“The Real Florida”: A Guide To Long Key State Park, Florida
Depending on your experiences or notions, the idea of going camping can range from “you’re crazy” to “give me five minutes to load my pack.” With hope, you are a version of the latter, but for some, the call of the wild equals staying at a cheap hotel. If you prefer falling asleep in nature to falling asleep in your bed and you would rather cook over a fire than a stove, camping is in your blood. There are few better places to enjoy the “The Real Florida” than by camping in a Florida State Park and a road trip to Long Key State Park in the Florida Keys might just change the perception of non-campers.
Anyone Can Camp
You do not need to be some crazed enthusiast with a mountain of gear to enjoy an outdoor adventure. With a few essential items and some general know how, anyone can become a camper while also adding some great memories to their bank. Long Key State Park is one of Florida’s most beautiful campgrounds and arguably one of the most spectacular parks in the Southeastern United States. Because every campsite is directly on the ocean, you can literally take a few steps and be in the water. If you have never had the opportunity to camp right on the beach, a stay at Long Key should be high on your list of must dos.
Because you get to enjoy the beauty of the upper and middle keys along the way, driving to Long Key is half the fun. Once you arrive at the park and pull up to your campsite, however, you will be amazed that a place like this even exists. All sites are sandy, offer the convenience of electricity and water, and are mere feet from the calm Atlantic waters. Once you crack a brew and take a dip in the sea, it will not take long for you to fully embrace the notion of calling this place home for a few days. On top of this, Long Key State Park also offers several activities to occupy your time if you manage to sneak away from your site.
Dare To Kayak
Rent a kayak or canoe and spend part of a day paddling and enjoying the sights away from shore. For the less adventurous, an hour on the canoe trail will give you an up close glimpse of life in a lagoon. Sit back and enjoy a tranquil cruise as you pass mangroves and spot a variety of birds and wildlife. The more daring souls will enjoy kayaking in the ocean, possibly spotting a shark or ray in addition to the bounty of tropical fish swimming just below you. Since the water remains shallow for hundreds of yards offshore, the conditions are usually ideal for enjoying a good paddle. Beware of the wind and moving currents, though, and never get too far from shore if you are unskilled.
Other activities that are short but fun are hiking the Golden Orb Trail and climbing to the top of the park’s observation tower. The Orb Trail gives you an interesting view of Long Key’s interior, which contains much more life than you would expect. And the view from atop the observation tower is incredible, offering a complete image of the surrounding area and further cementing how spectacular the park is.
You are probably thinking, “there have to be some downsides, right?” That is correct and unfortunately, nothing is perfect, not even Long Key State Park. Because Long Key is very small, the Overseas Highway runs close to certain areas of the campground causing noise pollution. While this can be irritating, you will get over it quickly by embracing the beauty of your surroundings.
One definite limitation is campsite availability and if you want to take a road trip to Long Key State Park, plan it in advance because you will be competing with a large group of travelers all vying for their own slice of paradise. The busiest times are during the late fall, winter, and early spring so plan accordingly and take full advantage of Florida State Park’s year-in-advance reservation policy. Also, bring the bug spray in the late spring through early fall; mosquitoes bite, you know.
A Rewarding Outdoor Experience
The positives outweigh the negatives a million to one and now that you know about Long Key, come and enjoy everything this park has to offer. Anyone from seasoned camping veterans to newbies will find a stay at the park an incredible and rewarding outdoor experience. With any luck, Long Key will transform non-campers into passionate fans of the natural environment. So get your plans in order and prepare to experience “The Real Florida” by taking a road trip to Long Key State Park.
By: Gordon Alford