A Weekend Trip Through Central Florida

A few weeks ago, before moving back to PA, I had a few places still left on my Florida bucket list that I wanted to visit. Those places included the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary, Highland Hammock State Park, and St. Augustine. I decided to make a weekend of it so I packed my bags that morning, and set out deciding not to book any hotels ahead of time so I could make adjustments to the plan as I wanted.

You’ll find the 9 spots I stopped in two days below with a cost breakdown of the trip at the bottom.

Stop 1: Myakka River State Park

About 1 hour and 15 minutes south, I entered the park through the South Gate and paid the $4 admission. Due to recent rain, a lot of the trails closest to the water were flooded while those on higher ground were not. There’s about 40 or so miles of trails through the park which you can take a closer look at here. After exploring the park, I was headed to my next stop, Highland Hammock State Park.

Stop 2: Highland Hammock State Park

This park is about 1 hour 15 minutes northeast of Myakka. On the way there, I drove through a town called Arcadia where they had a Dutch Country Store called Martin’s Country Market. It reminded me of Lancaster with the whoopie pies, sandwiches, and other treats. I got a BLT, birch beer, and some snacks.

From there I headed to HIghland Hammock where there’s boardwalks, trails, and a cat walk that you can hike on in the park as well as a campground. My favorite thing was the catwalk and getting to walk through the swampy area even if I was afraid I’d fall in. You can check out more of the details of the park in a post here.

After hiking, I booked a hotel on Hotel Tonight which ended up being a La Quinta in West Melbourne.

Stop 3: Cocoa Village

The next morning I got up early and headed to Cocoa Village which is much more inland than Cocoa Beach. It’s not from from Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island. I walked downtown and browsed the shops and got breakfast at Ossorrio. I had a bacon and egg croissant as well as a coffee and it was incredible.

Stop 4: Enchanted Forest Sanctuary

Next up was the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary in Titusville. I had initially seen it online and after doing research, found it had quite a few trails you could hike and see various types of ecosystems in the same area. I was there about an hour and a half, and in that time I was able to walk a bit on each of the trails. Out of all of them, my favorite was the Coquina trail which crossed over the canal. Something about the greenery, and the historic canal and the little bridge was just incredible to see.

Stop 5: Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Not far from the Enchanted Forest was Merritt Island. There was a short little hike near the visitors’ center that I did and then I drove through the National Seashore area. In total, I was only there for about an hour or so exploring.

Stop 6: Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park

Next was the Bulow Ruins. This was a plantation that began in 1821 where sugar planting and milling took place. The plantation thrived until in 1836 when it was burnt down during the Second Seminole War. They have signs set up throughout the area to explain the sugar milling process which I didn’t really know much about. I spend about 30 minutes or so at the park, which worked for me since it was free. There weren’t many other people there, so I enjoyed walking through the historic ruins uninterrupted.

Stop 7: Flagler Beach

This was more a “drive through” than a stop, but worth mentioning. If you have more time, I would recommend pulling over on the main road and either walking down to the beach or grabbing a bite to eat in town or both. This gave off such “beach town” vibes that if I had more time, I would have definitely stopped and spent more time enjoying it.

Stop 8: Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

If you’ve ever been to Longwood Gardens in PA, or Bok Tower Gardens in FL, this reminded me a bit of those. The park includes a beach on one side of the main road, and then this historic garden area on the other. I spent about 2 hours here and enjoyed walking through the various gardens.

Stop 9: St Augustine

I’d been to St. Augustine once before on my trip to FL which you can read about here. It was about dinner time when I got there, so walked a bit down town before getting dinner at the Uptown Swinery. I wandered through streets of the oldest city in the U.S. and checked out the San Marcos de Castillo National Monument and then decided to head home. It was about three hours back to Tampa, so I grabbed a coffee and then got on the road.

The cost breakdown:

Hotel – $88
Gas – $63
Admission Fees: $18
Food/Drinks: $121
= $290

If you wanted to keep the spending even lower, you could look into a FL State Park pass as well as packing some food on your own to eat. I didn’t pack much and I enjoyed a nice dinner the last night which was about $40 of the food and drink cost.

Overall I had an awesome trip in just two days through Florida. It was a wonderful way to spend one of my last weekends in the state!