RV Road Trip: Ocala

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Enjoy the great outdoors with all the amenities of the great indoors along for the ride.

After years of tent camping throughout Florida, my wife and I are now proud RV owners. If you've never been RVing, we promise you're in for a real treat. The beauty of RVing is that you get to enjoy the great outdoors with all the amenities of the great indoors along for the ride. Today's modern RVs feature as little or as many amenities as you want for your camping adventure, including full bathrooms, TVs, microwaves, comfy beds and much more.

One of our favorite RV road trips is in and around the Ocala National Forest (ONF), thanks to a wide variety of camping possibilities and an array of activities to suit anyone who loves the outdoors like we do (though returning to an air-conditioned RV is okay, too). Easily accessible in the north central part of the state (but seemingly worlds away from bright lights and bustle), the ONF sprawls over approximately 385,000 acres of mostly forested land. That makes for plenty of space to commune with Mother Nature, Sunshine State-style.

We love taking our Winnebago to the ONF with few plans past enjoying RV camping at one or more campgrounds and pursuing outdoor activities. Imagine swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving in the springs (the constantly cool spring pools here are world-famous); canoeing and kayaking on varied rivers and lakes; hiking and biking on hundreds of miles of trails - just outside your door.

RVers will find a variety of campgrounds in and near the ONF proper. Campers have a wide range of camping opportunities from primitive campsites to the popular Salt Springs Recreation Area that offers water and electric hookups.

Juniper Springs and Alexander Springs recreation areas are also good choices because of their wooded RV sites and multitude of water- and land-based pursuits. Juniper Springs Recreation Area features swimming, snorkeling, a canoe launch (including rentals) and hiking. As with all of the springs, the water remains around 72 degrees.

At Alexander Springs Recreation Area, the options are the same - with the addition of scuba diving (bring your certification card and all gear) and great biking. We're veteran divers, but the scuba diving here welcomes those who have just been certified - the water is clear, the diving is shallow and you'll often see lots of fish (and maybe even an alligator!). The Florida National Scenic Trail (for hikers only) runs right through Alexander Springs. The first segment of this famous trail was built in 1966 in the ONF and, today, there's a 70-mile route that's rightfully popular with hikers.

The ONF is also a prime jumping-off point for accessing one of Florida's award-winning state parks. Silver River State Park, just outside the ONF along the Silver River (right below classic Silver Springs Nature Park), features 59 wonderfully large and wooded RV sites with water and electric hookups. The 5,000-acre park offers miles of hiking trails, with our favorite being the 1.9-mile Swamp Trail, which leads across a swamp (watch for feeding ibis) to the crystal-clear Silver River. There's also excellent biking, as well as an outfitter offering canoe rentals and trips.

Silver River State Park also provides a perfect example of the camaraderie RVers typically enjoy at campgrounds. Fellow RVers stop by to compare travel notes (and RVs). Whether you're here or at another Florida campground, the people, including friendly staff, provide half the fun. Your RV and Mother Nature will take care of the rest.


More Florida RVing Hotspots

In addition to Ocala, the Sunshine State offers a treasure of RVing opportunities. Here are a few of our favorites:

The Florida Keys: If you love being on or near the water, the Keys offer, well, the keys to great RVing (many RVers tow their boats). Located just one mile south of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo Kampground & Marina provides a perfect introduction to Keys RVing.

The central west coast:
With coastal islands and a variety of RV campgrounds (including many state park options), Florida's West Coast is an RVer's paradise. Crystal River's Lake Rousseau RV and Fishing Resort is a popular option in this neck of the woods, but there are plenty of campgrounds to choose from along the coast and inland.

Florida's northwest: Thanks to quiet beaches and inland areas, Florida's Northwest region is quickly becoming one of our favorite RV destinations. Try Milton's Cedar Pines RV Campground.

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