My first camping trip in 2023 is to Lake Manatee State Park, down near Tampa, Florida. I’m turning into a regular snowbird, aren’t I? But you won’t hear an “eh” or a “you betcha” quite yet. Last January I went south to Orlando area where I camped in two recreation areas, Alexander Springs (recap) and Juniper Springs (recap). Side note, neither spring campsite had water (ironic isn’t it!?), or power and I thought that was going to be how the rest of my camping experiences went. Turns out, I was wrong! Every single state park and RV park since then has had water and power, and some even had sewer #FancyLife.
Unfortunately, Lake Manatee State Park won’t make the list of my top 5 favorites, but to be perfectly honest, I didn’t come here for the park itself. Oh also, there aren’t manatees at this park. Go to Manatee Springs State Park if you want that experience! The best part about Lake Manatee, well I guess it depends on who you ask because the lake is pretty big and probably good for fishing, I don’t know? But this park is in a great location! It’s close to Tampa/St. Pete and not very far from the central west Florida coast beaches. Did I get all the directions in there… central, west, coast, Florida. OK, got it. I actually booked the campsite so I could explore Venice Beach, on the hunt for sharks teeth. Spoiler alert, I found zero teeth! I’m probably the worst person to have on your team if you’re in any sort of tooth-finding, or manatee finding competition, so just remember that.
I also visited the St. Pete Pier, which is pretty amazing. It helped that the night I was there, the weather was absolutely perfect. From the little food dining area they actually had vegan pizza, too, another major win.
OK, back to the park itself… it’s small but has a few hiking trails. I’ve seen different types of birds but if you’re into birding, I don’t think this park will impress you. What do I know about birds? Well, I didn’t see any eagles, ospreys, hawks, heck I don’t even think I saw a heron! Gosh, that was dramatic. I DID see a heron and quite a few egrets. Sorry I got my feathers ruffled there. I’ll be less dramatic for the rest of the post.
There were small birds like red-bellied woodpeckers and I think I saw a blue jay. Oh, since last year I’ve been really hoping to get photos of armadillos because they’re just so cute. Well, I had the best chance ever while I was walking on the trail but the little rascal was fast! Here’s what I got. It also didn’t help matters that I should’ve been using a different lens.
If you’re wanting to camp in the Tampa/St. Pete/Bradenton area, this park is perfect! Location is its biggest asset. Oh, and I should mention the sites are a mix of gravel and sand (boo!) and after it rained one night, I saw a few sites that had big puddles. Kind of disappointing with the sand and the standing water but overall, I enjoyed my time at the park.
See you again tomorrow!
-Out of the Wilderness