Great Camping in Central Florida

Highlands Hammock State Park

An occasional white-tailed deer may be seen munching in open fields at dusk here at one of Florida's oldest state parks and one of our favorite campgrounds in the state. The scenery is worth the somewhat cramped-together official camping spots. This park offers nearly 5,000 acres of virgin hardwood forest with a cypress swamp, pine flatwoods, sand pine scrub, scrubby flatwoods, and marsh. It's also the site of an old homestead, as evidenced by the still-standing citrus trees where you'll likely see deer grazing in the evening.

You're almost certain to see an alligator during your stay, and the lucky camper could encounter more exotic wildlife such as bobcats, otters, and scrub jays. Opened in 1931, this gem was one of the four original parks in the state parks system, which was organized in 1935. A museum here recounts how the Civilian Conservation Corps helped build Florida's park system during the Great Depression.

Guided walks and tram tours offered by rangers are your best bet for viewing wildlife, but you also can choose from eight nature and mountain biking trails that cover 11 miles. Horseback riding trails are available, too. Riding rented bikes along a loop road is popular. Some nature trails traverse boardwalks in a gorgeous old cypress swamp and other wet areas, while dirt paths elsewhere lead through woods. To help avoid seeing a neighbor eye to eye, ask about a few of the 16 drive-up primitive camping spots located in pine flatwoods. RVs and tents in the regular campground are pretty much out in the open.

How To Get There

From U.S. 27 near Sebring, drive west on County Road 634/Hammock Road to the park.

Campsites, facilities: The campground has 112 RV sites with water and electric hookups, picnic tables, and grills. Twenty-six sites for tents, with water only, are set aside from the RVs. Tenters can also stay in 16 sites in a primitive camping area. On the premises are rest rooms, showers, a dump station, laundry, grills, a convenience store, a recreation room, a playground, nature trails, horseshoes, shuffleboard, bicycle rentals, and mountain bike trails. Management says the museum, rest rooms, camp store, and some trails are wheelchair-accessible. Groceries and restaurants are about five miles away. Children and groups are welcome. Pets are not allowed.

Reservations, fees: Reservations are recommended and there is a nightly charge for camping sites. Major credit cards are accepted. Stays are restricted to two weeks.

Contact: Highlands Hammock State Park, 5931 Hammock Road, Sebring, FL 33872; (863) 386-6094 or fax (863) 386-6095.


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