Phipps Park Campground is a great escape for family camping near Stuart. You can even rent a tent at this Martin County park if you don’t have your own.
The 55-acre park features a playground, shaded picnic areas, boat ramp, and wide open spaces for social distancing, bike riding and long walks.
Idle the day away by watching the boats, barges and trawlers parade past on the Okeechobee Waterway to and from the locks that lead to Lake Okeechobee and across the state to Fort Myers.
Coincidentally, just before we left for Phipps Park, long-time family friend Shanon O’Shea of Port St. Lucie unknowingly recommended it to my wife.
“We loved the serenity, peace and quiet, but it’s also located close to stores if needed.” Shanon told me. “It was also very clean and seemed tucked away.”
RV camping at Phipps Park
We booked a prime site online, #4, overlooking the waterway from our back yard. It was a pretty cool spot in the shade of a magnificent Live oak, a frequent stopover for passing birds during our three-night stay.
We were provided the night gate combination by email after we booked the site, and there was no contact when we arrived, save a socially distant shout-out from the campground host.
There are 24 RV sites (No. 1-16 and A through H), all in a row along the riverbank, all of which have water and electric hookups. The dump station is located near the restroom/bathhouse at the other end of the campground.
My wife and I spent most of our time hanging out on the riverbank, reading and watching the boats and barges go by. Unfortunately, it rained most of our stay so we didn’t go kayaking or fishing.
The currents were pretty strong that day because the Army Corps of Engineers was discharging water from Lake Okeechobee.
The opposite riverbank is covered with dense vegetation, which attracted anglers in jon boats and kayaks anxious to harvest fish, likely bass and brim, spilling over the dam. By the looks of it, they fared well.
Fishing is promoted as a worthy activity by the park, which has a boat ramp at the eastern end of the park. I didn’t try fishing on this trip.
RV rates with water and electric are $43 a night in winter (Nov. 1-Apr. 30) and $35 in summer (May 1-Oct. 31).
Tent camping at Phipps Park
Beyond the row of 24 RV sites lining the riverbank, there were another 15 riverfront sites on the river without hookups. (Sites 17-31)
Scattered across the interior of the park are another 24 primitive sites, intended for tents but most are large enough for small RVs, camper vans and tent campers. (Sites 32-55)
All of the interior sites are spacious and accommodating with picnic tables and fire ring with a grill.
The interior sites are on the rim of a large clearing where the kids can run around and play.
Winter rates for primitive camping, both riverfront and interior, are $35 (Nov. 1-Apr. 30) and $25 in summer (May 1-Oct. 31).
Rent a tent at Phipps Park
Phipps Park Campground has a section of “Adventure Tents” separate from the main campground where families can camp without a tent, but you will have to bring your other gear.
Each 10′ by 10′ tent has a fire pit, grill and picnic table, but you’ll have to bring the rest of your gear, such as pillows, sleeping bags and cots, if you have them. There is no electric service.
Each of the canvas tents has a view of the water and had mosquito nets to keep out the bugs.
There were two drawbacks to the Adventure Tent campground:
- Campers must hike across the boardwalk (see photo below) to use the campground restrooms, which have hot showers and laundry facilities.
- The tents are close enough to hear traffic crossing the Thomas Manuel Bridge on Florida’s Turnpike, above the nearby Okeechobee Waterway.
Winter rates are $40 per night (Nov. 1-Apr. 30) and the summer rate is $35 a night (May 1-Nov. 1).
Things to do near Phipps Park
Kayaking the South Fork of the St. Lucie River
There are two nearby parks off the Kanner Highway near Phipps Park where you can embark on the scenic South Fork of the St. Lucie River. Read more: St. Lucie River: Beautiful kayak trail deserves discovery
While there are boat launches in both Phipps Park and the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, and Halpatiokee Park is worth exploring, more kayaking can be found on the nearby St. Lucie River. To read more: Kayaking St. Lucie River waterways: Many kayak trails to explore
More about Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages five locks along the 154-mile Okeechobee Waterway that crosses the state from Stuart to Fort Myers. The St. Lucie South Lock is the easternmost and is adjacent to the Phipps Park Campground. Read more: Camping with the Corps: Clean, orderly, nicely landscaped
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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.