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Sebastian Inlet: Long a favorite for camping, boating, fishing, swimming and surfing

Sebastian Inlet has long been a favorite destination for my family, enhanced by two outstanding public campgrounds, Sebastian Inlet State Park and Long Point County Park.

Both campgrounds offer unrestricted access to the Indian River Lagoon, pristine Atlantic beaches, abundant wildlife and a treasure chest of Florida coastal history.

Three miles of undeveloped beachfront make inlet beaches a haven for sunbathers, and surfers come here in search of the best breaks on the Florida coast. Here’s the latest Surf Report and live webcam from SurfGuru.

The fishing is outstanding, inshore and offshore, thanks to a steady flow of gamefish riding currents through the inlet to feed at endless clam beds, oyster bars, seagrass beds and tidal wetlands in the lagoon.

Wildlife abounds in the protected rookeries of Pelican Island, the nation’s oldest wildlife refuge, and the brackish tributaries offer winter refuge to manatees and other wild things.

Boating is symbolic of life here. Kayaks, canoes, runabouts, pontoon boats and paddle boards are common sights in the lagoon and ocean.

Your base of operations should be these two fabulous campgrounds:


Sebastian Inlet State Park Campground

Aerial photo of campground at Sebastian Inlet State Park.
Campground at Sebastian Inlet State Park. (Photo by John Massung)

Sebastian Inlet State Park’s 51 renovated campsites overlook the inlet and accommodate both RVs and tents. Much of the shade evident from the old campground is gone, but new shade is taking root.

All sites have water and electric, but no sewer hookups. There is a dump station in the campground, and rest rooms with showers are convenient to all campers. A camp store sells the basics, including bait for fishing.

Sebastian Inlet State Park is divided into two sectors. The campground entrance is south of the inlet, and it has its own boat ramp. Another boat ramp is available at the park’s marina on north side of the inlet, primary destination for day visitors.

Fees

Campsites may be reserved up to 11 months in advance online or by phone (800) 326-3521 for $28 per night plus a $7 daily utility fee, taxes and a one-time $6.70 booking fee. Florida residents who are 65 years of age or older or who hold a Social Security disability award certificate or a 100% disability award certificate from the federal government are permitted to receive a 50% discount on current base campsite fees. (Reservation fee and utility fee are excluded.) Proof of eligibility is required.

Limited primitive camping may also available in the park and on spoil islands in the lagoon. Call 321-724-5424 for more information.

Park admission for day use is $8 per vehicle (2-8 people); $4 for a single user vehicle; $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists. Park admission is included for campers. The boat ramp fee is $4 plus tax.

Sebastian Inlet State Park, 9700 South Highway A1A, Melbourne Beach FL 32951. Open 7 days, 24 hours a day. Phone: 321-984-4852. (Park office is on the north side of the inlet bridge; campground is on the south side.)


Long Point Park Campground

Aerial photo of Long Point Park, Brevard County, FL
Long Point Park. (Photo by John Massung)

A mile north of Sebastian Inlet on State Road A1A is the inlet’s best kept secret, Long Point Campground in Brevard County. Long Point has 170 campsites on an 85-acre island with 113 waterfront sites directly on the Indian River Lagoon.

Each of the waterfront sites has water and electric hookups. On the interior of the island, there are an additional 57 campsites, some with full hookups.

Group tent camping is available on Scout Island, where you’ll also find nature trails.

We’ve camped here with our kayaks, which can be launched from waterfront sites, and my center console open fisherman, which we launched from the park’s boat ramp and anchored behind our camp site.

Bring your own shade, especially in summer, and experience refreshing sea breezes. Food, beer and bait is available at a convenience store at the corner with A1A.

Fees

Camping fees are $30 per night (plus tax) with a late checkout fee (until 6 p.m.) of $18, which is great for weekend campers. Reservations can be made up to a year in advance online or by phone, 321-952-4532. Note: Camping fees will increase as of Nov. 15, 2022.

