Home Lifestyle Two Hidden Gems in the Florida Panhandle

Two Hidden Gems in the Florida Panhandle

A view inside a cavern at Florida Caverns State Park.

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Right down the road near Chipley, Florida are two hidden gems in Falling Waters State Park and the Florida Caverns State Park and National Natural Landmark in Marianna, Florida.

This summer, load up your car and head out for some all-American outdoor fun. Camping is a great way to make memories with your friends and family and connect with nature.

Fill up a cooler with yummy treats and drinks, and teach the kids (or adults) some new skills like outdoor cooking.

Put away the electronics, bring along a guitar or a Bluetooth speaker, tell stories of your favorite times together by the campfire, roast hot dogs and marshmallows, and just relax under the stars. Then sleep in the great outdoors and wake up with the sun.

At Falling Waters State Park, there are easy walking paths where you can explore the natural beauty of old Florida swimming holes, the fern-lined creeks, and pine meadows, then hike a short boardwalk trail that leads you to a 100-foot tall and 20-foot wide sinkhole that creates Florida’s highest waterfall.

Florida’s tallest waterfall is a short drive from Pensacola.

Falling Waters State Park has full-facility campsites, which are clean and close to the campgrounds. For more information on exploring this park or camping, visit the website here.

When you’re ready for a geological wonder, load up for a day trip just down the road past the pines and fields of wildflowers at the Florida Caverns State Park, where you’ll see what used to be under the sea, a fascinating pathway of cave passages with stalactites, stalagmites, and cave-drip formations.

The highlight of the trip is taking a guided tour by one of the knowledgeable guides. There is also a great gift shop near the entrance of the cave.

There are also campsites available at this park, if you would like a one-and-done camping and exploring trip.

For more information on this park, click here.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed or spend too much money in the camping aisle, but remember you only need a few basics to get started.

Here are just a few items you need to begin: a tent, a sleeping bag and pad, a light source, a camp chair, and a cooler. You can either use wood, a fire starter like flint, and waterproof matches to cook or bring a camping stove. Don’t forget the s’mores ingredients: graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate!

Target sells a mess-free s’mores maker and organizer. They also have marshmallow roasting sticks with lighted handles. For those supplies, click here. Bodacious Shops on Palafox sells a fishing line marshmallow roaster that might be the cutest thing we’ve ever seen. Go by their shop, The Kitchenry, to check it out!

Make sure you set up your tent when it is still daylight on a flat surface away from the campfire. Bring easy meals that don’t require many ingredients. There are plenty of camping recipes online.

Take a good bug spray and wear weather-appropriate clothing. Dispose of all used food items in a sealed container.

Pro tip: always keep a roll of toilet paper and wet wipes in the console.

A bungee cord with some clothespins and helpful to have on hand to hang wet swimwear and towels in between trees.

It’s always a good idea to do a tent practice run in your yard and make your first camping excursion close to home. And whatever you do: don’t forget the tent poles and stakes!

Most of all, don’t be intimidated! Camping is pretty easy and the return on your investment is priceless. Get out this summer and explore our Florida State Parks!

The Kia Sorento and the Kia Telluride can hold all your camping gear and get you to your state or national park comfortably. There are so many places to see in Florida! Where will Kia take you?