25 Best Kept Secrets Near I-10 in the Florida Panhandle

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Cypress Springs, Vernon, Florida
Cypress Springs, Vernon, Florida | Photo Credit: Shutterstock - Frank Bobe III
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Interstate 10 runs right through the heart of the Florida Panhandle. While popular tourist destinations like Pensacola Beach, Destin, and Panama City Beach might be well-known to visitors, many hidden gems are located just off the interstate. From secluded springs and state parks to unique roadside attractions and charming small towns, there is much to explore beyond the beaches and high rises along this often overlooked stretch of Northwest Florida.

This article will uncover 25 best-kept secrets along or near the I-10 corridor through the Panhandle. Get ready for a road trip filled with surprises, natural wonders, and old Florida charm as you venture down some roads less taken through this region. Put these destinations on your Florida bucket list as you take detours off the main interstate route.

Table of Contents

Sneads

1. Three Rivers State Park

Lake Seminole from Three Rivers State Park, Sneads, Florida
Lake Seminole from Three Rivers State Park, Sneads, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: 7908 Three Rivers Park Rd, Sneads, FL 32460

Situated on the banks of the peaceful Lake Seminole and formed by the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers convergence along the Florida-Georgia border, Three Rivers State Park offers a tranquil natural getaway for outdoor enthusiasts. Campers, anglers, and nature lovers can flock to the park to enjoy its abundant recreation opportunities and witness scenic wildlife.

Visitors frequently spot fox squirrels scurrying through oak hammocks, white-tailed deer grazing in the tall grass prairie, and various bird species, from hawks circling overhead to songbirds flitting through the Spanish moss. You can launch boats from the ramp to fish for bass, bream, and catfish in the freshwaters of Lake Seminole, rated one of Florida’s top fishing destinations, or try your luck casting off the fishing pier within the family-friendly campground area.

Two Egg

2. Stop by the Town of Two Egg

Two Egg, Florida
Two Egg, Florida Two Egg, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Location: Intersection of Hwy 69 and Highway 69A (about 5 miles east of Greenwood)

Tucked away in rural northwest Florida near the Alabama border lies the quirky town of Two Egg, whose unusual name stems from a local legend involving brothers trading eggs during the Great Depression. Today, historic buildings, haunted sites, and wilderness recreation surround this remote outpost, where visitors can still encounter old Florida’s pioneer spirit and folklore flavor. From trading posts to mythical swamp creatures, Two Egg’s rustic charms offer adventurers a rewarding glimpse of off-the-beaten-path culture winding through the panhandle’s forests and riverways.

Blountstown

3. Panhandle Pioneer Settlement

Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, Blountstown, Florida
Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, Blountstown, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Ebyabe

Address: 17869 NW Pioneer Settlement Rd, Blountstown, FL 32424

The Panhandle Pioneer Settlement in Blountstown, Florida, is an immersive historical village and museum spanning over 30 authentic 19th and early 20th-century structures collected from around the Panhandle region. Visitors can journey through time while exploring log cabins, a doctor’s office, a general store and post office, a one-room schoolhouse, a Methodist church, and more. Artifacts, textiles, farming implements, and other period relics on display offer a window into frontier life during Florida’s pioneer era, from the 1800s when early homesteaders carved communities out of the wilderness through the rural period of the early 1900s. Costumed interpreters demo traditions like blacksmithing and other hands-on activities to bring heritage arts alive.

Marianna

4. Jackson Blue Springs County Recreation Area

Address: 5461 Blue Springs Rd, Marianna, FL 32446

Only a five-mile drive east of Marianna, Florida lies the hidden oasis of Blue Springs, where crystal clear waters have for decades offered locals an idyllic setting for recreation. Originally used for military personnel recreation when the federal government owned the land, this large freshwater spring now draws visitors to enjoy trout fishing, boating, picnicking, and swimming in its diverse 202-acre ecosystem.

4. Florida Caverns State Park

Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna, Florida
Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: 3345 Caverns Rd, Marianna, FL 32446

A unique natural wonder awaits visitors at Florida Caverns State Park, where guided tours lead underground through magnificent caves filled with geological formations unmatched anywhere else in the state. Along the passageways carved out by Civilian Conservation Corps workers in the 1930s, the fantastic caverns reveal visually stunning stalactites, stalagmites, and draping flowstones created by centuries of dripping water. Chisel marks still visible on the smoothed cave walls testify to the hard labor required to open the caverns so guests can comfortably explore the intricate underground system. Both inside the visitor center and down below through the expanse of sparkling formations, Florida Caverns State Park offers an exciting chance to marvel at one of Florida’s true natural treasures.

