Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Highlands Hammock State Park - Sebring, Florida

We camped at Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring, Florida for 3 nights, late October 2016 in our 1997 Georgie Boy Maverick Class C.

Check our short video slideshow at the bottom of this post for a musical photo tour. ;)

I'm not a "negative" person by nature, but I want to tell you the truth and nuthin' but the truth about our experience at this park. ;)  So bear with me... there is plenty of good as well.

Highlands Hammock SP is a beautiful, natural, peaceful, and really beautiful park to bike and hike, but if that's what you're looking for, don't make the mistake I made, by reserving on the ONE weekend a year that hundreds of people will be there for the annual "Haunted Hammock" Halloween event...I was unaware of this event. 

I love kids and I think camping is one of the best things a family can do together, however, hundreds of VERY loud children in costume and high on sugar is not my idea of a peaceful weekend in the wilderness. ;)  

We arrived on Friday after driving through some very pretty open prairie dotted with trees.  Unfortunately, when we arrived, the park staff was not very friendly.  Rather they ignored us and seemed irritated that we were even there.  :/  They checked us in on our reserved campsite and we drove into the camping area only to find that our site was already occupied and the campers were planning to be there for another 2 nights.  

We headed back to the office and after some grumbling on their part, we were assigned a "walk in" site which they noted they didn't want to give us because they like to save it for large rigs.  This ended up working nicely to our benefit, as most of the sites here are very close together with no privacy.  We were quite happy as we pulled into this large, shady, open site. :)

The Bad and the Ugly:

We camp because we love nature and peace, meeting people and seeing wildlife; birds, deer, little creepy crawlies, anything, I especially love the sounds of birds early in the morning... you get the picture... right?  

Well, no sooner had we gotten settled in than it began... the sites got full... ok, that's nice, but it became so loud, so very, very loud. :(  I think the camp staff passed our site (on the main camp road) over a 1000 times that weekend in their Kubota.  Back and forth (constantly) to somewhere in the back, hauling trash, hauling food, hauling people, hauling an old tire...????  Hauling candy.... sigh.  

Needless to say in this campground that is full of gorgeous lush trees and shade, I saw ONE bird all weekend.  Just one. Ahhh, but it was one I'd never seen before so that was nice. ;)

 Black and White Warbler

We decided to go for a nice long bike ride through the paved shaded hammock loop..... which would have been much more lovely except for two things:  Large groups of LOUD people scaring  away every possible living thing, and LEAVING TRASH along the trail!!!  This was upsetting.  In addition, the beautiful shady hammock was decorated with corpses hanging from the trees, blood and gore everwhere as decorations for the "haunted hammock"... it pretty much ruined the beauty of nature and I'm surprised they would do this to a State Park. :/

The Good... because there is always good. :)

We forgot about the hammock trails and paved loop and headed out on the back dirt roads... there we saw so many pretty plants, and heard nothing but the gentle sounds of the prairie.  

In addition, right off the campsite is a trail through open prairie area that is dotted with some lovely butterfly plants (see history of this park to find out why the plants are here)... I called this trail the "butterfly fairy trail"...because I'm silly like that and because there were SO many butterflies, all sizes, types and colors... it was wonderful, we were surrounded.  

On Sunday, it seemed that everyone left the park, so we did have one very quiet, very peaceful evening at this park.  

Would we go back again?  Yes, but I would be CERTAIN to check for events!

What time of year would we go?  Spring.  I would definitely go back in the spring to experience the blooming flowers, birds and butterflies.

What to bring?  Your walking shoes and a bicycle.  

Friday, August 5, 2016

Bahia Honda State Park Florida

Lobster Palooza!

We recently camped at Bahia Honda State Park in our 1997 Georgie Boy Maverick Class C for 7 nights.  We were there July 24-31 during mini Lobster season with many family members.


It should be noted that you will find very few negative points in this post.  My husband has been camping there since he was a small child and we've gone together "nearly" every year of our married lives.  We pretty much love this place. ;)

It's TOUGH to get a site at this park, we have a strict policy that if we don't get a water site, we don't go, that's just us, but many people enjoy the park in all the other camping areas and aren't as picky as us. :)

There are basically three camping areas in the park (buttonwood, sandspur and bayside) plus a few cabins.  

