We really needed to dump our tanks last weekend (before heading to Merlefest) and The Fairgrounds is the closest full hook-up park (I feel like park isn’t quite the right term…). To say Raleigh is in need of a full service RV park is an understatement. Mebane has the closest full hook up RV park we could find, but it’s 46 miles away from our house. We could go to one of the campsites at Jordan Lake, but we really needed to clean out the tanks an that’s not easy to do just at a pull-through dump station.
We’ve tried to find The Fairgrounds park a few times before, and it’s not easy. The area is a maze of loops with fields, ponds, horse barns, arenas, and parking lots. There’s also an RV parking area for the NC State stadium on the same road, so it can be a bit confusing. The GPS address is: 801 Youth Center Drive, Raleigh, 27606. Follow the signs for Horse Complex 7– You’re looking for the “newer sites on the hill”.
There’s a tiny office building, but the sites are run by Fairgrounds Public Safely, and are first come, first served. Just call them when you’re in the area, they’ll tell you if they have availability and you show up, find your spot, then call them again so you can pay them. It’s $30/night — the bonus is you can check in and check out anytime within that 24 hours — they told us we could stay until midnight on Sunday if we wanted to!
There’s always something going on at The Fairgrounds — this weekend there was an Arabian Horse Show which we walked around and checked out. Typically there’s a car or boat show and sometimes a dog show, although it was super quiet the entire time we were there. Also, we’re regulars at the Raleigh Flea Market which takes place down the road, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you stay at the park over the weekend.
Overall, this is a great place to stay if you want to explore the Raleigh area. It’s clean and quiet, but not fancy, and right in the city.
Our last stop over our 2 week holiday break was Dreher Island State Park in South Carolina. The park is actually a few islands connected by a bridge with two separate campgrounds and a marina. Campground A and the entrance gate are first — it has 30 rv spots with water and electric (and a dump station). The sites are aligned around the water, paved, but pretty close together. We nabbed a site with a huge dip next to it, so we had a little more room.
The second island is the marina and visitors center where you check in, and the third island is Campground B which has more RV sites, and tent sites and also some huge cabins to rent.
Bike riding, boating and fishing are the big activities here. Walking across the bridge from one island to the next you’ll see a number of boats — and everyone seems to be catching something.
This was the perfect place to do nothing but watch the sunrise and sit by the fire.
Before coming here, we’d visited 3 state parks in Georgia and they’d all been fantastic. George L. Smith was no exception. It’s a hidden gem of a park kind of in the middle of nowhere — no offense citizens of Twin City, Georgia!
View from our door. Not bad!
There are 25 sites (electric and water) that seem to be a variety of sizes, but definitely all on the bigger-than-normal side, and almost all back right up to the lake.
When you have a view like this, you just want to get out on the water, so we rented a canoe and headed out on the 10 miles of waterways around the park.
This was one of the most relaxing and serene mornings of the whole two weeks.
One of the other cool things about this park is the 1880s mill. The park uses the mill for special events like grinding corn or making sugar cane at certain times of the year. You can canoe up to it, or walk through it to the hiking trail that starts on the other side.
Deke took another video, you can see us canoe up to it at the end!
Note:The entrance to the campground is not the same as the park entrance, so check the directions before you go! Also, the gate closes at 5pm and there is NO way to get in after that time, and there are no gas stations or grocery stores for miles, so make sure you have all your supplies before you go. Oh, and there’s no internet here — nothing at all.
Typically when we travel for a few weeks at a time, we both pick one place we definitely want to go and then work around those 2 stops. My pick this trip was the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The swamp itself is huge — 402,000 acres, and the Stephen C. Foster State Park is the only campground within the boundaries of the park. The entrance to the campground is not the same as the park entrance, so check the directions before you go!
If you’ve been to the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula, the drive into this campground is really similar. It’s an 18 mile, narrow-ish 2 lane road off a slightly larger 2 lane road with nothing in site but land. There are no assigned sites, you reserve a site size, check in at the office (you drive PAST the campground to get to the office) and they’ll tell you what color sign post to look for. We got a pull-through site across from the staff cottages, it was pretty packed when we were there — I think there were only 2 sites to pick from.
There are a few small trails to walk around —
but the real winner is the water.
You can rent kayaks or canoes and try your luck in the swamp on well marked waterways. A few things: there are over 12,000 alligators in the swamp but I didn’t expect to see as many as we did –less than 6 feet from the canoe/kayak dock regularly sits a mom and her babies. Maybe it’s the city girl in me, but I was not interested in getting that close, especially with an inflatable kayak, so we opted for the $15, very cool, 60-90 minute guided boat ride with one of the parks naturalists. Her name was Sarah and she was awesome — go on a ride with her if you can. Oh, and she confirmed my no-kayaking decision was a good one by telling me that people fall in the water all the time. No thank you.
We saw over 25 alligators during the boat ride — the photos don’t do it justice so here’s a video Deke took (make sure to put your setting on HD and turn your volume down if you don’t want to hear the music):
Thankfully he added music so you don’t hear my mini-scream when the one starts flailing around next to the boat!
Note: Just because you rent a Deluxe Spot with a little pier right behind your spot, does NOT mean that’s your private pier. The piers are for all guests to use, so you may end up with a bunch of people right behind your RV at any hour of the day. It’s a little weird. However, it’s the closest (1 mile) decent sized park to town (the other park only has 4 spots), but there’s also another park 8 miles north.
The view from Site #7.
Sunset Isle is tiny and the 63 full hook-up spots are very tightly packed together. It’s basically a parking lot, but not as flat or paved. It’s a short bike ride to town so you can’t beat the location for exploring Cedar Key. Our spot was on the water (#7), and farthest from the entrance that sits a bit hidden right off Rt. 24, the only road into Cedar Key. There are other spots that sit just feet from the road, and I imagine they’re a bit loud. It was fun to have the water view and the pier, but being able to bike to town was worth feeling a bit sardine-like.
The town is super laid back, small, a bit behind the times maybe, but awesome. It’s got a great old cemetery, some hiking trails through old historical areas and overall just a lot of character – there’s something to see everywhere. And seafood! We bought clams (it’s what the area is known for) at a roadside stand, and you can also get local oysters and crabs.
Cooke’s Seafood. 50 clams for $10.
We watched football and ate oysters at Carlin’s (they don’t have a website) downtown — their oysters are local and the variety of craft beer was great (plus a great outdoor patio and live music). For breakfast we tried Away From The World Cafe — also delicious (Deke had the breakfast hamburger with maple syrup) and hilarious. Here’s their motto:
And they mean it. The whole menu is based on DMB songs and that’s what you hear the whole time.
The rest of the time, we rode our bikes around and explored the town — there’s an airport where Mike will give you plane rides for $25, a hiking trail made out of an old trestle bridge and there are countless places to just sit and watch the water.
From the boardwalk around the cemetery.
Small town directions.
We loved it here and will hopefully make it back!