The best parks in Florida for snowbirds
Monday, October 08, 2018
Many of us RVers move south every winter. Florida is a popular winter getaway. Getting a reservation at the many RV parks in the Sunshine State is a great way to ensure a spot for the season along with seeing old friends.
But I like staying in "old Florida" at county, state, and national parks. As a note, parks are busy so make reservations early.
View in the Keys at Long Key State Park
The Florida Keys are a great place to relax, enjoy a Key Lime pie, or have a drink. There are four state parks in the Florida Keys (Bahia Honda, Curry Hammock, Long Key, and John Pennekamp Coral Reef), and they are all difficult to get a spot at. Often, sites fill up 11 months in advance (when reservations open up).
If you keep watch on the state park reservation website, you may get a spot from someone who cancelled. We were able to get a single night at two different parks (Long Key and John Pennekamp), and both were wonderful.
Pennekamp’s aquarium is excellent. This is not a place to swim in the water, but I especially enjoyed sitting behind the RV with my private view of the water at Long Key State Park.
Everglades National Park
This is a fabulous park! While there are some campsites with electricity, most are without electricity. There is no Wi-Fi, and even cellphone service is limited.
All of that doesn’t matter. This is what camping is all about. We spent an hour walking around the campground just stopping and chatting. Without electricity, people sit outside more and are happy to talk.
Alligators in the Everglades
There are all types of hikes and water trails. The ranger-led programs are tremendous. I would recommend the bike ride (bikes provided), the Starlight Walk at the Anhinga Trail, and the Nike Missile Site. The Anhinga Trail and Shark Valley are a great way to see different birds and lots of alligators.
The Flamingo Bay area has alligators, crocodiles, osprey, pelicans, and manatees. Even the snails are interesting. Endangered tree snails (Liguus snail) can be found in the park. We were told every snail had different coloring depending on what hammock they lived.
If you are interested in the bizarre, the smallest post office in the United States can be found along Tamiami Trail. Only 1.3 miles away is the Skunk Ape Headquarters. Rangers say the weird noises heard in the swamp are just alligators, but here they talk about the swamp version of Bigfoot.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
This is a great park for birding, biking, and hiking. Rent a canoe from the park to travel the Loxahatchee River to Trapper Nelson’s home.
While you can take a motorized river tour, canoeing is more fun, so you can enjoy the exotic plants, birds, and animals (including alligators). Visit the nearby Blowing Rocks Preserve and the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse.
The Loggerhead Marinelife Center is incredible, and is where you can see rescued turtles. There is no entrance fee at the center, but donations go to support their work.
Pineapple air plant in the trees
Myakka River State Park
I love the hiking trails here. The Myakka Canopy Walkway is extremely unique. The walkway is 25 feet in the air allowing you to see the air plants (or epiphytes) along with birds and just a great view.
Signs describe eight different air plants, but I only found seven, so I’ll have to return again. Besides the alligators, we saw a pair of eagles at this park. The air boat ride is well-rated.
Savannas Recreation Area
Savannas Recreation Area is a county park with great birding. Alligators can be seen in the canals. Enjoy the hiking or rent a canoe or kayak for the water paths.
Sebastian Inlet State Park
Try to get a campsite on the water. If you have a kayak, you can take off right behind your RV.
We rented a kayak from a nearby marina to see the dolphins but some people see them from their campsite. Of course, watching birds was great, too. We even saw a rocket launch from the park though we were 50+ miles away from the Kennedy Space Center launch pad. Bring bug spray because the no-see-ums can be bad.
Sandhill crane at Moss Park
Moss Park is a county park near Orlando. This could be a home base for visiting the Orlando area while enjoying the outdoors. The park has great fishing and good size campsites.
Animals include deer, squirrels and armadillos. The best part is the sandhill cranes that live in the area and walk through your campsite. You are awoken by their very loud bird calls that sound somewhat like an elephant’s bellow.
Chief Tomoka at Tomoka State Park
Tomoka State Park
The statue of Chief Tomoka is a highlight of this park, along with the legend that goes along with it. Back in the 1700s, this area was a big plantation owned by Richard Oswald.
At the time he produced indigo, rice, molasses, rum, sugar, and oranges. You can still find orange trees in the park. The park has a feel of Gilligan’s Island with palm trees and palmettos along the water’s edge.
Ocala National Forest
Ocala National Forest has several campgrounds within it, but I like Juniper Springs Recreation Area. It’s a bit north and can be cool in the winter, but the springs stay the same temperature (72 degrees).
The color of the springs is amazing. There is no water or electricity at the campground, but it has hot showers. Both hiking and canoeing is popular at the park. Check out the mill. Plus, keep an eye out for the turkeys.
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