; a great time to grab a quick breakfast. Head for the Riverside/Avondale district, recently voted one of the top ten neighborhoods in the country.
There is a bit of everything here. Oak lined streets draped in Spanish moss, eclectic shops, historic houses, and a distinctly bohemian atmosphere. You will be spoiled for choice as far as restaurants and coffee shops are concerned, so have a bite then take an hour or two to explore the area on foot or even hire a bike to cover more mileage. Don’t dawdle though, you still have to get down the road to Tallahassee.
It takes two and a half hours to get to Tallahassee so you might want to head straight for an RV park and get settled in before heading into town to sample the nightlife. Tallahassee RV Park offers a country setting but within easy reach of the State Capital. There is free wifi, a pool, and hook-up facilities if you choose to use them.
There is a multitude of restaurants to choose from but you might like to try Cypress Restaurant. Here you could enjoy scallops or lobster through to pork belly or pecan smoked duck breast. The menu changes regularly but the quality is always good.
Florida State University is in Tallahassee and as is so often the case, there is plenty of nightlife, so there will be things to do before returning to your van if you still have any energy. There are plenty of clubs and blues and other live music is in plentiful supply.
Despite its name, the water in this park is really a clear, tea-brown color, dyed by the local tannins. The park is an outdoor lover’s dream and a completely different environment from the one which you will have experienced at Tallahassee. Variety is one of the beauties of self-contained road travel.
The park is home to 30 campsites, most of them small. Blackwater River is a site that caters to just 15 RVs at a time, so book in advance. Situated beneath long-leaved pine trees, from there you are only a short walk to the Juniper Lake nature trail. In the park itself, there are also plenty of other delightful hiking trails. If you are lucky you might spot white-tailed deer, turkeys or bobcats. You are almost bound to see birdlife, some of which is on the endangered species list.
Another really peaceful way to experience this wilderness oasis is to hire a canoe or kayak and then just drift peacefully or picnic on one of the river's thirty beaches.
This is going to be one destination you don’t want to miss. There is so much history and culture on offer here that it is going to be difficult for you to decide what to prioritize. Park in one of the many RV parks in the area and hit the city on foot. Start off at the iconic Café du Monde where you can sip your coffee and munch beignets while pouring over a map and trying to make up your mind where to go next.
The French Quarter is truly iconic, and those wrought-iron balconies are recognized the world over as being something that will always be associated with this city. This is the historic heart of New Orleans. Along Bourbon Street, you will find plenty of evidence of the city’s jazz and blues heritage along with shops, restaurants, and bars.
The Garden District, on the other hand, winds beneath Spanish moss-shrouded trees through the magnificent colonial homes and buildings that provide an impressive reminder of a proud colonial heritage. For both of these areas there is a hop on hop off bus that will both allow you to cover more ground and offer some explanation as to what you are seeing.
New Orleans is famed for its southern cuisine and dishes such as jambalaya, red beans and rice, and gumbo. One restaurant that has become an institution in the city is Willie Mae's. It first opened its doors in 1957 when it was a combination bar, hairdresser and beauty parlor. When the beauty parlor closed, that left room for a restaurant. As there was already a hungry clientele in the bar, the transformation seemed a logical one.
In 2005, the restaurant was thrown into the spotlight when it won the prestigious James Beard Award for Southern Food. This newly acquired fame was not enough to stop Hurricane Katrina, however, and she badly damaged Willie Mae’s in 2007.
Once restored, the restaurant soon started attracting attention again, and both the Travel Channel and Food Networks did features on the restaurant and declared it the home of the best-fried chicken in America.
Just over one hundred and thirty miles of easy cruising from New Orleans will bring you to Lafayette. This city is often referred to as the heart of Cajun country and in 2014 was voted the happiest city in America. The whole area is RV friendly but you might like to head for Bayou Wilderness Resort.
Lafayette itself offers much to do with, of course, a strong emphasis on southern cuisine and music. Each year they hold the second biggest mardi gras in the country. There is the Arcadian village which is a reconstruction of an original Cajun village demonstrating what life used to be like in the 1800s. Here there is a museum and a blacksmith shop that demonstrates how integral the blacksmith was to village life.
In Lafayette itself, Saint Johns’s Cathedral is an impressive church to visit. While there, don’t forget to check out the big oak tree which is thought to be over five hundred years old.
The last leg of your voyage to Houston will be 216 miles and should take about three and a half hours. By the time you get there, you are going to have experienced a broad spectrum of southern life with all of its different, foods, cultures, and sights. Houston will bring you instantly back into the modern world but there is still plenty to do in this up-to-date, oil-rich city.
As you would expect, there is a profusion of restaurants and nightspots but if you do find yourself with some time on your hands then the Space Center and the Science Museum are both world-renowned and are fascinating places in which to spend a few hours.