Smartphones have opened a whole new world to outdoors recreation. These are the five apps I use most often in Florida and elsewhere.
Best apps for your smartphone
Florida State Parks and Beaches — This interactive guide by Pocket Ranger is the official app for Florida State Parks to find parks. Location based, the app will find state parks near you or you can search for information about any Florida State Park. You can also search by activity or region from an interactive map. Another nice feature is the real-time download of state park news and events. FREE. By ParksByNature Network. Available for Apple | Android |
RA Camping — I favor the serenity of state and national park campgrounds, so when I’m on the road, ReserveAmerica’s app is my first choice for finding campgrounds. ReserveAmerica is the reservations contractor for National Park campgrounds, Florida State Parks and state park campgrounds in other states (not all). The app has the capability of finding campgrounds near a destination (or a known campground) and that helps you look down the road. Same-day reservations are accepted, and the app keeps track of your favorites as well as your current reservations. You need an account, of course, but anybody who has ever reserved a campsite at a Florida State Park already has one. FREE. By Active Networks.
Allstays Camp and RV — This is my backup campground finder when I’m on the road. I use this app to find nearby campgrounds or scout ahead. The app also helps you find other services. almost every time I take a trip, even if I’m not in the RV or looking for a place to camp. In this wonderful piece of tech, you can locate services needed for any road trip – gas stations (I love me some truck stops), rest stops (shouldn’t have drank that 64 oz. soda), lots of stores that offer camping/trip supplies and lots more. $9.99. By Allstays LLC.
Sarasota Kayak APP. Southwest Florida has some of the best paddle destinations in the state, and this easy-to-use app helps you find them. While the primary focus is trail-rich Sarasota County, this app includes launch points and boat ramps as far south as Bonita Springs. The database could be a little richer, but it’s a good start. Destinations include photos, aerials, maps and descriptions. Free. By Steve Hall.
Dark Sky. This weather forecasting app is amazing, enhanced by community input. Notifications include alerts if rain is heading your way — and it forecasts rainfall at your location down to the minute you’ll see the first drizzle. The community reacts by confirming or denying rainfall in your area, enhancing its forecasting and reporting power. How can a paddler do without it? Isn’t this what we need when looking up at the sky during a four-hour paddle? This is my go-to weather app at home, on the road or on the water. It follows you around. Very reliable. Very addictive. Free. By DarkSky.net
Gas Buddy. This app is free, and it belongs on every mobile device. Gas Buddy will save you money, and not just nickels and dimes. Gas Buddy identifies your location and delivers the price of gas at every gas station within a pre-set distance, sorted by distance from your location or by price. The prices are updated frequently by a large community of users, and I have found it to be accurate. Did I say it was indispensable? FREE. By Gas Buddy.
WAZE. Another essential app to help make your journey a pleasant experience. The WAZE community, which includes you, keeps the app posted on problems that lie ahead. There are alerts for police, accidents, disabled vehicles, slow-moving traffic, obstacles in the road and more. It’s best to give control to your navigator, but you can alert WAZE to traffic problems with your voice. WAZE talks back to you with notifications from drivers ahead of you, and WAZE tracks your speed and path to alert drivers behind you. Easy to use and it’s FREE! by Google.
Audubon Birds. Several Audubon apps have turned to dust, but one good one is still around, Audubon Birds. The app has several features to love, including keeping a log of your own bird sightings and uploading your own photos. The features most of us will use is the “Explore Birds” tab, which helps you identify a bird by shape, by family or by name. You can even drill down your search with colors, wing shapes and, yes, by “song.” Excellent color photos help you narrow your search. Even if you are not into birding, you’ll have a lot of fun with this app. FREE. By National Audubon Society.
HOTELS.com. Even though you packed a tent or trailering your RV, some road trips require a hotel room for that quick getaway the next morning. I totally rely on Hotels.com to give me the skinny on nearby room rates when I get off the highway. Unless you are charmed, or signs say otherwise, the rate you get at the desk will be what is known as the “rack rate.” Top dollar. Hotels.com gives you the best available rate, and you can do a drive-by to see if the hotel suits your tastes. Then book it, walk in the front door, get the key and go to your room. FREE. By Hotels.com
You don’t always need an app for “that”
Your smartphone has a web browser, and many of your favorite web sites have responsive designs that easily adapt to your smartphone and serve mobile-optimized web pages, easy to read and easy to navigate.
Many of your favorite internet sites, including floridarambler.com, have responsive designs that produce a very similar experience to an app.
If you use these apps, or would like to recommend others, please let yourself be heard in our comments!