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!
Note: This campground is NOT in the State Park – it’s 8 miles away. The address for the campground is on the reservation page – however, our GPS did NOT take us to this address when we plugged it in, it took us to a housing development next to the park (the ranger says it happens all the time). We had to call the office to figure out how to get there. Also, there’s a gate that locks at 5pm, so if you’re showing up later, you need to call and get the code.
The loop road looking at our spot.
Rainbow Springs Campground is beautiful – but I would definitely recommend getting a site on the outer edge of the loop – they’re totally enclosed and really big. Basically anything from #12-#21 are more private – we were in #16, a full hook-up spot for $30/night. Also, Nathan at Wand’rly suggests site #51. His review can be found here on Campendium. Unfortunately, these are also the farthest from the boat/kayak ramp, but they have dollies to help you get your equipment from Point A to Point B.
Rainbow Spring is Florida’s 4th largest spring – the water is completely clear and shallow – perfect for snorkeling, kayaking and paddleboarding. There are no motors allowed on this area of the river so it’s an incredibly quiet and peaceful 1.5(ish) mile cruise to the headspring.
Clearest, bluest water I’ve ever seen.
The trip to the headspring was FILLED with bird sightings – egrets, blue herons, anhingas, cormorants, red shoulder hawks, and gallinules. Oh, and a lot of turtles.
It’s also a great place for stargazing. Deke got a pretty amazing telescope for his Christmas/Birthday and we busted it out to view the stars on the clear nights.
One other fun thing we did during our 4 days here was drive to Ocala to go zip-lining. Deke got me a beginner’s package for Christmas and it was really fun! I’m not fond of heights (those of you who went to Alumafandango in Denver might remember be freaking out on the ferris wheel…) so this was a challenge for me, but I really, really enjoyed it.
This was a great place to spend Christmas — but obviously we need to up our game in the decoration department.