~ If you love being surrounded by wildness and beauty, but you don’t like camping or don’t own camping gear, Florida has a great deal for you: cabins in Florida state parks.
Nineteen Florida state parks offer cabins you can rent. They range from new, well-equipped cottages that are like two-bedroom homes — that’s Lake Louisa, near Disney and Orlando — to rustic cabins where you cook outside and bring your sleeping bags — that’s Cayo Costa, on a spectacular barrier island off Fort Myers in the Gulf, where cabins don’t even have electricity.
All are moderately priced and require advance planning.
For the most popular — Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys, I’m talking about you — you need to reserve cabins 11 months in advance for the weekends. Many require two-night minimums on weekends. Other cabins, though, are more available and can be booked only a few weeks in advance, depending on the season.
Because reserving cabins requires such advance planning, it’s good that the cancellation fees aren’t substantial. I had reserved two nights at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys last August, but canceled when the forecast was for a tropical storm. I got my money back except a $17.75 cancellation fee. If I had just changed the date, the fee would have been $10.
Most cabins are booked through ReserveAmerica.
Do your research before you visit a Florida state park cabin.
- Know what to bring. Some require you bring bed linens, cooking gear and everything else. Others come with everything from linens to dishwashers to microwaves.
- Know the capacity. There are big cabins — Lake Louisa’s cabins have a queen, a double and two singles and sleep six quite nicely. And there are smaller ones with limited capacity — some at Topsail Hill in picturesque Santa Rosa Beach, are one-bedroom cabins with a four-person maximum.
- Know what to expect from the weather. Cayo Costa is wondrously lovely. But if you book a January weekend, you may get a cold snap and be staying in an unheated, drafty cabin on a night the temperatures plunge into the 30s. Similarly, mosquitos and no-see-ums can be fierce there in the summer.
- Be prepared to live without phones, TVs and wifi. Most cabins lack electronics. In most cases, cell phones work: To my surprise, remote Cayo Costa had fine reception.
All of the prices below are as of January 2013. Prices do not include taxes. Reservations are made through ReserveAmerica unless indicated. If you click on the park’s name, you’ll see more photos of the cabins on the Florida state park website. In many cases, Florida Rambler has articles about these cabins or parks; these links are worth exploring.
Blue Spring State Park cabins, Orange City. Six, two bedroom cabins are located in an oak forest near Blue Spring, a designated manatee refuge. Cabins accommodate up to six people with two bedrooms (one double bed and two twins) plus a sleeper sofa in the living room. Adequately equipped kitchens have dishwashers and microwaves and cabins have gas fireplaces. Price: $95 per night, plus tax. Reserve a cabin at Blue Springs State Park. Here’s a Florida Rambler story about Blue Springs.
Hontoon Island State Park cabins, Deland. Located on the St. Johns River, the park is accessible only by boat or the free park ferry.
The rustic cabins are beautifully situated in a secluded, shady hammock and make a good base for a kayaking or canoe trip on the St. Johns River. These six one-room rustic cabins have bunk beds with vinyl-covered mattresses, a ceiling fan, overhead lighting and one electrical outlet. In addition to a picnic table and ground grill, each cabin has a screened porch with table and chairs. Visitors provide sleeping bags/linens.
There are no restrooms, cooking facilities, or heat and AC units in the cabins. Cabin residents use the same central bath facility as campers and, indeed, these cabins will be most popular with folks who want a camping-like experience with a few comforts. Price: $30 to $35 per night. Here’s a Florida Rambler story on Hontoon Island.
Lake Louisa State Park cabins, Clermont. These are impressive cabins — spacious and well-furnished, large enough for two couples or an extended family. Lake Louisa State Park’s cabins overlook Lake Dixie and accommodate up to six people with two bedrooms, two baths, full kitchen and dining/living room. Each cabin is equipped with dishes, pots and pans, silverware, linens, towels, picnic tables and rockers on the porch. These are among the most luxurious cabins in the system and because there are 20 of them, they are much easier to reserve than most others. Price: $120 per night. Here’s a Florida Rambler story on these cabins.
