The drive from Tampa, FL, to Gatlinburg, TN, takes you from the sandy beaches of west Florida to the high Appalachian Mountains. This trip is a visit with some of the most beautiful terrain offered in the country. On the way, you travel through parts of three states, each of which has a unique personality, imaginative businesses, and beautiful sights.
Biscayne National Park
Before you start your journey north from Tampa, take a 281-mile drive southwest on Interstate 75 South (I-75 S) to one of the most intriguing national parks in the country — Biscayne National Park. The 170,000 acres of pristine land on which the park sits recall this part of Florida before development changed the landscape. Biscayne National Park sits immediately north of Miami, FL, making it the most accessible preserve in the national park system. Miles of hiking trails wander through the dunes and amongst the coastal marshes where migratory birds nest. Snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts love this location for its clear waters that wash over glistening coral reefs.
Everglades National Park
After visiting Biscayne National Park, drop by one of the entrances to the Everglades National Park. Each of the three entrances to the park gets you into a different ecological environment. A most convenient entrance for those returning to Tampa from the Miami area is at Everglades City. Since this entrance is only 72 miles south of Tampa, it is a great location to make your final stop before resting to get on the road to Gatlinburg the next day. To get there, take Exit 80 (State Road 29) off I-75 N and drive 20 miles to Everglades City. The Everglades' entrance at Emerald City introduces you to Ten Thousand Islands, a mix of mangrove islands with a nearly unlimited variety of wildlife, birds, and fish. You can rent a boat from a private vendor to get close to the islands, take photos, and add memories to your trip. There are plenty of RV sites in the Everglades, with two public and nine private campgrounds available from which to choose.
Congaree National Park
Add Congaree National Park to your road trip itinerary Tampa to Gatlinburg. Though this park is a four-hour drive east of your route, it is worth the time and mileage to visit. The only national park located in South Carolina, Congaree hosts some of the eastern states' tallest trees. Because of its inaccessibility, the trees in this park were never harvested, making it one of the few forests east of the Mississippi that is virgin growth. As the Congaree River drifts across the land, it creates an extensive swamp area that harbors alligators, a boisterous community of frogs, exotic waterfowl, and huge catfish. The park is easily accessible with a 30-minute drive eastward from the state capital—Columbia, SC. RV travelers will find plenty of campsites inside and outside the park. Though the public campgrounds that dot the park do not offer hookups, several RV parks that provide full hookups and an array of amenities lie just outside the park boundaries.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Gatlinburg, TN, is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These 500,000 acres comprise the most visited park in the United States. Blessed with an incredible array of wildlife, this park provides entertainment for every member of the family. Hiking trails of every level of intensity run through the park, some traversing the entirety of the elevation ranges from 876 to 6,643 feet. Fishing, camping, hiking, biking, and swimming are among the favorite activities visitors enjoy here. The views that appear when the curtain of mist withdraws are considered some of the most impressive in the country.
Silver Springs State Park
About 100 miles along your Tampa to Gatlinburg RV road trip sits Silver Springs State Park. Its location makes it the perfect place to stop for an evening of fun. A glass-bottom boat skims across the surface of one of the largest artesian springs in North America. You are welcome to launch a kayak or canoe to search the shores that are teaming with wildlife, waterfowl, and fish. The park serves as a gateway to the Ocala National Forest. Many visitors take to the trails that link the forest and the park.
Chattahoochee Bend State Park
A must to include on your road trip itinerary from Tampa to Gatlinburg is the Chattahoochee Bend State Park. The park is 462 miles into your trip and is an intriguing place to visit. The park's name describes it accurately as it is located on the inside of a slow-moving bend on the Chattahoochee River, which wanders along the Alabama-Georgia border on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. The nature trails at this state park make it an important place to visit — aquatic marsh-life swarms through this area. The sound of frogs, crickets, and the call of various bird families permeate the air during the day and night.
Panther Creek State Park
To finish your road trip from Tampa to Gatlinburg, visit Panther Creek State Park. Located 75 miles north of Gatlinburg, TN, this park has historical relevance as one of Tennessee's first locations into which American colonists ventured. The 1,444-acre park features incredible views of Cherokee Lake and the Cumberland Mountains. There are 17 hiking trails of varying difficulty levels inside the park.
Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center
Before you leave Tampa, take a short 18-mile trip to the bay's southern beach and visit Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center. The manatee is an important species that is indicative of the overall health of the coastal ecology. The center monitors the health of the manatee community and serves as an educational tool that distributes essential information to the public about the dynamics of the coastal environment.
Stop at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, FL, just 130 miles into your road trip from Tampa to Gatlinburg, to see the Butterfly Rainforest exhibit. An enclosed environment with a lush landscape, the rainforest features hundreds of butterflies and birds from around the world. The exhibit presents a world free from human interference where the insects and creatures of the air dominate.
Ocmulgee National Monument
One of the most fascinating sites to add to your road trip itinerary from Tampa to Gatlinburg is the Ocmulgee National Monument. Just outside of Macon, GA, is a series of mounds built by Native Americans over a period of 10,000 years. Inside the monument is an archeological museum that displays ancient artifacts discovered at the site.
Gainesville, FL is a burgeoning city — a center of Southern culture and education. The University of Florida is flourishing here as are many large and small businesses. Visiting Gainesville introduces you to a South where knowledge and entrepreneurship build off the Southern culture's unique nature. There are several dump stations in Gainesville available for your use. Many RV campgrounds from which you can choose your favorite site are available in the Gainesville area.
Atlanta, GA, located 456 miles north of Tampa, is past the mid-way point along your Tampa to Gatlinburg road trip. The city offers an extensive array of activities and places to visit, including museums, an abundance of city parks, and a laid-back business area. Dump stations are found almost anywhere in Atlanta. With an abundance of campgrounds ringing the city, there are plenty of opportunities for RV travelers to stop and experience everything the city provides.
When you reach Chattanooga, TN, you are nearly finished with your road trip from Tampa to Gatlinburg. The significance of Chattanooga as a center of industry, entertainment, and culture cannot be exaggerated. Visitors come from every state in the union to see the Civil War battlegrounds and the inspirational art sponsored by the city. The cuisine in Chattanooga is eclectic and excellent. For RV travelers, there are numerous dump stations. Camping sites around Chattanooga offer a place to rest while visiting the sites around the city.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Tampa to Gatlinburg, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Tampa or Gatlinburg.