Florida Journals

Inexpensive Florida - Discover the State Parks

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A January 2007 trip to Florida by creekland

The REAL Florida! Photo, Florida, United States More Photos
Quote: Need an escape from winter without the high cost of typical travel bills? So did we... and what a gem we found in Florida's State Park system - their motto? The REAL Florida!

Inexpensive Florida - Discover the State Parks

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Overview

The REAL Florida! Photo, Florida, United States
Quote:
We live in South Central PA, so in Jan/Feb, pretty much ALL of Florida is a highlight for us. This was a 3-week trip for us—meant to be REALLY inexpensive—and allow us some "down" time in the sun. We've been to Florida before—lived there for 5 years—and we've done the theme parks, etc. This time we wanted something different, and thought we'd check out some state parks. It was well worth it. We never got tired of gazing at the beauty of the flowers, palm trees, sand, and water while enjoying wearing our short sleeves. To be more specific on highlights for this trip...snorkeling with the manatees in Homosassa Springs ranks right at the top. For /person (more if you need to rent gear) we went with ...Read More
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area Photo, Flagler Beach, Florida
Quote:
Our trip had us starting on Florida's East Coast, so, looking at the map, we came across this oceanfront park 30 miles south of St. Augustine that looked like a great place to begin. We opted to reserve a spot for 3 nights... AND...as a start it was nice. Our site wasn't an ocean viewing spot though—plants were in the way—for future reference, sites to the north of the bathhouse have great views, those south have plants...one can HEAR the ocean from anywhere though, and that still beats PA for this time of year. We had 2 really nice days here. The boys played on the beach for long periods of time (water's cold, but for wading and playing in the sand, it was fine—some folks DID swim). We ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 15, 2007

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area
3100 South A1A
Flagler Beach, Florida 32136
(386) 517-2086

Everglades National Park

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Attraction | "Long Pine Key—Everglades National Park"

Everglades National Park Photo, Everglades National Park, Florida
Quote:
After leaving northern Florida, we needed a place to spend 1 night. Long Pine Key Campground in the Everglades was our campground of choice for two reasons. First, it's first come, first served with 108 sites—meaning we could probably find a spot during an average winter week. Then second, because we love the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park and this is as close as you can get to it. For more on the Anhinga Trail, see my previous Florida journal, as we did far more in the Everglades on that trip. The only addition I have is you don't need to go early to this trail. There are less crowds early, but it takes the sun being up to get the gators moving more (though I'm told if you go at night...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 15, 2007

Everglades National Park
Various Visitor Centers
Everglades National Park, Florida
(305) 242-7700

Long Key State Park

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Attraction | "Long Key State Park—On the Water in the Keys"

Long Key State Park Photo, Florida Keys, Florida
Quote:
What a view for so little cost! The Florida Keys have unequaled beauty (in the US) with their shallow ocean water and brilliant turquoise color it produces—all without needing a flight to get there. You can easily drive it all. Staying in the Keys is generally a bit pricey, as are most waterfront places anywhere, but if you camp—whether tent or RV—you can have it all for approximately $30/night, complete with the ocean mere feet from your site. Every site in Long Key State Park is direct oceanfront, with adequate space and shade to provide some privacy as well. The least private side is actually the beach...but this is not a crowded place... so you don't have hordes passing in front of y...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 15, 2007

Long Key State Park
67400 Overseas Highway
Long Key, Florida 33001
(305) 664-4815

Biscayne National Park

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Attraction

Biscayne National Park Photo, Florida Keys, Florida
Quote:
A water park, but not with slides and giant wave pools...well, wait a minute, it DOES have the second largest wave pool this planet has to offer. Located south of Miami and 20 miles east of Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park offers one the chance to swim in a giant fish tank. Most of the park is underwater—and it's there that you need to go to see it (or take the glass bottom boat tour for a glimpse). Admission is free. Boat trips are extra. We chose to dive Biscayne upon recommendation from divers living in Florida that assured us it was one of the top reefs in the state. It's patch reef in this area, and the captain picks the spots you dive. Ours was a high wave day—the dive was a...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 16, 2007

Biscayne National Park
9700 SW 328th Street
Homestead, Florida 33030
(305) 230-1100

Fort De Soto Park

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Attraction | "Ft Desoto Campground - Pinellas County Park"