5. Bellamy Bridge

Bellamy Bridge, Marianna, Florida
Bellamy Bridge, Marianna, Florida | Photo Credit: Flickr – Karsun Designs

Address: 4057 Co Rd 162, Marianna, FL 32446

The half-mile Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail leads visitors to Marianna’s crumbling 1914 Bellamy Bridge, known as Florida’s Most Haunted Bridge, due to the tragic love story of Samuel and Elizabeth Bellamy. As legend tells it, Elizabeth died suddenly in 1837 of malaria at just 18 years old, along with their two-year-old son, Alexander—this terrible loss left behind her beloved husband, Dr. Samuel Bellamy. Heartbroken in grief, Samuel mourned Elizabeth and their son deeply for 15 long years before taking his own life around December 28th, 1853, with his dying wish to be buried eternally by her side. However, because suicide was seen as an unforgivable sin at the time, he was buried miles away in an unmarked grave in Chattahoochee, leaving Elizabeth’s spirit stranded, desperately searching the bridge and surrounding swamps for her departed soulmate. The ghostly apparition of the young woman in white, spotted by locals for over 160 years, still haunts the landscape to this day, earning Bellamy Bridge the reputation as a top destination for paranormal phenomena in the hopes that star-crossed lovers may reunite at last. Many visitors traverse the trail for its scenic views of Jackson County wetlands, and a chance encounter with Elizabeth’s restless spirit.

Cottondale

6. Buy a Bonsai

Bonsai by Dori, Cottondale, Florida
Bonsai by Dori, Cottondale, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: 3089 Main St, Cottondale, FL 32431

Just two miles north of I-10 in Cottondale, Florida, lies Bonsai by Dori, a charming shop that cultivates miniature trees and landscapes known as Bonsai and penjing. Established in 1997 by bonsai enthusiast Dori, this cozy cottage overflowing with lush greenery and delicate pots offers Florida residents and cross-country travelers an oasis of natural beauty off the main interstate thoroughfare. Visitors can meander through aisles bursting with miniature junipers and pines and flowering varieties suitable for indoor cultivation.

Chipley

7. Falling Waters State Park

Waterfall at Falling Waters State Park, Chipley, Florida
Waterfall at Falling Waters State Park, Chipley, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: 1130 State Park Rd, Chipley, FL 32428

Falling Waters State Park offers visitors a tranquil natural escape just off I-10, with the mesmerizing main attraction of Florida’s tallest waterfall plummeting 73 feet into the depths of a vast, cylindrical 100-foot sinkhole wrapped in jungle-like foliage. A winding boardwalk guides guests through towering trees and fern grottos to the overlook of this geologic wonder, where the cascade from a small hidden creek vanishes into an underground network. Beyond spine-tingling sights of subterranean splendor, the park boasts verdant hiking trails, shimmering lakes for swimming, a butterfly garden showcasing native species, and picnic facilities amid gently rolling terrain coated in lush North Florida wilderness. With full amenities like campgrounds ensconced in shady pines and regular educational programs hosted by knowledgeable park rangers, Falling Waters presents an easily accessible yet mystically secluded intermission on any road trip.

8. Orange Hill Gator Farm

Address: 3172 Orange Hill Rd, Chipley, FL 32428

For Florida families looking for a uniquely engaging experience, Orange Hill Gator Farm offers an ideal and memorable outdoor adventure. Families can walk through natural enclosures housing hundreds of alligators during guided educational tours that allow brave visitors to interact directly with these apex predators. More than just showcasing gators, Orange Hill provides a haven for nuisance alligators that might otherwise be killed, serving a vital conservation purpose.

9. Seacrest Wolf Preserve

Seacrest Wolf Preserve, Chipley, Florida
Seacrest Wolf Preserve, Chipley, Florida | Photo Credit: Flickr – Karsun Designs

Address: 3449 Bonnett Pond Rd, Chipley, FL 32428

For an extraordinarily rare wolf encounter in the U.S., Florida’s Seacrest Wolf Preserve offers guided walking tours through sprawling natural enclosures housing gray, arctic, and British Columbian wolves. Visitors of all ages can expect thrilling up-close interactions with entire wolf packs, gaining valuable insights into pack dynamics while learning the unique stories of each wolf family that calls Seacrest home. Between bonding with endangered wolves and cuddling adorable critters, a day immersed in Seacrest’s preserve makes for an unforgettable Florida family outing.

