J. B. Starkey Wilderness Park flies under the radar for most people planning Florida trips. It’s not a state park and it’s not near a population center.
But this 18,000-acre water-management preserve provides a special environment. It’s vast and wild. The tent sites are widely spaced in the woods and there are even rustic cabins you can rent quite cheaply. There are no RVs.
Hiking abounds and a seven-mile paved bike trail through the forest connects to the 42-mile Suncoast Trail. It’s perfect for families (and, really, all cyclists) because there is no road crossing in the park.
There are also many trails suitable for mountain biking and horseback riding.
Hawks, turkeys, owls, deer and other birds and wildlife are often seen.
The park is far enough from a metro area and big enough to provide darks skies for excellent stargazing.
Camping and cabins at Starkey Wilderness Park
There are 16 shaded campsites set in mature woods with restrooms and showers and a small shelter but no hookups for electric or water. Water spigots are spotted around the campground for sharing.
There are three rustic hike-in back-country campsites.
There are also eight cabins available to rent with bunk beds accommodating up to eight people. Each bed has a mattress, but bring your own bed linens or sleeping bags.
The cabins have a table and chairs and electricity to power an exhaust fan and a single electrical outlet. Cook outdoors on the charcoal grill or bring your own stove. There is a picnic table outside.
The cabins have screen windows only, so prepare for heat or cold if that’s the weather predicted.
On our day-trip visit to the park on a winter weekday, most cabins were unoccupied and several tent sites were available. (The park’s facilities see more use on weekends.) A steady flow of bicyclists, however, took advantage of the trail.
In addition to providing recreational opportunities, the preserve protect water quality by acting as a natural filter of surface water as it flows across the landscape into the Pithlachascotee River and its main tributary, the Anclote River.starkey-park-map
Water also filters into the ground, acting as a recharge area for a well field that supplies drinking water to the greater Tampa Bay area.
More things to do at Starkey Wilderness Park
The park regularly holds events, such as Audubon-led nature walks, wild flower walks, mushroom walks, stargazing nights and children’s programs. Check the park’s Facebook page for details.
The park has a well-equipped playground, volleyball court and horseshoes.
Equestrians will be find a 10 miles trail, which is also popular with hikers.
STARKEY WILDERNESS PARK
10500 Wilderness Park Boulevard, New Port Richey, FL 34655.
Admisssion is free.
Cabins are $50 per night. Maximum length of stay is 7 nights. Tent campsites, $15/night; three primitive backpacking campsites, $10/night. Reservations up to 30 days in advance online. For information, call (727) 834-3247.
Although pets are allowed in day-use areas, they are not allowed in the campground or cabins.
Reservations are accepted up to 30 days in advance online.
What’s near JB Starkey Wilderness Park
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.