Last updated on December 11th, 2020 at 11:00 am

Donald MacDonald Park in Sebastian is one of those cozy little campgrounds you want to keep to yourself. Lush vegetation and access to a natural river with an abundance of wildlife.

The campground is small, just 31 sites on 37 acres, and only five sites have water and electric hookups for RVs. The remainder are primitive sites, some of which can accommodate camper vans but not RVs. All of the sites have a picnic table and fire ring.

Campsites are shady, private and spacious, cozy and friendly. The campground is clean and well-maintained. Something to love.

It wasn’t always so.

For years, Indian River County residents without home garbage service would dump theirs in the park’s trash cans, so park officials moved the dumpster and recycle bins outside the park entrance, and they invited a sheriff’s deputy to live there, his patrol car parked at the gate.

It worked.


The Campground

rv sites at donald mcdonald park
This photo shows three adjacent RV sites at Donald McDonald Park. You can barely see our travel trailer tucked back into Site 30. The site in the foreground was large enough for a tent trailer, a tent and a canopy. They still had room for two vehicles. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

“This is a really nice campground,” was my wife Kathy’s first impression on arrival at Donald MacDonald Park in our travel trailer.

Nicely groomed, yet natural, and well-maintained, we had no trouble finding our site, No. 30, tucked back into a corner (photo above).

There were only two other campers in the RV section, which consisted of five sites and is separated from the tent loop by dense vegetation.

Our site offered shade from moderate-size oak trees and privacy provided by a thick undergrowth of saw palmetto, which is everywhere in this park, as it is everywhere in Florida.

RV sites have water and electric hookups, as well as a picnic table and fire ring, and there is a dump station nearby.

donald mcdonald park campground
Typical tent site at Donald MacDonald Park. All of the tent sites have picnic tables and a fire ring with access to shared water spigots. You can barely see the bathhouse in the center of the camping loop. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

MacDonald Park’s 26 primitive sites are nicely spaced around a loop with dense undergrowth maintaining privacy on every site.

Some of the primitive sites can accommodate camper vans or pop-up tent trailers, but not all. Use the photographs of each site in the reservation system to choose a site that is big enough for your van.

While there are no water hookups at individual sites, water spigots are spaced conveniently around the loop for campers to tap. All of the sites had fire rings and picnic tables.

The restrooms/bathhouse and a picnic pavilion are located in the center of the campground loop with easy access from every campsite. Campers are issued a combination for unlocking the restrooms.

Pets are OK, but alcohol is not. Leave the golf carts at home, and there’s no swimming allowed in the river at the park.

Every once in awhile, I find a campground that gives me pause: Should I give away the secret? You can thank me later.

Campground Reservations

Donald MacDonald Park

Address: 12315 Roseland Road, Sebastian, FL 32958
Phone: 772-589-0087
Reservations: An online reservations link is provided on the park web site.
Rates: Primitive sites 1-26, $20 per night, including tax; Electric & water hookups: Sites 27-31, $30 per night, including tax.
Reservations Notes: Be careful when selecting dates. Your end date is the last night of camping, not your date of departure.


Kayaking

sebastian river paddle
My wife Kathy paddles the Sebastian River (Photo/Bob Rountree)

Kayaking is popular on the Sebastian River and is accessible from the campground’s boat ramp.

The river is deep and wide here and narrows as you move upstream into a wilder and more scenic section of the river, one of Florida’s last remaining natural rivers.

Kathy and I did not paddle as far upstream as we would have liked, but we plan to go back soon to explore the river further at the urging of Indian County director of parks and recreation, Kevin Kirwin.

Kirwin suggested we should shuttle upstream to San Sebastian Park on our next visit and launch from there, offering a 2-to-3 hour downstream paddle will get you to MacDonald Park or neighboring Dale Wimbrow Park.

The canoe launch at San Sebastian Park is at the intersection of County Roads 510 and 512, the main road that takes you into Sebastian from I-95.

The MacDonald Park boat ramp is close enough to camp sites to portage your kayak, although it’s far enough you should use a kayak dolly.

There are 13 spaces for parking a vehicle and boat trailer, and they were empty for most of the time we were there.

The dock is a popular destination for anglers, locals as well as campers, and they seemed to respect the area by using the provided trash can. Like the campground, I saw no litter around the boat ramp during my visit.

Just upriver, less than a quarter mile as the crow flies, is Dale Wimbrow Park, which has more day-use activities, playground, picnic area and an improved boat ramp.

Wimbrow Park is a better known launch point and is served by kayak outfitter About Kayak River Rentals, which is directly across Roseland Avenue from the Wimbrow Park entrance.

Kayak rentals are a flat $45 (single) and $65 (tandem) for a full 24 hours. You can rent a kayak and keep it at your campsite overnight. Delivery fee is $10, but you can pick it up yourself for no extra charge.

About Kayak also offers group tours from Wimbrow Park, although shuttle services upriver to the canoe launch at San Sebastian Park have been temporarily suspended due to Covid-19.

You can still pick up your kayak rental and shuttle yourself or your group upriver. About Kayak will provide directions.

For more information and the current status, call 772-589-3469, or visit their web site, www.aboutkayaks.net.


What else is nearby?

sebastian airport
Plane in landing pattern for Sebastian Airport. Campers will frequently see skydivers.