Oleno State Park cabins, High Springs. The historic group camp facilities consists of 16 cabins, dining hall with kitchen, recreation hall and two bathhouses. Individual cabins are available for rent Sept. 1 to May 1. From May through August, all 16 cabins, which are not air-conditioned, must be rented as a group. The price of individual cabins is $25 to $150 per night. Reserve these by calling (386) 454-1853.
Rock Springs Run State Park cabins, Sorrento. This park has one cabin, the Hammock House, located in a sub-tropical oak hammock overlooking the Wekiva River. It has three bedrooms and comes with linens, a fully equipped kitchen, a family room with TV, a fireplace and a back porch with table and chairs. Two canoes are available for exploring the river. For reservations call (352) 383-7657. Price: $200 per night, plus tax.
Silver River State Park cabins, Ocala. Note: These cabins are not available for advance reservation because of park construction work. Call ahead and see what your chances are for a same-day walk-up booking.
These cabins are the best I’ve stayed in within Florida parks. It starts with the setting. Each “cabin” – and these are really houses more than cabins – is situated in the woods surrounded only by big trees and vegetation, separated from neighboring cabins. Out back, there’s a fire ring for campfires and s’mores. The metal roofs and big porches make these structures look like Florida Cracker houses.
The screened porches are massive. You could hold a sit-down luncheon for 40 in the porch if there were tables and chairs. Instead, there is a big picnic table, a few rocking chairs and solitude.
Inside, there are two bedrooms, one with a double bed; one with twins. A sleeper sofa increases capacity to six. The bathroom is designed to work well with multiple guests. These accommodations would lend themselves to two families or three couples sharing.
There’s a full kitchen and dining room table for six, cozy wooden cabin-like décor and a gas fireplace that provides a warm glow in the cabin with the flick of a switch. At the ranger station, you can check out board and cards games, as there is no wifi, no phones and no TV.
The kitchen has a dishwasher and microwave. My only criticism: Don’t plan to do real cooking. There are no serving dishes, no cutting board and few pans. (And we dealt with a few insect pests in the kitchen, to be expected in Florida.)
There are 10 cabins. Price: $110 per night. Here’s a story about Silver River State Park, which is great for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and canoeing on the beautiful Silver River. Reserve a cabin at Silver River State Park.
Cayo Costa State Park cabins, west of Fort Myers. Rustic one-room cabins without electricity or linens located right on the beach. The park can only by reached by boat. Price: $40 per night. Here are Florida Rambler stories. An intro to Cayo Costa and a detailed look at the cabins.
Myakka River State Park cabins, Sarasota. Historic palm log cabins were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1934 and 1941. These cabins are being remodeled and are currently not available. The park service estimates completion by spring 2016. Here’s a Florida Rambler story about Myakka State Park.
Bahia Honda State Park cabins, Big Pine Key. Cabins on stilts overlook Florida Bay. Each cabin is equipped with kitchen appliances, utensils, linens plus heat and air conditioning. Prices: $120 per night, plus tax May 1 to Oct. 31; $160 per night Nov. 1 – April 30. These cabins fill up a full 11 months in advance, so if you want to stay here, plan to book the dates exactly 11 months in advance. If you’re timing is flexible, you might be able to pick up a night here or there from a cancellations.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park cabins, Hobe Sound. It’s a stretch to call these nine new units cabins. They are actually new, miniature trailers/modular homes. They lack that rustic cabin ambiance, but they do have complete kitchens; small bathrooms with tubs, plus heat and air conditioning. There’s a full-size refrigerator, a small stove and oven and enough pots, pans and dishes to do all your cooking if you so choose. In the four-person units — about 300 square feet — there is a tiny bedroom just big enough for a queen-size bed and the living room has a queen-size sleeper sofa. The dining room table seats four. Outside the cabin there’s a picnic table and fire ring for that “comfort camping” experience. Cabins 6 and 7 are larger; you get a front porch, beds for six and more room inside. They definitely appear to be the best choices if available. Price is $95 a night for up to six people. After visiting and staying in the cabins I wrote this story. Here’s a comprehensive Florida Rambler story about Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Here’s a link to ReserveAmerica to book a cabin
Oleta River State Park cabins, North Miami. Fourteen little cabins, with covered porches and picnic tables, are located in an urban park near shopping, restaurants and entertainment. Most cabins are equipped with one double bed, a bunk bed and air conditioning. Linens are not provided and cabins have no kitchens or bathrooms. Price: $55 per night. A friend’s report: You’d never guess you were in the middle of the city. Here’s a Florida Rambler story about Oleta River State Park.
