When we were planning our trip, I spent countless hours looking at maps, trying to pinpoint state parks that although unknown to the majority of us, may be interesting for us to visit as off-the-beaten track spots.
Manatee Springs was one of those places. After the whirlwind stay in Orlando, we got on the road, and a couple of hours’ drive north, found what was to be our home for the next few nights. It was C’s first time camping, and our debut using this tent, so we were a bit apprehensive. Thankfully, our Coleman tent was super easy to put up, spacious for all 3 of us, plus the dozens of miniature toys that follow us around, and even a couple mosquitos.
We camped in the Manatee Springs for 2 nights, in a great large shaded spot with a fire ring and a picnic table. It was perfect for exploring the area and was only a few minutes’ walk to the springs themselves. The wildlife here is unimaginable – there were squirrels everywhere, running around like it was autumn, and we were lucky enough to see a family of white-tailed deer who came to graze just outside our tent every evening…Magical.
The state park sits nestled under beautiful tall and lush trees, creating a fairytale like scenario of light and shadows, making it feel quite eerie at times. The park is steep with wildlife and you’ll be able to spot a variety of birds, sea snakes, manatees in the winter and fish. In winter, West-Indian manatees make the crystal clear springs their home. Unfortunately we arrived a week too late to spot the manatees, but the springs are also a fantastic snorkelling, kayaking, canoeing or swimming spot, so we weren’t too disappointed ;).
There’s a fantastic little café on-site that smokes its meat on a monster smoker and puts out some seriously delicious dishes for next to nothing.
We took it easy and had a relaxing couple of days here in the springs, went on a little trail trying to find the biggest stick in the world, and swam in the cold waters. If you’re driving through, or staying nearby, it is definitely worth paying a visit to this unspoilt nature spot, and don’t forget to walk down the boardwalk at sunset – it’s pretty spectacular.
So if you happen to be driving in the area, or if you’re looking for an off the beaten track nature spot in Florida, this may be the place for you!
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