10. Grave of Mary Nepper

Address: End of North Avenue, Chipley, FL, 32428

A startling supernatural tale endures in the 1870s, when a young woman named Mary J. Nepper was presumed dead and entombed, only to resuscitate when grave robbers opened her coffin in search of valuables. After the shocked thieves fled the scene, Nepper climbed out and returned home, where she lived another 35 years, married, and raised three children before her eventual passing in 1911. The vacant grave awaited her inevitable return, and today visitors can still see Nepper’s tombstone in Glenwood Cemetery off North Avenue, reminding all of the local legend of a narrow brush with untimely demise in this quaint Florida town.

Wausau

11. Possom Monument

Address: Corner of Washington Street & 2nd Avenue, Wausau, Florida, 32463

Towering 12 feet over the tiny rural town of Wausau stands an peculiar yet earnest tribute – a monument engraved with gratitude commemorating the once crucial role of the local possum. These furry mammals were a vital food source sustaining settlers and families through challenging eras stretching back over a century. Though the region’s 400 residents live in relative prosperity now, they honor that legacy during their annual Possum Festival’s parades and pageants. Beyond the fanfare though, this towering marker pays homage to the possum’s enduring place intertwined with the area’s history, culture and pride as eccentric capital of the possum-adoring world. Through all seasons, it grants perpetual recognition that even this small town’s toughest times were eased by the aide of their most ubiquitous yet unlikely neighbor

Vernon

12. Cypress Spring

Cypress Springs, Vernon, Florida
Cypress Springs, Vernon, Florida | Photo Credit: Shutterstock – Frank Bobe III

Address: Boat Launch at Big Pine Lane, Vernon, FL 32462

Nestled along lushly vegetated banks where Holmes Creek meets the crystal clear floodwaters of a vibrant spring run, the secluded gem known as Cypress Springs reveals itself only to visitors willing to paddle upstream to uncover its hidden wonders. Here, a 150-foot wide azure pool emerges, bounded by limestone and pumping 68-degree water from twin boils through submerged vents. Sapphire hues betray the 29-foot depths from which this natural fountain springs, its currents racing downstream through shady corridors of cypress and tupelo trees. As one of the most pristine springs in the Northwest Florida region, Cypress Springs allows public access via canoe, kayak or boat along the winding route of its tannic tributary. The remote location enhances tranquility for those relishing long days swimming or picnicking along the eroded boulders scattering its steep banks.

Westville

13. Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Site

Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Site, Westville, Florida
Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Site, Westville, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: About 0.9 miles north of Hwy 2 on the left side of County Rd 163, Westville, FL 32464

In October 1891, literary icon Laura Ingalls Wilder, along with husband Almanzo and daughter Rose, left Minnesota to join relatives in Florida, lured by the prospects of fertile land and a kinder climate that might improve Almanzo’s health. The family settled near Webb Mill, where they lived for under a year with Laura’s cousin Peter Franklin Ingalls, who had sailed south on the Mississippi the year prior in search of new settlement opportunities. Despite attending the local Mount Ida Church and being involved in the local pioneer community, Laura ultimately found the humidity intolerable, prompting the Wilders’ return to frigid De Smet, South Dakota by August 1892. This chapter of Florida living later inspired Wilder’s daughter Rose to write the award-winning fictional story “Innocence,” preserving a little-known interlude that drew the Ingalls pioneers from the Dakotas to North Florida.

For more related adventures, embark on this “Little House on the Prairie” Road Trip following the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Ponce de Leon

14. Ponce de Leon Springs State Park

Address: 2860 Ponce De Leon Springs Road, Ponce De Leon, FL 32455

Named after the famed Spanish conquistador who searched for the legendary Fountain of Youth, Ponce de Leon Springs State Park in Florida safeguards the crystal clear, 68-degree waters of one of the state’s largest freshwater springs. Fourteen million refreshing gallons surge daily from the main springhead, an impressive convergence of two robust underground flows. Shaded by fragrant pines and stately hardwoods, the park’s nature trails invite easy walks past local flora and fauna with seasonal ranger activities. Picnicking facilities dot the grounds near the soothing spring, where visitors can hook bass and panfish or relax streamside before exploring more of this natural oasis.

