Campground Review: Manatee Springs State Park, Chiefland, Florida
Manatee Springs is located along the legendary Suwannee River about 6 miles west of Chiefland Florida. It offers swimming, snorkeling, and manatee viewing in its signature warm water spring. Other amenities include hiking/biking trails, canoeing/kayaking, and enjoying its full-service campground (see our review lower down this page)
The Spring pool maintains a 72 degree temperature year round which draws in Manatees from the river during the winter months when the temperatures in the river fall, thus the reason the springs are named Manatee Springs. The year round moderate temperature also provides humans swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling recreation year-round.
From the spring pool, about 100 million gallons of cool, sparkling clear, clean water are discharged into the stream that connects to the Suwannee River. The stream and the river provide excellent waters for canoeing and kayaking; both types of water craft are available for rent by the park concessionaire, Anderson’s Outdoor Adventures, who also carries a collection of camping equipment and supplies. Another service is pontoon boat tours of Suwannee River.
Camp Store & Grill
In the same building as Anderson’s Adventures is a walk-up grill and beverage stand with covered picnic tables and Free Wi-Fi service. So you can sit there have a brew or a burger while surfing the Internet!
Other types of recreation popular in the park are fishing, hiking, and mountain-biking. There are 8 miles of hiking and nature trails, plus two boardwalk trails. Biking is allowed on most of the hiking trails as well as on the roads running throughout the park. Some ambitious bikers will bike to town on highway 320; we’ve found the road to town relatively less busy so reasonably safe for biking.
The Manatee Springs Campground
The campground offers 80 campsites in three camping areas. Most sites are reasonably level and nicely spaced away from adjacent sites. Each of the three camping areas has its own conveniently located washroom and bath house. One of the bath houses we used had heat lamps in the showers, a nice feature if you are showing on a cold morning. There is electricity and water at each campsite and a dump site near the park entrance for emptying your holding tanks. There is no Wi-Fi within the camping area, however there is free Wi-Fi at the concessionaire pavilion near the springs itself.
Cypress Trees line the spring pool and lowland areas near the river, but Oak trees are the major tree species in most of the park. Sweetgum and Ash are also found throughout the woods. The mature trees provide nice shade for the campsites and woodland plants and shrubs provide welcome privacy screening in the campground.
After each campsite is vacated, park service personnel pick up trash, sweep and rake every campsite. Sort of like a good motel has the room swept, sheets changed, bathrooms cleaned, and waste baskets cleaned between stays. We also found good maintenance of the picnic tables and fire rings and the cleaning of the washrooms excellent.
Price-wise, Camping fees at Manatee Springs is middle-level and in our opinion is a very good bargain for the services offered by the park and the high level of good maintenance.
Nearby Visitor Attractions
In the village of Chiefland (6 miles away) you can find most every kind of shopping or dining service. Among the attractions of special interest to RVers is a propane fill-up at Wilson Gas and a mobile RV Repair Service. Another Chiefland attraction is only about a mile from the park: a friendly 18 hole golf course – Chiefland Golf & Country Club.
Gulf Coast Beach Town. An easy drive (about 30 miles) is the fun Beach Town of Cedar Key (see our post). The friendly village is built on a collection of gulf islands and offers the expected beach resort attractions such as restaurants, pubs, gift shops, T-shirts shops and the like. Yet is also offers a more homey, laid-back atmosphere than you find in most other gulf beach communities. Beach sunbathing, swimming, deep sea fishing, boat and dolphin-watching tours, shopping boutiques, and excellent sea food restaurants and pubs abound in Cedar Key.
Other Campground Options
There are five other campgrounds or RV parks in the Chiefland area (see our review); our favorite is Strawberry Fields. Another campground in the area we like is the Shell Mound County Park Campground near Cedar Key.
Visitor Attraction Links: