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13 March 2015

The Secret’s Out | Free Camping In Florida




Editor’s Note: Based upon some comments we’ve received here and elsewhere, it looks like this post has created some unintended consequences. Our blog is first and foremost a place where we record our travel adventures so that one day we can look back and relive all of the incredible experiences we’ve had. We weren’t sure whether to do a post about this free camping spot, but in the end we decided to so that we could document our memories of the great time we had there and the wonderful people we met. It certainly wasn’t our intention to “tease” anyone who reads our blog or “flaunt” the fact that we stumbled across a free camping site. We debated whether or not to remove or edit this post, but in the end, we decided to keep it up so that we look back on this time in our life when we’re older and sitting in rocking chairs on a porch somewhere. Hopefully, anyone who reads this post will understand and take it in the spirit it was intended. I guess if nothing else, it has stirred up an interesting debate about what people should or shouldn't blog about.
 
After weeks and weeks of paying far more than we wanted to for campsites in Florida, we stumbled across a fantastic free boondocking site in the middle of a beautiful preserve chock full of ponds, prairies, trees and, of course, alligators. This place has the most amazing people you’ll ever meet and hot showers. What’s not to love? Oh, and did I mention that it’s free? We love free. 

To be honest, we weren’t sure if we should write a post about this place. There’s a core group of people who have been coming here for years and probably wish it would remain a secret so that they can continue to enjoy its peace and quiet without hordes of new folks descending upon the place. However, the secret’s probably out already as some very well known RV bloggers were here at the same time as us and I understand they are planning on writing a post about free camping in Florida. As we only have 0.0001% of the readership that they do, I think the chances would be pretty slim that we would be the ones responsible for the crowds descending on this place if we revealed the name of this fabulous spot. In fact, I would be surprised if even one new person showed up if we blabbed. But, as much as we would like to share, we’ve been asked not to reveal the location, so our lips are sealed.

We’ll still tell you a little bit about the place because otherwise you’ll wonder why there was a two week gap in the timeline on our blog. Yes, that’s how fabulous it is – we stayed here for two whole weeks! We wouldn’t want you to be worried that we were abducted by aliens who took us away in their spacecraft for a couple of weeks. (Although that might have been fun too, provided they were the good kind of aliens.) Actually, now that I think about it, this is exactly the kind of place where aliens could land, disguise their spacecraft as an RV and blend in perfectly with the rest of the crowd here. The people who camp here are very accepting of all sorts of different folks, even those with green skin and six fingers on each hand. 

But enough about aliens, here’s why we love this place.

Boondocking with hot showers

It’s all about boondocking here (as in no electric, water or sewage hookups), but this is some of the easiest boondocking you’ll ever find. Everything you could possibly need is on site – a free dump station, potable water (with a disconcerting yellowish tint, but drinkable nonetheless, if you close your eyes), a trash dumpster and decent enough bathrooms with hot showers. There’s even a place to charge your computer over by the bathrooms. We don’t have a generator or solar, so finding “charging stations” for our electronics is always a bonus for us. 

Near, yet far away

Because we were in the middle of a preserve surrounded by nature, it was easy to forget that we were in fact in Florida. We felt far away from all of the hustle and bustle of the real world (which can get a bit overwhelming with all of the people and their cars). But, we were also close enough to a town which had everything you could possibly need – like a grocery store, BBQ joint, gas station, library with WiFi and a place to get distilled water (the yellowish tint of the water on site wasn’t really my thing). And there was even a marina nearby where we were able to check out some sailboats!

Amazing folks

Although the amenities were absolutely wonderful, it’s the people that really make this place. The folks are so friendly. Within two minutes of chatting with one the regulars, you’ll be invited to the nightly happy hour. Definitely not to be missed. 

One of the things we loved about the place was the diversity of the folks. Such different backgrounds and experiences (with a bit of quirkiness thrown into make things interesting), but drawn together by their love of nomadic living, as well as camping at this particular spot. That’s one thing I’ve found so refreshing about the RV and sailing communities – there’s an instant connection and acceptance regardless of the type of job you have, where you’re from etc.

There were a number of interesting couples that we met. Like the pair who have been married for over 50 years and still make it a point to go dancing every weekend. I hope I’m as agile and nimble as they are when I get to be in my 70s. Heck, I wish I was that agile and nimble now! Then there was the fun-loving duo who never miss seeing their hometown’s college basketball games, even while boondocking. And the Canadian couple who have taken their boat on the Great Loop twice. (The Great Loop is a circumnavigation of the Eastern US by water). They even became our unofficial boat brokers, giving us tips on where to find boats for sale in the local area. 

