New to the Forum and new to the deep south - where do I start?

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brissle

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Oct 16, 2012
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6
Hi everyone,
My wife and I are a couple of active retired Brits planning a 2 or 3 week RV tour after we get of a cruise ship next fall.
I'm having to start planning already because we want to get early booking benefits for the flights and the RV rental - seems mad to be planning so early, but part of the fun is in the planning......

We've RV'd in Alaska and Canada, but are new to the south.  So I'm looking for tips on the best places to visit.
We'll pick up the RV in Fort Lauderdale in late October and plan for a 2 or 3 week trip ending in Washington DC or Philadelphia.
I need to work out the length of trip so I can book the flights in a few weeks time when they come available.

So where do we start?  It's tempting to think that we should visit one / some of the big Florida attractions just because we are there - but we did LA Disney with the kids umpteen years ago.  I know there's more than that.....    We want to drive down to Key West at the start just because we've heard / read so much about the Keys.  After that we're looking for ideas.  We don't want to drive every day - it's good to get somewhere and linger a while to see the area.  We like scenery, water, a hike sometimes (beach or scenic), meeting people, an occasional theatre visit (just put that in to make us sound intelligent....) and getting the feel of places.  Not too bothered about spending time in big cities, but we will, of course need to schedule a couple of days in Washington DC at the end.

So where do I start research?  I tried a couple of searches in this forum but didn't come up with much - maybe I didn't ask the right question.

If anyone has any thoughts, suggestions, links to information, tips for must-see places, we'd love to hear from you.

Many thanks
 

Kim (skyking4ar2) Bertram

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For starters, I always consider an open ended "I want to see .. and then be..." question as a math problem. In your case, FT Lauderdale to the Keys, maybe 200 miles down. Then, from the Keys to Philly, around 1350 miles. Round number 1500 miles and change. Divided by 250 miles a day (not so hard driving with time to stop and gawk), there's six days of just driving.

Then there are scores of places worth stopping coming up from the keys, including Cape Canaveral - Kennedy Space Center, Miami, Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA, the North Carolina coast, and who knows how many places in between depending on your tastes.

What we do is pick, say 25 items, whittle it down to 5 to 10 must do's, figure out how much time in each place, then finish the math problem.

What we won't do is just drive by a place to say we have been there. We easily spend a day in each destination to be sure we have a sense of what we liked about an area.

There's no right way to do it, just a zillion options. You're the boss, you know what you want, and how you like it, so just absorb the suggestions with a grain of salt and have a fabulous time!

Welcome to the Forum and the land of never ending opinions!  ;D
 

bertnspike

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With only 2 or 3 weeks you're going to want to limit your destinations so you don't spend the whole time driving.  Up the Eastern Seaboard - start with the Florida Keys and Everglades.  Maybe you'd like to see Daytona Beach or the Kennedy Space Center.  Maybe St. Augustine.  Just getting from one end of Florida to the other can easily take a week if you want to stop and play tourist.  Further up there's Savannah, Georgia, which is a charming city and worthy of a couple of days.  Then there's Charleston, South Carolina, another lovely city worthy of a few days.  Myrtle Beach, North Carolina and/or the Outer Banks and you've easily spent another week.  Then there's the Tidewater (Virginia) area, which is loaded with American history along with beautiful beaches and the islands of Chincoteague (chin-ko-teeg) and Assateague (assa-teeg), bringing you right on up to Washington D.C. and your third week.

Get yourself a map of the Eastern U.S. and look at I-95.  Not that I'd recommend STAYING on I-95, just that you'll be able to see the places I've mentioned and see the most direct routes to them.  Having traveled in the U.S. before, you realize things are not as close as they seem on the map.  Try not to squeeze in too much or you'll need a vacation from your vacation.  Having said that, I must also say the the East Coast of the U.S. is much more densely populated than the West and you'll spend very little time driving through barren areas and will always be within 30 minutes of a city.

