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Exploring the Unknown: A Guide to Having a Weird and Wild RV Adventure Through Florida

It might be considered an adventure of a lifetime. One 33′ Winnebago Minnie Winne, 2 travel writers, and 5 destinations across Florida taking us across 800+ miles.

The trip was funtastic and here’s how you can enjoy your own weird and wild RV adventure through Florida.

GoRVing

We packed up the RV with our clothes, bedding, food, inflatable kayaks, food and we hit the road. One of us drove the RV while another drove the car we would use for exploring each destination.

Go RVing Florida Weird & Wild Trip

Our plan was to visit Ocala (home to numerous natural Springs and horse farms), Citrus County (home to Manatees!), Everglades National Park (to look for panthers and the elusive Skunkape), Martin County (one of the friendliest small towns in Florida), and finally Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp.

https://www.facebook.com/debthompson1/videos/10219113039199660/

Big thanks to Go RVing for helping us make this happen! Click the video above to take a tour of our RV.

It may have been an ambitious plan but it let us visit a good sampling of Florida’s weird and wild.

WEIRD & WILD OCALA

We started in Ocala Florida for springs, kayaking, a visit to the Ma Bakers house and a few last minute discovered gems.

 

Kayak to Alexander Springs

We parked and launched at the bridge on 445 that crosses Alexander Springs Creek. There is a pretty flat area to park your car and launch your kayak.

alexander springs

Be sure to check your map before you start paddling to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

alexander springs

Where we parked we paddled under the bridge and towards the springs. It’s about a 1 1/2 mile paddle to the Springs.

We took our time paddling to the Springs which took us about 90 minutes, but the paddle back took about 45 minutes.

alexander springs

It was an amazing paddle. We didn’t play in the Springs but took a quick stretch there before paddling back.

alexander springs

There are numerous water birds and birds of prey that you may spot during your paddle. Right before we arrived back to the car we spotted an Eagle which was pretty awesome.

kayak alexander springs

Note: There are alligators in them there waters so use caution and give them their space.

Ma Barker House

History Tour of Ma Barker House

The Ma Barker House is a piece of Marion County history. Although moved from its original location where the shootout took place, the house still stands today and has been preserved for others to learn about the great standoff between the gang and FBI in 1935.

MaBaker Then Now

In the future, I believe they will offer ghost tours in the house. In the meantime, you can take a history tour that shares what happened during one of the longest shootouts in history.

ma barker house

By the way, there are still bullet holes in the walls and in some furniture on display.

There are a number of black and white photos in each room that show how those rooms looked when the FBI did a walkthrough after the firefight finally ended.

ma barker house

It’s amazing how the rooms look almost exactly the same. Seriously, it’s a very intriguing part of Florida history.

silver springs

Glass Bottom Boat Tour at Silver Springs 

Explore all that hidden gems under the water at Silver Springs without ever getting wet when you take a glass bottom boat tour at Silver Springs.

Gloass Bottom Boat

The glass bottom boat rides are one of Florida’s oldest attractions and you might just be surprised by what you see. There will be fishes, statues, formations and the clearest water I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Silver Springs

When your eyes aren’t peering through the glass to the world below watch for alligators floating on the water surface or rhesus monkeys swinging through the trees.

The monkeys were brought to the park in the early 20th century and you’ll learn more about that story during your tour.

kayak alexander springs

We didn’t spot any monkeys during our visit, but the springs are a popular kayak spot with a kayaking trail and when we chatted with kayakers on the trail they mentioned seeing the monkeys earlier on the trail.

rhesus monkeys alexander springs
A picture of a monkey is as close as I got to see an actual monkey at the park.

That would have been awesome to see monkeys in the wild in Florida. Maybe next time.

The Canyons Ocala

The Canyons Zip Lines & Adventure Park

Who knew you could find Canyons in Florida? Any time I think of Florida I just see a whole lot of flat land in my mind, but Ocala actually has a number of hills and, shockingly, canyons!

Canyons 4

Take a Mine and Wine Wagon tour and explore part of the parks 100 acres while you learn about the property’s history, zip lining facts and how these “canyons” came to be.

Canyons 1

This old rock quarry has a lot of history, as well as caves, wildlife, and adrenaline-inducing adventures.

ocala

Explore Historic Downtown Ocala

Take a stroll around historic Ocala and enjoy shopping and photographing the art horses of Ocala.

