Winter is the best time to go camping in Florida. The climate is cool and comfortable, pesky bugs like mosquitoes are at a minimum, and there are many dozens of campgrounds to choose from.
Some campgrounds are on or close to a beach, some are on lakes and rivers, some close to cities, some deep in the woods. There are full-facility campgrounds, RV parks, primitive campsites, state park campgrounds, commercial campgrounds, even some with unusual accommodations, among them tepees and yurts.
The advantages of winter camping in Florida are not lost on folks who live in colder climates. Be warned: Some campgrounds are booked as much as a year in advance by warmth-seeking snowbirds.
More than 50 full-facility campgrounds are found in Florida’s state parks, with water, electricity, grills, picnic tables, central showers and restrooms, and a dump station.
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In addition, some state parks offer specialized camping. Five parks, for example, have boat slips equipped with water, electricity and access to the park’s restrooms, showers and other amenities. Several parks have equestrian campsites that include paddock or stable facilities. Some parks can accommodate group and youth camping. Information: www.floridastateparks.org.
Florida also has a variety of commercial campgrounds and RV parks, some with such amenities as deluxe cabins, swimming pools, snack bars and Wi-Fi.
Kampgrounds of America, which operates campgrounds all over the country, has 25 in Florida. The most popular ones in Florida are in coastal sites, among them in the Keys, Naples, Daytona and St. Petersburg, said the company’s Mike Gast. A number of KOAs are located around Orlando, catering to theme park goers, and in addition to the usual facilities for RVs, KOA has been adding the popular deluxe cabins to many of its campgrounds. Information: http://koa.com/states-provinces/florida/.
There also are a number of other RV parks not affiliated with KOA, some of them in prime locations as well. There’s an online directory of all kinds of camping facilities at http://campflorida.com/. Reserve America, which takes campsite reservations online (including state park campgrounds), also has a directory at its site, www.reserveamerica.com. Or go to www.visitflorida.com and search for “camping.”
Most campgrounds have fees. Some have limited space and length restrictions for RVs, as well as minimum and/or maximum stays.
▪ Punta Gorda: Scheduled to open in March in Punta Gorda is the first phase of a large multi-themed outdoor adventure and live entertainment park. Builders of the 1,000-acre park, called Florida Tracks & Trails, say it will be the largest park of its kind in the Southeast.
Phase 1 of the development will include four Motocross tracks, a side-by-side track, a mud track, 22 miles of off-road OHV trails, 80 acres of paintball, a 12-acre freshwater beach, a party pavilion, an entertainment area on a 40-acre lawn with a 40,000-square-foot indoor facility for events, a store and concession stands. Phase 2, expected to open late this year, will add an RV campground and a zip line adventure.
▪ For the birds: If you’re into birding, you might want to catch the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. One of the biggest get-togethers for bird-watchers — organizers claim it’s the biggest of its kind — it will take place in Titusville Jan. 21-26.
“We expect 3,900 to 5,000 to attend,” said the festival’s Rhonda Harris.
Events will include a raptor show, art show, an exhibit area with 80 vendors, tour operators, lectures, a pelagic boat trip and field trips. Registration is required. www.spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org.
February brings the sixth annual Florida Scrub-Jay Festival at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on Feb. 28. www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds/songbirds/florida-scrub-jay/festival/.
CRAFTS AND CUISINE
▪ About 100 artisans from all over the United States will show their wares at the Key West Craft Show Jan. 24 and 25. The nationally juried show, now in its 30th year, is expected to draw more than 25,000 visitors. Creations on display are expected to include glass, wood, pottery, fabric and jewelry. All must be original and handmade. www.keywestartcenter.com.
▪ ArtPalmBeach will present international contemporary and emerging art Jan. 21-25 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. More than 85 galleries from 17 countries and 14 states will participate. http://artpalmbeach.com/.
▪ Local foods chefs will be showcased at the sixth annual Key West Food and Wine Festival Jan. 28-Feb. 1. Events include tasting strolls, welcome party, winemaker meals and seminars. www.keywestfoodandwinefestival.com.
▪ Amelia Island is hosting its 7th annual Restaurant Week through Jan. 25. Thirty restaurants are participating, with lunches at $12 and three-course dinners at either $19 or $29 per person. www.ameliaisland.com/yummy.