On this road trip from Tampa to Panama City, you will travel past some of the Sunshine State's most beautiful beaches. Tampa is Florida's commercial center, and it is home to world-class museums and thrilling theme parks. As you head up the Gulf Coast, you can marvel at the white sandy beaches and quaint towns. Panama City is known for its pristine waters and gorgeous beaches. With this road trip itinerary from Tampa to Panama City, you will not miss a minute of the fun.
Before you start your Tampa to Panama City road trip, you might want to add a few national parks to your itinerary. There are three national parks in the state, and you can easily reach them from Tampa or Panama City.
Biscayne National Park
If you want to visit a national park, you will have to travel south of Tampa. Biscayne National Park is close to Miami, and it covers over 172,000 acres of land and sea. This park is a great place to see the shoreline mangrove forests. Along with the natural views, this national park is the perfect spot for divers. You will see several examples of shallow-water shipwrecks on the Maritime Heritage Trail. Dolphins, turtles, and pelicans all make their home at Biscayne Bay Lagoon. If you are looking for a breathtaking view of the surrounding area, make sure to head to Boca Chita Key. For those who want to learn more about the local ecosystems, take a few minutes to visit the Convoy Museum.
Everglades National Park
On the southern tip of Florida, you will find a wetlands preserve known as Everglades National Park. You can check out several natural features at this park, such as coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes, and pine flatwoods. Along with that, this park is the perfect place to view endangered animal species, including West Indian manatees, Florida panthers, and leatherback turtles. Everglades National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique ecosystems and animals. If you are looking for some recreational activities, boating and camping are popular in the park. For a different perspective of the Everglades, make sure to book an airboat tour.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is a great option for those who are in the Key West area. The national park contains protected coral reefs and several islands. The 19th-century Fort Jefferson is one of the most popular spots on the island, and you can find this historic site at Garden Key. For those who want to see the lighthouse and sea turtles, take time to stop by Loggerhead Key. Diving and snorkeling are great activities to enjoy in the park. If you want to check out a shipwreck, head over to Windjammer Wreck. The Bush Key section is a great spot to view the sooty terns' nesting sites.
On your Tampa to Panama City road trip, you will also want to check out Florida's spectacular state parks.
Hillsborough River State Park
Hillsborough River State Park is just 30 miles from Tampa, and it is a relaxing escape from the busy city. There is plenty to see and do at this beautiful oasis. You can explore the historic structures or enjoy scenic landscapes. This state park has plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, including fishing and biking. The park's hiking trails wind near the Hillsborough River, and many of the pavilions date back to the 1930s. You can take a lesson from the living history actors or take a trip down the river in a canoe.
Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs State Park has been attracting tourists since the 1870s. In fact, this state park was the first tourist attraction in Florida. If you want a unique look at the park, make sure to sign up for a glass-bottom tour to see the crystal clear waters and marine animals. At this park, you can also enjoy hiking around the park or kayaking down the river.
Rainbow Springs State Park
Humans have inhabited the Rainbow Springs State Park area for over 10,000 years. When you are in the park, you can visit the manmade waterfalls and ornamental gardens. The sloping hills are a reminder of a time when the park was used as a mine. This park is a great place to walk through the mossy hammocks or take a dip in the springs.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Orlando might be the theme park capital, but there are plenty of excellent parks in the Tampa area that are worth a stop on your Tampa to Panama City road trip. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is the perfect spot to enjoy some roller coasters. While you are there, you can take a ride on the tallest free-standing drop tower in North America. This theme park also contains an animal park. The Serengeti Plain is a popular spot for visitors, and it is home to several mammals and reptile exhibits.
The Florida Aquarium
Located in Tampa's Channel District, this 250,000 square-foot aquarium focuses on educating and conserving the local ecosystems. You can sign up for the special events and talks at this aquarium. The Florida Aquarium is the best spot in Tampa to learn about the state's native animals.
ZooWorld Zoological and Botanical Conservatory
If you want a closer look at over 260 animals, then you should plan a visit to ZooWorld. This zoological park focuses on conservation efforts in the Panama City area. Along with the tropical animal exhibits, this park also offers programs and shows throughout the day.
WonderWorks Panama City
This 35,000-square-foot amusement park combines entertainment and education. The "edu-tainment" museum has more than 100 hands-on exhibits that are guaranteed to spark your imagination. All WonderWorks museums have a specific theme, and this building is based on a fictional museum located in the Bermuda Triangle.
There are several main cities that you will pass through on your road trip from Tampa to Panama City. All these cities offer great places to camp and spots to clean out your waste tanks.
Ocala is located in the central part of Florida. If you are interested in history, you should visit the Fort King National Historical Park. This site played a critical role in the Second Seminole War. For art fans, you'll want to visit the Appleton Museum of Art and check out its collection of contemporary art and pre-Columbian artifacts. This city is also the gateway to the Ocala National Forest. When you are done exploring, Ocala is an excellent spot to camp for the night.
Gainesville is known as the home of the University of Florida. The sprawling campus houses the Florida Museum of Natural History. While you are there, you should check out the ethnographic and fossil displays. The on-campus Butterfly Rainforest is a great place to see hundreds of free-flying birds and butterflies. You can find a vintage postcard collection at the Matheson History Museum. Since Gainesville welcomes visitors from all over the world, there are plenty of campgrounds where you can park your rig.
Tallahassee is the state capital of Florida. If you want to learn about Florida's history, plan a visit to the Capitol Building. This historic complex features displays on the state's political history. You can also take a tour of the 1970s Capitol tower and enjoy the observation deck's views. The Museum of Florida History has many exhibits on European colonization and the Civil War. You can even check out one of the antebellum mansions, including the 1843 Knott House Museum. Like the other Florida cities, you can find a great campground to meet your travel needs. If you need to empty your rig's waste tanks, there are sanitary dump stations near the city.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Tampa to Panama City, 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 Panama City.