This is our eigth winter camping excursion into Florida. The first year, it was all about finding great spots near the water and seeing standard destinations that were “must-see’s” for snowbirds. Over time, though, we learned to scratch a little deeper under the surface. We discovered, among other things, that there is more than south Florida and beaches. Most of all, we discovered Florida State Parks.
Camping in the State Parks system is a delight. It takes you off the beaten path and offers a special look into the natural and native side of the state. Camp sites are nicely landscaped for privacy with native vegetation, generally set in beautiful and unspoiled areas, and the Park Rangers are wonderful to work with.
Fellow campers come from all walks of life and are almost always pleasant and fun to get to know. They are also quiet and go to bed early! Rather than resorts, crowds and expensive restaurants, we are surrounded by unspoiled natural beauty, interesting plant and animal life and LOTS of birds — few of which us northerners are able to identify with any certainty.
This year, after spending a bit of time in the Smoky Mountains, we dropped down the to the center-ish of the peninsula and set up Bambi camp for four nights at Little Manatee River State Park, a few miles east of Bradenton. The pups got an enthusiastic welcome which included cookies!
Showers, laundry, Bambi maintenance, dog walks, Dorsey runs, trail exploration, campfires, cooking at the campsite on the Big Green Egg all filled our time nicely. Very pleasant stay enjoying crisp, pleasant weather.
We also had a pleasant lunch with Ben Mixter at a local seafood joint that welcomed our dogs, and even experienced a bit of pirate adventure while having dinner following the rather raucous Tampa Gasparilla Pirate Parade. All in good fun.