We recently went on a week long camping trip to the Florida Caverns State Park and Anastasia State Park. This post will mainly focus on the Florida Caverns and I’ll be writing about our stay at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine shortly…so stay tuned!
If you know us very well, you would know that we love camping and exploring the outdoors. Any chance we have to be outside and stretch our legs is time well spent. Michael particularly enjoys it since it gives him a break from sitting at his desk 9hrs a day in front of a computer screen.
This is our first camping trip up into the panhandle of Florida. The Florida Caverns State Park is located off Interstate 10 near Marianna (about a 45min drive west of Tallahassee). It’s so close to Georgia that the sandy dirt is red from the iron-rich clay. Even though it was only a 4 hour drive for us, we felt like we were in a different state all together! Especially since we experienced a reprieve from the humidity and mosquitoes.
Our stay at this park only lasted 3 nights, but there is plenty to do to keep most people entertained. Their main attraction is the caverns, which I’ll get to in a minute. Tent and RV spots are available, but book early since spots fill up months in advance. We had a powered tent site and we were very close to one of the bath houses (which also have washer/dryer which is always a plus!). The park also had multi-use trails (hiking, biking, or horseback riding) and these were all well-marked and enjoyable to explore. It’s so refreshing to get away from the noise of cars and people…it’s almost therapeutic.
There is also a swimming area in a mineral-rich, spring-fed pond called Blue Hole. It was a beautiful area, but WOW was that water cold!! Since it was fairly hot outside, that only enhanced the temperature difference and we had to take a few swim breaks to thaw out our toes. Of course, all the little kids were jumping in repeatedly and were impervious to the frigid water…maybe their little bodies were numb at that point so it didn’t matter? They were having a blast though and it was very family friendly atmosphere.
The park also offers kayak and canoe rentals to explore part of the Chipola River, plus you could fish or even play golf on their 9-hole course.
The highlight of this trip for us was touring the caverns. For anyone interested in visiting, here are a few pointers:
- Tours of the caverns are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and spots can sell out during the busy season (May-Sept). Try to get one of the earlier tour times before the crowds start pouring in.
- Bring a light jacket if you get cold easily, the caverns stay a cool 60 degrees year round. Wear slip-resistant shoes…it’s a damp environment and you can easily lose your footing if you aren’t careful. One young man learned that the hard way, but luckily his butt broke his fall. Not sure if he left with his pride intact though…
- If you plan on taking pictures within the caverns, make sure you have a camera (or phone camera) that can handle the low light conditions. You can use your flash, but if there any sleeping bats the ranger will remind you to turn your flash off. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any bats in the caverns, although we did see them flying around over our site right before sundown.
- Prepare for limited cell signal within the park. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you are trying to “get away from it all” it can make it difficult to use certain aspects of your phone if you use it for everything. Cut that umbilical cord to your work life and social media! I promise, they will still be there when you get back…unfortunately! We have T-Mobile and had zero cell signal until we got into the nearby town of Marianna. It wasn’t a big deal for us since family knew where we were and we honestly aren’t glued to our phones as much as we used to be.
The tour lasts 45 minutes led by a Ranger or Park Volunteer with plenty of picture opportunities. This was actually good practice for low-light scenarios with our DSLR camera. The only downside was that no tripods are allowed in the cave so trying to eliminate camera shake on those long exposures was nearly impossible. Somehow we managed to come home with a few decent pictures!
My only regret was not taking a picture of the tiny bats flying above the campground at night eating up the mosquitoes or the fireflies that danced around us in the evenings while we enjoyed our dinner. But take our word for it, this is definitely a place you want to check out in person!
Click Here for more reviews of Florida Caverns State Park from Tripadvisor. We post reviews of places we visit and frequently use it ourselves as a tool while traveling.