Cayo Costa State Park [Florida]

We spent two days on our trip to Florida at Cayo Costa State Park. We spent little time researching it– I have always wanted to camp at the beach, and I am a firm believer in state parks. And this one was less than 3 hours from Orlando. So we reserved a campsite and off we went.

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A few things we loved:

It’s an island, so there are no RVs. Really, there are no vehicles of any kind except those belonging to the Park Rangers. You know how I feel about sharing campgrounds with RVs. Also, its fairly small, and because we went in the middle of the week in February, it was nice and quiet.

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DSCN0535The shelling was great. (I did not know that “shelling” meant something other than “shelling peas” until this trip). We brought many many shells home with us, including some particularly foul smelling sponge things. We had heard that this area of the gulf coast was a great place to find shells, and it was true.

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A few things we didn’t know:

The ferry cost us more than the campsite. The park website tells you that the ferry requires reservations, but we didn’t realize how much they cost until I called the day before. Ouch. The ferry hours are limited. We questioned a few different people about the times, but I never discovered the actual schedule. It seems to only run in the afternoon.

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tropic star ferry

There is a tram from the ferry dock to the campsites that runs every hour from 9-4. I didn’t see this anywhere on the state park website. We packed light in large packs that we could carry because we weren’t sure how far we would have to walk, but other families, who knew better, brought large bins with more stuff.

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A few things we didn’t like:

Snorkeling is advertised as an activity on the website, but upon asking a Park Ranger, we learned hat the snorkeling isn’t actually very good. We used our snorkels to look for shells a few times, but the visibility wasn’t far.

We hadn’t heard about The Red Tide until we arrived on the island, but then it was all anybody wanted to talk about. You can learn more about it here, but basically it meant that we coughed a lot on the beach and there were dead fish everywhere. It didn’t ruin the experience, by any means, but it might bother others more than us.

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The misquitoes and “no-see-ums” (also known as sand fleas) were bad. Even in February. We didn’t bring bug spray, and we regretted in a big way. I am still regretting it, many days later. We bought bug spray at the little camp store on our second day there. The sales woman recommended baby oil for the “no-see-ums”, which seemed to work pretty well. We heard rumors of cockroaches and snakes, but we didn’t see either of these. Thank goodness.

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When all is said and done, we really enjoyed our time there. It was exactly what we were looking for: quiet, relaxing beach camping trip. But I think we will try someplace new the next time we venture south.

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