Fort De Soto Park Photo, Tierra Verde, Florida
Quote:
Imagine the perfect public campground. Ft. Desoto is probably as close as you can come to making that image a reality. This park was likely created by a camper - and parks designed by campers suit campers extremely well! The only complaint some might have is no swimming pool, but look around you, there are long beaches with the Gulf of Mexico just a short bike ride or drive away. Ft Desoto campground is located on islands at the southernmost tip of Pinellas County (that's the one with St Petersburg in it - just west of Tampa Bay). This land could be prime development land, but instead, the county has deemed it a county park (not a state park) - how incredibly wonderful. See my other journal entry...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 21, 2007

Fort De Soto Park
3500 Pinellas Bayway South
Tierra Verde, Florida 33715
(727) 893-9185

Air Tank Divers

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Attraction | "Snorkel with the Manatees - Air Tank Divers"

Air Tank Divers Photo,
Quote:
Manatees. Uh, what(?) you might ask? Manatees are gray, large "sea cows" that exist in very few areas of the world. Florida is one of them, and many of the remaining numbers of this highly endangered species choose to winter in Florida's warmer springs. At Homosassa Springs you have the rare opportunity to snorkel with them. This is a MUST that we highly recommend if you're a nature/animal lover. Homosassa Springs is located near Florida's western coast almost due west of Orlando. This is a rural area of Florida - but a quickly growing one. While manatees winter in other areas of Florida as well, only this part of the state allows humans to have interaction with them. Folks can choose between Cry...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 26, 2007

Air Tank Divers
9027 Suncoast Blvd.
Homosassa, Florida 34446
(866) 353-4837

Bahia Honda State Park - Florida Keys

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Story/Tip

Bahia Honda State Park Photo,
Quote:
Tropical beaches, snorkeling, kayaking, history, trails, palm trees, butterflies, camping, boat access, and a neat little nature center - did I miss anything? Probably, but all of that (and more) await you at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. Bahia Honda is a 524 acre state park situated on both sides of the Overseas Highway - a mere 37 miles north of Key West - making that a fairly easy 45 minute drive if you choose to camp here. However, there's so much more here than camping, that I opted not to put it solely in the campground section for those that might simply want to spend a day on one of the best beaches the Keys has to offer. I suppose, to be technical, Bahia Honda has THREE rea...Read More

Myakka River State Park - Near Sarasota

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Story/Tip

Camping under the spreading oaks! Photo,
Quote:
Another world... that was the first impression of Myakka River State Park as we drove along the meandering roadway with overhanging Oak trees giving us numerous tree tunnels. An opening in the trees often revealed deer, wild boar, wild turkeys, lakes, the river, and/or numerous species of tropical birds. Yet, a mere 9 miles to the west lies the hustle and bustle of modern Florida cities and highways (I-275). From here you can't even hear it, much less see it, and you can imagine it doesn't exist for those that want to get away - if even for a moment. Once again, I've opted to place this park under "Experiences" instead of "Campgrounds" as there's so much more to this park that it can easily appea...Read More
Fort De Soto Park Photo, Tierra Verde, Florida
Quote:
Miles of white sand beaches, an historic fort site (complete with 2 cannons found nowhere else in the Western Hemisphere), and a chance of feeling "away from it all" right next to a major city, this is what you find in Ft. Desoto County Park. To say we enjoyed the place would be a drastic understatement... but what other words can be used? Located on a strip of five islands (keys) just south of the city of St Petersburg, FL, Ft. Desoto occupies more than 1,100 acres of prime development land spared from condos, restaurants, and hotels. Pinellas County wisely saved this area - and allows FREE use and access to it to anyone. There's no admission charge to anything - just two road tolls totaling 85 ...Read More
Rainbow Springs State Park Campground Photo,
Quote:
Spectacular crystal clear water, gorgeous flowers, a relaxing stroll/hike through oak hammocks, and a couple hours in a canoe watching otters play as well as admiring birds, fish, and turtles - all this and more can be experienced at Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon, Florida. We stumbled upon Rainbow Springs State Park more or less by accident. All we had been looking for was a place to camp from which we could easily make our trip to snorkel with the manatees... we got that - and a whole lot more. (By the way, it's a 50 minute drive from the campground to Air Tank Diver's shop in case you're planning a trip yourself. See my separate journal entry for that highly recommended experience.) ...Read More