Located on Florida’s west coast on Tampa Bay, Tampa is home to a population of over 392,000. The third-largest city in the state, the city has a lot to offer those who live in the area as well as those who visit. Performing arts companies and organizations and nightlife districts all make their home in the city. There are also several professional sports teams in the city, including the Rays (Major League Baseball) and the Buccaneers (National Football League). The city's proximity to the beach and its warm weather are also a draw to those who reside in Tampa as well as plan to vacation there.
While Tampa has a lot to see and do, a road trip is always appealing to explore other parts of the country. For example, a trip from Tampa to Wilmington, North Carolina will take about nine and a half hours of driving and take you through a number of different states, making it a perfect option for a three to five-day adventure.
And what will you find in Wilmington? A port city, Wilmington is located in coastal southeastern North Carolina. The city is home to more than 122,000 people and boasts a 1.75 Riverwalk while also being close to several beaches. In addition to outdoor recreation opportunities, there are indoor attractions within the city like the Cape Fear Museum. You will find plenty to do during your visit and fortunately, there are opportunities for camping ensuring that you can stay a few days and explore!
After departing from Tampa, hit the road for about three hours until you reach Jacksonville, where you will arrive at your first stop; Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary. The mission of the Sanctuary is to ensure that there is a safe and loving home were big cats who are endangered can spend their lives. The Sanctuary also aims to educate members of the public about the plight of these animals, both in the wild and when in captivity. A main focus of the Sanctuary is to rescue exotic animals that are in bad situations and current animals that make their home there are tigers, lions, pumas, leopards and foxes among others (foxes have been given “honorary cat” status). Spend some time viewing and learning about these amazing animals while enjoying some fresh air.
After visiting the animals at the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, you will get back on the road and continue another two hours to the city of Savannah. Located in the middle of Savannah’s Historic District is the location of your next stop; Forsyth Park. With 30 acres of land, the park is perfect for relaxing with a picnic meal or to stretch your legs and explore.
You will encounter Forsyth Fountain, which is made of white stone, memorials of the Confederacy and Spanish-American war, and the Candler Oak tree that is 300 years of age. While at the park, you can experience the Fragrant Garden, which has been developed for those who are visually impaired to enjoy. You will also see a few historic sites from the park that can be walked to, like Hodgson Hall (where the Georgia Historical Society is located) and the Poor House and Hospital, which was utilized during the Civil War. Enjoy a shaded walking trail and a spray pool and playground make the park appealing if you are traveling with kids!
After leaving Savannah, continue on the road for about two and a half hours until you reach Florence, South Carolina, where you will find your next stop; the Palmetto Peddlers Antiques Mall. The Mall is located within a building that used to be a factory and that now offers a myriad of unique items, ensuring that you will have an indoor adventure.
Whether or not you plan to buy anything, you are sure to encounter all sorts of interesting things when you visit. Antiques like fine china, lamps, furniture, and jewelry can be found, as well as vinyl records, sports memorabilia, and comic books. Expect to find things from decades past as you roam from booth to booth. Items are always changing, ensuring that a trip to the Palmetto Peddlers Antiques Mall is always a new experience!
Less than one hour and forty minutes from Forsyth Park is Santee State Park, your next destination on your way to Wilmington. The park is located along Lake Marion, which is known by those in the area for a significant population of catfish. The State Park offers opportunities for camping on the lake, and there are also cabins available.
Visitors to the Park will find plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. There are more than ten miles of biking and hiking trails, tours on pontoon boats where you can explore the flooded cypress forest on the Lake, fishing, boating (boat ramps are available), picnicking and more. As you explore the park, enjoy the fresh air, excellent scenery and opportunity to stretch your legs!
From Florence, continue for about an hour and a half until you reach Lake Waccamaw State Park. The Park includes a 700-foot boardwalk where you can observe the tea-colored water of Lake Waccamaw, which is home to more than 52 species of game and non-game fish. Within Lake Waccamaw State Park are over seven miles of trails, where hikers can check out several ecosystems and view rare plants.
Camping is available at the Park and there is also a boat ramp that provides access to the lake for those paddling a kayak or canoe, or who want to take a small boat on the water. The Park includes a visitor center and free interpretive programs are available so that you can learn more about the area and its history.
After your visit to Lake Waccamaw State Park, you are less than one hour from your destination of Wilmington. The city, which has a total area of 41.5 square miles, has a lot to see and do; it may be hard to know where to start! Historic downtown Wilmington has a Riverwalk that is 1.75 miles long that was created as a tourist attraction and that was ranked as the “Best American Riverfront” by USA Today Readers in 2014. Not far from downtown Wilmington are multiple beaches; four beach communities are within a 30-minute drive.
During your visit, you can take a tour of the USS North Carolina, which is a World War II Battleship. In addition to the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, the city has the Wilmington Railroad Museum, the Children’s Museum of Wilmington and the Cameron Art Museum, along with a number of historic areas worth checking out, like the Bellamy Mansion, which is considered one of the finest examples of historic antebellum architecture in North Carolina.
The city typically sees mild winters and summers with high humidity and temperatures in the high 80’s to low 90’s, ensuring it is not just a summer destination. And with plenty of camping opportunities with the city and its surrounding areas, so you can find a place to spend a night or two and explore all the city offers.