15. Morrison Springs County Park

Morrison Springs County Park, Ponce de Leon, Florida
Morrison Springs County Park, Ponce de Leon, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: 874 Morrison Springs Road, Ponce De Leon, FL 32455

Renowned for its crystal clear waters and labyrinthine limestone caverns, Morrison Springs offers cold water diving and topside recreation at this 161-acre park. The focal point of the lush grounds is the colossal 250-foot wide spring basin, forcing up an estimated 48 million gallons daily through three access points linking this surfaced oasis to its dark subterranean source waters. Though the deepest cavity stretches roughly 300 feet below the park, the furthest documented chamber remains unseen, tempting intrepid divers to explore Morrison’s beautiful yet mysterious flooded channels winding behind and beneath the improved amenities of modern boardwalks, diving platforms, secluded boat launches, and picnic grounds. Both above and below the glassy surface, Morrison Springs provides easy access to enjoy North Florida’s aquatic splendors at their most unspoiled.

16. Vortex Spring

Vortex Spring, Ponce de Leon, Florida
Vortex Spring, Ponce de Leon, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Paul Clark

Address: 1517 Vortex Springs Lane, Ponce De Leon, FL 32455

Vortex Spring is a popular cold water scuba diving destination and swimmers’ paradise in North Florida, its crystal clear 68-degree waters bubbling up from limestone caverns at an incredible 28 million gallons per day. The 200-foot wide stone basin, lined with diving platforms, slides, and rope swings, leads experienced divers 58 feet below to penetrate deep underground channels, observing marine life through stunning visibility. The spring’s facilities include plentiful amenities, from camping and courts to a complete dive shop with equipment and training.

Defuniak Springs

17. DeFuniak Springs Historic District

Walton County Heritage Museum, DeFuniak Springs, Florida
Walton County Heritage Museum, DeFuniak Springs, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Staugbeachbum

Address: 95 Circle Dr, Defuniak Springs, FL 32435

The quaint yet historically fascinating town of DeFuniak Springs offers visitors a glimpse into late 19th-century Americana through its Victorian-era historic district, constructed initially as a seasonal resort hosting the Florida Chautauqua educational and cultural assemblies starting in 1885. This lakeside campus drew prominent lecturers, VIPs, and celebrities of the day until 1927, leaving behind a unique architectural legacy listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For a complete walking tour of historic sites around Lake DeFuniak check out this map.

Crestview

18. Emerald Coast Zoo

Address: 5262 Deer Springs Rd, Crestview, FL 32539

Visitors can create unforgettable connections with exotic animals like lions, bears, giraffes, and kangaroos at the interactive Emerald Coast Zoo, through daily feedings and encounters. This family-owned zoo provides rare personal experiences like hand-feeding vibrant birds in the walk-through aviary. Guests can meet reptile expert and TV personality Rick, whose family resides on the zoo grounds, for a behind-the-scenes look at the care and bonds formed between handlers and their extraordinary animal ambassadors.

Baker

19. Baker Block Museum

Address: 1307 State Rd. 4 & FL-189, Baker, FL 32531

The Baker Block Museum preserves the storied history of the Florida panhandle’s pioneer days within a century-old mercantile building that once thrived at the heart of this community. Since 1996, detailed exhibits of antiques, tools, and meticulously recreated period scenes have transported visitors back to turn-of-the-century homesteading life. Beyond tangible links to regional heritage, an expansive on-site genealogy library grants descendants access to compiled family records, films, and archives illuminating Okaloosa County’s vibrant past.

Milton

20. Blackwater River State Park

Blackwater River State Park, Florida
Blackwater River State Park, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Ebyabe

Address: 7720 Deaton Bridge Road, Milton FL 32564

Blackwater River State Park safeguards one of the last untouched longleaf pine savannas on Earth, through which the tannin-rich waters of its namesake river peacefully flow – aptly christened “Oka-Lusa” (meaning “water black”) by indigenous Muscogee tribes. Though the Blackwater itself glints a clear amber hue against white sandy banks, the forested floodplains nurture an ancient ecosystem as globally rare as a tropical rainforest. Within this idyllic wilderness, visitors can paddle untouched blackwaters, camp on its shores, hike untamed nature trails, or go picnicking on prized sands through gently flowing waters underneath rustling pine boughs.

