Rounding the corner and slowly pulling into an Orlando RV resort, we found ourselves confronted with a familiar scene. RVs stacked in suburbia-style rows maximized the precious real-estate while any desire for a shaded spot was squashed by a scarcity of trees. And, an $80 a night price-tag awaited our stay.
I parked our rig, paused, and turned to Brittany, “I can’t do it. I just cannot do it.”
We’d done our fair share of boondocking in the prior few weeks and were ready for the comforts of full-hookups and the bathhouse’s endless hot water. But the thought of shelling out a couple hundred bucks for our Winnebago View to bake in the hot Florida sun, sandwiched between our neighbors for two days? It just wasn’t my idea of a good time.
So we huddled over our illuminated iPhones, with the AllStays App fired up as we searched for a more desirable place to stay. “What about this place … Magnolia Park?” Brittany suggested. Twenty minutes away, pet friendly, and $22 a night? Let’s roll the dice.
Perhaps it was the dreamy welcoming entrance framed by Spanish-moss clad trees, the vibrant-colored peacocks roaming the property, the spacey and secluded RV spots, or maybe the breathtaking sunset on that evening’s walk around Magnolia Park, but with that experience, we were convinced more than ever: state park campgrounds simply can’t be beat.
The beautiful sunset that greeted us at Magnolia Park in Orlando, Florida.
Here are 5 reasons we love state park campgrounds, and think you might too!
1. Incredible value
It’s often written that RVing can be done as cheap or expensive as you choose. Dry camping on public land or welcoming farms and wineries will essentially cost you nothing, but you’ve gotta be ready to conserve water and electricity at every turn. Conversely, RV parks often provide all the luxuries and amenities you could ever need, but prepare to shell out $50 to $100+ a night.
State park campgrounds provide the best of both worlds. The majority cost around $20 – $30 a night, and offer many similar amenities to their pricy RV park counterparts. Though we haven’t come across too many pools, clean bathhouses and laundry facilities are definitely the norm.
2. Spacey RV spots
Privately owned RV parks and campgrounds can sometimes feel a bit cramped, with the property set-up to accommodate the maximum number of guests possible. They’re not all like that, but more often than not, you can seemingly reach out and touch your neighbor from your dinette table!
State-owned campgrounds are run with less concern for bottom dollar, and thus are less driven to stack parking spots on top of one another. Instead, trees and shrubbery are left standing, creating a little oasis around your RV. The parking spots usually offer more shade and privacy from neighbors.
Fort McAllister State Park just south of Savannah, Georgia, featured massive RV spots!
3. Gorgeous scenery, plus outdoor activities
Because state park campgrounds are in, well, state parks, they tend to be accompanied by gorgeous landscape and loads of outdoor activities. Case in point? Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake in Orlando ($21 per night) features a myriad of walking paths and recreational lakes while McKinney Falls State Park, just outside Austin, Texas ($22 per night), is home to countless hiking trails, and beautiful creeks with waterfalls and lots of swimming spots.
Brittany and Ella ready for the trails (and a swim) at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX.
A recent stay at Maumee Bay State Park, just outside Toledo, Ohio, ($24 per night) reminded us the breadth of activities some state parks offer. It’s location on Lake Erie yields beaches and watercraft activities, while countless lakes offer fishing, kayaking, and scenic walking trails. This particular state park also had weekly activities ranging from coffee and doughnuts to ice cream socials to campfire singalongs. And for all the golfers out there, the state-park-run golf course was a mere 1.5-mile bike ride away, just on the opposite side of the park.
Jordan biked to the nearby golf course daily at Maumee Bay State Park (just east of Toledo, Ohio).
4. Friendly and clean
If you’ve been RVing more than a time or two, you know the RV community in general to be quite friendly. The same can be said about staff at state parks. We’ve yet to have a bad experience and oftentimes have had staff members go out of their way to help us.
Despite the low price tag, state park facilities tend to be very clean and well-maintained. Bathhouses, parking spots, guest facilities and the overall park properties are inviting. Not something you can always say about the lower-cost campgrounds.
5. Wildlife abound!
Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I’ve seen my fair share of wildlife. But if I’m being honest, it never gets old watching a family of deer grazing in the wild as the setting sun illuminates the distant sky. State parks’ inviting landscapes seemingly attract wildlife, and in just a few years on the road, we’ve encountered just about everything in state parks.
Plenty of deer and active birds, a few bald eagles, peacocks, gators, coyote in Texas … the list goes on. But bottom line – if you want a more secluded and outdoorsy experience, turn to state parks.
Peacocks were everywhere at Magnolia Park (Orlando, FL)!
A few considerations for staying in state parks
So what are some of the potential drawbacks? Some state parks don’t have full hookups. So while you’ll have all the electricity and water you’ll ever need, trips to the dump station every so often may be required. We generally combat frequent moves by using the bathhouse as our restroom and shower spot, and reserve the capacity of our tanks for hand and dish washing.
Second, it’s not uncommon to have maximum stays – usually in the 14 to 21 day range. So if you want to hunker down for a few months, you’ll have to break-up your stays. Then again, maybe that’s an excuse to book a few days at the nearby RV park and enjoy their hot tub and pool!?
Lastly, some smaller or more secluded state parks might have a maximum RV length, meaning the supersized Class A rigs may be out of luck from time-to-time. We haven’t seen too many with restrictions, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Bottom line: if you’re in search of more space, better scenery, loads of outdoor activities and an often vibrant wildlife scene – all at a great price – be sure to give state parks a look!
Nothing like an evening fire-side beverage to end the day at a state park campground!