There’s nothing quite like falling asleep to the sound of the natural world buzzing pleasantly along outside a self-erected shelter. It is a primitive pride that dwells within a self-sufficient human, connected to the real world and forging their place atop the animal kingdom. It’s true!
Camping can bring out the best in its constituents, testing the boundaries of sanity for the sake of inevitable and invaluable personal development. The canvas snaps in the breeze off the water and the night creatures croak, call, and click their stories under the Milky Way. Fireflies buzz to and fro, illuminating the inky darkness with the stuff of fairy tales, and dreams are in abundance as the fresh air fills you with wonder and whimsy.
As far as campgrounds go, Okeechobee has about the best sites you could possibly find, all year round. The weather is a huge factor in the choice of camping vacation, but in Florida, all you need to worry about is which side of the lake you would like to see next. You might also want to consider your priorities: whether you want a palm-fringed grove, an oak forest, a prairie, a dock to dip your toes in the water or a levee frontage all to yourself - it is a tough life campers have!
S’more about Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee itself is the main attraction when it comes to regional visitors, not only for its scenic beauty and the epic water sports held here but also for the natural ecosystems which thrive in the marshy shallows. It is almost unbelievable to realize the extent of the system’s remarkable recovery when one reviews the mass devastation inflicted upon this lush tropical habitat by the Category 5 Hurricane Okeechobee only a few centuries ago.
The impressive Lake Okeechobee sits front and center in this part of Florida. It covers approximately 730 square miles and is the ninth largest freshwater lake in the United States of America. Campers and RV enthusiasts can expect to feel an unrivaled closeness to nature as the tropical vegetation is a sanctuary to some of the most captivating creatures in the world, some of which are not seen anywhere else but here in sunny Florida.
Okeechobee is a town which values progress as much as the next business hub, but here it is also clearly evident that there is far more to it than outright capitalism. Local residents are valued and supported, and this includes the feathery, scaly, and slithery ones who make up a balanced and fascinating ecosystem. Entrepreneurs and small to medium businesses (SMEs) support each other with their wallets and their word of mouth, and tourists are welcomed with open arms as they share in the power of friendship and camaraderie.
The well-kempt campgrounds in and around Lake Okeechobee are no exception to meeting high expectations. In general, campsites offer fun-filled days in the heart of the natural world, with convenient access to amenities, shopping, restaurants, and facilities. Some campgrounds are fully equipped, with a modern air, where others pride themselves in being simple offerings, like the Vantage Oaks Campground.
The treasure of Okeechobee is not only its scenic value, but also the diverse nature and talent of its people. No matter which you choose, the campgrounds and RV parks of Okeechobee are getting back to basics and they want what we all should want: more green, less connectivity, more fun, less worry, more friendship, and more rejuvenation. Yes, most have WiFi, cable TV, and convenience at their fingertips, but there are some who are starting to understand the underrated value of being able to switch off from life for a while.
Camping is a rustic offering, but Okeechobee is an excellent spot to disconnect from daily routine and to breathe a little deeper in the depths of natural wonder. Shady campsites and boat side parking availability are all you need for a faraway feeling, and to be honest, most spots are not that far from the conveniences found in the nearby town of Okeechobee.
Resorts are actively trying to maximize their guests’ opportunities to connect with nature, which makes the Lake Okeechobee camping scene an incredibly special experience. The lake is where all the action is in the ecological Florida scene, and camping is a wonderful way for bird lovers to view some of the rarer sighting hopping about at the water’s edge, like the striking Purple Gallinule wading through the murky shallows. If you’re lucky, some of the other revered creatures of the shallows will make an appearance right outside your tent in the silent dawn.
Further north, there are camping alternatives on some of the smaller lakes, however, none compare favorably with the top-class fishing on Lake Okeechobee. Access to the lake is optimal from Okeechobee town, and accommodation options are in abundance here, too. Campgrounds often double as RV Parks, or the other way around, so enquire when making reservations.
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve
Okeechobee is also a central location from which to explore the region. The Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, for example, is a popular destination for eco-tourists in the area. It offers fantastic camping facilities with water, power, fire pits, and picnic tables, and even a swamp truck ride to introduce visitors to the wildlife in the park.
Whether in its oceanside camping sites or the more rustic inland sites, the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve Camping Grounds are considered some of the best in Florida. Besides these campgrounds within the park, there are a few other excellent camping options close enough to the park from Okeechobee. Otherwise, you can take a short drive from the awesome accommodation choices in Okeechobee itself, and around Lake Okeechobee, to visit the park.
Get a real feel of the old-school prairies at the rustic Okeechobee Prairie Camping Sweet - a ‘bring your own everything’ type of place where quiet residents can catch a glimpse of shy deer and wobbly gobblers.
If you want a lookout over a small pond and plenty of access to the best star-gazing Okeechobee can offer, visit Camp Hatfield with its ‘primitive well’ featuring a pitcher pump (but remember to bring along your own telescope - and everything else).
A Shortcut to Nature
If the feeling of the ground beneath you is more ‘aaaaw’ than awesome, maybe “glamping” is more your thing! It takes the challenge out of sleeping on the hard cold ground, with all the same benefits of being immersed in the wild.
Try options like Glampers Cabin which lies in close proximity to the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve. The ancient oaks tower over the skyline, shading the clean and private living quarters, while still leaving you with a sense of being tucked away in a beautiful place with the fauna and flora of Okeechobee.
Okeechobee is everything you need from a family holiday, really - natural beauty, thriving ecosystems, lakeside revelry, convenient proximity to the ocean, endless activities on offer, and captivating points of interest like the lake hiking trails and the speckled perch competitions. It is not far off the beaten track, but it is a quiet getaway gliding just under the public’s radar. Cast out and kick off those shoes, there’s nothing else to do but drink in the slow and steady life at the lake.
Wet ‘n Wild
The advantage to a camping experience, of course, is the closeness to the wild. Creatures of all shapes and sizes abound in this thriving ecosystem, including a number of rare species of birds and an impressive concentration of lake-dwelling alligators. Step out of your camp and take a hike through one of the hundreds of trails in the area - you will not be disappointed by the diversity of the Okeechobee ecosystem.
For fisherman of all abilities, Lake Okeechobee will seem like freshwater heaven on earth. Largemouth bass and black crappie dominate the charts here, but there’s a wide variety of other water residents up for grabs. Basic facilities and a proprietor with local knowledge on how to hook the big ones, it is all you need for a fishing weekend away (or longer if you like to snack on boiled peanuts).
There are restrictions in place to protect the biodiversity of the region, but none of these detract from the fun to be had by all on the water. Alternatively, if hunting calms you down there are a couple of places in the area to visit, too. It may be an idea to book one of the airboating tours to get a better lay of the land (including the otherwise inaccessible marshy areas), especially if speed and a wind-blown look will make you feel like you’re getting the most out of an adventurous vacation.
For a fun day entertaining the children with ‘something different,’ try the Fort Drum Crystal Mine run by congenial ‘mining tycoon,’ Eddie (he’s more friendly prospector than tycoon, by the way). There’s not much to it but it is a hoot for a bit of laughter, and perhaps, the chance at finding a fortune under all that dirt.
Bring the marshmallows (with a dollop of chocolate inside if you’re feeling decadent) and join in on the Okeechobee fun!