Susan
 

gwcowgill

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By late October the Everglades is nice and is well worth at least one day or more, from the Everglades to Key West is 119 miles+. You will need at least one day and night in Key West  and maybe more depending on whether you like the party atmosphere of the Keys. From Key West, I would take a trip across US-41 to Naples/Fort Myers and spend a night in Fort Myers.  From Fort Myers, I would consider Orlando and see Sea World, Epcot Center and whatever else you would like to see. From Orlando I would go to Savannah, Ga, Charleston, SC and see the historical sites.
 

brissle

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Wow, thanks everyone for giving me such a good start.
I take the point about it being a math problem - yes 250 miles a day sounds sensible and yes we will want to linger for at lesat a day in places.
If we choose the stops in interesting locations we are certainly going to want 1 or maybe 2, days at each stop.  So six days basic driving plus say 8 or 10 days sightseeing makes up 2 weeks for a straight line route south to north.  Maybe 3 weeks won't be enough........  But I have to budget !!
Between you, you've given me a great list of places to consider and I'll plot them on a map, do some research and start to make choices.
By the way - as my first posting was already getting long, I skipped the info that we have actually had a day in Key West off a cruise ship and another in Ft Lauderdale when we visited the Everglades and did an air boat ride.  But that's all we've seen and is hardly representative of Florida!
The reason for driving down to Key West is to experience the road and the views of the Keys - we got the impression that is a well worth-while trip.  Unless anyone knows better.......  If we do it, we would probably look to find a cg somewhere other than Key West on the way down or back, so we see somewhere new.
I'm about to list all the places you mentioned between the three responses and mark them on a map - the start of the selection process.
As it's late evening in the UK I'll not be posting again until tomorrow (Wednesday).
Thanks again, everyone.
 

ArdraF

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South from Virginia to Florida are where most of the interesting battles in our American Civil War took place.  There's tons of history in places like Vicksburg MS and Fredericksburg VA, not to mention some of the old plantations and their mansions which are entirely different from your old historical buildings.

Florida probably ranks second only to California in places to see and things to do.  It would be easy to spend your entire time in Florida but then you'd miss everything else!  Like London, you could spend your entire time in Washington D.C. and environs.  It's hard to select the best of the best when there's so much to see.

ArdraF
 

gwcowgill

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Brissle,  The Everglades is huge, The southern end is different than the northern end with Big Cypress in the middle. A trip across US 41 will give you a different perspective. October is just the beginning of the birds coming south. The later in the fall sees the arrival of many different kinds of birds. Spring is the alligator mating season and winter is the real birding season. I live in Homestead and spend a lot of time in the glades and am fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the different seasons. 

The overseas highway is really a nice drive with the Atlantic ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other side. If you can work it in, Biscayne National Park is also a nice side trip. You could easily spend 2-3 weeks just on the east coast between Key West and Washington, DC. St. Augustine, FL is also another nice place to visit.
 

brissle

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Yes we have some interest in the American Civil War and in visiting some sites.  But not to the exclusion of other things.
Until I started plotting all these suggestions onto the map, I hadn't realised that we would be passing Chesapeake Bay on our way up to Washington.  Shows how poor is my knowledge of geography.  GREAT interest for me because I recently read "Chesapeake" by James A Michener - a fascinating novel based loosely on the history of the region but very descriptive of the bay and surrounding areas.  So now I'm going to have to re-read it and make a note of some of the places in the story and try to find them.
Yes I can see on the map that the Everglades is huge and the US 41 route looks good.  When I looked at that on Google maps, I got a notification that US 41 has vehicle restrictions and tolls.  That won't prevent me taking a RV along there will it?
I see that Biscayne National Park has a couple of campgrounds.  Might be a good first night stop after collecting the RV and visiting a supermarket to stock up.
Am now researching the places you've all mentioned.
It looks like it's going to be 3 weeks and we might stop short at Washington DC and have a couple of days there before flying home rather than going on to Philadelphia.  That can wait for a future visit.
I'm getting into this now - thanks again everyone - I really value the input from guys like yourselves who can identify the main points of interest - the last thing we want to do is arrive, pick up the RV and not have any decent idea of where we are heading.
brissle (Chris)
 

gwcowgill

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There are no tolls on US-41. There is some construction on the east end of 41 which should have little effect on you. I-75 does have tolls going across Alligator Alley. We use US-41 in our Class A year round when heading to the west coast. US-41 is 2 lane but generally traffic moves pretty well. I hope you enjoy your time in the states.
 

tswms

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I think Shark Valley on US 41 is one of the most intertesting parts of the Everglades.  Be sure to take the Tram trip.
 

