Beautiful campsite in natural setting in central Florida
We rolled up to this first come first serve campground after a very rough travel day which involved a temporary problem with our hitch (well, two days, actually). We tried to stay at Edward Medard but of the 4 sites available there was only 1 we could fit in. After struggling for longer than usual to back into a strangely awkward site, we took a look around and quickly (before we unhitched) decided to leave since the immediate neighbors, who would have been 5 feet from our door step, gave us a bad feeling like they would pose a safety risk to our family and we’ve learned to listen to our inner voice when it says “don’t stay here”. It was frustrating because we toiled to get backed up and now we had to abandon that effort.
I called ahead to Lithia Springs which was 11 miles away to see if they had any availability. I was told they had one spot open so we hurried over. We were so relieved the moment we saw the open site. It was easy to back into, private and surrounded by beautiful vegetation. It was exactly what we needed. A little bit of heaven in our temporarily upturned world.
We spent the next week mostly relaxing and enjoying our little piece of paradise. Our site had a private trail leading directly to the Alafia River. I was nervous of alligators at first but after getting used to the place I relaxed and didn’t worry as much when the kids ran down to it and we made sure they never went alone.
At the park is a natural spring. The weather was never quite nice enough for us to go swimming but we enjoyed walking around the campground and down to the springs for the kids to look longingly at. There are several trails and it is all well maintained. You can go canoeing on the river (though we didn’t do that) and there is also a great playground that our kids loved.
Beyond the park outings
We met some friends in Tampa at Armature Works. It’s a great place to hang out since there are plenty of restaurants, views of the city skyline, and places for the kids to run around including a playground and a splashpad. We grilled burgers at the playground and had the best company. We had a birthday in the group so we all headed out for ice cream. I felt like I was in college again, hanging out with friends and making plans on the spot but even more fun. So much fun!
The next day we met the same friends at Clearwater Beach which is a really beautiful beach! The sand is white and soft and fun to play with. Matt met a slackliner who let him try unsuccessfully to stand up. Our kids made awesome sand sculptures. The girls made a mermaid and the boys made a shark coming out of the sand. I loved seeing their creativity.
It was a bit cold but the kids and the dads all jumped in the water to play. We even had dolphins swimming by closely. We decided to have another dinner all together. This time we grilled hot dogs and chicken. It’s great to have friend who are great chefs!
The next morning, a campsite neighbor told us about the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. It was cool and cloudy that day so we hoped to spot several manatees. The idea is that when it’s hot outside you go see alligators, and when it’s cold you go see manatees. When we showed up the place was packed. We headed straight to the viewing area and spotted a large group of manatees. Unfortunately, they were still too far away to really tell what they were and they never got any closer. Matt said we just got mana-teased since we couldn't see them well. We did see quite a few big fish and a huge shark swam right in front of us.
There is a touch tank where you can reach two fingers in and wait for stingrays to come up to you to gently touch their fins. Such a fun experience for kids and adults alike. I love watching them swim through the water. They are so graceful.
Would I recommend Lithia Springs? Yes. I love places like this. Quiet, in nature and feeling like I’m in my own little corner of the world. What’s nice about this county park is that even though while staying here you are disconnected from the outside world, you are a short drive away to civilization and other attractions. Internet reception was great for Verizon, grocery stores and fuel were a few miles down the road and the amenities were nice. I only wish we could have stayed longer – but Florida in winter is all about making and keeping reservations (otherwise you might be effectively homeless for a few days).
Some Other Florida Posts