Into the Wild

Five Overnight Adventures for Campers Old and New

Whether you're a seasoned pro or it's your first time out, our region offers camping experiences for everyone.

By Cooper Levey-Baker April 4, 2016 Published in the April 2016 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Camping oszyts

Camping in Southwest Florida often comes with a water view.

1 For Concierge-level Campers

Stocking up on camping gear can cost a pretty penny, so if you’ve never camped before and just want to test it out—or prefer a readymade experience—give Not a Clue Adventures a ring. The company offers concierge camping trips at prices ranging up from $99, providing and setting up tents, building roaring fires and serving meals in private spots normally closed off to campers, like Crowley Museum and Nature Center. The company even offers couples’ camping getaways, with double air mattresses, cabin-size tents, sunrise hikes and romantic dinners. Go camping without having to bring anything—except your wallet. (813) 789-0904,

2 For Whitewater Wannabes

If the flowing water at Hillsborough River State Park constitutes Class II rapids, it kind of makes you wonder what Class I rapids look like. Water draining from a bathtub, perhaps? But while the ballyhooed river rapids aren’t quite the thrilling whitewater adventure you might expect, the park still makes for a beautiful car camping destination, with wide, semi-private sites and a number of trails that wind along and around that not-so-raging river. The park is even home to a huge pool, and is a favorite canoe and kayak destination. (813) 987-6771,

3 For Beach Bums

There are few sights more breathtaking than sunset on the beach, and that’s what you get when you spend the night at Sarasota County’s Turtle Beach Campground. The property isn’t exactly removed from civilization; it’s smack dab in the middle of it, surrounded by a residential neighborhood, a restaurant and a public beach. But the narrow campground is lined with 40 RV and tent sites, and with fees starting at $32 a night, it has to rate as one of the cheapest beachfront overnights you’re likely to find. You can spend up to 30 days here in a given 45-day period. Make a month of it. (941) 349-3839,

4 For History Buffs

For years, the word on St. Pete’s Fort DeSoto Park was that the camping was great… except for the raccoons, ruthless critters utterly unafraid of humans. They patrolled the park day and night. Turn your head even for a moment, and you said bye-bye to that bag of marshmallows you left out. But the raccoon population has plummeted in recent years, leaving you free to relax and explore the century-old fort itself, located just a mosey down the road. Get lost amid the shell and concrete walls and marvel at the huge mortars. (727) 582-2267,

5 For Loners

To truly get away from it all, strap everything to your back and brave the backwoods of Myakka River State Park to get out to Bee Island or any one of the park’s six primitive campgrounds. There’s no drinkable water out here, no toilets, no prepared firewood, but you will find an incredible calm without another soul in sight. Early mornings at Bee Island, with a slight mist hanging over the pine flatwoods, a fresh campfire just starting to catch and bacon sizzling on a one-burner Coleman stove, are unforgettable. You’ll feel long-gone and all alone, in a good way. (941) 361-6511,


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