The horses are a bit of a hide and seek, but keep your eyes open as you walk and drive around. You never know where you might see one.

Take the right roads and you just might pass some incredible horse farms and see actual horses.

This is gorgeous horse country and where many Kentucky Derby winners are trained.

Fort King

Fort King National Historic Landmark

Located just a short jaunt from downtown Ocala you’ll find Fort King National Historic Landmark. This is a major military post during the Second Seminole War.

There is a reconstructed fort, a small museum and, most importantly, be sure to watch the film that gives the history of the fort.

The Seminole Wars are not one I remember from my history books and this was a reminder that so much of American history is lost to common knowledge.

A visit to the Fort is free and well worth taking an hour out of your day to learn a bit about this piece of American history.

Ritz Inn Ocala

Future Haunted Florida Stay?

Ritz Historical Inn

You can’t actually stay at these places right now, but they each have a haunted story. Keep an eye on these because they just might be back in business when you’re in town.

Ritz Historical Inn was built in 1925 and experienced a fire in its early years where several guests died. It has many reports of ghostly activity.

In 2010 the building was taken over by Volunteers of America to convert the building to housing for homeless veterans.

Seven Sisters Ocala

Seven Sisters B&B

The Seven Sisters B&B is a circa 1890 Gothic Victorian Inn located in the historic district.

This B&B is claimed by many to be the “Most Haunted Inn in Florida.”

The inn is currently up for sale so if anyone is looking for an investment let me know. I’d be happy to consider being the innkeeper to this haunted gem.

Eaton’s Beach on Lake Weir

WHERE TO EAT IN OCALA

Eaton’s Beach on Lake Weir

Located on beautiful Lake Weir, this waterfront restaurant has been a local favorite since making its culinary debut approximately 4 years ago. Indoor, outdoor, and even beachside dining are all options for this Florsianna Cuisine restaurant.

Eaton’s Beach on Lake Weir

Florsianna is a bit of Southern comfort blended with some Louisiana flare. Honestly, it’s the best of both worlds upstairs while the beachside dining serves up fresh seafood at the Steam Shack.

Eaton’s Beach on Lake Weir

Be sure to walk around a bit. I was completely taken with the signs on the way down to the Steam Shack. Love finding pieces of home when I’m far away.

Sayulita Taqueria

Sayulita Taqueria

A new option in downtown Ocala that will make taco lovers so very happy.

I’ll just say straight up…get the Mahi tacos. In fact, get two.

Although, the brisket tacos were really good as well.

Oh heck, get 3 or 4 different ones just to have a variety.

You won’t be remiss trying the plantains either.

Indoor and outdoor dining complete with a full bar. Perfect place to grab lunch or dinner.

Elite Resorts in Salt Springs

WHERE TO RV CAMP IN OCALA

Elite Salt Springs Resort

Elite Resorts in Salt Springs is the place to be for a quiet, surrounded by nature, campground.

Located across the street from Salt Springs this RV park is a more year-round RV resort than a campground.

Nestled on Little Lake Kerr Elite Resort at Salt Springs is a quiet campground with friendly neighbors.

If you are without an RV you can still enjoy all that is Elite by renting a cabin.

go rving

The resort has a large clubhouse with a big screen TV, family pool, adult seasonal heated pool and spa, tennis court, horseshoe pitch, volleyball court, shuffleboard courts, boat launch and dock, and 24-hour gated access.

This is the perfect location for exploring Ocala National Forest and surrounding towns.

Sunset Natures Park

WEIRD & WILD CITRUS COUNTY | Crystal River & Homosassa

Swim with Manatees

Honestly, this was so much fun.

Well, ok, to be fair, it was a bit scary at first. I didn’t like floating with my face in the water all that much and may have had a wee bit of a panic attack when I first attempted it.

HOWEVER. once I calmed myself down and got with the program it was amazing.

Floating above these gentle giants of the sea is a fabulous experience. Our captain and guide found the best places for us to enter the water without disturbing the Manatees.

Once in the water, the guide would float with us to find the Manatees.

The more time I spent in the water the more comfortable I became and it ended up being one of the most memorable things from this trip.

Swim with Manatees

I definitely want to go back and do this again even though you have to wear a wet suit 😉

A fun thing about my swim with the Manatees. I met a solo traveler from my town!!

