In a land where Native Americans and Spaniard explorers first lived, Myakka River State Park in southwestern Florida was home to many before it became a state park. With moss-covered oaks and palm trees galore, the wildlife abounds here, and you will cross paths with many of them as you explore the more than 37,000 acres of parkland.
As one of the largest state parks in Florida, this park in Manatee County boasts a conifer forest full of hiking and biking trails, dry prairies, and inland scrub where many of the rarest creatures in the state come to play. The roseate spoonbill is one of the endangered birds that are often seen in the water hunting for bugs and frogs to eat. The park also has 12 miles of equestrian trails to enjoy if you brought your horse with you.
However, there is much more to do than watching the wildlife have fun. You can get out and enjoy some fun too on the Upper Myakka Lake on a flat-bottom boat tour or toss in a line and try your luck at catching some of the catfish, tilapia, hoplo, and other water creatures in the lake. Don’t feed or try to catch the alligators though; that is dangerous and prohibited. No matter what you enjoy, you can probably find it when you bring your motorhome to Myakka River State Park.
Just an hour south of Tampa and an hour north of Fort Myers, the drive to Myakka River State Park off I-75 is scenic and relaxing. The park’s main road will lead visitors through the park's southern entrance (and past Palmetto and Old Prairie Campgrounds) and along the Myakka River up to the lake. Up here is where guests will also find the last campground featured at the park, Big Flats Campground. Still, farther out, guests can drive up to the area's Bird Walk and through to the northern entrance. In all, the road spans over six miles of the park and hits most key features.
All of the park's key points of interest are readily accessed via Myakka's main road, and parking is rather abundant at popular destinations such as the area lake. However, if you've parked yourself for a longer stay, you're likely not looking to hop between lots to get around.
Sites at Old Prairie and Big Flats Campgrounds are gravel and vary in permitted vehicle lengths, where the park's third campground, Palmetto Ridge, offers gravel sites that can accommodate larger rigs with back-in as well as more sought-after pull-through sites. Ditch the four wheels for two and get some good bike riding in or go all-in with your own two feet. This park makes it fun to get around.
The 20 sites at Old Prairie Campground are smaller and more wooded, but they do have electric and water hookups so you can cook indoors if you like. There is also a picnic table and a fire pit outside to cook on. They are more suited for tents and smaller rigs up to 30 feet long. Big rigs are definitely going to have an easier time finding a place to park at Palmetto Ridge right across Myakka River State Park Road. Old Prairie Campground guests will find full bathrooms and showers available.
The maximum vehicle length for each site varies from 20 to 35 feet. Guests can reserve a space up to 11 months in advance. Go ahead and bring your pooch, but make sure they are well-behaved and restrained while you are here.
At Palmetto Ridge Campground, rigs up to 45 feet are accommodated, so it's the best option for larger RVs. Each of the sites has full hookups including 30- to 50-amp electric, water, and sewer. There is a campfire ring with a grill if you want to cook outdoors and a picnic table so you can all eat together. Pets are also welcome so bring your dog. Just make sure you supervise them and keep them restrained at all times during your stay at Myakka River State Park.
Another thing that sets Palmetto Ridge Campground apart from the remaining two of Myakka River State Park is that guests also have full access to laundry facilities, full bathrooms, and hot showers. Sites are also near to a small playground (great for the kids) and a community campfire circle. This campground has it all to help keep your stay comfortable. Sites are either pull-through or back-in, but this place is laid out for easy maneuverability. It's quite open, with no trees to worry about bumping into; though, the surrounding foliage is still lush and provides privacy between sites. Get your reservations in early for these 38 premium sites.
Of the three campgrounds featured at Myakka River State Park, the Big Flats campground is the most popular destination for guests who would like closer access to the grand Upper Myakka Lake. While the campground has a total of 24 sites, 20 of them allow RV and trailer parking. All sites have a gravel drive and will require backing in your haul. The maximum RV length for these sites varies from 20 to 35 feet.
Each of these sites has water and 30- to 50-amp electric hookups, so you can cook indoors or watch the game on TV. This campground has the added bonus of Wi-Fi so you can stay connected while you're out on the road. You can also cook outside on the provided campfire ring. The picnic table seats up to eight people, so you don’t have to worry about balancing your plate on your lap while you eat.
Reservations can be made with only a day in advance and as far out as 11 months ahead of time. The wooded, very shaded campground is a serene setting. Showers and restrooms also help to keep your stay more comfortable here. The path leading from the campground will take guests to the park's concessions and Myakka Lake where boat tours, swimming, and much more await.
When choosing to stay at Myakka River State Park, you may decide you want to ditch your rig all together. If that's the case, be sure to check out other ways to stay near the campgrounds. If you're feeling a little more rustic, many of the campgrounds provide space not just for rigs, but for traditional tent camping as well. Some camps even have sites that remain open to tents only.
Want to take it up a notch? For those who enjoy a good night out backpacking, six primitive campgrounds are provided for making camp along the hiking trails. Always bring enough water if this is more your style of roughing it. For more information, it's advised to call in to the Ranger Station. Open year-round, the park, its various campground selections, and endless opportunities to play and stay make Myakka River State Park a sure treat.
Thinking about getting out of the motorhome for a night or two? You can park the rig and stay at one of Myakka River State Park’s five log cabins. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s, these cabins are made of sturdy palm logs and are fully furnished with two double beds, appliances, and full bathrooms. There is also a sofa bed in the living room so they can accommodate up to six people. Cabin one is ADA-accessible as well.
