Lake Manatee State Park is a peaceful paradise located about an hour south of Tampa in Florida, one of the country's most popular vacation states. This small but beautiful park packs a big punch with its three miles of gorgeous lake shore landscape along the crystal clear Manatee Lake. The lake is actually a reservoir created by damming up the Manatee River, giving anglers in the area an opportunity to catch some larger than average fish in the area, including bluegill and catfish, where they can fish from a boat or right from the dock.
But that's not all Lake Manatee State Park has to offer campers. Swimming, hiking, and geocaching are just a few of the many activities that draw visitors from miles around. You'll enjoy exploring the combination of marshland, sand pine scrub, and hardwood forest at the park on a hike or a bike ride before cozying up for the night in the comfortable campground just steps from the lake.
Fun is always in season at Lake Manatee, so whether you come in the hot Florida summer to enjoy some swimming in the lake, or come in the winter where the evenings are just the right temperature for telling stories around the campfire after a day on the boat, you won't be disappointed. Lake Manatee State Park is an excellent choice for a fun-filled RV vacation.
Lake Manatee State Park is approximately a 30-minute drive east from Bradenton, Florida and just under 60 miles south of Tampa. There are two park entrances: the main entrance and a secondary entrance. RVers should enter the park's main entrance heading east on State Road 64. The main entrance is closest to the park ranger station, camping facilities, and beach access. Park patrons pay an entrance fee. Please be aware if your RV has more than eight people, there will be an additional fee per person after eight.
Loop #1 at Lake Manatee Campground has 27 spots to choose from. Twenty-five are available for RV or tent camping and two are only suitable for RVs or trailers. The campground is open year-round and all are pet-friendly and come with 30-amp electric hookups. The sites in this loop are back-in sites that can accommodate up to 65-foot long RVs or trailers.
There is a dump station near the entrance of the campground. The campground has two bathhouses, a playground, and a picnic area within walking distance. Although the campground allows well-behaved pets, be aware that pets are not permitted in all areas of the park. The maximum stay in the campground is 14 consecutive nights. Quiet hours are from 11 PM to 7 AM.
This loop also has 27 sites, two of which allow for RVs or trailers only, while the rest are available for RV or tent campers. These back-in sites can hold rigs up to 60 feet in length and come with 30-amp electric service. This campground is also pet-friendly and is just a bit closer to the lake than Loop 1. There are two bathhouses nearby, as well as a playground and a dump station for your convenience.
With only 27 sites available for either RV or tent camping in Loop 1, you may want to make a reservation ahead of time. However, the park will allow campers to rent on a first come, first served basis if there are unreserved spaces open upon arrival.
With the close proximity to the lake, you'll want to make a reservation if at all possible. However, the park allows campers who arrive without a reservation to rent open spaces on a first-come, first-used basis.
Do you and your family like to explore? Geocaching is a fun way to explore nature and connect with other explorers any time of year. Go online for geocache coordinates to find caches in the area. When you find the treasure left for you by the last cacher, don't forget to bury another item for the next explorer to find.
Make sure you don't damage any natural habitat and leave something that won't harm the wildlife in the area. Snap a picture and post it on a geocache website and talk with other geocachers online. The Florida Park Service works with Operation Recreation GeoTour to provide a fun experience for adult and kid geocachers as well. Lake Manatee State Park as has 40 caches on-site, and it's a great place to take part in the high-tech treasure hunt. Check with the park for more information
For family fun, try riding bikes through the paved 2.5-mile bike trail that loops around the campgrounds. The road is flat and easy to access, and the weather is perfect for a ride at any time of year. If a flat road isn't adventurous enough, opt for the off-road, varied terrain trail that winds 2.5 miles through the park. If you don't have your own bike, you can rent fat-tired beach cruisers at the ranger station.
On your ride, look out for wildlife in the park. If you cycle past the marshlands, you may see some interesting animals enjoying the swampy land such as turtles, osprey, and alligators.
Hiking is an activity the whole family can enjoy, and it's even better in the cooler off-season. Get out and observe Florida's beauty by foot. Visitors should pick a trail map when entering the park. Lake Manatee State Park has 4.5 miles of trails to explore. Much of the park is remote, so prepare yourself with the proper supplies when heading out for a hike. Always be aware of the weather, and keep a distance from the wildlife.
After a morning of hiking, you'll want to enjoy some lunch in the shade, so head back to the lake where you'll find a pavilion filled with tables or choose a more secluded table under the oaks. You'll be rested up to hike all afternoon!
For people who want to enjoy the water, but don't want to fish, try exploring the lake on a canoe or kayak. Wildlife viewing is a different experience from the water! Paddle slowly past beaver dams or spot turtles under the surface as you float on the peaceful water. Lake Manatee has 2,400 acres of water to explore, and what better way to see the lake than on a boat? Bring your own boat and use the canoe and kayak launch to access the water.
Lake Manatee is considered one of the best fishing locations in the region. Visitors can fish along the shorelines of the lake, from a dock, or they can fish from a boat. Lake Manatee was created by damming the Manatee River back in the 1960s. As a result, anglers are able to catch a wide variety of large fish, including bluegill, largemouth bass, striper, and even channel catfish and blue catfish.
Only boats with motors up to 20 horsepower are allowed on the water, along with paddle boats. Please contact the Florida Wildlife Commission to learn about fishing rules and regulations, but anglers from 15 to 65 years of age will need a Florida fishing license.
Swimming is practically required when summer camping in Florida, and campers have the perfect opportunity to take a dip on this RV adventure. Lake Manatee has a designated swimming area perfect for cooling off after a rigorous bike ride on the trail. The swimming area is walking distance from the campground and has a playground, shower, restroom, and a picnic area nearby. Swimmers should note that there isn't a lifeguard on duty, Be sure to wear a flotation device for safety.