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.
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: 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.
Like last year, we decided to head south for the holidays. Although it’s been unseasonably warm in Raleigh for over a month, traveling back to Florida seemed fun, and the weather predictions were in the upper 80s on Christmas. Last year we explored the east coast of Florida (Tomoka State Park and St. Augustine), so we hit the Gulf this time.
The first day we stopped about halfway, at Fort McAllister Historic State Park in Richmond Hill, Georgia (south of Savannah). They have a great link on their website that allows you to check last minute availability and it showed that there were 12 spots for the night.
Walk through the park.
The park is 10 miles off the highway, on the banks of the Ogeechee River that actually surrounds the park making it an island – Savage Island. It has the ‘best-preserved earthwork fortification of the Confederacy’. You can explore the fort and there’s a small museum that contains some artifacts (and the check-in desk for the park).
The park’s boat ramp.
There are 60 sites with water, power and a fire pit, and all with shade from tall oak trees. There’s a boat ramp, covered picnic areas and a dump station. As you travel down the causeway you’ll also see some elevated cabins which look really cool. We picked site #11, an enormous pull-through next to the river and completely shaded.
View from the causeway.
We kind of wanted to stay longer….