Last updated on March 16th, 2020 at 04:29 pm
Scenic camping loaded with outdoors funWhether driving north or south, or just looking for a fun destination in Northwest Florida, you can’t do much better than an overnight or even a week in these six outstanding Florida state parks.
Just a short hop from an I-75 off-ramp, there are a half-dozen Florida state parks with campgrounds that will deliver a natural, scenic setting and the sweet melodies of songbirds, gentle breezes and lazy rivers fed by cool, crystal clear springs.
You’ll also find some of the best hiking, biking and paddle trails in the entire state.
Celebrate a song, or celebrate a river. See a river that slips underground. Check out the bison roaming wild. Ride a glass-bottom boat, or ride a horse through stunning scenery on the edge of Ocala National Forest.
So skip the plain vanilla roadside RV parks along Interstate 75 and venture a little off the beaten highways to these spectacular havens for RV and tent campers.
Stephen Foster State Park — 4 miles from I-75 Exit 439
Way down upon the Suwannee River, and very close to I-75, learn about American composer Stephen Foster, who never actually came near or even saw the Suwannee River that he wrote a song about. A museum features exhibits and a 97-bell carillon that plays Foster’s music throughout the day.
Hiking, bicycling, canoeing and kayaking are popular here, all near the campground’s 45 oak-shaded sites with electricity, water, picnic table and fire ring. All campsites are ADA accessible. Two restrooms with showers are located within the campground. A dump station onsite. Pets are welcome. Max RV length is 45 feet.
For car travelers, there are five riverside cabins, each with two bedrooms that sleep six for $100 a night. Each cabin has heating and cooling, a gas fireplace, screened porch, kitchenette, fully equipped with linens and kitchen utensils.
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, 39 RV or tent campsites with water, 30-amp electric, fire rings grills and picnic tables, including 14 pull-through sites. 5 cabins. Restrooms, showers, laundry, canoe/kayak ramp, carillon tower, hiking, bicycling, canoeing, fishing, kayaking, picnicking, wildlife viewing, geo-seeking, museum, playground, wheelchair accessible. Day-use fee: $5 per vehicle. Camping: $20/night, plus tax and non-refundable $6.70 booking fee. Cabins (2 BR): $100 plus $6.70 booking fee. 11016 Lillian Saunders Drive/ US 41 North. Ranger station: 386-397-4331. Reservations, 800-326-3621 or book online.
Things to Do Near Stephen Foster State Park
- American Canoe Adventures, a canoe and kayak outfitter in White Springs.
- Florida Folk Festival
- Article: Kayaking the Suwanee River
Suwannee River State Park — 17 miles from I-75 Exit 460
At the junction of the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers, you’ll find another an excellent campground to kick back and relax, kayak, hike, or take a birdwatching break at this designated hub of the Great Florida Birding Trail.
It all comes together right here.
Watch for migratory songbirds in season, such as the Kentucky Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Scarlet Tanager. Winter brings American Robin, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and the occasional flock of Rusty Blackbird. Winter Wren, Brown Creeper and Purple Finch.
The park’s 30 campsites accommodate tents and/or RVs. Each campsite has a picnic table, grill, clothesline, 50 amp electric service, water and sewer hook-ups. An accessible restroom with showers is centrally located in the campground. Pets are welcome. Firewood and ice are available for sale. Max RV length is 45 feet.
This park also has five spacious, two-bedroom cabins that sleep six along the Suwanee River Wilderness Trail. Each has centralized heating and cooling, an electric fireplace, screened porch, kitchenette and they are fully equipped with linens and kitchen utensils.
Suwannee River State Park, 23 RV or tent, 1 RV only with water, sewer and 30-amp electric hookups, picnic tables, grills and fire rings, including 3 ADA sites. 5 Cabins. Boat ramp, dump station, canoe and kayak rentals, playground, hiking, birding. Access to Suwanee and Withlacooochee rivers. Pets OK. Day-use fee: $5. Camping: $22 plus tax and non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. Cabins (2 BR) for $100; 20815 County Road 132, Live Oak. Ranger station: 386-362-2746 Reservations: 800-326-3621 or book online.
Things to Do near Suwanee River State Park
- Suwanee River: Skip the song; but go for kayaking & camping
- Paddle Florida: Kayak trips explore Florida’s best waterways
- Stephen Foster State Park: Glorious river; great cabins, odd old museum
O’Leno State Park – 8 miles from I-75 Exit 414
This scenic state park on the banks of the Santa Fe River is one of the best paddling destinations in Florida with miles of hiking, bicycling and nature trails, one of which takes you to the point where the river dips underground.
O’Leno is rated as one of the “100 Best Campgrounds in America” and is one of Florida’s original state parks, developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The park features sinkholes, hardwood hammocks, river swamps and sandhills.
O’Leno has two camping loops with 55 campsites, each with water, electric, in-ground grill, picnic table and a centrally located restroom in each camping area. A dump station and dumpsters on site. Pets are allowed within the two campground loops but not in the swimming area, river, youth camps or buildings. Max RV length is 50 feet.
O’Leno State Park, 47 RV or tent sites, 3 RV only, 5 tent only sites with water, 30 and 50-amp electric, picnic tables, fire rings, grills. Backpack 3 miles to primitive lake camping. Restrooms with showers, dump station, bicycling, birding, equestrian trails, kayak-canoe launch, fishing, geo-seeking, hiking, interpretive exhibit, museum, picnicking, playground, swimming, tours, wildlife viewing. Day-use fee: $5/vehicle. Camping Fee: $18 per night plus tax and $6.70 reservation fee.; Primitive camping: $5/person. 410 SE O’Leno Park Road, High Springs, FL 32643. Ranger office: 386-454-1853. Reservations: 800-326-3621 or book online.
