What was once a luxurious retreat for the well-to-do in Key West of southern Florida is now an outdoor oasis for RVers and nature lovers. When railroads were constructed along the Keys in the early 1900s, it made travel between the small islands possible (if you could afford it), and both the rich and famous flocked to the Long Key Fishing Camp, a swanky getaway at the time. Unfortunately, the fishing camp met its demise in 1935 when the Labor Day hurricane swept away most of the modern developments in the Middle Keys. After the catastrophic event, Long Key State Park opened in 1969, allowing people from all walks of life to come and enjoy the spectacular scenery of the area and a plethora of outdoor activities.
Today, park visitors can enjoy a variety of recreation year-round, from kayaking and snorkeling in the Atlantic, to hiking and wildlife viewing along the white sandy shores. The park's history lives on, and fishing is still a must when you're in the area. Other pleasurable activities include birdwatching, swimming, stargazing, and picnicking. The park attracts visitors year-round, with pleasurable weather ranging from the 70s in the winter and the high 80s during the summer months. RVers will find 42 scenic oceanfront sites at Long Key. The sites are not only easy on the eyes, but they're also equipped with water and electric hookups, making it a breeze to stay in comfort at any time of the year.
Located in the Middle Keys section of the Florida Keys, Long Key State Park is as unique as it is beautiful. The Keys are made up of a chain of small islands off the southern coast of Florida connected by 42 bridges. U.S. Highway 1, also known as the Overseas Highway, will take you down the Keys. This drive can be a bit daunting for those navigating big rigs, but those who venture this far south will be rewarded with incredible views for much of the way.
The park entrance and pay station is located near the center of the park and is easily accessible to vehicles of any size. Once inside the park, roads remain paved, and a loop format makes for easy navigation to and from the campground and other main areas of interest such as hiking trails, additional parking spots, and boat launches.
As history often repeats itself, hurricanes are to be taken seriously in Long Key State Park. As recently as 2017, Hurricane Irma swept through Long Key, damaging much of the park's campground. Before taking the long Highway 1 south, be sure to check the park website, or call ahead to make sure accommodations are available.
If you're planning on spending some time in the Keys, there are several other state parks along Highway 1, including John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to the north, and Curry Hammock State Park and Bahia Honda State Park to the south.
RVers can rest easy at Long Key State Park in one of 60 RV and trailer friendly sites. All sites are equipped with both water and electrical hookups, along with a picnic table and ground grill. Hookups may be located between sites, so bringing an extension cord along is recommended. If you plan on camping during the summer months, bug spray is also never a bad idea. Nearby, guests will find three restrooms with hot showers, a dump station, a picnic area, a snorkeling zone, and a boat launch for watercraft. Overnight guests will enjoy stunning views of the water during the day, and exceptional views of the sky by night. Pets are allowed so long as they are well behaved. Like the park, the campground is open year-round and reservations are available up to 11 months in advance. The most recent hurricane to touch the area, Hurricane Irma, hit in 2017, and Long Key is still recovering from the damages. Be sure to check online or call ahead and ask about the current camping conditions before planning your overnight trip to this Florida Keys state park.
Long Key State Park also offers four tent-only sites, and 42 tent friendly sites for those looking to get out of the campervan for a night or two. The tent-only sites are located on the beach, just north of the RV campground. Guests will find restrooms with showers, a hiking trail, and an observation tower just a short walk away from their site. Sunscreen and bug spray are two must-haves if you plan on camping during the summer months. The campground is open year-round, and reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance. The most recent hurricane to touch the area, Hurricane Irma, hit in 2017, and Long Key is still recovering from the damages. Be sure to check online or call ahead and ask about the current camping conditions before planning your overnight trip to this Florida Keys State Park.
No matter what time of year you bring the rig to Long Key State Park, you are sure to find the area's wildlife of interest. As part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, seasoned birders and curious observers alike can see wading and shorebirds year-round and migratory birds throughout the winter and spring. As you peruse the beach, keep an eye out for horseshoe crabs, mullet, snapper, and starfish. If you decide to paddle near the shoreline, you may even see loggerhead or green sea turtles if you're lucky.