21. West Florida Railroad Museum

Address: 5003 Henry St, Milton, FL 32570

The West Florida Railroad Museum in Milton passionately preserves the region’s railroad heritage through extensive displays spanning railroad memorabilia, interactive exhibits, and full-scale equipment. Centered around a restored 19th-century freight and passenger depot, the museum campus includes historic outbuildings, expansive model railroad layouts, and retired rolling stock. Dedicated to honoring the rail industry’s contributions through engaging educational programming, the hands-on exhibits and restored grounds allow visitors to appreciate the sights, sounds, and stories of railroading’s intriguing history and ongoing impact across America.

22. Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site

Address: 5709 Mill Pond Ln, Milton, FL 32583

Arcadia lays claim to Florida’s first and most expansive early American industrial hub, powered by innovative waterways that supported vast timber and cotton processing in the mid-19th century frontier wilderness. This pioneering campus relied on eco-friendly innovations from hydro-mechanical saws to log flumes, while nourishing a burgeoning village replete with a quarry, mills, smithy, warehouses, homes and even a silk farm. At its peak, this sprawling complex sustained Florida’s ascendance through rapid industrialization that tapped the bounties of an untamed landscape.

23. Milton Riverwalk

Address: Riverwalk St, Milton, FL 32570

The Milton Riverwalk offers a peaceful retreat in the heart of downtown along the banks of the Blackwater River, with a charming boardwalk that connects a beloved gazebo venue for events to picnic shelters and scenic overlooks of the waterway. This riverside promenade hosts Milton’s signature Riverfest Independence Day celebration and other lively gatherings, yet also provides a spot for visitors wishing to reflect beside gentle currents flowing under historic brickwork remnants of the district’s former warehouses.

24. Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park

Address: Dickerson City Rd &, Garcon Point Rd, Milton, FL 32583

Safeguarding one of Florida’s few unspoiled wet prairie expanses along Garcon Point between Escambia and Blackwater Bays, Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park protects a wealth of rare species, most iconically hosting the state’s densest bounty of extraordinary carnivorous pitcher plants. These specialized leaves trap insects within their tube-shaped pits, passively digesting prey to feed over 20 endangered wetland natives scattered throughout the marshland, swamps and flatwoods encompassing this ecologically crucial sanctuary. While devoid of recreational amenities beyond a small parking area, visitors revel at leisure in the sweeping panoramas of fragile prairie grasses punctuated by the alien forms of clutching bug-eating flora, a landscape found nowhere else on Earth.

Bagdad

25. Bagdad Mill Site

Address: 7024 Magnolia St, Bagdad, FL 32530

The Historic Bagdad Mill Site located along the Blackwater River was once home to the world’s largest yellow pine lumber mill, reaching the height of production by 1900 after decades of expansion. Initially established in the 1840s by Joseph Forsyth and the Simpson partners, the mill capitalized on the remote forest location and river transportation to process lumber hauled in by railway and rafting. As innovation and technology advanced, so did Bagdad’s output, with new steam-powered sawmills, factories, and an island facility helping meet global export demands. At one time, thirty million acres of lush pine forest surrounded Bagdad. However, lack of forest management led those resources to eventually be exhausted by the 1930s, closing the mill and forcing families to abandon the company and its town.

Conclusion

From kayaking pristine rivers to exploring retro-style small towns, there is something for every interest among these 25 best kept secrets along the I-10 corridor through Northwest Florida. Getting off the beaten interstate path uncovers natural springs, caverns, unique museums, and plenty of spots for camping, hiking, and just relaxing as a family. Alongside popular beaches and resort towns, places on this list showcase the diversity and “Old Florida” vibe that the Panhandle has to offer. So next time you’re driving through this region on I-10, take a detour to uncover the fascinating, the unique, and the spectacular secrets discovered here. You’ll find out why locals love the Florida Panhandle and its many wonders hidden in plain sight.

If you enjoyed reading this post or have visited the Florida Panhandle before, leave a comment below or share this post on your favorite social media!

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Ashley Gary
Greetings, fellow adventurers! I'm Ashley, and I'm delighted to share my journeys and knowledge with you. As a passionate travel writer and devoted adventurer, I'm constantly fueled by the excitement of discovering new destinations and uncharted territories. With a heart full of curiosity and a suitcase packed with dreams, I've wandered through bustling marketplaces, hiked mist-covered mountains, and wandered down cobblestone streets in search of stories waiting to be told. Through my travel chronicles, I hope to not only transport you to the farthest corners of the globe but also inspire you to embrace the thrill of stepping into the unknown. Adventure awaits, and I can't wait to share it with you to help you find your adventure!

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