3 unusual Florida vacation spots, 4 hours or less from Tampa Bay

Our child has been in digital school all yr. So when trip months rolled all-around, staying in the home did not seem like a exciting solution. Strange!

Of course, harmless travels are confined in a pandemic. We designed a COVID holiday vacation protocol: Discover a house rental in a city less than 4 hrs from Tampa Bay. The short drives minimized stopping time and also preserved some sanity. (You sense cooped up in a household? Consider a vehicle.) We’d inventory up on groceries, remain within, enjoy films and play video games, maybe undertaking to some mother nature. A adjust of landscapes, as good as holiday gets in a pandemic.

Since we didn’t system on likely out a lot, our concentration was on the properties additional than the towns. We ended up in a spherical house on the seaside, a cabin in the woods and, finally, a houseboat. I am delighted to report no just one obtained seasick or floated absent, but I do have a good plan for a horror novel now.

It’s simple to uncover unconventional stays employing the filters on any family vacation rental web site. On Airbnb, the “unique stays” class functions every little thing from caves to castles. On VRBO, you can form farmhouses and mills (ok!). If you like the vibe of camping but really do not adore to snooze on the floor and walk a 50 percent-mile to the toilet in the dark, try out Glamping Hub for RV and cabin possibilities.

When we picked a destination primarily based on the dwelling, we explored the outdoor offerings close by. It was a excellent reminder to throw a dart at a map, mainly because experience is all about. Cue the John Williams soundtrack.

Here are 3 towns we may not have frequented if not for the homebound electricity this calendar year. Many thanks, I guess?

Relevant: Florida spring breakers, may your Airbnb checkout be satisfying

Small Gasparilla Island

The sunset at Little Gasparilla Island, on a July day last summer.
The sunset at Very little Gasparilla Island, on a July day final summertime. [ STEPHANIE HAYES | Times ]

This island in Charlotte County, west of Placida in between Sarasota and Fort Myers, is accessed only through boat. You can stroll the entire island in a quarter mile. There are no actual roads, only dust paths for golf carts, and no merchants or places to eat. This is the top isolation, excellent at the peak of the pandemic. But if you just hate people, look at this a solid place.

Generate time from Tampa Bay: Two hours

Wherever to stay: Lots of rentals are out there via the standard web sites. But for 1-cease data and house listings, check littlegasparilla.com. It answers each and every issue, from how to capture the drinking water taxi to how to get groceries sent, so they are sitting down in your home when you get there. You can pack your own food stuff, but I undoubtedly suggest the shipping assistance. Who desires to lug a box of wine on a boat?

What to do: Relax! That’s it. Practically nothing substantially else to do. But you might encounter wildlife, from nesting turtles (leave them by itself) to shorebirds. Moreover, the sand is entire of shark tooth and sand bucks for collectors.

Professional idea: Remain on the seashore. Inland, the mosquitoes can be extremely swarmy.

Fort McCoy

A horse at Griffin Ranch in Fort McCoy last December.
A horse at Griffin Ranch in Fort McCoy past December. [ STEPHANIE HAYES | Times ]

Find this small place in Marion County, northeast of Ocala in between Sparr and Eureka. There is just one corner grocery retail outlet and a great deal of rural charm. It is all about RVs, farm and lake homes and country cottages here.

Travel time from Tampa Bay: Two several hours

Where to continue to be: We chose the Griffin Ranch, a working horse ranch with onsite cottages. It’s rustic and peaceful, and the pleasant homeowners current a refreshing beverage as soon as you halt the motor vehicle. (Get pleasure from, mother and father!) The ranch is household to horses, peacocks and sites to sit all-around a fire and chill. Convey some DVDs to check out, as there is no cable or streaming. thegriffinranch.com.

What to do: Choose a limited travel out of Fort McCoy and the possibilities are abundant. We walked the Yearling Trail in the Ocala National Forest, a 5.5-mile loop the place Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings once stayed and gleaned literary inspiration. Think about a bicycle journey on the serene and remarkably hilly Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Path, which potential customers suitable into the heart of the University of Florida and Gator nation.

Professional tip: Put together on your own for the sight and smell of properly water, if you’re not used to it.

Fleming Island

This Clay County neighborhood southwest of Jacksonville is polished, residential and surrounded by scenic h2o views. It’s bordered by St. Johns River, Health professionals Lake, Black Creek and Swimming Pen Creek.

Generate time from Tampa Bay: Four hrs

In which to stay: We bunked on a houseboat in Health professionals Lake Marina. Genuinely, it was more of a floating home tied to a dock. Look for “HomeAWave” on VRBO and Airbnb for the actual location, but more standard houseboats are out there for rent, too. The marina has everyday boat rentals, a benefit shop and the Sunset Tiki Bar for drinks, cornhole and huge Hook up Four.

What to do: A going for walks and bicycle path operates alongside Fleming Island for about 8 miles and finishes up in Black Creek Park. Use caution on the mountain bike trails, or you are going to conclusion up like me, sideways on the ground. Jacksonville and all it has to offer is just a small push away. Examine out Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park for a dog-helpful seashore working day.

Professional suggestion: We didn’t get seasick, but pack some Dramamine if you’re inclined to movement illness. It’s wild to see the surroundings swaying in the distance.

Relevant: Browse additional columns from Stephanie Hayes

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