The dining room set seats six so you can eat indoors or outside on the picnic table. You can also cook outside on the BBQ grill provided by the park. You won’t even need to bring dishes, cooking utensils, bedding, or towels because that is all provided. However, no pets are allowed so your furbaby cannot join you on this adventure. Reservations are required and should be made well in advance since there are only five cabins.
Myakka River State Park also boasts several group camping areas for large groups of up to 20 people. If you have more than 20 people, you can reserve two or all three of the campgrounds so you can have up to 60 people. Reservations should be made well in advance since there are only three sites.
Each of the campgrounds has several benches, picnic tables, a large campfire ring as well as a rustic stone grill and a pedestal grill to cook on. Potable water spigots provide water for drinking and cooking. In addition, you can find large modern comfort stations with restrooms and small showers. Pets and alcohol are not permitted at these sites, and a maximum of six tents are allowed. Also, there must be one adult per every 10 children at each campsite.
Pack your fishing gear in the rig before you head to Myakka River State Park because you're going to want to cast out a few lines here. Upper Myakka Lake is the perfect location to reel in some sizeable catches. The lake is full of both large and smaller fish, but you'll also need to watch out for the area's alligators. Although alligators are typically quite shy and will leave guests alone, they shouldn't be approached, manipulated, or enticed to ensure everyone's safety. Come see what gives your line a bite.
If you have a horse, bring them with you when you come to Myakka River State Park, but make sure you bring proof of a negative Coggins test with you. Equestrian trails cross throughout the park as multi-use paths. Myakka River State Park is the perfect place to get out for a nice ride along the Florida backcountry. Unfortunately, there are no horse rentals available within the park, but trails are public, so many locals are seen taking advantage of the area's riding. There's nothing quite like taking in the varied landscapes of Myakka on top of a horse. You can see so much more up there than you can from the ground so bring a camera.
While visiting Myakka River State Park, guests won't want to miss out on an opportunity to access the treetops. The park features a Canopy Walkway, which is another unique pastime that sets this place apart from the rest. The walkway, built 25 feet above the ground, serves as a fantastic place to discover Myakka's canopy inhabitants. Here, you can really take in a bird's eye view. It's a whole new perspective of the park. Although the walkway is fun for everyone, it is important to note that you will have to climb more than 100 stairs.
Hiking is a popular activity that can be enjoyed in most state parks. Myakka River State Park is no different. Several trails weave through the landscape, providing numerous opportunities for visitors to really feel like they are getting away from it all. Among the trails to hike here, the popular Myakka Trail is an almost 39-mile loop with several backcountry roads crisscrossing the trail to aid in shortening (or lengthening) walking trips. Late fall, throughout the winter, and into spring, hikers will experience some of the best times to take advantage of the hiking here. Summer hiking tends to get a little too hot to enjoy and trails are often flooded. Even in cooler seasons, it's always important to travel with sufficient amounts of water.
Turn every corner, and wildlife at the park is abundant. Whether it's catching a glimpse of a deer along a backcountry path, spotting alligators along the river's edge, or listening in on the local chorus of songbirds, you're sure to feel in touch with nature. Even during the most popular seasons, the wildlife of Myakka River State Park is lively and regularly spotted. The diverse landscape supports so many species. Check in with the park's Visitor Center for viewing tips.
Avian enthusiasts are going to love it here during the off-season. Open year-round, the park and campgrounds never really close, but you will find that the crowds tend to get a bit less compact as the winter seasons roll through. However, while the people may not be shuffling in as quickly, the birds certainly are. It's a wonderful location to see birds of all species. The acreage here provides all sorts of habitats that suit everything from songbirds to raptors and many more in between. On most days in November through April, the park hosts a bird naturalist at the Bird Walk. Guests are welcome to call the Ranger Station to see if the naturalist is on duty.
You're going to work up quite an appetite while spending the day out along Upper Myakka Lake. Luckily, the park hosts some fantastic eateries, so you don’t have to spend all your time cooking or BBQing. The Pink Gator Cafe serves up delicious dishes, desserts, and even has craft beer on the menu. Don't fill up too much at the café though. You'll want enough room for ice cream from the Parlor. With energy reserves filled again, it's time for more Myakka River State Park fun.
The Myakka River flows through miles upon miles of Florida landscape, crossing prairies, wetlands, and forests. Fourteen miles of this mighty river run right through the state park. Aquatics are popular here, with the river and two lakes attracting all sorts of guests. Canoes and kayaks are popular ways for visitors to get out on the water. Luckily, you don't have to worry about packing your own; the park's Outpost provides rentals.
While spending the summer at Myakka River State Park, guests can enjoy the waters of both Myakka River and Upper Lake. The lake remains a beloved favorite among visitors and wading through its waters is something you can enjoy without having to be the one manning any vessels. The park features two large airboats for lake tours; a unique experience for guests looking for a scenic cruise. These air-powered vessels are able to venture into aquatic terrain that ordinary crafts wouldn't dare. It allows for a whole other take on this piece of the park.
Bring your bike along because Myakka River State Park provides guests with seven miles of paved road that winds through shaded woods, along grassy Florida marshes, and to the Upper Myakka Lakeshore. It's a beautifully scenic ride that you can easily take at your own pace. Biking is also permitted on all backcountry dirt roads that are north of State Route 72, as well as along the Myakka Island Trail to the Carlton Reserve. Be prepared for some more rugged terrain if you're not on the pavement; some areas get muddy, sandy, and sometimes are dug up by feral pigs. Summer rains also mean the roads can get a bit more flooded. The Ranger Station provides detailed maps of the area's best bike paths.