Q: Dear Peter: My husband and I just bought an RV and want to finally take a long tour through our home state of Florida. How do I find the best RV parks (near the best attractions) and their cost per day?
- Kathy Groves, Palm Coast, Fla.
A: Kathy, the world of RV parks is right at your fingertips! No need to scour the Yellow Pages in this day and age, all it takes is your favorite search engine and you're off!
But before you start, ask yourself a few questions: am I interested in private or public campgrounds? What amenities, if any, do I absolutely need? What is the average I want to spend? How deep you'd like to dig in your pocket can help you narrow the decision between types of parks and destination.
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If "roughing it" is your calling, public campgrounds might be your destination. These government-run parks (county, state and national) primarily provide a spot to park, but you won't necessarily have to bang rocks for your fire. One useful site is floridastateparks.org, which gives information on your state's more than 50 family campgrounds. RVers can expect "full-facility campsites including water, electricity, a grill and picnic table, along with centralized showers, restrooms and dump station." Not too shabby!
One great thing about Florida and its warm climate is the year-round availability of RV-ing. My quick search found Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna is open year-round. There's only a $5 vehicle fee (2-8 people) and a $20 camping fee per night (includes water and electricity), and you can even take an $8 cave tour. Ponce de Leon Springs State Park is also available year-round with amazing clear water springs, nature trails and fishing.
Now, if private is your preference, you're looking for a full range of amenities regardless of the price. Destin-ation.com offers RV campsites by region and highlights private parks as well. Camping on The Gulf is just one example of a private park in Destin, Fla., offering WiFi, Xbox, cable and an activity center with an exercise room and business center, pools, basketball, laundry, gift shop, golf cart rental and more. Whew! If this is your idea of a dream RV campground, Kathy, you'll be paying $71-230 daily.
But here's the best part of all, Kathy. You couldn't have picked a better time to tour your home state. There is more going on next year in Florida than a gator can chomp! Did you know that 2012-2013 marks your state's 500th anniversary? Look for statewide events commemorating Juan Ponce de León's arrival on Florida's east coast, such as Native American trail tours and celebrations in St. Augustine, America's oldest city.
Of course the Gulf's white beaches and Orlando's theme parks always beckon young and old, but what about Tallahassee's 78 miles of "canopy roads," moss-shaded drives past live oaks and diverse wildlife? Or Key West's 100th anniversary of the "Overseas Railway," the first railroad to connect Florida's isolated islands and the mainland? (Don't worry; RVs are welcome on this safe and modern bridge.) Bradenton, meanwhile, offers world-class golf, unique artwork and the soft white sands of Anna Maria Island. The local tourist bureau websites for these cities will also provide RV information.
Regardless of your trip, big or small, here are a few sites to help you on your journey. Safe travels!