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Bill&Anneli

Florida Keys or mainland?

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Hello,

We will be going to the Florida Keys in April and was wondering if there are recommendations for nice camp grounds ? We don't really enjoy the places with mostly permanent residents. We prefer places that are occupied by fulltime travelers. We have a 37 ft class A and are towing a jeep, so can fit in most parks, except the parks with the tightest length restrictions. We prefer full hoookups, 50 amp and nice level spots.

Also, looking for recommendations as to whether to stay in the keys or find a campground on the mainland ? 

Thanks much as always for your wisdom :-)

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Staying in the keys saves a 4 hr drive to Key West. Key West has the best sunsets I've ever witnessed.   You would want to take the all-day trip to Ft. Jefferson national park too.  Here is a list of campgrounds in the keys. In April there is a better chance of finding a site.

Retired military may camp on the Navy base. It is the only RV camping at the island of Key West.(and Sigsbee island-owned by the Navy, which connects to KW.)

Tip; fill your fuel tanks before you leave the mainland, fuel is about $1 higher at Key West.

Edited by Ray,IN

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Many years ago we stayed at Boyd's Campground in Key West.  Great location and good service at that time.  While it's a small island you really should spend a week there to get the full flavor of that end of the Keys.

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There are only a few RV parks near Key West and they are expensive by my standards. Some are tight parking but you should be ok with what you stated. Key West is a first class city and I think it is one of the nicest places in the US. Go and have a great time!

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Check out the dates of high/low season changeover. Can save you money by changing just one day if it's close. I sure wish we'd known to do that.

Linda Sand

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I was stationed at NAS Key West in the early 70's. We lived in Woodson's Trailer park, looks like it is now Boyd's campground. Woodson's was kind of a dump but, we were just married and it was cheap. Base housing was full.

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10 hours ago, somewhereinusa said:

I was stationed at NAS Key West in the early 70's. We lived in Woodson's Trailer park, looks like it is now Boyd's campground. Woodson's was kind of a dump but, we were just married and it was cheap. Base housing was full.

Sounds like Woodson's trailer park may disappear: https://thebluepaper.com/mobile-home-park-evictions-residents-file-suit-claiming-fraud-by-new-owners/

Apparently Boyd's is a different location.

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10 hours ago, Ray,IN said:

 

Apparently Boyd's is a different location.

All very strange. I went to the above link about Boyd's and it showed a map. I thought, "that looks like the location where we lived". Did a little more searching and found a listing for Woodson's in the exact same location on a map as Boyd's. The Boyd's website says they started in 1963 we lived there in 1969. Neither wife or I remember anything like a campground there. At that time there wasn't really much on the north side of Stock island. 

Side note: Wife spent the night that hurricane Camille was supposed to hit in that trailer, me in a tin shack on the runway at the air base.

History seems to have a way of not being quite right, or at least the way I remember it.  I found two websites that said according to ships log the USS Constellation CVA64 was in Vietnam in late 70 early 71. It was in drydock in Bremerton WA during the time in question. I walked under it. Connie didn't leave for Vietnam until three days after I was discharged in  August 1971.

 

Edited by somewhereinusa

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Well, we know everything on the internet must be true_👎 Woodson's may be next to Boyd's @ (unnamed) 24.573 -81.735 it's very dense housing on Stock Island now.

 

Edited by Ray,IN

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If you want to experience the florida keys, you have to stay in the keys. At least a one or 2 days near key west is recommended, the atmosphere, activities, water, can’t be beat. If you stay on the mainland (homestead) it would take you three hours of driving time to get to Key West. It is a 2 Lane Rd. and if there are any traffic accidents it may be much much longer. And three hours is not accounting for traffic, which is a given, especially in winter months (includes April).  We stayed in a place a couple of years ago with our class a “Boyds Key West Campground” we had to make reservations one year in advance for Christmas week, and even calling one year in advance we couldn’t get waterfront. If you are planning to go in two months, please call campgrounds as there are only a few that can accommodate our size and possibly have reservations. You don’t want to drive there and just take a chance you’ll find something, it’s just too popular. Please don’t let this discourage you from going , it’s a great place, but frustration can ruin a trip.

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No question you have to stay in the Keys to get the experience.  No matter how long you stay, you will not want to leave.  The first time we went for a week and stayed two.  The next year we went for two weeks and stayed three.  The next year we stayed a month.  The year after that we stretched it so six weeks.  You get the idea.  You end up on "Keys time" and are just not in a hurry any more.  And after a bunch of years we have still not made it to all the little off the beaten path spots there are to find and enjoy.  Allow some time for bridge fishing and take a kayak.  We were used to mainland piles of rules and such for boat launches and what not, so we asked a local where to find a boat launch where we would be allowed to put in our kayak, and he just gave us a truly perplexed look and said "it's the keys, just toss it in anywhere".  There's way too much to see to day trip from the mainland, you won't make it past Key Largo, which is kind of like Miami south with better seafood.  You need to get to the lower Keys.

