Get Outdoors: Great Places to Camp in Navarre Beach/Santa Rosa County
Welcome to camping country — the perfect place to unplug and put your digital life on hold for a while. Navarre Beach/Santa Rosa County offers plenty of comfortable hotel rooms, but for all you outdoorsy types who prefer playing, eating and sleeping close to nature, you’ve come to the right place. Our destination has no shortage of campgrounds with a range of accommodations: Rustic but comfortable cabins. Luxurious tree houses. Glamping tents. And of course, countless sites to rough it with your trusty tent and sleeping bag!
Most Santa Rosa County camping is found inland, north of Milton, but there’s one place that sits right on Santa Rosa Sound and includes a private beach. We’ll start there:
The Hideaway Retreat — This five-acre site, formerly the Magnolia Beach Campground, has been spruced up and rebranded under new ownership. Nestled amid mature oak and magnolia trees, it’s an Old Florida-style campground with 50 spacious RV sites placed throughout the property (not lined up in rows), as well as 10 tent sites and, soon, a little blue rental house with spectacular views of the Sound. The Hideaway has a 1930s-style camp lobby, a new laundry facility, and a renovated bathhouse. Besides relaxing on the 371-foot private beach — the only one in the area that allows dogs, by the way — there’s ample shade throughout. This is a wonderful place to make new friends. Play some volleyball, cornhole or bocce ball, then gather by the community fire pit for a laid-back gathering with your new neighbors (chances are someone will bring a guitar). The new owners are renovating a 400-foot fishing pier, with plans to reopen it in early 2020. You won’t need a fishing license, because the pier is private.
Bear Lake Campground — Now to the other side of the camping spectrum. Located in the Blackwater River State Forest — at 210,000 acres, the largest state forest in Florida — this real-deal campground has electric and non-electric sites for RVs and tents, all with potable water. Campers reside next to lovely 107-acre Bear Lake and have countless outdoor adventures right outside their door (or tent flap) — hiking, fishing, boating (electric motors only), mountain biking (on a six-mile trail), canoeing, bird watching and more. Or you can just plop into a comfy chair and chill. The campground provides restrooms and showers, and a group dining hall and kitchen are available by reservation. If you get a hankering for a restaurant meal or craft beer, Bear Lake is only 22 miles from historic downtown Milton.
Adventures Unlimited — This vast recreational wonderland has plenty of spaces for tent and RV dwellers, as well as a whole array of funky secluded cabins and even treehouses. Ask about the Lorax Loft, with a king-size bed, fireplace and champagne soaker tub. (Hey, there are a lot of ways to camp.) Adventures Unlimited offers endless outdoor fun — with a fleet of 250 canoes, 100 kayaks, 500 tubes and 10 standup paddleboards, as well as a hundred acres of raw Florida wilderness that’s ideal for exploring. Paddle or float down spring-fed rivers averaging two to three feet deep with soft sandy bottoms. Relax on the small white-sand beaches that dot each river bend. And don’t forget to take advantage of the facility’s unbelievable ziplining. Adventures Unlimited offers four distinct courses (ranging from three to four-and-a-half hours), that also include walking, climbing and traversing a sky bridge.
Coldwater Gardens — This idyllic nature retreat offers eclectic accommodations: On one hand, you can hike to Coldwater Creek and set up a tent on the complex’s largest sandbar. On the other, you can live large in the architecturally stunning Modern Treehouse. Which offers AC, an equipped kitchen, full bath, covered deck and, yes, soft, comfy beds. For something different, try one of Coldwater Gardens’ spacious glamping tents. Each tent features two queen-size beds, mini-fridge, electric outlets, colorful throw rugs, water boiler, outdoor sink and showers, charcoal grill, and other amenities. Tour the facility’s state-of-the-art gardens (including hydroponics and aquaponics) and walk away with some naturally grown produce, which is available year-round. Then head back to camp and whip up something truly farm-to-table. Coldwater Gardens also offers lots of outdoor recreation such as canoeing, kayaking and hiking. Or simply chill out on a patch of soft white sand as you watch Coldwater Creek flow by.
Blackwater River State Park — Set among tall long-leaf pines, this tidy campground includes only 29 sites, evoking the feel of a nature-lovers’ neighborhood. Each site has a maximum occupancy of eight people. They accommodate tents or RVs ranging from 15 to 50 feet in length which sit on gravel driveways. All have electric, water and sewer hookups. Talk about location! The campgrounds are just a short trail walk from the winding Blackwater River. The Blackwater River is flanked by large patches of crystal white sand. So you can effectively have a lovely beach day — in the woods! Take a swim, launch a kayak, or lounge to your heart’s content. You’re apt to see white-tailed deer, bobcats, wild turkeys, maybe even river otters. After a lovely sunset, the moonlight sparkles on the river and the sounds of crickets and frogs fill the night.