Day-use fees are $4 for vehicles and $5 for the boat ramp. Cancellations made at least 7 days prior to the reservation date are subject to a $20 processing fee.

Long Point Park Brevard County, 700 Long Point Rd, Melbourne Beach, FL 32951. Open 7 days, sunrise to sunset.


A little-known alternative…

Donald McDonald Park

This small, wooded and shady public campground in Sebastian offers direct access to the St. Sebastian River, which flows into the Indian River Lagoon directly across from Sebastian Inlet.

All 31 sites have a fire ring and picnic table, but only five sites have electric and water hookups for RVs.

The 26 non-electric sites are designed for tents or small pop-up trailers, and they share access to multiple potable water spigots on the campground loop. Only a few of these primitive sites are roomy enough for a small trailer.

This campground is not well-known or heavily used, so sites are almost always available. The park has a restroom with hot showers.

Fees

Camping fees are $20 for non-electric sites (1-27) and $30 for electric (28-31). Reservations are accepted online. Book online.

A boat ramp is available, and there are no day-use fees.

Donald McDonald Park and Campground, 12315 Roseland Rd, Sebastian, FL 32958. Open 7 days, 7 a.m. until sunset. Phone: (772) 589-0087

Things to do near Sebastian Inlet

The Beaches

Surfing at the Sebastian Inlet
Surfing at Sebastian Inlet State Park

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 of the inlet and bridge. (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/


Paddle to an island

island camping in the Indian River Lagoon
Camping on a spoil island in the Indian River (Photo by John J Massung, IndianRiverByAir.com)

Paddle to your heart’s content in the Indian River Lagoon.

Head for Pelican Island, a mile south of the inlet, to visit the nation’s first bird sanctuary, or visit one of the many spoil islands in the lagoon for a picnic and a swim.

You can even camp on some islands (but not on Pelican Island).

Paddle directly across the lagoon from the inlet to the mouth of the St. Sebastian River, then up the river to another wildlife sanctuary where manatees congregate in winter.

Fly fishers prowl the oyster bars around the spoil islands for red drum (redfish), and black drum are abundant in deeper inlet waters. Ask a park ranger where clamming is permitted, but stay clear of leased clam beds. Boat rentals are available from Bayside Marina.

Related Article: Primitive camping on dozens of starlit islands in Florida


Pelican Island

Pelican Island
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 can only be approached by water but can be viewed from an observation tower accessible via a boardwalk trail from the visitor’s area on State Road A1A south of the inlet. Or you can paddle your kayak a mile south of the inlet for an up-close and personal look. (Don’t go ashore.)

Read more: Pelican Island: Oldest bird sanctuary in U.SWeb site: Pelican Island


Hiking and Biking

The Hammock Trail at Sebastian Inlet State Park

Take a stroll down the Hammock Trail in Sebastian Inlet State Park.

This mile-long nature trail meanders under the shade of a coastal, sub-tropical, palm/oak hammock and along the fringe of the mangroves. Plant identification signs tell about many of the unique species in this habitat.

Three mountain bicycle trails are located within Sebastian Inlet State Park, a combination of off-road and paved courses. A multi-use, paved path runs along State Road A1A and the Indian River Lagoon with numerous beach access points.


McLarty Treasure Museum

sebastian inlet mclarty treasure museum Sebastian Inlet: Long a favorite for camping, boating, fishing, swimming and surfing
Florida State Park Photo

The McLarty Treasure Museum, 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

McLarty Treasure Museum, 13180 North A1A, Vero Beach, FL 32963. Open 7 days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $2. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Phone: (772) 589-2147Read more: History and Culture of Sebastian Inlet


Sebastian Inlet Fishing Museum

sebastian inlet sebastian fishing museum 1024 Sebastian Inlet: Long a favorite for camping, boating, fishing, swimming and surfing
Fishing Museum. (Visit Indian River County)