Grayton Beach State Park cabins, Santa Rosa Beach. Grayton Beach cabins are nestled in the pine woods only minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico and a mile of sugar-white beaches. Cabins accommodate six people. Grayton Beach State Park offers 30, two bedroom, one bath duplex cabins. Each cabin is equipped with a gas fireplace (available November through March), central heating and cooling, kitchen with basic cooking and dining utensils, screened in porch and outdoor grill. Linens, pillows, blankets and towels are provided. Price: $110 per night Aug. 1 – Jan. 31; $130 per night Feb. 1 – July 31.
Lafayette Blue Springs State Park cabins, Mayo. Five cabins on stilts accommodate up to six people. Each cabin features two beds, one bathroom and a kitchen/dining/living room combination room with fireplace. Each includes a large screened porch with picnic table and swing or rocking chairs. Price: $100 per night.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park cabins, Port St. Joe. The park has one of Florida’s top rated beaches. Located on the bayside of the park, eight cabins each accommodate up to seven people with a fold-out futon and a day bed on the main floor and two queen-sized beds in the loft. The kitchen is complete with a stove, refrigerator, microwave, coffee-maker, basic dishes, cookware, silverware and a dining table. A screened porch with rocking chairs and a picnic table faces St. Joseph Bay. Each cabin has central heat and air, as well as a wood burning fireplace. A grill and shower are located outside each cabin. Linens are provided. Price: $100 per night.
Three Rivers State Park cabins, Sneads. A single cabin is available: A one bedroom, one bathroom log cabin with air conditioning, heating and a wood-burning fireplace overlooking Lake Seminole. There is a queen size bed in a downstairs bedroom and two smaller beds in the loft. A fully equipped kitchen includes an electric stove, microwave, refrigerator and utensils. Bring linens, pillows, food and fishing gear. Price: $65/night.
Topsail Hill State Park cabins, Santa Rosa Beach. A tram runs from the cabins to 3.2 miles of white sandy beaches. One bedroom bungalows are located within Gregory E. Moore RV campground near the tram stop. Available for weekly or monthly rental, each bungalow is fully furnished and equipped with all appliances, cable TV and linens. A sleeper sofa in the living area provides additional sleeping accommodations. Each bungalow has a carport, full kitchen, bathroom, living room and utility room. Cabins accommodate up to six people with two bedrooms and two baths, full kitchen and a living/dining area. Cabin amenities include a screened porch, picnic table and grill. Linens are provided. Price: $100 to $120 per night.
Fanning Springs State Park cabins, Fanning Springs. Located along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail with access to the Suwannee River, hiking trails and a second magnitude spring, two-bedroom cabins have central heating and cooling, an electric fireplace, screened porch and kitchenette. Cabins are equipped with linens and kitchen utensils. Each cabin can accommodate up to six people. Price: $100 per night.
Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park cabins, Keystone Heights. Sixteen cabins overlook Little Lake Johnson. Linens and towels are provided. All cabins have rocking chairs, a picnic table, a ground grill and fully equipped kitchen. Cabins include historic Civilian Conservation Corps cabins, concrete-block cabins and modern cabins. Price, depending on cabin type, is $65 to $100 per night.
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park cabins, White Springs. Located along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, each of five riverside cabins accommodate up to six people. These are big, well-equipped cabins with two bedroom, heating and cooling, a gas fireplace, screened porch and kitchenette. They are equipped with linens and kitchen utensils. No minimum or maximum stay is required. Price: $100 per night.
Suwannee River State Park cabins, Live Oak. Located along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, each of five oak-shaded cabins accommodates up to six people. These two bedroom cabins have central heating and cooling, a gas fireplace, screened porch and kitchenette. Cabins are equipped with linens and kitchen utensils. No minimum or maximum stay is required. Price: $100 per night.
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- Cabins at Jonathan Dickinson