Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nature's Coast RV Resort in Steinhatchee, FL

I didn't go very far afield at all with this one, which was barely over an hour from my home. I had read a lot of good reviews of this campground. Given the cold temps that were predicted, the presence of wifi was appealing. I do a lot of reading on my camping trips, but greatly prefer to sit with my book outside during daylight rather than in the camper. On this trip, chilly winds forced me inside by 4 pm both days I was there.

This is a very small, privately-owned campground. The owners, Anthony and Yvonne, are very friendly and helpful. I believe there are only 15 sites, which are lined up in a row next to a small pond.

Here is a closer look at the pond.

The campsites are very close together with almost no privacy. I think the owners would do well to plant some pittosporum or tall grasses or something between the sites so that you would not be looking out your window and into your neighbor's during busier times. There were only two other RVs there at this time and I had empty space on either side of me, so this was not a problem.

This is a relatively small property and it was oddly like camping in someone's front yard.

They have a pool --

--and next to that is a deck with several picnic tables and a large gas grill. This would be an excellent place to hang out if you were camping with a group.

There are several cats, but they are extremely skittish; all but this black one took off running before I could get close enough for a photo.

The town of Steinhatchee is small, but it is only minutes away and has two good restaurants. Fiddler's is the fancier of the two, with Roy's being more family-style. I chose Roy's for lunch on my first day since it is right on the Steinhatchee River where it empties into the Gulf, and the pelicans and gulls put on a good show soaring around outside the windows.

On my second day I went in search of those pelicans and found a large group hanging out near the Gulf Breeze condominiums.


I decided to check out Steinhatchee Falls, an area on the river where the water supposedly drops about 3 feet over some rocks. It's not far from the campground off Hwy 51; there is a short dirt road that leads to it. When I got to the falls area, I discovered that it has been developed into a park of sorts; there are picnic tables along the river and it is extremely scenic. Unfortunately, the large amount of rain we have had recently brought the water to such a high level that it was just flowing rapidly over the falls--wherever they were. There were a couple sets of stairs leading down to the river, the bottom few steps on each of them were totally submerged.

It was getting late and chilly when I left. I took one more turn through the condo property to see if there were any herons or egrets around. No luck there, but I did get more pelican photos.

With all the new (to me) campgrounds still to visit (and familiar ones to revisit), I'm not sure I will get back to this one again any time soon, but I am giving it a thumbs-up if you are going to be in the area. If you like Gulf fishing, this seems like it would be an excellent place to stay.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Manatee Springs State Park near Chiefland, FL

I had been to this park a few times as a tenter but this was the first time with the camper. My post from a previous visit was helpful in selecting my campsite. I went with #83 this time, which was a very good choice.

The sites at this campground are very wide, and while there isn't a lot of foliage between them, they are set so far apart that one still has privacy. I highly recommend Hickory Loop over Magnolia if you will be using the bath house, as it is much more conveniently located to all sites. I saw a greater variety of camping modes here than I have recently encountered elsewhere--several tents, a couple of pop-up campers, a truckbed camper, an Aliner, and some mid-size travel trailers. While the sites are wide, they seemed a little short for the monster RVs that I usually find myself among.

Site 83 has a small pond (which I believe is actually a spring) behind it and beyond that is woods. The walk to the main spring and the boardwalk that leads to the Suwannee River is next to site 94.

After I had set up the camper, I went in search of deer; this is one of the best parks for anyone wanting to see them, since they are very tame. I didn't have to go far--four campsites away, to be exact. Site 88 was vacant, and a group of 6 deer were feeding on the grass along the edge of it.


I walked around the campground and then wandered over to the Magnolia campground to see if there were any more deer to found. Then I headed down to the spring and the boardwalk.

Last time I was here, there were a lot of turkey vultures in the trees by the river. Their numbers seemed to have doubled this time, and they were also in the trees along the boardwalk. This beauty had settled on the ground next to the boardwalk.


What are you looking at?

The boardwalk leads to a shelter at the edge of the Suwannee River. A long dock extends from that shelter. These people had found a scenic spot to sit and while away the warm afternoon.

I walked back toward the spring and discovered that about four manatees had appeared in the inlet from the river to the spring. The water there is very shallow and crystal clear, so they were clearly visible, though difficult to photograph through all the reflections on the water. When I arrived at the spring, I met two women who were also busy photographing the flora and fauna of the area. While I was talking to one of them, I noticed a very large green bug making its way along a wooden railing. How could we resist a portrait or two?

That evening I read outside the camper until it was nearly too dark to see the page, just enjoying the warm temperature (after weeks of record-breaking low temps here). I heard something moving noisily through the surface growth between my chair and the small pond/spring. I got the little camera from the car (closer than the big one in the camper) and managed to get one picture of a visiting armadillo before it went scampering away (as much as an armadillo can "scamper").

It was great to be out camping again and fun to return to this park. I recommend this campground if you will be in the area. It's a short drive to Cedar Key, one of my favorite spots, and Chiefland has some good restaurants if you like to eat out when you camp.