Although the park is close to Miami, its also far enough away to receive little of the big city's light pollution. The clear skies create an astounding opportunity for RVers and other overnight guests to relax and enjoy the night sky. Whether you're an expert astronomer or you simply appreciate the night sky, there will be ample opportunities to stargaze during your camping trip to Long Key State Park. When the weather cooperates, Tuesday nights can be spent with the Florida Keys Astronomy Club, a group of people who help park guests locate different constellations, planets, and stars.
If you're looking for a little adventure while you explore Long Key State Park, consider having a go at geocaching. This relatively new activity combines good old fashioned treasure hunting with modern technology and involves using GPS coordinates to located buried loot, known as caches. Once you discover your spoils, replace what you've found with some new treasure for the next hunter to find. Common plunder includes stickers, pencil erasers, coins, and other small trinkets. The whole family will love the experience, and you'll get to see much of the park while searching for the caches.
Long Key State Park was once an oasis for famous saltwater anglers. Back in the day, it was known as Henry Flagler's Long Key Fishing Camp, and although the area now serves a wide variety of outdoor recreation, fishing is still a must when you're in the Keys. Inside the park, common catches include bonefish, permit, and tarpon. For a unique fishing experience, you can head six miles north to the Overseas Heritage Trail, where you can participate in bridge fishing. If you're lucky, you could reel in snapper, sharks, or barracuda. A current Florida fishing license is required before casting out.
With a wide variety of unique bird species, Long Key State Park is a birder's paradise year-round. Birds flock to the park to enjoy the mass amounts of water, fish, and ecologically diverse mangroves that dot the park. Full-time residents of the park include wading and shorebirds, like the white ibis, the great white heron, and the rare roseate spoonbill. The best time for birdwatching is in the winter and spring when migratory birds make their seasonal appearance at the park. Keep your eyes to the sky for a chance to see white-crowned pigeons, reddish egrets, and an assortment of eagles and raptors. The park is included in the Great Florida Birding Trail, so don't forget to pack the binoculars along in the pop-up.
Once you see the clear blue waters of the Florida Keys, you'll no doubt want to jump in and explore it first hand. Luckily, snorkeling is allowed (and encouraged) in designated areas at Long Key State Park. Be mindful not to wander from the designated areas, as natural habitats may be disrupted if you do so. The water in the park is mostly shallow, allowing you to explore the seagrass covered the bottom with ease. If you plan on snorkeling, you'll need to pack your own gear along in the motorhome, as the park does not offer any rentals.
When you drive the Sprinter down the Keys, you won't want to be without your bathing suit. Hot Florida summers make for the best swimming months, and Long Key State Park has plenty of white sand shoreline and clear blue water on offer. Designated swimming areas are located throughout the park, along with restrooms and picnic areas nearby. The gentle, shallow water means you can swim or float with ease while enjoying the scenic surroundings of the park.
If you're not one for the water, you can still enjoy all the beach has to offer during your RV trip to Long Key State Park. June, July, and August are the hottest months, with average temperatures reaching into the upper 80s. The white sand beaches are the perfect place to soak up some sun, and if you do get too hot, the water is never very far away. You may also spot some unique wildlife while walking along the sand, including horseshoe crabs, starfish, and the rare roseate spoonbill. Picnicking areas and restrooms can also be found nearby, making it easy to enjoy a scenic lunch with the family when you tire of the beach.
Two trails carve their way through Long Key State Park, so don't forget to pack the hiking boots along in the campervan. The Layton Trail is the shorter of the two and is located on the bayside of the park. Renowned for its scenic sunsets, this leisurely walk takes only 15-20 minutes to complete. The Golden Orb Trail is a bit longer (but just as leisurely) and takes around an hour to walk. The trail, named after a native spider, is a route that will take you on a self-guided tour through various plant communities and natural habitats. If you're interested in hiking during your stay, trail maps are available at the ranger office.
The shallow, clear waters of Long Key provide an excellent opportunity for paddling and exploring the shoreline as you watch for the many species of birds who live here. The Long Key Lakes Canoe Trail provides RVers with the opportunity to paddle through the park’s shallow water lagoon; an experience that can be quite calming. If you’re lucky, you may see loggerhead and green sea turtles while you’re out on the water. A canoe launch is located in the center of the park and can be used for hand launching watercraft.