The ONLY reasonably priced campgrounds in the Keys are the state parks.  They are all very nice, recently updated and clean nice sites.  We have stayed at Long Key, John Pennekamp in Key Largo, and Curry Hammock near Marathon.  The sites at Long Key almost all back directly onto the water.  Curry Hammock is semi dry camping  without full hookups but quiet and nice views and a good beach.  Key Largo is the place to be for snorkeling but you can't see the water from the campsites.  All have great kayaking as well.  Visited but not stayed at Bahia Honda which is the most beautiful of the bunch, but I know it suffered a lot of hurricane damage.  We have not been there since the hurricane so check ahead.  All the state parks can be reserved online.  The catch is reservations open at midnight one year in advance of your first day of your stay and for a prime spot on a prime date for a decent length stay you need to be on the computer to reserve.  BUT if you are flexible on dates and are willing to stay only a few days at a time dates stay open up to a few months before.  ALSO lots of cancellations happen since there is no penalty for cancellation, so check back often on your dates.  I know we had nice spots open up as late as a month or only a few days before we wanted to stay so we shuffled around our plans to enjoy some nice spots.  I know on one trip the mainland state park we were staying was happy to refund and let us duck out several days earlier when some spots opened up on Long Key so we got into the the Keys a few days early that year.

Getting to the Keys.  We hate big cities, so we hate Miami as much as the rest of them.  So we don't like to stay there.  Our favorite plan is to stay at Jonathon Dickinson State Park near Jupiter Inlet.  Nice new campground, quiet with big sites and new restrooms and near lots of stuff to do.  Best part is it is the perfect distance to cast off first thing in the morning, get through Miami, and be comfortably set up on your site in the Keys before dark.  Alternate plan is the Miccosukee Casino west of Miami right on the edge of the everglades.  They let you dry camp overnite in the parking lot, just register with security.  You can miss most of Miami on the way in if you route it right, then just a quick skip to Homestead in the morning and US 1 into the Keys.

Our favorite campground was Knights Key where we used to spend the month of December for several years, but the rat bastard developers bought it up and built condos.  Truly a loss to the old fashioned Keys experience.  But I digress... 

Our next favorite would be Geiger Key Fishcamp and Marina.  About 9 miles out of Key West and off the beaten path, they have beautiful waterfront sites with a seawall and boat dockage for the traveling campers.  There is a contingent of permies, but their spaces are off to the side and are a good bunch of friendly characters that fit in well and are not annoying like their mainland ilk.  People in the Keys are just not the same as anywhere else.  Great restaurant onsite that you absolutely have to visit regardless of if you stay there.

Sunshine Key is just south of the 7 mile bridge, kind of in the middle of nowhere, but not too far to commute into Marathon for supplies, or into Key West for fun.  Big spaces and a marina, but it is kind of a big gravel lot.  Same for the nearby KOA.  That is the trade off in the keys to not be stacked in on top of each other.  We toured but did not stay in Fiesta Key near Islamorada.  Watch the reservations as some parts of the park have nice big spots, and some parts they literally have to park so the slides miss each other like tetris.  Also a nice restaurant and marina on site, and half way between Marathon and Key Largo.

I'd stay away from any of the "campgrounds" left in Marathon, they are all very very very cramped, or completely a trailer park with only a few transient sites.  Nothing against a trailer park, it's just not where I want to vacation.

Others have mentioned Boyds.  We have toured but not stayed there.  Very nice and quite pricey, but as they say: location, location, location as the closest place to Key West. 

Blue water is the cream of the crop if you can afford it.

I do have to admit my info is just a couple of years out of date, the wife's health has kept us from getting very far from home here in Ohio since 2016, but it has brought back good memories to hopefully pass a little on to those of you who can go and enjoy "our Keys".

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We stay on Marathon at Pirates Cove. Costs a fraction of what the places near Key West do and it's not that long a drive to get to KW. For us a daytrip to KW is plenty the place is a drunkards Tourist trap, you know the type of place. Gatlinburg, Jackson Hole and so on. There is a lot to do based in Marathon, swimming, diving, snorkeling, there are parks to visit and restaurants to be sampled. Pirates Cove has it's own protected beach. Everglades Park is within daytrip range too.

 

You absolutely want to take a dive boat trip to the reefs, snorkel or Scuba if you are certified. Not pricey and they will rovide gear. The dives are all escorted by divers.

Edited by agesilaus

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Yup, we have given up on the whole east coast trip for all of 2020, probably will head back out west in June, and hunker down for the rest of the year. We are still in Gulf Shores Alabama, have not moved since March 1. Hope to "re-plan" our east coast trip from the Florida Keys to Maine in 2021... I will keep the posts so I can refer to them when we resume travel planning.

Thanks again for all the info, hope you're safe and healthy!

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