Both a blessing and a curse, the park is located a stone’s throw from the Sebastian Municipal Airport. This means you will occasionally hear planes and helicopters approaching or leaving the runway during the day. (It’s not a busy airport.)

On the other hand, you will also be able to see skydivers and parachutes, as we did a couple of times from our campsite during our four-night stay.

For a closer look, or to go skydiving yourself, cross Roseland Road to the airport entrance and follow the signs to Skydive Sebastian. (Covid-19 protocols were active in December 2020.)

If you just want to hang out and watch, ease onto the outdoor patio at the ZooBar Cafe for breakfast or lunch, specialty coffee and craft beers.

More things to do near Sebastian

St. Sebastian River Preserve
The preserve
Florida State Parks

St. Sebastian River Preserve

There are two ways to get into the 22,000-acre St. Sebastian River Preserve. By water from Donald MacDonald Park, paddle north from the boat ramp to Sebastian Point, across from Roseland Community Parj . Or you can enter the preserve by car from Fellsmere, west of I-95. Mountain bikers, equestrians and hikers should use the Fellsmere entrance to enjoy 60 miles of rough, multi-use trails. There is a manatee observation deck in Fellsmere. Many different species of birds use the preserve during spring and fall migration, including the swallow-tailed kite, various songbirds, hawks, hummingbirds and robins.
Read more: Roughing it: St. Sebastian River Preserve

surfing at sebastian inlet
Surfing Sebastian Inlet (Photo by Lana Velazquez)
Sebastian Inlet State Park

The Beaches

Three miles of pristine beach backed by rolling dunes and some of the best surfing on Florida’s Atlantic Coast sets the beach at Sebastian Inlet State Park apart from all others. For those who prefer calmer waters, the state park also features a beach inside the inlet on the north side. (Campground is directly opposite on the south side.) One of the most consistent surf breaks in Florida is Sebastian Inlet’s first peak, next to the north jetty.
Another hot surf spot is Monster Hole (actually, a shoal), about a third of a mile off the beach, on the south side of the inlet. Like all inlets in Florida, the ebb and flow of tides draws gamefish through the inlet, making it not only attractive to anglers, but also to sharks who patrol the mouth. For the safest swimming, there’s plenty of great beach away from the inlet in both directions.
Web cam: http://www.sebastianinletcam.com/

Pelican Island
Pelican Island
National Wildlife Refuge

Pelican Island

President Teddy Roosevelt, alarmed by the slaughter of pelicans and egrets for their plumage, signed an executive order in 1903 declaring Pelican Island a bird sanctuary. More than 30 species of birds use the island, and 16 species nest here, including the brown pelican, wood stork, several varieties of egrets and herons, and the American oystercatcher. The island itself can only be approached by water, but it can be viewed from an observation tower accessible via a boardwalk trail from the refuge visitor’s area on State Road A1A south of the inlet. You can paddle your kayak from Riverview Park in Sebastian for an up-close and personal look, but you cannot go ashore. The island is off-limits.
Read more: Pelican Island: Oldest bird sanctuary in U.S
Web site: Pelican Island

mclarty treasure museum Best little campground: MacDonald Park in Sebastian
McLarty Treasure Museum.
Sebastian Inlet State Park

McLarty Treasure Museum

The McLarty Treasure Museum is south of the inlet is the site of a 1715 Spanish Fleet wreck survivor’s camp. The museum features artifacts, displays, and an observation deck that overlooks the ocean. Salvagers continue to work the ocean bottom offshore, seeking gold, silver and the “Queen’s jewels” lost to the sea and its sandy shores. The museum is open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $2. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Phone: (772) 589-2147
Read more: History and Culture of Sebastian Inlet

6 Comments

  1. Tammy Carter

    Loved your article, if you would like a little more background info on this park, my step father was a forest ranger and helped build the park. We lived next door where there was an 80′ fire tower and 2 ranger residences. That was in 1970. We lived there for another 2 years while the park was built and improved.

    • Hi Tammy, I would love to find out more information about the gentleman that the park was named after, Donald MacDonald. Both my father and grandfather share that name and they owned property in the area, so I’m curious to find out more about how the park was named. Thanks so much! Cathryn 🙂

    • Donald MacDonald lived at the corner of Roseland Road and Indian River Drive. I think the house may still be there. I don’t really know why the park was named after him but possibly he donated the land. I tried a Google search but no luck. The Vero Beach Press Journal should have the archived articles. My step dad (Fred Hahn) and some other forest rangers cleared the roads and formed the campsites, poured the pads and built the bath house.
      They left as much vegetation and trees as possible. I know they also built a couple of the trails but don’t think they built the docks and boat ramp.
      I remember otter playing in the water by the dock, lots of quail, wild cats and even a black panther wandering around. There were guava trees growing near the boat dock. At that time the area was not built up with all the houses that are in the area now.
      Hope this helps a little. Unfortunately many of the older generation has passed on taking that historical knowledge with them.

    • TThank you so much Tammy for taking the time to write this! Sincerely, Cathryn 🙂

  2. Jack Morton

    Thanks a lot. McDonald was my secret campground until today. Ah well.

    • I get it, Jack. When I find these hidden gems, I sometimes lament writing about them. On the other hand, these are public campgrounds, financed by taxpayers and users, so a discovery like this should be shared. They need people to use them to keep them solvent. This little park is underused, and it’s beautiful.

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