With camping's busiest season approaching, we sat down with our Senior Marketing Manager for Outdoors, Jackie Burns, to chat about her various camping experiences in her home state of Florida. Her stories made us want to pull the plug, pack it up and hit the trails. Read on to hear more about how Jackie found her love for the great outdoors.
What was your most memorable childhood camping adventure?
Some of my all-time favorite childhood memories are camping trips. Two of those trips were to the exact same state campground in the Florida Keys – two very different experiences, many years apart, but equally thrilling and memorable.
Tell us a little bit about your first camping trip.
The first was a family camping trip to Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys with my parents and three brothers – all six of us in a four-person tent! This is where I learned to snorkel, saw my very first shark in the ocean (a foot-long baby nurse shark, but pretty exciting for a kid), swam with barracuda and spotted “spotted morays,” (both more frightening than the shark), discovered a baby octopus that wrapped its tentacles around my fingers, and fished and crabbed for our dinner.
And after that first trip, you were hooked?
Yes! Ten years later, I was back camping in the Keys with 25 high school friends during spring break. Yep, 25 of us caravanned 300 miles – with a Hobie Cat and ski boat in tow –for a week-long adventure. This time we caught lobsters to go along with grilled fish for dinner, sailed, skied, snorkeled, explored, sang Jimmy Buffet songs, lounged, laughed and let loose.
What do you have to say to people who think camping is for the bears?
While I definitely enjoy a nice hotel stay too, there’s just something about sleeping under the stars and discovering nature along with the spontaneity, the sense of adventure, and the close – sometimes too close – bonding while camping that you can’t experience anywhere else.
So what’s your next adventure?
America’s state, federal and county parks offer some of the absolute best – and best value – in outdoor adventure. You can find and reserve amazing campgrounds and start your journey at: ReserveAmerica.com.
Here are some of my favorite Florida parks and campgrounds…check ‘em out!
- Bahia Honda State Park – great snorkeling and sandy beaches.
- John Pennekamp State Park – the first underwater park in the U.S.
- Long Key State Park – popular for canoeing and kayaking and some of the best bonefishing in the Keys. You can get your Florida fishing license online before you go.
- Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park – this National Historic Landmark was built in the 1800s and is one of the best places to view a Florida Keys sunset.
- Everglades National Park – the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. and a World Heritage site. You can find campgrounds on Recreation.gov.