BUTTONWOOD, (water and electric):  Our camping area of choice, with 12 campsites that lay along the waters edge (14-25).  The view from here is of the gulf that lays between the old bahia honda bridge and railroad (historic landmark) and the new overseas highway that heads south to Key West.  
You can walk right into the water from your campsite and swim, snorkel, kayak, canoe, float, whatever suits your fancy.  We brought our boat and during the day we tied it up just off our site for easy access.

Our little boat waiting for a ride...

Benefits of water sites:  Instant water access! 

Just chillin in the water right off our campsite...

Less mosquitoes and no- see-ums, finer rocks to walk on, the possibility of a breeze, the sunset view...breathtaking!

Downfalls of water sites:  The closer you are to the overseas highway, the louder the noise, but it's something we've become use to and is synonymous with being there. ;)  The possibility of a breeze....er, I mean WIND.  If a storm kicks up (and they do quite often, be ready to pull in your awning!  The inner sites are protected by trees, these water sites are wide open to the wind ... just be aware of that.


Downfalls of "inner/not-on-the-water sites":  They can be hot and stuffy, no breeze, if you are there in the summer, just know that many of the sites do not get much air flow, and some of them have little to NO privacy between you and your neighbor, but some are more open (corner sites) and some have a better chance of water view and breeze (across road from water front sites).  Word of caution... though it may be handy to be near the bathroom, keep in mind that the bathroom is RIGHT next to the dump as well as two large dumpsters!  My sis in law was very near the dumpsters and the flies on her site were very bad, as well as the smell.... so keep that in mind when choosing a site.

SANDSPUR (water and electric):  We've never stayed on this side, but have ridden our bikes through many times.  A few of the sites are right off the beach (Atlantic Ocean side), with a path right down to the water, but most of them are not direct water access.  They are all quite shaded.  No big rigs in this camping area, only tents, pop ups and smaller trailers.  Possibly smaller RV's (van types), but you would have to check with the park on that.

BAYSIDE (water ONLY - NO electric):  There is a half circle of sites that are in the same area as the Cabins, they surround a deep basin (no swimming in there) where you are likely to see tarpon and sea turtles! :)  These are for tents ONLY and do not have electric.  Not for the faint of heart...not for me. :)

CABINS:  I've never stayed in them, but I believe they are 2 bedroom, living area and full kitchen, and can sleep up to 8-10 people.  They are on stilts with covered parking for your vehicle, have a balcony for fishing and grilling.  You can pull your boat right up to the front of your cabin in the deep basin.  Pricey and tough to get into I hear.

There is a boat ramp in the park, which also has overflow trailer parking if you need it.  
You can leave your boat in the "main marina" for a "by the foot" fee.  
OR, if you get lucky you can tie up to the campground dock for free.  There are about 8 slips available on a first come, first serve basis.  The dock is set right behind sites 12 and 13 with a fish cutting table and path to the campground.  You can leave it overnight, which is a great bonus.
Boating this area is amazing, so much to see... last trip I saw 5 or 6 HUGE thick red starfish.... so beautiful!

This water was so clear and still... 8-9 feet and I can see straight to the bottom.

Swimming and Snorkeling:  Everywhere!!! :)  There are three "beach areas".  Calusa beach is a roped off area with covered picnic table pavillions and a large parking lot, it is set next to the main marina on the gulfside (between the bridges).
Calusa Beach as seen from the bridge...

On the Atlantic side there are two beach areas, one that is near the bridge (south side of park) and one that is past the Sandspur camping area (north side of park).  
NOTE:  While the water is pristine and clear and warm and beautiful, the sand white and soft, you WILL mostly likely encounter sand fleas which can be irritating, as well as much seaweed on the beach which has a funky smell.  We have become use to it. :/

Beaches on the Atlantic Side...


You will have the chance to see so many pretty fish while snorkeling in all areas of the park, you'll also most likely see a lobster or two, crabs, maybe a sea turtle, stingray and possibly a nurse shark.  

For the absolute best experience of a lifetime... take the Bahia Honda charter boat out to Looe Key Reef... you will be blown away by the beauty!!  You can also take your own boat out there, it's only 10 miles southeast of Bahia Honda.

Walk up the bridge and soak in the amazing view during the day, go on a moonless night and watch shooting stars.