And then there was the poor Canadian couple from Quebec. For some reason, I got it into my head that I can speak French. I can’t. I was trying to get across some profound philosophical point about people who live a nomadic lifestyle. Instead, the most coherent statement that I uttered to them was, “Your dog is stuffed with cheese.”  They don’t have a dog. Cheese is about the only word I know in French, so I try to work it in every chance I get. They politely smiled and nodded, but probably thought I was trying to say something about hot dogs. 

There were also a lot of solo travelers. While there were a number of guys on their own, I was intrigued by the women who travel around North America in their RVs. I know some people would wonder about their safety and how they cope on their own. Not to worry, they do just fine. I thought these ladies were amazing. 

And of course, the star of the show was the camp host. He runs a tight ship, but he is also takes the “host” part of his job title seriously. A cowboy from New York with a penchant for chardonnay, he is one of those guys who has a million stories, all of which will have you on the ground laughing. 

Helpful beyond belief

People were so helpful here too. When our computer broke (again), a technical wizard fixed it for us. Well, he didn’t really fix it, but he did take it apart and put it back together again. For some mysterious reason, it started working again after that. I think it just wanted us to pay some attention to it. Computers are a bit like dogs who have been cooped up in the house all day alone. They need cuddles and reassurance that you love them. While dogs go about looking for attention by staring at you cutely and bringing you their favorite toys, computers demand attention by getting viruses, not turning on or turning off randomly while you’re in the middle of writing a blog post. Computers could learn a thing or two from dogs. 

And then there was our battery. Because we don’t have solar or generator, we don’t have a way to recharge our battery. Although, we’re pretty frugal about the energy we use, we would still be pretty hard pressed to go longer than four days without having to take Scamper out for a drive to recharge her battery with the car. Thankfully, a couple of guys graciously let us borrow their battery chargers so that we didn’t have to hitch Scamper up. 

But probably some of the best help we got was when people shared their secrets. Once you get to know folks a bit better, they start to give you tips about other amazing free campsites in Florida. Not too many tips, of course, as they’d really prefer that all of their secret spots didn’t get out, including this one.

Watch out for the gators

When we weren’t chatting with the folks here, there was plenty of other stuff to do. We went on some great walks – which were really helpful in working off all of those calories from the happy hours! Why does everyone always bring potato chips to share at happy hours? Oh wait, that was me. I guess I only have myself to blame for that one.

On one of our walks we saw an old dog cemetery. Just a short distance away are some ponds with alligators. I wonder if there’s a correlation between the alligators and all of the dogs buried across the way? Scott just couldn’t get enough of the gators so we went out for a drive to the far end of the preserve where some really big gators were rumored to be sunning themselves. And there they were – I think one of them was at least 17 feet. This was my kind of gator spotting – watching them from the safety of our car. 

When we weren’t out walking and gator spotting or enjoying getting to know our transient neighbors, we did the usual slug-like activities – reading, eating and napping. Boy, this RV living is hard work!

Do you have any favorite free camping spots you want to share with us? I promise, your secret is safe with us! {just kidding}

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - we'd love for you to pop by and say hi! 

22 comments:

  1. Seriously? You write about a great place to camp and don't share? And then have the nerve to ask this, "Do you have any favorite free camping spots you want to share with us? I promise, your secret is safe with us!"

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    1. Marsha - it was just a joke. Obviously, not a very funny one because you thought we were serious :-)

      Of course we wouldn't expect people to share their secret camping spots. We found the whole experience really interesting - we would have liked to share the name of the spot, but folks didn't want us to and we wanted to respect the crowd of regular folks who have been going there for years. Have you found yourself in a similar situation?

      Cheers - Ellen

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  2. Anonymous said...

    Well done..Great description. Everyone will enjoy the guessing game you have started.
    We hope to run into you guys again. We will always be found in the free spots. Keep looking.
    "Boondockboy"

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    1. Wow - now you've started a guessing game for Scott and I trying to figure out who this is. Do you like basketball by any chance :-)

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    2. No, not from Arkansas..

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    3. OK our next guess is that you're double loopers

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  3. We are in a similar situation right now. A friend gave us the coordinates to a beautiful free camping spot here in Arizona in confidence that we wouldn't reveal it. Although we have mention approximately where it is we will not give out the coordinates on our blog, I think this is probably the first time that we haven't told everyone exactly where we have camped. At this time of year I don't expect it to be a problem as we are the ONLY ones here but I am sure that it gets busy here in the summer time.

    We have managed to find some free spots in Florida and some almost free ($5 at the time) that we totally enjoyed. It is amazing how some people can get their knickers in a twist over something like this.

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    1. Thank you soooo much for your comment!! It means a lot to us!!

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    2. Nobody got their "knickers in a twist" - she was kidding, I was kidding. We'll probably never make it to FL anyway; we're not warm weather people.

      Play nice everyone.

