When visiting Central Florida, some of the best attractions don’t involve roller coasters or characters but showcase the natural beauty of Florida.
The temperate seasons in Florida, in addition to the plethora of natural settings available, means individuals campgrounds in Central Florida always have something unique to offer. Johnny Molloy of The Best in Tent Camping in Florida (Menasha Ridge Press, 2004) points out that Florida’s focus on tourism allows funding for campsites that other states may not get, meaning both the scenery and the accommodations are equally tempting. Lastly, the proximity to popular family attractions makes the state one of the best places to go camping.
Some of the best are listed below.
Blue Spring Campground
Blue Spring Campground in Orange City is a designated manatee refuge. Because of the year-round 72-degree weather allowing the Blue Spring Run to be a haven for manatees, water-related activities are closed between Nov. 15 to March 1 each year.
Electricity is available at all campsites, along with grills and access to a bathhouse, restrooms and a boat ramp. Pets are welcome and both canoes and 2-bedroom cabins are available for rent. The campground offers fishing, hiking on a four-mile trail, snorkeling, scuba diving, and boat tours in Blue Spring Run and the St. Johns River.
Highlands Hammock State Park
Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring is one of Florida’s oldest state parks and is best known for its marriage of conveniences (some paved trails, a recreation hall, a restaurant, playgrounds, and the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum) with pure nature. Some of the wildlife that can be seen at Highlands Hammock State Park include:
- White-tail deer
- White ibis
- Gopher tortoises
- Florida Scrub Jays
- Bald eagles
- Wild turkeys
- Florida scrub-lizards
- Red-shouldered hawks
- Barred owls
- Pileated woodpeckers
- Golden silk spiders
The park provides equestrian camping and camping with access to electricity as well as primitive camp sites. Ranger-guided programs and social activities are offered during the winter months. Pets are welcome and tours are available for small groups.
Hillsborough River State Park
The Hillsborough River State Park in Zephyrhills is very family-friendly with a swimming pool, two playgrounds, a restaurant and a youth tent to help keep children entertained. Fort Foster is open for tours and houses exhibits and artifacts describing the Seminole Indian Wars.
A primitive camping site is available for outdoor enthusiasts, as well as rented bicycles or even canoes to explore the rapids. However, The Best in Tent Camping in Florida points out that the campground is popular with RVs. Electricity, showers and toilets are available and campers are free to bring their pets. More than 7 miles of hiking trails exist and bass, bream and catfish can all be caught in the Hillsborough River.
Little Manatee River Campground
It’s not just pets that are welcome at Little Manatee River Campground in Wimauma, but 12 miles of horse trails are available for riding, and four campsites are specifically designed for equestrian camping.
The park offers not just the typical comforts of a campground like showers, bathrooms and electricity but a clothes washer and dryer are available for registered campers. Bass, bream and catfish can be caught in Little Manatee River and campers can also enjoy hiking, canoeing and kayaking as well as some planned activities throughout the year.
There are a total of 13 campgrounds and state parks in Central Florida and all of them offer a unique alternative to the commercialism of the area’s theme parks and other tourist traps. However, the campsites in South Florida usually allowing camping on the water and campsites in North Florida are known for their diversity. When camping with children, be sure to plan some activities that don’t require any additional purchases and helps kids capture the memories of the great outdoors.