Recommendation for Gulf Florida Small Towns?? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-13-2020, 10:33 AM   #1
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Recommendation for Gulf Coast Florida Camping/Small Towns??

Hi All. First I want to say Cherie and I have taken TWO wonderful vacations based on the tips from this forum! One at Indian Pass Campground FL, and one in Deep Creek Tube Center in Bryson City NC. Thank you so much for the tips as they helped us find and camp great locations!

Our next adventure is we want to do some retirement pre-planning. We want to explore all the small towns on the WEST coast of Florida. Probably focus the most from Cedar Key down to Cape Coral.

We could possibly visit a few small towns north of Cedar Key up to Big Bend if time allows, but I doubt we have time.

But here is my question. We have two weeks to travel from Ohio, scope out all the small towns of interest to get the retirement vibe (Cedar Key, Crystal River, Homosassa, Pine Island, Port Richey, (skip over Tampa area), Venice, Placida, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, then Matlacha for example.

We are looking for 3-4 very cool great vibe base camps to set up for 3-4 nights each. We will explore from those base camps. Something rustic, but still decent, something with the old Florida feel where we can kick back and chill in a beautiful location in the evenings, or take a day off from running!

Our most important question - any tips on great camping locations you guys can think of that we can use for base camps?? Hopefully water front camping! Amenities of Water/Electric is great, but no need to Big RV Park feel.

Also, Any really cool water front towns we should check out?

Placida was mentioned to us as a town we never heard. This couple we met said they live in Western Florida for years and if they had to do it over, thats where they would have went. So we are excited to see it!

Thank you so much!!!

Joe and Cherie
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Old 01-13-2020, 11:38 AM   #2
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We are doing something similar the week of labor day this year (scoping out our next move in preparation for retirement). But we are leaving the camper at home and staying in a B&B in St Pete. Rent a car when we get down there and just explore all of the different areas on the west coast
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Old 01-13-2020, 11:43 AM   #3
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Matlacha

Closest campground that I know of is a KOA in St James on Pine Island...I have not stayed there, just did a drive through in my car years ago. They had some forever campers, but things looked decent...as a note, decent is relative.

I LIKE the Matlacha area, nothing much going on there There are quite a few places to eat, some better than others...Bert's Bar & Grill (try the fried mac and cheese!) and the Italian restaurant, Miceli's, before you get to that point are great. I don't know how good it is now but Yucatan Bar & Grill...was Rusty Hook or anchor... (has great waterfront view!) They have a lot of little tourist traps, but I knew an older couple who lived there for several years and absolutely loved it. You are very close to Cape Coral and Ft Meyers, so you can find about anything you'd want with a very short drive.

Any way, you could camp there and visit Cape Coral and the surrounding area easily. Don't miss Bonita Springs.

In case you hadn't thought of it (and not knowing your ages), you might want to check out the Senior Centers available near where you want to move. The one downtown Cape Coral is outstanding, offering classes in boating, fish and plant identification, info about the area, etc.

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Old 01-13-2020, 12:18 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Joe & Cherie View Post
Hi All. First I want to say Cherie and I have taken TWO wonderful vacations based on the tips from this forum! One at Indian Pass Campground FL, and one in Deep Creek Tube Center in Bryson City NC. Thank you so much for the tips as they helped us find and camp great locations!

Our next adventure is we want to do some retirement pre-planning. We want to explore all the small towns on the WEST coast of Florida. Probably focus the most from Cedar Key down to Cape Coral.

We could possibly visit a few small towns north of Cedar Key up to Big Bend if time allows, but I doubt we have time.

But here is my question. We have two weeks to travel from Ohio, scope out all the small towns of interest to get the retirement vibe (Cedar Key, Crystal River, Homosassa, Pine Island, Port Richey, (skip over Tampa area), Venice, Placida, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, then Matlacha for example.

We are looking for 3-4 very cool great vibe base camps to set up for 3-4 nights each. We will explore from those base camps. Something rustic, but still decent, something with the old Florida feel where we can kick back and chill in a beautiful location in the evenings, or take a day off from running!

Our most important question - any tips on great camping locations you guys can think of that we can use for base camps?? Hopefully water front camping! Amenities of Water/Electric is great, but no need to Big RV Park feel.

Also, Any really cool water front towns we should check out?

Placida was mentioned to us as a town we never heard. This couple we met said they live in Western Florida for years and if they had to do it over, thats where they would have went. So we are excited to see it!

Thank you so much!!!

Joe and Cherie
Forget Pine Island. No camping there. It is primarily a county park with a tiny beach.