Ok, for most people this isn’t a big deal but I live in a town of about 10,000 people that no one has ever heard of. To actually meet someone from there…EPIC!!! Kelly, I hope your travels are going well and that we meet again soon.

Three Sisters Springs

Three Sisters Springs

This is a spring worthy of a kayak adventure. Three crystal clear springs worth the paddle.

We visited on a Saturday and it was packed with kayakers.

I recommend a mid-week visit for hopefully fewer people on the water. Launch your kayak on nearby Kings Bay and navigate to the springs.

Note that paddle craft access is prohibited November 15 to March 31 as the springs provide a safe space for wintering Manatees.

ThreeSistersSprings

During the winter skip the kayak and view the Manatees from the boardwalk.

Manatee Wildlife Park

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Visit Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to see the endangered Florida panther, red wolves, manatees, whooping cranes, a lot of different birds, plus black bears, bobcats, and, of course, alligators.

Manatee Wildlife Park

At the springs you can watch Manatees play in the water. Be sure to visit the underwater observatory to take a stroll under the springs to see the Manatees and fishes from a different point of view.

Homosassa Springs Bobcat

As a bonus, enjoy a boat tour when you park at the Visitors Center and take a boat tour from there to the West Entrance of the Wildlife Park.  You can return via the boat or take a tram ride for a different perspective of the park.

Ozello AirBoat

Gulf of Mexico Airboat Tour 

Join Ozello Boats in Ozello for an airboat ride that you’re not soon going to forget. Board the boat and slowly depart the fishing village while enjoying views and hearing stories about this historic area.

Once you’re free of the wake-free zone the captain will pick up the pace and you’ll be skimming across the water towards the Gulf of Mexico and the beautiful St. Martins reef. 

Ozello Airboat Ride

It felt like we went to the edge of the world during our boat ride. This tour showed us the beauty of wild Florida.

We only saw one other boat while we were exploring this part of Florida. It’s so incredibly quiet and peaceful. I loved every minute of it.

kayak

Homosassa River Kayaking

Take a guided kayak tour to get an overview of the river, history and shown the hot spots of the area.

If you prefer to paddle about on your own, River Adventure Tours rents kayaks as well.

Anytime spent in a kayak is time well spent ; )

Margaritaville

WHERE TO EAT IN CITRUS COUNTY | Crystal River & Homosassa

Mahi Sandwich

Marguerita Grill

Located right on the river. It offers up good food, great views, and GIANT margaritas. Get the Mahi sandwich and the corn fritters. Delish.

PoBoy

Seafood Seller & Café

Find a bit of NOLA in Crystal River at Seafood Seller & Cafe. Honestly, this Cajun restaurant will make you think you stepped through a wormhole and ended up in New Orleans.

Seagrass 1

Seagrass Waterfront

Located right across the street from Nature’s Resort RV Park. Seagrass Waterfront has an epic tiki bar for pre or post dinner cocktails. Outdoor and indoor seating is available.

I love how so many restaurants in the area have waterfront seating.

Natures Park RV

WHERE TO RV CAMP IN CITRUS COUNTY | Crystal River & Homosassa

Nature’s Resort RV Park

This resort really is the perfect location on the Halls River with direct access to The Gulf of Mexico.

There are full hookups (water, sewer, and cable), concrete pads, wooded sites, and pull-through sites (my favorite).

RV Natures Park

Amenities include:

  • Private Marina
  • A-Frame Cabins
  • Boat Rentals
  • Docks
  • Country Store
  • Large Heated Pool
  • Large Clubhouse
  • Covered Pavilions
  • Planned Activities
  • Tent Camping
  • Pets Permitted
  • Game Room
  • Playground

The RV sites are packed pretty close together, but the amenities and location make it a great camping location when you’re visiting the area.

everglades kayak
Check out the Roseate Spoonbill flying above the mangroves!

WEIRD & WILD EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK

everglades kayak

Everglades Area Tours

Oh lordy, I thought the airboat ride in Ozello took us to the edge of the world. I had no idea until I took a boat-assisted kayak tour of the Everglades.

We took the boat to where the Everglades almost meets the Gulf of Mexico as we spotted water birds, Eagle rays, and looked for dolphins.

everglades kayak

Beaching the boat on a key, the captain unloaded our kayaks, shared with us about the different shells, sealife and fauna in the region and then it was time to kayak.