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    3. Marsha - I'm glad you were kidding and I'm also glad you made a comment about it because it made us realize that other people might not have realized we were kidding. Sometimes our sense of humor falls flat. We put a "just kidding" reference in the post now, so hopefully everyone knows we don't expect them to share their secret spots with us. Sometimes things get misunderstood and lost in translation when it comes to the written word and there's no eye-to-eye communication. We appreciate you taking the time to visit our blog and comment. Thanks!

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    4. Marsha my comment about people getting their knickers in a twist wasn't referenced to you at all, it was aimed at the people who want to keep "their secret spot" secret! We know there are people out there that are like that. I have been on one facebook page where the comments started to get downright dirty about it. We have no problem with giving away or GPS coordinates to our favourite spots other than our next to last spot which was given to us by a friend, who had a friend give it to her in confidence. Some how people will find their way to these spots if they are determined enough to find them. I doubt that this spot will ever get over run with boondockers because most serious boondockers don't go to Florida just because of the lack of good spots. Glad you enjoyed your time there Ellen. Have you checked out the Florida State Forests, the one we stayed at was only $5 a night at the time.

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  4. I lived in Florida 3 years learning to deal with the mosquitoes was an ordeal ,days are not bad but come dark look out LOL
    if they don't spray the area you camp in its unbelievable we went to the keys and had to tear down tent at 1:00 and we had paid for next day
    the wife said we are getting out of here now ,it was so bad even those in RV trailers with air were still up fighting them off inside i got dozens of bites just taking the tent down ,its a beautiful place but clouds of black biting devils come out at night. i worked security nights and had to bathe in 100 % DEET from an army surplus store but nothing as bad as the Keys disaster , When the DC 3's come over at tree top level they smoke everything in sight and you want to get out of that stuff fast.
    Not saying don't go but just be aware some spots may be infested bad . Coons were stealing everything in sight ,you cant leave anything
    out and they pack it into the Mangrove forest to never be seen again.

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    1. I know what you mean about the bugs! I have so many bites on me since we've been in Florida.

      Raccoons are clever. I think they can read. We used to have a lot around our house when I was a kid. My mom taped up a recipe for racoon stew on the sliding glass door and we never saw them again :-)

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  5. I just saw an advertisement for the "Sealander Amphibious Camper" and thought of you guys ! Have you seen those? (No, no... it's a JOKE...don't do it !) We're enjoying catching up on your adventures after one month with no internet. Thanks for the adventures ! Maria and Patrick

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    1. It's so nice to hear from you guys! I'm not sure I could cope without internet for a month :-) we have thought of building a barge for Scamper and then we could tow her behind our sailboat to Europe and then travel in our camper around there ;-)

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  6. Thanks for the nice comments on my blog. I admit, now you have me curious.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I'm enjoying following along with your adventures!

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  7. I absolutely 'get' the secrecy but it's a HUGE difference from life on the water where we share our favourite anchorages without hesitation. Oh, wait! That's because they're all FREE.

    The real reason I'm writing is we've had a mild and wet winter in the PNW which means there will be a sh%t load of bugs this summer -- especially deer flies. Being in Florida, have you seen any other RVers using bug lights to kill bugs? David goes on massive killing sprees with the electronic rackets (he's broken 2 already) and leaves carcasses all over the deck so I'm looking for a better (and quieter) solution (that man knows how to cuss!). I found a couple of rechargeable units and was wondering if you had seen anything like that along the way.

    Cheers,
    Stephanie

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    1. I was thinking about the cruising community and wondering if there was the same issue/debate, especially sharing the location of lesser know anchorages in crowded cruising grounds like the Carribean. There has been a really interesting discussion about the share vs don't share on a FB group I'm a part of it. We're new to all of this free campng and boondocking stuff is it's been a real eye opener.

      In terms of bugs (and there's a lot down here!), the only thing I've seen are this rackets which start to smell as the body count goes up. It's a good question, which we're interested in to, so I'll ask on some of the RV FB groups and report back.

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    2. Ah, yes! I can't tell you how many times I've heard David say, "I love the smell of ozone in the morning" after killing hoards of deer flies with the racket (he leaves the dead bodies out so the survivors will "go tell their friends"). And I would give just about anything for that NOT to be my life this summer (lol).

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  8. Are there that many RVers in the States that you need to keep the secret. Surely the US is big enough for all. I applaud you for talking about the spot - helping others discover nice places is one of the rewards of travelling.

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    1. That's one of the things I enjoy about reading other peoples travel blogs is their descriptions of what they love about where they've been to - what experiences made it magical for them.

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We'd LOVE to hear from you! If we're out on the water cruising, our internet access will be limited and it may take a while before we're able to respond to your comments and pay a return visit to your blog, but please know that we will once we can get connected.