If you can get into Fort Desoto in Pinellas County, it will be the best camping you will experience in the area. Try for Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland. Nice park and close enough to Cedar Key for a day trip.
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Old 01-13-2020, 06:36 PM   #5
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Koreshan State Historic Site Campground Is a great place to stay near Fort Myers. Fort Myers was really busy with credit card kiosk at the beach parking. Manatee Springs is a great place to visit and camp. Shell Mound is a county park even closer to Cedar Key. It is a fishing/ hunting camp with airboats coming in and out and some of the sites have a water view.
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Old 01-13-2020, 07:29 PM   #6
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....
If you can get into Fort Desoto in Pinellas County, it will be the best camping you will experience in the area. ..
Getting there is easy. Getting a reservation is not. I assume "into" means getting a reservation.

Check the website.. try to book a spot. I dare you. (LOL)
https://public.co.pinellas.fl.us/par...archByDate.jsp

Watch the restrictions on motor vehicles, pets. etc.

Its easier if you are one of the one in a million lucky residents of the county of Pinellas County, FL.
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Old 01-13-2020, 08:24 PM   #7
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We have only been to a few places on the Florida Gulf; Fort DeSoto where we had a waterfront site. Another was Turtle Beach Campground which is small with a single strip road with sites on each side and beach right at the end. Nice but expensive. Good place to eat across the highway and a free trolley that runs up through Siesta Key and stops at the main beach and other places. Only other campground we have been to on the Gulf is Henderson Beach SP which is very nice with a couple boardwalks out to the beach. Busy area though. Friends have been to a funky little campground called HO HUM which is on the water and Topsail SP.
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Old 01-13-2020, 10:06 PM   #8
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+10 Very close to Cedar Key is a county campground "Shell Mound Campground". Facilities are on the old side, and basic to be sure. Bathrooms are clean. And its incredibly cheap and we got in with no reservation last winter.

Florida tends to book up way, way in advance. Realize you have the NE USA along with eastern Canada all descending on Florida every winter. Demand exceeds supply. We tried and failed to secure a longer term campsite in the Dunedin area, and we were booking ONE YEAR in advance. Dunedin has a nice small town feel, surrounded by the Tampa/St Pete congestion.

Fort Desoto is nearly impossible to get in, and be careful if you have a pet, as they restrict pets to just one area. If you can get a site at Fort Desoto, it would be my #1 choice.
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Old 01-14-2020, 06:32 AM   #9
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Getting there is easy. Getting a reservation is not. I assume "into" means getting a reservation.

Its easier if you are one of the one in a million lucky residents of the county of Pinellas County, FL.
Come on, Gordon. We all know about “assuming!”

But yes, getting in means being able to secure a campsite. I generally can get a site there because I know a large number of Pinellas County residents (my daughter and son-in-law, for example) and live in a nearby county. And before I retired, I worked with Pinellas County on many water related issues. My only problem is that Ft. DeSoto is too close to home; I have no desire to camp there just for the sake of camping. Before I retired and way back when the children were still living at home, weekend getaways in Florida locations were more attractive. Now the only camping I ever do in Florida is when I attend Scamp Camp at Highlands Hammock State Park every February or when I am on my way out of Florida in a westward direction. Pensacola is 9-10 hours so an overnight is necessary before “going over the wall“ (escaping)! Campsites at Ft. DeSoto are relatively easy to obtain during the summer months, but nobody in their right mind (or left mind, for that matter) would camp in Florida during the summer months (IMO; no offense toward anyone intended.). I still shake my head at all the tourists who flock to Orlando to visit the Mouse, standing in long lines in 95° temperatures/96% humidity at that time of the year. The word miserable comes to mind. Unless your name is Satan, Florida is only bearable for maybe 7 months of the year unless you stay in an air conditioned space! And I’m not one to want to be confined.
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:20 AM   #10
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Had to check...the KOA on Pine Island is likely still open.

https://koa.com/campgrounds/fort-myers/

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Old 01-14-2020, 10:52 AM   #11
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Had to check...the KOA on Pine Island is likely still open.

https://koa.com/campgrounds/fort-myers/

Mon
Please note that the Pine Island the OP referred to is north of Tampa and is a Hernando County Park. The Pine Island with the KOA is 3 hours south near Cape Coral. That area is somewhat overrun in winter by snowbirds, so the traffic can be “parking lot” atrocious.
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Old 01-14-2020, 11:29 AM   #12
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+10 Very close to Cedar Key is a county campground "Shell Mound Campground". Facilities are on the old side, and basic to be sure. Bathrooms are clean. And its incredibly cheap and we got in with no reservation last winter.

Florida tends to book up way, way in advance. Realize you have the NE USA along with eastern Canada all descending on Florida every winter. Demand exceeds supply. We tried and failed to secure a longer term campsite in the Dunedin area, and we were booking ONE YEAR in advance. Dunedin has a nice small town feel, surrounded by the Tampa/St Pete congestion.

