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! ;)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Rainbow Springs State Park, Florida - May 2016

We camped at Rainbow Springs State Park Campground in our 1997 Georgie Boy Maverick RV for 3 nights during Memorial Day weekend, May 2016.

Other family members were camping as well, and we were lucky enough to make our reservations early, getting 3 sites in a row.  In the area we camped, there were "secret" paths at the back of the campsites and we were able to visit each other by a quick path through the trees rather than go out to the road... kinda neat! :)

The sites we had were:  22 (us), 21 and 19.  After driving through the park, we picked sites 9-25 as "good sites" for future camping spots, these sites all have tall trees and shade.  Most of the other sites in the park have very little to NO shade and no privacy at all between sites.

The main attraction for this campground is tubing, kayaking/canoeing the beautiful Rainbow River which is a refreshing (yet chilly) 72 degrees year round.  There is not much else to do, so plan on just enjoying the water while you are there.  We did bring bikes and we always enjoy riding around, though there aren't many trails to ride on.

Here are the lessons we learned on "how to do the tubing" ;) 

If you are camping with family or friends and have more than one vehicle (car) available, you are in the best luck.  There are a couple of options here...

Both of Mike's sisters had vehicles so this is what we did:

1.  Buy tubes!  It's the cheaper option IF you have vehicles to drive to the facility.  

NOTE:  If you are relying on the tram (more about that in #2), you can use their tubes since you don't save money by having your own tubes.  
**We bought Intex tubes at Wally World for $12.88.  They have "click" locks to attach to one another so you can float as a group, and a rope around the edge which I strapped my velcro tab water shoes on, and clipped my water bottle on.

On the day we wanted to tube we took two vehicles to the tube facility (1.5 miles down the main road)... go EARLY, they open at 8am... the parking lot DOES fill up, and usually by 10 there is a line of cars waiting to get in.

Take your camping pass for free parking!!!!  Park one of the cars to save your spot, then both drivers come back to the campground in the other vehicle.

Get your tubes blown up, hop into your swimsuits... walk down to the river and jump in!  :)  
Float on the amazing beautiful water for 2 hours and look for the sign that says Rainbow Springs Campground Takeout... get out.  Walk to your waiting vehicle and drive back to the campground.


2. The "we don't have two vehicles" option:

Everyone who is tubing jumps into a vehicle and drives to the tube facility.  Pay Natures Quest $15 per person!!!!!  You wait in line until the Tram arrives, and they drive you back down to the campground and give you one of their tubes to float on (you can use your own tubes if you want though!).  
After an amazing 2 hour float you walk up to the tram area, drop off your tube and then get in your car and go back to the campground.  The $15 only gets you one trip down river per person.

3.  Another option we have not tried and aren't sure we would (lol) is to just jump in the river and float on down.  Get out and have your family and friends hang back while you high tail a 1.5 mile walk back to the campground and get the car to come back and pick them up.  ;)

On another note... we did rent a canoe.  It was great fun!  

For $25 you can use it all day long.  We had a 4 man canoe (that's what was available, though they do also have Kayaks). You are given a key and can go out, enjoy the river, come in, lock it up, have lunch at your campsite, go back out, etc...  You just need to lock it up and turn in the key and paddles by 5pm.

Mike and I paddled up to the headspring and then floated back down, stopping at various places along the way and just taking our sweet time.  It was not hard at all to paddle upstream, but keep in mind there were TWO of us doing the work. ;)

NOTE:  If you are at the headsprings it's $40 for 2 hours to rent a canoe or Kayak!  Yikes!

We drove up with the family to the Headsprings, later in the day, but it WAS the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend... woah!!  SOOooooo MANY people... we are not really into crowds and this place was CROWDED!  wow.... and loud.  
NOTE:  If you drive up to the headsprings, bring your extra camping pass to the entrance to get in free... otherwise it's $2 a person.

One SIL brought her kayaks, she and the two boys floated back down to the campground from the headsprings.  We drove her car back and she almost beat us there!

Other tidbits:

*The river is crystal clear, stunning colors can be seen throughout, there are places to pull off to the side, jump in and swim.  

*You can snorkel in the river but you MUST have a diver down flag. 

*Watch out for the horse flies, or deer flies.... whatever you call them, they are HUGE and when you are riding your bike they will follow you!  There were the typical "evening skeeters" and campsite ants as well.

*All sites (except tent sites) have sewer hookup, which is really a plus!

*We saw:  
Lots of fish, turtles, two river otters at dusk, a fox (not directly in the park), an Oriole, cardinals, ducks and fireflies! There was also a beautiful Hawk hanging out near the swim area.

Here are some pics of our time at Rainbow Springs Campground.  Please let us know if you have any comments, tips or questions! :)

Swim Area and Tubing Entrance

Site 22

 Site 21

 Site 19


Site 19

"Secret" path between site 19 and 21

 Crowds of people... so many people... we were happy to paddle in, and paddle out. :)

This young man caught a nice size Bass!

This storm came up fast and hard.  Two systems collided above the river and the wind was insane for about 15 minutes.

My SIL was kayaking the river with her husband at this time, but just held out until it calmed.