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.
MacDonald Park Campground
“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.
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.
Kayaking from MacDonald Park
Kayaking is popular on the Sebastian River and is accessible from the Donald MacDonald Park 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 Donald 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?
Both a blessing and a curse, Donald MacDonald 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
Notes from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning visits.
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 12 years ago.
Friday 15th of January 2021
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.
Wednesday 20th of January 2021
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 :)
Tuesday 8th of December 2020
Thanks a lot. McDonald was my secret campground until today. Ah well.
Wednesday 9th of December 2020
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.