Fort Desoto is nearly impossible to get in, and be careful if you have a pet, as they restrict pets to just one area. If you can get a site at Fort Desoto, it would be my #1 choice.
2X on Shell Mound if you visit Cedar Key. I did have a bit of a problem with no see ums, but that seems to be an area problem. It also is a launch site for air boats, which can be a bit noisy!
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Old 01-14-2020, 11:33 AM   #13
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Following, for future reference.
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Old 01-14-2020, 12:45 PM   #14
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Myakka River State Park

Years ago we tent camped at Myakka River State Park. It is an outstanding park. However, I haven't been back since we got the camper.
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Old 01-14-2020, 01:30 PM   #15
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To just follow a thread, click on Thread Tools at the beginning of the thread, and then Subscribe.

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Old 01-14-2020, 04:14 PM   #16
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Please note that the Pine Island the OP referred to is north of Tampa and is a Hernando County Park. The Pine Island with the KOA is 3 hours south near Cape Coral. That area is somewhat overrun in winter by snowbirds, so the traffic can be “parking lot” atrocious.
All true! Although, I place I mentioned is near Matlacha, and Cape Coral, which they do have an interest in. And they are both in Lee County.

Why there are TWO places called Pine Island in Florida, I have NO idea!

Mon
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Old 01-15-2020, 06:36 AM   #17
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Why there are TWO places called Pine Island in Florida, I have NO idea!
To confuse non-residents so they will have to drive hundreds of extra miles to find their intended destination, buying more fuel and contributing to Florida’s economy via additional gas taxes and road tolls. In addition, the extra driving creates more opportunity to collect fines in speed traps, enriching municipalities!

I wouldn’t be surprised that if you were to examine a map of your home state, you would likely find locations or geographic features (lakes, hills, streams, US Highways vs. State Highway numbers) that are identical. Perhaps because names were applied when people travelled by horseback, there were no methods of rapid communication, and the indigenous peoples who named places did not have to deal with the “name police!”

Obviously, I am joking, but in my travels around North America two or more places in the same State or Province is not unusual.
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Old 01-15-2020, 07:13 AM   #18
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Great Recommendations!

Want to Thank everybody for the great recommendations!! These are the kind of tips that really make a road trip much more memorable than rolling the dice, staying in a bummer location, and having a great one right down the road you didn't even know about! So THANK YOU - and keep em coming if you have more!

A few things, we my be deciding to start further up north by big bend then work our way down. That means we will have to move quicker in this 2 week run (cant wait till retirement when we can slow down!). But we think missing the small towns from big bend to Cedar Key would be a mistake - even if we hit 2 towns a day on our way down the coast. Just get the vibe - if not for us - move on! If we like, stay a day or two! That's the plan. That's why we cant do reservations or we lose our flexibility of the road trip.

As for Pine Island, yes sorry - I was referring to visiting the one north of Tampa. My parents used to snow bird to the Ft Myers Pine Island (Pine Island Cove) for 20+ years so we are familiar with that island. We like it, but not much for beach at ALL. They left years ago so a last visit to Matlachet would be cool to see any changes!

As for retirement - I look forward to it EVERY DAY, but try not to wish life away. Its 1.5 to 5.5 years away (unfortunately that's in the company's control and not mine, unless we just "quit" which would be too financially painful). They can offer an early out package to let you retire early but they are rare and depending on business needs. So I could get a package in 1.5 years, or retire on my own in 5.5 years.......the unknown is frustrating LOL.

So when we retire, we will sell our current house and full time on the road for 2-3 years, then buy a small house in who knows where to use as a base, and do long road trips after that, but have that home to come back to. That being maybe western FL, that's why we are leaning - and researching!! Or we could buy one while on the road full time if the right one came along. That's why we are doing the research now!

We wont regret selling our current house because we are sure we want to dump it anyway when we retire for smaller/easier to maintain retirement house - wherever that may be!

Thanks again everybody!! Happy Travels!!
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Old 01-15-2020, 07:50 AM   #19
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We have been retired for 9 years. We only did the snowbird thing for 7 years where we left upstate NY to winter in Florida and the coast of Georgia. Never had any desire to sell our house or full time RV. Before we left home to head south we had campsites reserved for the whole time, so we didn't have to spend time looking while on the road or worry about if we could get a site. The first year in Florida was a exploratory mission to see what campgrounds we liked so we could reserve for the next winter. Only a couple times we changed plans while on the road, but had made reservations a few days ahead so there never was a question about where we were going when we pulled out of a campground. Most of our time in Florida was 2 weeks at a time in a couple campgrounds with 2 or 3 days at others in between. Now on our second winter staying home.
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Old 01-22-2020, 11:57 AM   #20
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All true! Although, I place I mentioned is near Matlacha, and Cape Coral, which they do have an interest in. And they are both in Lee County.

Why there are TWO places called Pine Island in Florida, I have NO idea!

Mon
And there are two rivers named Withlacoochee.
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