Hidden among the tidal marshes of the Tomoka and Halifax rivers near Ormond Beach, Tomoka State Park offers a shady campground, access to miles of paddle trails, biking and hiking trails, productive fishing, a half-dozen picnic areas, launch ramps, docks and a well-stocked camp store with kayak and canoe rentals.
Tomoka State Park is the gateway to the Ormond Scenic Loop, a graceful, picturesque 34-mile ride through live oak canopies, saltwater marshes, subtropical forest and coastal dune eco-systems.
There are five state parks on or near the loop. Not far from Tomoka, visit the majestic 400-year-old Fairchild Oak at Bulow Creek State Park, the Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, pristine beaches at North Peninsula State Park and Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area, which has two campgrounds, one on the beach.
Throughout the loop, there are countless opportunities for paddling kayaks and canoes, hiking trails that reach deep in wilderness, secluded beaches and prime fishing holes.
The loop itself is heaven for bikers out for a Sunday drive, whether you’re riding a Harley or pedaling a Schwinn.
Arriving at Tomoka State Park
By the time you arrive at the main entrance to Tomoka State Park, you have already been introduced to its charms. Live oaks dripping with wisteria and interspersed with native sabal palms offer a dense canopy along North Beach Street, the first leg of the Ormond Scenic Loop.
A new paved trail meanders through the woods nearby, taking bicyclists and hikers off narrow North Beach Street to the entrance to the park, where you can continue your ride on the Loop or explore this 2,000-acre park.
Upon entering the park, your direction will be determined by your purpose. Many visitors head out to the islands in the Halifax River on a hard-pack sand road that delivers you to shady nooks on shore, where you can fish, picnic or drop a kayak into the water.
Camping at Tomoka State Park
There are 100 well-shaded campsites, and most are deep, spacious and afford considerable privacy. All but a few pads are hard-pack sand and coquina shell, accommodating tents as well as RVs..
Self-supporting tents with a ground cloth will work best, depending on the site you select. For extra strength against surprise weather, tie them off to stakes in softer ground off-site.
The maximum RV length is 34 feet, although many sites look much deeper.
Every site has electric, water, a picnic table, fire ring/grill and a lantern post that can also serve as a clothes line support. (Tie the line to your RV or tent, not to nearby trees.) There are no sewer hookups, but there is a dump station near the campground exit.
Handicapped accessible sites on concrete pads
Site 13 – 20’ with 30-amp service
Site 74 – 34’ with 50-amp service
Site 75 – 30’ with 50-amp service
Site 91 – 34’ with 30-amp service – pull-thru site
The campground, laid out in an elongated oval, has three restrooms with showers. Pets are OK.
Although some sites are a short distance to the water, the river is tidal, making it difficult and cumbersome to launch in the omnipresent soft mud. Plan to use other launch areas in the park.
Because of the intense shade, pooling water and dense thickets of scrub, summer camping can be buggy. Not so much in winter, but you’ll never totally escape the emergence at dusk of pesky no-see-ums.
Be aware of events in nearby Daytona Beach when you set a date for your trip to this park. Reservations will be difficult to obtain during Biketoberfest (October), Rolex 24 (January), Daytona 500 (February), Bike Week (March) and the Pepsi 400 (July 4).
Primitive camping: Want to really get away? There are two primitive camping sites you reach via a several mile hike. Primitive campsites are available for $5. To reserve a primitive campsite, call the park at 863-696-1112.
Paddling at Tomoka State Park
Tomoka State Park is a paddler’s paradise with open water and backcountry trails. The marshes around the park are mostly shallow, so they do not lend themselves to larger boats.
The boat ramp is at the park concession, where you can also rent kayaks and canoes, but you don’t have to launch at the ramp.
If you drive onto the park’s islands in the Halifax River, there is ample shoreline.
But the boat ramp does offer access to the best paddle trails on the Tomoka River, its marshes and upriver creeks that run deep into natural areas of the park, ideal for wildlife viewing.
The Tomoka Outpost concession is at the boat ramp offers rentals of canoes, tandem and solo kayaks.
Hiking and Biking at Tomoka State Park
The number of improved trails within the park are limited, but more adventurous souls will be able to explore more deeply if they are into geocaching. Ask for more information at the ranger station.
The only improved trail within the park is a .8-mile interpretive trail that winds through a hardwood hammock once inhabited by Timucuan Indians, including an ancient village site on the banks of the Tomoka River.
The trail starts at the park concession and ends at the statue of Chief Tomokie.
There are many unimproved park roads that are bike-friendly, and, of course, there is the new, paved multi-use trail at the entrance to the park.
There are several hiking trails at Bulow Creek State Park that are definitely worth your attention, including the 6.8-mile Bulow Woods Trail that runs from the 400-year-old Fairchild Oak to the Bulow Plantation Ruins.
This trail will take you through old growth forest of live oaks, and these woods are popping with wildlife.
A short trail takes a loop around a groundwater spring that seeps from a coquina bluff. There are boardwalks on this trail so hikers don’t disrupt the sensitive eco-system.
If you follow the Ormond Loop around to North Peninsula State Park, you’ll find a two-mile-long Coastal Strand Trail that will take you into the coastal dunes, where you can observe a variety of unexpected wildlife, such as shore birds and gopher tortoises.
Legend of Tomokie
No visit to this park is complete without paying homage to Timucuan Indian Chief Tomokie, who is preserved in local mythology by a 40-foot statue sculpted by local artist Fred Marsh in the mid-1950s.
The statue is on a pedestal at the northernmost point of the park and is easily accessible from the main park road.
While there may have never been a Chief Tomokie, the monument is a reminder that this area was once populated by native Americans who lived and fished these waters for centuries before Europeans arrived.
Legend propagated by early Spanish explorers would suggest that these Indians stood 7 feet tall and were cannibals, but there’s little evidence these Indians were any different than any other.
Indeed, they more likely settled here because of an abundance of fish, shellfish and wild game that were easily hunted. And archaeological evidence shows the Timucuans were of normal size.
A large picnic area is convenient to the statue, and the point behind the statue juts out into the Tomoka River where it joins the Halifax River. The location is ideal for fishing from shore.
This 34-mile double loop of roadways between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach passes through three state parks and several county parks and preservation areas, stitching them together into a scenic drive in the country with spectacular views.
Bicyclists tackle these roads with enthusiasm, but be forewarned that the roads are narrow and cars not always respectful.
The Ormond Loop is heaven for motorcycles, and you’ll find it packed with bikers during special motorcycle events in nearby Daytona Beach.
What’s the attraction? Simply, the views.
The Ormond Scenic Loop is one of the most picturesque destinations in northeast Florida, passing through canopies of live oaks and dense hardwood forests, sweeping grass savannas and saltwater marshes, coastal dune eco-systems and pristine beaches.
The double loop starts on North Beach Street at Tomoka State Park, continues north along Old Dixie Highway, then jogs east on Walter Boardman Lane, jogging south then east on Highbridge Road until you cross the Intracoastal Waterway at High Bridge.
Immediately after crossing High Bridge, turn south onto John Anderson Drive and cruise alongside the Halifax River, eventually dipping into bustling Ormond Beach before swinging east to State Road A1A.
Heading north along the beach, you will be greeted by gentle sea breezes and the pristine dune environment of North Peninsula State Park.
The loop ends back at Highbridge Road, but it will be worth your while to continue north on A1A through Gamble Rogers State Park to Flagler Beach, an old Florida beach town with tons of character.
Tomoka State Park
2099 N Beach St.
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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 14 years ago.