We kayaked around the mangrove islands while spotting birds, watching jumping fish, and enjoying the peace and tranquility of the Everglades.

everglades kayak

This. Was. Amazing!

great heron everglades loop road

Big Cypress Loop Road

This 27-mile drive offers areas to pull over and look for alligators, panthers, and other wildlife. A few areas offer hiking trails.

Take this drive nice and slow as you never know what you’ll spot.

everglades loop road

We did spot quite a few alligators, a couple of baby gators and lots of birds. For birds, the loop road is a great drive.

At one point I got so excited because I SWORE a panther ran across the road ahead of us. Sadly, when we got to the point it was a dog with the same color and size of a panther. From here and forever on it will be known as the panther dog.

everglades alligators

At one of the pull-off areas, I met the coolest couple from northern Kentucky. I love meeting other travelers and hearing about their adventures. This couple takes one to two massive road trips each year to new areas.

I hope they eventually stumble across this post–if you do…..so great to meet you!!!

skunkape

SkunkApe Headquarters

I may have found one of the top weird things in Florida and that is the Skunk Ape headquarters. We asked about any current sightings of the Skunk Ape and were told there hadn’t been any in quite a while.

The store offers a few Skunk Ape/Bigfoot souvenirs plus there is a small zoo for visitors to enjoy. There is also a campground and the headquarters has a number of boat tours you can take.

havana cafe

WHERE TO EAT IN EVERGLADES

Havana Cafe

We enjoyed most of our meals at our campsite, but we did take the opportunity to eat at Havana Cafe in Chokoloskee Island, FL after our Everglades Area Tour.

havana cafe

A quaint cafe with delicious food I indulged in a Cuban Sandwich (oh, so good!) and some fries.

Note, the cafe is seasonal and only open October 15-April 15.

camp bigcypress

WHERE TO RV CAMP IN THE EVERGLADES

Burns Lake at Big Cypress

Camping here was the exact opposite of our other camping spots. We drove down a bumpy, dirt road to the campground that only has 10 sites along a small pond.

camp bigcypress

This is a dry campground with no hookups and no shade. It’s also a few miles from finding a cell signal and is my idea of an ideal camping spot.

camp bigcypress

We enjoyed campfires and starry night skies. It was fantastic.

glamping hub

WHERE TO GO GLAMPING IN JUPITER

Headwaters Up-Cycled Shipping Container Glamping

We drove from the Everglades to the Atlantic side of Florida and parked the RV so we could enjoy a couple of nights of glamping in Jupiter. Glamping Hub hooked us up for our stay and I’m so glad they did.

Click the video below to check it out.

https://www.facebook.com/JustShortofCrazy/videos/2214051608685815/

This glamping property was right on the headwaters of the river with lush landscaping, plenty of outdoor seating and room to sleep 6-8.

Plus, and this is the really cool part, the Headwaters is converted shipping containers!! Check out this video.

atlantic ocean

WEIRD & WILD MARTIN COUNTY | Stuart

Stuart

Historic Downtown Stuart

Stuart is the first town in Florida to be awarded Coastal Living’s Happiest Seaside Town in America.

It boasts quaint shops, delectable dining, the grand Lyric Theatre, free music events and strolls along the Riverwalk. Embrace the history and soak up the charm!!

Downtown Stuart Trolley/Tram Ride

This free service runs daily with five stops in the city center.

The popular historical tour of the old downtown takes approximately 45 minutes and will provide you with insider tips and a wealth of information.

In fact, the tram drivers or city ambassadors as they are called are trained by Stuart Heritage Museum.

port salerno ghost tour

Port Salerno Ghost Tour

Take a 2-hour walking tour through historic Port Salerno with equal emphasis on history and paranormal activity. Bring your cameras (no video).

The tour guides, Patrick and Patricia, are very knowledgeable about the history of the area and can really tell a good ghost story.

port salerno ghost tour

They’ll even pull out some ghost hunting equipment and let you give it a try.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not this ghost tour is a must when you’re in the area.

port salerno ghost tour

Oh, they also have a book, Ghosts of the Treasure Coast, and two more books coming out soon!!!

House of Refuge

House of Refuge

The House of Refuge is the last remaining of nearly a dozen shipwreck life-saving stations on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Built in 1876 to help stranded sailors, its long colorful history spans nearly 70 years.

Today it operates as a museum exhibiting life-saving equipment used over the years and showcasing the keeper’s quarters.

