Florida is big, really big. Over 65,000 sq miles of space, and many of it covered by wilderness and wild animals. Some of the best Florida Adventures take you into the wilderness and give you the chance to see the wild animals in their natural habitat without ever leaving your car.
These 5 Florida adventures vary greatly in their environments and wildlife you’ll be able to see from the comfort of your own car. And in the Florida heat, nothing is better than the blast of cold A/C in your own car. Short of hiking for miles on end, some of these adventures show you a side of Florida you otherwise might not be able to see.
So, roll down the windows and put on your driving gloves, and let’s head out on one of these 5 Florida adventures, without ever leaving the car.
5 Florida Adventures without Leaving your Car
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Smack dab in the middle of of the state halfway in-between Tampa and Titusville, you’ll find Lake Apopka. This one-way 11 mile scenic drive takes you along the north shore. Open on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Federal holidays from 7:00am-3:00pm, the drive can take you anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, depending on how often and long you stop. The best part of the drive is that it’s totally free.
The wetlands area is now a wildlife conservation, reclaimed from years of farming previously. And because of the conservation efforts in the area wildlife has become abundant, with over 150 different species calling this area home. It’s not uncommon to see many of Florida’s native birds like warblers and herons. But the main draw for this drive is the alligator population. You can hardly drive more than 100 feet without spotting another one.
There are quite a few areas to pull off and take a closer look, so be sure to bring your binoculars. (Unlike us, we are notorious for getting somewhere and realizing our binoculars are back at home.) The drive is even dog friendly, as long as they are kept on a leash, and I wouldn’t walk them too close to the water. Visit their website before you go to download the audio guide to listen along your drive and learn more about the area.
Loop Road at Big Cypress National Preserve
Considered the little sister to the Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve is worth a trip all its own. Most well known as a dark sky area for astronomers, the park offers quite a few interesting stops to explore. As you head down Tamiami Trail you’ll come across the worlds smallest post office, and the skunk ape research headquarters, both absolutely must see road side attractions.
But just south of the Oasis Visitor Center, you’ll find the entrance to the Loop Road Scenic drive. This 27 mile journey takes you through forests of cypress trees, and swampy waters. You will almost certainly spot an alligator or two on your drive.
The road also takes you past some historic buildings and the remnants of an entire town, which is thought to be the old stomping grounds of Al Capone. You’ll also come across homes of the Miccosukee Tribe, and while you should definitely respect their privacy, it’s fascinating to know they have inhabited the area for over 2,000 years. Be sure to plan a few hours for this drive, it’s worth your time to go slow and enjoy the views.
Wild Florida Safari Drive Thru Park
It’s almost as if the Wild Florida Safari knew something we didn’t, because this wildlife park opened this drive thru safari in December of 2019. When social distancing became all the rage in 2020, this was the perfect place to go for a safe adventure.
The park is home to over 100 native and exotic animals, who all roam the land freely. You follow a designated gravel path, but you are constantly on the lookout for animals roaming. We had to wait multiple times for an emu or cattle crossing. If you time your trip right, you might also be also get to see the staff set out meals for the animals, which is a show all its own.
The park also takes in nuisance alligators that have gotten too big for their neighborhood ponds, so you’ll get to see some real big guys. At the end of the drive, you can add on a special experience to feed the two giraffes on property, you will have to get out of the car for that one, but trust us, it’s worth it!
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
We have put the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge on our list of places to visit this year. As you may have guessed, we are a pretty big fan of lighthouses around here. This adventure has a mixture of wildlife, natural Florida landscapes and historic buildings.
The refuge focuses on conserving the natural diversity of plants and animals, and builds vital habitats for endangered and threatened species. You start your trip at the top of Lighthouse Road, and end at the St. Marks Light. Although the tower is not currently open to climb, it is still a beautiful site for photos along the coast.
But don’t be in a rush to get to the lighthouse, take your time driving through the refuge. The area is full of diverse landscapes and wildlife , and has been recognized as the best area for birding for miles around. So, keep your eyes peeled in the trees, you might see some of the local residents. We’ve also seen reports of black bears, turkeys and deer. We can’t wait to plan our trip to experience this area ourselves.
For our final adventure we are going to head up to Dade City and explore the Giraffe Ranch. They offer a couple of different experiences to see the ranch, including their own safari vehicle tour, a camel tour, or a Segway tour. But in the time of social distancing, they have added a new way to explore the land, and its a safari right from your own car.
The animal residents on the farm range from giraffes (as you’d expect), camels, antelope, cattle, and monkeys. They even have a zeedonk, a hybrid mix of a zebra and donkey. The zeedonk was a surprise arrival when it was born, but when the animals roam free, its hard to tell them what to do.
The guide rides in a jeep, and all the cars move together as a group, while the guide narrates the trip through a short wave radio station via your radio, pointing out points of interest and animals off in the distance. Like at the Wild Florida Safari, you’ll have a chance to get up closer to some of the animals at the end. You can pick between otters and ring-tailed lemurs to feed, we went with the otters. The otters were so stinking cute, and definitely the perfect way to end your adventure.
All of these places offer such a unique and under appreciated look at Florida, you’ve got to do them all. The only limit to these adventures is how many people you can fit in your car! No matter where you are in Florida, there is a drive-through adventure close by, you just have to pull up the GPS and hit the road.