 Ride your bike all over the park.  Head to the Bayside to see the most amazing sunset ever.

  Get in the water, see the beauty, don't touch or take anything so that all our grandchildren can enjoy the beauty in years to come.

Buy a tank top at the gift shop and get a scoop (or two) of delicious ice cream that will melt right down your hand if you don't eat it fast enough!

Relax, enjoy, fall in love with the beauty ... come back again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Buttonwood Inlet RV Resort - Cortez, Florida

We camped at Buttonwood Inlet RV Resort in our 1997 Georgie Boy Maverick Class C for 3 nights.  We stayed June 21-24 and stayed on site 26.  The RV park management is onsite and Anita, who works the front desk is very friendly and helpful and I can't begin to say enough about how kind she was.

After looking up the area on Google Maps, I had thought it would be great to bring our boat.  We tossed the idea around, but were unsure about putting the boat in with our Class C, or bringing our vehicle and driving separately (which takes away the fun of travelling together).  I talked to Anita about what the fees were for keeping our boat on the water slips (they have a canal, boat launch and slips, as well as sites with slips right behind them, which is great!).  Anita said her husbands truck could be used to put our boat in, no problem, and that they like to help each other around there.  I thought that was really generous and kind.

Unfortunately, we had to send our precious 12 year old Boxer, (Stormie), over the Rainbow Bridge right before our trip and we were quite distraught, thinking we just wouldn't go.  Anita, once again, was kind enough to hold our reservation even until the day before to let us decide if were were coming.  We ended up thinking a getaway would be good for us and I'm glad we went.... we didn't bother bringing the boat however.

The RV Resort was very neat and tidy, very clean.  The pool was sparkling and the water temp was pleasant, we used the pool two or three times.  The lots are not very private, which is really fine, but they are nicely manicured.  We are use to state parks, so this was our first "RV Park" experience.  The sites are good sized and there are 4 different pricing options depending on where you want to be located, or if you want to be on the canal (perfect if you bring a boat!).

We don't tow a vehicle, but usually bring our scooter.  This time, we just brought our bikes, and though we thoroughly enjoyed exploring all of Anna Maria on bikes, we will definitely bring our scooter next time... AND our boat! :)

It was only about a 5 minute bike ride to Bradenton Beach over the Cortez bridge.  The beach is big and full of soft fine white sand, the water was super calm one day, the next day a storm was brewing and the water was a bit more rough, however both days it was clear and there was hardly any curent to pull us at all.  The water temperature was amazing... absolutely perfect and we had so much fun playing in the ocean. :)

There are plenty of places to eat out within range, some right next to the RV Resort.  The real "hub-bub" of Bradenton Beach is right over the bridge and to the left, plenty of night life, good food, live music and fun atmosphere...and Ice cream at Joe's Eat and Sweets! :)

While we are just "two adults" and enjoyed riding our bikes all the way up to the Anna Maria Pier area, I wouldn't recommend younger children take that ride.  The traffic on the island is pretty heavy and I even almost got hit by a woman who was texting (we were riding in the bike lane facing traffic and I was able to see her swerve toward me as she was completely looking at her phone...I'm glad I saw her and was able to move out of the way myself!).  So, yeah, I wouldn't let my kids do that ride... besides we rode about 20 miles that day!  Sweated like crazy, but totally earned the ice cream. ;)

The family at the campsite next to us had 4 kids and they had a tow vehicle, each day they loaded up the car and spent the day at the beach and in town, coming back in the afternoon/evening.  

There is plenty to do in this area, all water related of course, chartered boat rides, parasailing, kayak rentals, etc... There are trips you can pay to take you out to Egmont Key as well, but book in advance, we weren't able to get a last minute trip. :/ 

However, if you just want to ride your bikes and chill on the beach (that's what we opted for), it's perfect for that!  Don't miss the sunsets each night... they are amazing!

Here are some photos of our time there... sorry, not really any of the park. :/

On the road again...

Skyway Bridge

 At Buttonwood Inlet RV Resort, heading out on our bikes..

Extremely hot and long, but very fun, bike ride along the island

 Sea Hagg Shop

 Ginny and Jane E's for lunch...

Joe's Eats and Sweets - for ice cream after the sunset... everyone else went too! ;)