It’s not like baseball or snook. Camping doesn’t have a season.
It just means, depending on the weather, that you pack a little differently. Your tent will let you know. If it’s wet, you should have brought a tarp or a footprint. If it’s gone, you should have used stakes. Easy.
This episode of your favorite internet magazine has its travel team venturing to the banks of the Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida. If you’re looking for a private place to camp, affordable, and not too far out of town, come hither young one and make your way to the Caloosahatchee Regional Park. It may be just what you need to bust up that routine and suck a little marrow out of life.
Caloosahatchee Regional Park is owned by the State of Florida Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund and the South Florida Water Management District. It has 768 acres of pine flatwoods, cypress swamps, oak hammocks, and scrub perfect for hiking, camping, biking, horseback riding, fishing, and general relaxing. This place is absolutely sick. People live here and don’t even know about it. There are over twenty miles of trails that curve through every type of tropical ecosystem. You rarely run into another person and when we camped there, if there were other folks, we didn’t see them.
The park is located a few miles east of highway 31 and I-75 on North River Road, on the north bank of the Caloosahatchee River. The north side of the park is littered with trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The south side has hiking trails, primitive campground, floating and fishing docks. A little bit of whatever you need. Kayak rentals are available. Just ask in advance.
Caloosahatchee Regional Park Activities
- Camping: It’s close, it’s cheap, and it’s awesome. It takes ten minutes to get there from the interstate and the quiet and solitude is only matched by the floral wonder. A high canopy of thick leaves covers the tropical landscape below and offers examples of South Florida’s natural diversity. Camp sites are privately sheltered from each other and back up to the hammock. Camping is $15 for a family site and $30 for a group site or equestrian site. Reservations are recommended after you’ve looked at the campground map. No cars are allowed in the tent area so expect to fill the rolling tubs with your gear and make the kids haul it to the site a short distance. They need the exercise. Be sure to stay up late and get up early. The critters that live around this park are as thick as any place in South Florida. It is not uncommon to see deer and hogs cruising through in the early morning and bobcats and coral snakes can be spied if your really lucky. And I am.
- Fishing: Bring the poles. What do you have to lose? Unless you’re going to chum, it’s a little harder to find live bait here. This part of the river is brackish and very fresh (especially depending on when the Corps of Engineers decides to dump out Lake Okechobee). Floating jigs and cut bait will not let you down. Obviously, you are fishing for a snook. Yes, you are fishing for a snook. Snook have elongated lower jaws which allow them to engulf their prey from below. Wiggle your jig around the rocks and the pylons. You’re going to need to be sharp. Snook are smarter than most people so watch the noise and the shadows. If you can see your shadow, so can they.
- Trails: These trails are why you go to Caloosahatchee Regional Park. The bike trails on the north side are the only ones this side of North Port and Fort Lauderdale. In case you missed it, visit out this Nail Travels article for more information on the trails and how to wreck a mountain bike. The south trails run from the parking lot past the campground and to the river. Several trails interlink and cover a multitude of environments. Walk quietly and you will be amazed at what you may surprise. The trail from the campsite to the river is perfect for a moonlight hike or just pay $1 for parking and go for an afternoon stroll. These untouched jungle hammocks will take you back to a different time in Old Florida. Trust me.
Of course you need supplies when you go camping. It’s great to be an adult because you can take whatever you want. Or forget real important stuff like water. It doesn’t matter because you are the adult. It’s all on you. I need lots of things when I camp. Laser pointers, fishing poles, and frisbees are non-negotiables, along with chocolate milk and Nestlé® Crunch®. Some coolers are filled with items for the collective. These are common supplies that everyone shares like ice and eggs. Chocolate milk and Nestlé® Crunch® go in the other cooler. The one that stays in my tent or adventure wagon. At some point we’re gonna be talking about smores and I want to be the one who comes down from the mountain with two tablets of pure, natural chocolate. Like two newborn babies. What do you call a smore without chocolate? I don’t know but it sounds dumb. Nestlé® has been the main ingredient in campfire fun for 75 years. It writes itself.
Thanks to Nestlé® Crunch® for supporting our efforts to protect and enjoy South Florida through education and stewardship. Visit them on Facebook and say howdy. They will know that we sent you. Isn’t that weird? While you’re there you can enter the Nail Travels giveaway by sharing your own #LifeHacktoBoredom photos on Facebook or Twitter. Just post a photo of you doing something wildly fun. Show us how you field the slow, fly ball of boredom. A winner will be selected from entries with the #LifeHacktoBoredom hashtag and will receive some Nestlé® Crunch® bars.
Groovy. Thanks again for making us you go-to Florida internet resource. With your continued support and our growth comes the real chance that I might eventually get to play more golf. Namaste.
Caloosahatchee Regional Park
19130 North River Road Alva, FL 33920