Tampa, FL, is, by any measure, a cosmopolitan city, but it also has a dated, retro side to it, that keeps it classic and artsy while still being modern and sophisticated. You’ll see new restaurants and new offices in old buildings, providing a charming mixture of the old and the new.
The neighborhood of Ybor City, which was once the cigar center of the world still maintains its former personality as a place of trade with tons of cool clubs, restaurants, and bars lining the streets.
When you are behind the steering wheel and wish to explore jewels found off-the-beaten-path, stick to the Gulf Coast to enjoy the beauty of nature and little-known gems.
At the end of your weekend trip, you’ll be greeted by another city on the Gulf Coast, and yet this one is quite different from Tampa. Panama City has that resort-like beach vibes that people often travel to islands to enjoy.
When in Panama City, you can spend as much time as you want on the expansive white sand beaches and sunny skies and warm waters all year-round. One of the greatest lures of this city – besides the pristine beaches – is the year-round warm and sunny weather.
By all means, start your journey at a turtle’s pace - we wouldn’t blame you for it. As you exit Tampa and get on the route via US-19, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking sights in Homosassa, including that of the Chassahowitzka River and Coastal Swamps.
A few more minutes on the road and you’ll find yourself in the gorgeous Homosassa Springs State Park. This place is a one-stop natural habitat for all of Florida’s wildlife. Stay observant and stay on your guard because you’ll encounter all kinds of wildlife here including black bears, alligators, crocodiles, and bobcats.
The place has also installed elevated boardwalks to make wildlife viewing accessible to everyone, including little kids. That’s not all; in the mainspring area, you’ll also find the Fish Bowl, a floating underwater observatory where you cannot only see some amazing fish species but also manatees. Another fun attraction at the state park is the uber-cool Hippo Pool.
On your way to Panama City, you’ll cross Chiefland, FL. You have a long trip ahead which means you should take a break in this little city. While you are filling up on gas and filling your stomachs, we suggest you also check out Levy County Quilt Museum.
The museum allows you to learn a great deal about this city’s history in a short space of time through the various displays, exhibits, and guided tours. In addition to being informative with a huge collection in its rich wooden interior, this museum is also the first-ever quilt museum in Florida.
The museum has a massive collection of old quilts, as well as quilts with neckties that were once worn by U.S. Presidents. The museum also has several artifacts that represent the rich culture and heritage of the city.
Levy County Quilt Museum strongly supports the craft of the local residents of the city, and a huge portion of the collection and exhibits are dedicated to local craftsmanship and artist.
Just north of the quaint little town of Steinhatchee, you’ll find the great outdoors region named Hagens Cove. This cove is a waterfront public park and provides rare visitors and RV road trippers access to the shallow bay on the Gulf of Mexico, where you can wade for Bay Scallops.
The landscape at this park is extremely stunning and allows you to kick back, relax, and enjoy the stunning sight of the massive beaches, Pine Islands in the distance, and of course the Bay. This natural habitat also lures a huge number of shorebirds and wading birds.
If you wish to enjoy the vista of this picturesque scenery, you can climb up on the observation tower and bask in the beauty of nature, below. You can also get some amazing panoramic shots from up there. If you are also accompanied by your furry friend on this road trip, then you’ll feel even more love for this dog-friendly retreat.
Apalachicola National Forest covers 632,890 acres of land and is the largest national forest in Florida. As a result of its massiveness, it allows road trippers and all the visitors thousands of opportunities to explore the unique landscape that majorly includes swamps, cypress, longleaf pines, lakes, rivers, and natural springs.
It is the perfect stop for you to take out your bikes and your hiking boots and strap on your binoculars to gaze at the wildlife and the huge number of bird species that call it home.
If you are more of a sitting and relaxing kind of person, then you can take out your fishing rod and sit on the pier by the Ochlockonee River. Deer hunting is also a popular outdoor activity here.
If you are a nature enthusiast the forest is one of the best places to visit when seeking solitude and reflection.
Panama City, a jewel of Florida, is a haven for those that enjoy being close to turquoise blue water, ocean breezes, and plenty of beach-side entertainment. Due to its close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, the city is blessed with some of the best beaches in Florida, with sugar-white sands and tons of activities to keep you occupied and happy.
In addition to the beaches and water activities, the city knows how to keep the visitors entertained for the long term. Attractions like Race City, Hidden Lagoon Golf and Racetrack, Shipwreck Island Waterpark, and Zoo World in Panama City Beach district make it hard to depart from this amazing city.