House of Refuge

On May 3, 1974, the House of Refuge was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Just a note for those looking for some ghostly stories there are some rumors that the House of Refuge may be haunted.

florida oceanographic center

Florida Oceanographic Center

Florida Oceanographic Center is a 57-acre nature center located on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, FL. The center offers educational programs to people of all ages.

florida oceanographic center

Walk the trails, stroll along the lagoon and look for sharks, fish, stingrays and more. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the ray touch tank!

florida oceanographic center

They conduct research and restoration programs that lead to healthy coastal ecosystems.

Elliot Museum Stuart FL

Tour the Elliott Museum

Named after prolific inventor Sterling Elliott, the museum hosts a dynamic and interactive collection of antique automobiles, vintage boats, an impressive baseball collection and a deep trove of Treasure Coast histories and stories sure to delight all ages.

I love cars so visiting the museum was an epic addition to our trip. PLUS, it’s the only museum in the United States that has a car vending machine.

Sadly, it was out of order while I was visiting, but basically, you pick a car from the menu and the “vending machine” pulls the car from storage and brings it to the display area.

How cool is that?

bridge road

Take a drive along iconic Bridge Road

A beautiful tree canopy lines Bridge Road leading to Hobe Sound Beach, Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge and Blowing Rocks Preserve. It is gorgeous.

hobe sournd murals

Hobe Sound Murals

There are 21 murals around the Hobe Sound area. Take time to find a few of them while visiting. There are secrets hidden within each mural, a new take on a scavenger hunt when you look for these secrets.

Dickinson State Park

Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Located just south of Stuart, this park teems with wildlife in 13 natural communities including sand pine, scrub pine, flatwoods, mangroves and river swamps.

The Loxahatchee River, Florida’s first, federally-designated Wild and Scenic River, runs through the park.

Dickinson State Park
(c)Kathleen Walls

Ranger-guided tours of the 1930’s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson are available year-round. Sadly, the river was too low for us to get out to Trapper Nelson’s place during our visit).

Be sure to visit the observation tower for some incredible views of the area.

stuart where to eat

WHERE TO EAT IN MARTIN COUNTY | Stuart

Stuart Boathouse 

Sit on the deck and enjoy the views while enjoying some great food.

merritt island

FROM STUART TO CASSADAGA

After leaving the Headwaters and Martin County we made tracks towards the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, but on the way there we had to make a couple stops.

merritt island

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

First up, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, where we took a loop scenic drive to look for birds. You could honestly spend an entire day exploring this refuge. Sadly, we had about an hour and it wasn’t nearly enough.

Our main goal was to find the Scrub Jays, but even after walking their trail we didn’t spot one. It feels like all the animals alluded us on this trip. No panthers, dolphins, skunk apes or scrub jays.

dixie crossroads

Lunch at Dixie Crossroads

After leaving Merritt Island we were off to grab a bite to eat and stopped by Dixie Crossroads. Located a short drive from Merritt Island Dixie Crossroads is famous for their Rock Shrimp and have been serving up this dish since the 1980s.

dixie crossroads

Be sure to check out all the news articles and photographs that adorn the walls. This restaurant has quite the history and popularity.

dixie crossroads

I happily ordered the Mahi with a baked potato. Katy ordered the Rock Shrimp. I did try one but shrimp isn’t really my thing. This is a great place to stop for lunch or dinner when you visit Merrit Island.

cassadaga

WEIRD & WILD CASSADAGA SPIRITUALIST CAMP

We saved one of the best things for last. The Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp is a community of spiritually-minded people that was established in 1894. We stopped here to learn more about the history and beliefs of Spiritualism.

Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp
Standing on a vortex in Cassadaga

A tour of the camp proved enlightening as we walked the streets, stopped in at the church, found our wings on the fairy trail and even stood on a vortex.

Wings of the West
finding my wings at Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp.

To say I think I found my people is an understatement. I wanted to have a reading from a medium during my visit but we just didn’t have time. By the way, the training one has to undergo to become a medium is intense.

When you see a medium at Cassadaga you are seeing someone that has some legit skills.

Go RVing say goodbye

SAYING GOODBYE TO WEIRD & WILD FLORIDA

It was with a bit of sadness that we said goodbye to our Minnie Winnie. Our Weird and Wild RV trip was an epic adventure and I loved every minute of it. There will be more stories and videos about this trip coming soon.

Stay tuned for more.

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How To Have A Weird & Wild RV Adventure Through Florida

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