Hfx_Cdn

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    Fort DeSoto Park is a highly recommended overnight, or more place to stop.  It is a municipal park in the heart of the Tampa Bay area, and has a lovely beach, and close proximity to all Tampa's highlights.  I second all of the above locations, plus add the Chesapeake Bridge Tunnel, and Historic Williamsburg and the Outer Banks.
    We also love the drive through the Shenandoah Valley along with the Blueridge Parkway, which is a little inland from other suggested locations, and depending on exactly when you're coming could be in full fall colours.

Ed
 

gwcowgill

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The Shenandoah Valley is a second . It will be in all it's grandeur in late October. I would normally be there or in West Virginia this time of year but some health issues are keeping me home this year. There is so much American history in the valley that you could spend weeks if not months there.
 

brissle

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Shark Valley sounds good - I've added it to the list.
Tampa Bay area is a definate to explore for a day or so
We'll be in the Shenandoah valley area in mid November - are planning to leave Ft Lauderdale on 28 October and hand back the RV around 18 November.
At the moment am having trouble tracking down the type of RV we want (Class A, 25 - 30 ft with fixed bed) available for one-way rental.  But I'm working on it.
brissle
 

ArdraF

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In Virginia, the area between Fredericksburg and Culpepper is loaded with Civil War sites.  There's also Andersonville Prison in Georgia which was infamous during the war.  Gettysburg is another good visit.  Most of the civil war historic sites have videos which are great for getting yourself up to speed quickly and many have docent-led tours.  When we visited Marye's Hill site in Fredericksburg we had a fascinating guide whose g.grandfather was in the battle.

ArdraF
 

rickf

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there are lots of great answers here, but let me add.
you have a large area.  probably more than many people do in a lifetime.
I think you need to start with what you like. history, country/wilderness,
beaches?  there is a lot, and this could affect the route you take.
sit with a map and put a pin where you might want to go. Then play
connect the dots .  every state has tourism bureaus online so that also
could help with things to do. 
Rick
 

brissle

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Oct 16, 2012
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That's a good tip Rick - I've been plotting all the places mentioned so far on a Google map - useful because I can zoom in and see detail of each area.
The state visitor bureau websites are a good idea.
And the historic sites stuff is useful ArdraF - thanks
It's going to take time to narrow down to a suitable route, but I've already answered the first question - how many weeks  (it's going to be 3) - so I know what date to aim for for homeward flights.
The rest will develop gradually over time and everyone on here has been so helpful.
brissle
 

John From Detroit

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If you happen to be passing Brunswick and Savannah GA.    In between is the little town of Darien... There are some interesting things there and even more on occasion,, The Dariaen outlet mall is nothing to brag about but hey, it's there.

I spent two months last winter at a campground in Townsend (Just outside Dairen) 3 miles north by north west of the Outlet mall. (Take the same exit, pass the mall, drive as straight as possible 3 miles . Just before you get there the road peals off to the right, GO STRAIGHT.)

Cathead Creek Ranch RV park,, as an RV park, it's not yet much to brag about, Just parking full hookups and wi-fi.  But if you happen to be there on Thursday.

They have a Cowboy Church on the property (Owner is preacher) and they have a pot luck.. That.... I found very interesting.
 

Flyboy

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It would take you three months, not three weeks, to enjoy the southern parts of the US. I once asked a Brit about doing a 2 week excursion in England.  First thing out of his mouth was that wasn't enough time. 

I've been to most everything that one would enjoy in that area and would have a difficult time recommending something where time is limited. So let me help another way by seconding another posters suggestion that you go online to the Tourism Departments of each state that you feel certain you will be traveling thru.  Ask them to send you a State Tourism Guide and a road map. Both will be free. They will be invaluable time savers during your planning stage.  Put Corp of Engineer campgrounds on your list.  They are typically situated around a large lake with a wooded setting and where hiking is usually available. They certainly make for a peaceful place to camp after all that driving you will be doing.  Check out this website for other RVer's opinion on campgrounds that you might want to add to your route list.  www.rvparkreviews.com

And I agree. The planning of a big trip can be fun....most of the time.  ;)


 

brissle

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Oct 16, 2012
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6
Thanks Flyboy - great tips.
I have never knowingly stayed on a Corp of Engineers CG, but have just looked at their website - another amazing resource.
And their campgrounds look just the sort of place we like to stay.  I think I have used the rvparkreviews website on a previous trip but had forgotten about it, so that's on my list now.
Great idea to get Tourism Guides and maps from the State Tourism Depts.  I hope they'll mail out to the UK....
cheers
brissle
 
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