Commemorates three of Sebastian’s early families that operated fish houses. Inside you will find a replica of an original fish house and dock. A homemade fishing boat, nets, fishing gear, and photos of fishing in the lagoon are also on display. The museum is inside Sebastian Inlet State Park near the campground and is open daily. Admission is free with park admission or with a campsite reservation. Video: Sebastian Fishing Museum

Sebastian Inlet Fishing Museum, Sebastian Inlet State Park, 9700 S Hwy A1A, Vero Beach, FL 32963. Open 7 days, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Phone: (321) 984-4852


St. Sebastian Preserve

St. Sebastian River
St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park. (Photo by Kyle Gabriel)

There are two ways to get into the 22,000-acre St. Sebastian River Preserve. By water from either campground, go almost directly across the Indian River Lagoon from the inlet to the mouth of the St. Sebastian River. The preserve short paddle up river. Or you can enter the preserve by vehicle from Fellsmere. 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

St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, 1000 Buffer Preserve Drive, Fellsmere FL 32948. Open 8 a.m. to sunset, 365 days a year. Phone: 321-953-5005.


The aerial photographs on this page were provided to Florida Rambler courtesy the photographer John Massung.


Notes from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning visits.

This page may include affiliate links from which we earn modest commissions if a purchase is made. 

This article is property of FloridaRambler.com, protected by U.S. Copyright Law. Re-publication without written permission is against the law.


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Ed Fogle

Friday 5th of March 2021

I am trying to learn the ins and outs of all the different reservation systems for county and state campgrounds in Florida. Just tried the Long Point system but there must be tricks. I tried to find a site 1 year out, the limit according to the reservation sight, and found nothing. The information says 168 days maximum stay but the reservation system only allows a selection up to 29 days. Wonder how I select more than 29 days. Do I have to go to the reservation system each month to get another one? Is it possible people reserve a sight starting in November or December for the max stay so if you don't do that there is no way to get a site?

Bob Rountree

Friday 5th of March 2021

Hi Ed, Every county has different rules and usually a different reservation system, and because county parks are paid for by residents of the county, residents are sometimes given a priority booking window. Long-term reservations are rarely permitted, although Brevard County (Long Point) does allow reservations up to 168 days. For Long Point, call the rangers directly to answer your questions. Their number is (321) 952-4532. Reservations at any state park can be made up to 11 months in advance for a maximum stay of two weeks, and there's a trick to it. Here's a link to some tips I've put together: https://www.floridarambler.com/florida-camping/booking-florida-campgrounds/

Rick Cunningham

Monday 21st of September 2020

Good as always Bob. Couple of things: - do NOT speed through Wabasso - it is a major speed trap. Road drops from 45 or so to 25 very quickly and Officer Friendly is almost always there to point out the sign to anyone who misses it - surprised you didn't mention the SE entrance to the Preserve as you did in the linked article: The entrance to the Southeast quadrant is 1.8 miles east of I-95 Exit 156, towards Sebastian, on WW Ranch Road, behind Indian River County’s North County Park. There is a great backpacking site there only a mile or so from the parking area that is right on the river with your own dock. - Bugs can be unbearable at Long Point in the summer - Maier is right about Jungle Trail. Parts of it are drivable. Great example of what the barriers are supposed to lo look like.

Maier Goldberg

Tuesday 1st of September 2020

Thank you for FloridaRambler. I always look forward to your ramblings. I lived in Roseland for 6.5 yrs. Next time you visit, you could launch from Wimbrow Park, north to the North Prong of the Sebastian River, where there is a kayak dock at the navigable end. It leads to a trail inside the huge St. Sebastian State Preserve. There's a big old alligator, who likes to sun bathe on the dock, so you'll have to ask him to move. The South Prong also has a kayak dock along the way south, and another further down south near the navigable end. Also fun for biking: Jungle Trail on Orchid Island (the barrier island). Sebastian will always be quiet because it's 8 miles to Wabasso Bridge and the beaches further on.

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