Things to Do near O’Leno State Park
- Cool idea: Florida’s best river for tubing, the Ichetucknee
- Retirement Home for Horses at Mill Creek Farm (Open Saturdays)
- Canoe Outpost on the Santa Fe River
Paynes Prairie State Park — 2 miles from I-75 Exit 374
Paynes Prairie was Florida’s first state preserve, sprawling across 22,000 acres with 20 distinct biological communities. More than 270 species of birds have been identified in this park, and there are eight nature trails for hiking and biking, including the 16-mile long Gainesville-Hawthorne paved rail-trail.
The wildlife in this park is diverse and even includes bison, longhorn cattle and wild horses, some direct descendants of those brought by original Spanish settlers and from ranches that once made up portions of this preserve. A 50-foot-high observation tower near the visitor center provides a panoramic view of the preserve. Here’s more about visiting this park: Bison & wild horses: Paynes Prairie Preserve is a surprising state park
The shady campground features 31 campsites for RVs or tents and another 14 sites for tents only. Each site has a lantern post, fire ring with grill, and picnic table, with shared water and electric service. Most RV sites have 30 amp electric service, but a few have 50 amp service. All RV sites are back-in. Max RV length is 58 feet.
Pets are allowed in the campground, although there are restrictions on some of the hiking trails because of the potential for disruption of wildlife, including hungry alligators.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, 32 RV or tent sites, 14 tent with nearby water and 30-amp electric, lantern post, fire ring with grill, picnic table. Bicycling, equestrian, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, geo-seeking, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing. Day-use fee: $6 per vehicle. Camping: $18 per nightplus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. 100 Savannah Boulevard, Micanopy. Ranger station: (352) 466-3397. Reservations: 800-326-3621 or book online.
Things to Do near Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park:
- Bison and wild horses in Florida? Yup.
- Cross Creek: An island of Old Florida, home where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote ‘The Yearling’
- Micanopy & the Herlong Mansion: Slow down for Old Florida
Silver Springs State Park — 15 miles from I-75 Exit 358
The Silver River is one of the most beautiful and peaceful rivers you will ever paddle, and paddling a canoe or kayak are popular here. The park also has 15 miles of hiking and biking trails that cut through 10 distinct natural habitats with dozens of freshwater springs that feed the river.
Fifty-nine spacious sites can accommodate large RVs, each site with water and electric hook-ups (30 amp); ten sites offer 50 amp service. All sites have fire ring, a grill and picnic table. A dump station is in the campground. Campsites 20 and 53 are wheelchair accessible. Pets are allowed in the campground but not in cabins. Max RV length is 50 feet.
The park features 10 luxury cabins, each accommodating up to six people. Cabins have a full dining area, two bedrooms, one bath, stove, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, heating and cooling, screened porch, dishes, pots and pans, silverware, linen, towels, picnic tables and rockers on the porch.
Silver Springs State Park, 52 RV or tent sites with water and 30-amp electric (10 with 50-amp), fire ring, grill and picnic table. 9 Cabins. Dump station in the park. Bicycling, mountain biking, birding, boat tours, canoe/kayak launch, concessions with food, gardens, geo-seeking, hiking, equestrian trails, museum, picnicking, playground, wildlife viewing. Guided trail rides, glass bottom boat tours. Canoe and kayak rentals. Day-use fee: $8/venicle. Camping: $24 per night plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. Cabins are $110 per night; 1425 NE 58th Ave., Ocala. Ranger station: (352) 236-7148 Reservations: 800-326-3621 or book online.
Things to Do near Silver Springs State Park:
- Silver Springs State Park: A guide to new park with spring, cabins, hiking, history
- 5 Things to Do in Ocala National Forest
- Florida boat tours: The Old Florida way to see the waterways
Rainbow Springs State Park — 18 miles from I-75 Exit 352
Florida’s fourth-largest spring, Rainbow Spring and the Rainbow River has drawn humans for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence of humans dates back 10,000 years. Today, the springs are a popular destination for swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking and tubing.
Stroll through the park’s gardens past three man-made waterfalls, a throwback to the days when this was a private attraction.
A renovated 60-site campground with full hookups is 1.5 miles downstream from the main head spring and day-use area. Campers can launch canoes and kayaks on the river near their campsites, or rent them at the concession at the head spring for the 5.6-mile paddle along the Rainbow River to the Withlacoochee River at Dunnellon.
All sites have water, 20-, 30-, and 50-amp electric and sewer hook-ups. ADA accessible restrooms are available. Dump station between the upper and lower campgrounds. Amenities include a campground store, laundry facilities, recreation hall, showers and restrooms. Max RV length is 40 feet.
Rainbow Springs State Park, 54 RV or tent, 3 RV only, 7 tent only. RV sites have full hookups, 20-30-50-amp electric ADA restrooms, dump station. Recreation hall, showers, restrooms, laundry, playground, amphitheater, canoe/kayak launch, canoe/kayak rentals, concessions, gardens, geo-seeking, hiking, picnicking, snorkeling, swimming, tubing, wildlife viewing. Pets OK. Day-use fee: $5/vehicle. Tubing fee: $15 per person, includes shuttle. Camping: $30/night plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee; 19158 SW 81st Place Road, Dunnellon. Ranger station: (352) 465-8555. Reservations: 800-326-3621 or book online.
Things to Do near Rainbow Springs State Park:
- Hike or bike the Dunnellon Trail
- Rainbow River Canoe and Kayak
- Withlacoochee Trail: This might be Florida’s best bike trail
Related Florida Rambler Articles
- Best RV camping along I-95 in Northeast Florida
- RV camping at state parks in Florida’s Panhandle
- Best RV and tent camping near Disney
- Stop and camp awhile: Explore wild, vast Ocala National Forest
From the Editor:
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