Hillsborough River Camping Trip

Camping review of our two day trip to Hillsborough River State Campground near Tampa.

We are camping for two nights at the Hillsborough River Campground in Thonotosassa, Florida. My son is going to a concert in Tampa which is about thirty minutes away.

Because it’s July and the weather is hot, I did not plan to do much outside during this trip. I work online and hoped to get a lot of work done, but internet was not great here.

The Campsite

Our site was number 56 on Loop 3 and it was nice. The site was big, with nothing but nature behind us. When booking a campsite, it’s tough to figure which site to choose because not a lot of info is given. Loop 3 seems to have a lot of very nice, shady sites. I did not closely check out either of the other loops, but did walk through one where the permanent tents were set up.

  • Campsite
  • grilling food at campsite
  • wooded campsite
  • Campsite Imagine trailer
  • back window camper view of green woods

The Campground

On Saturday morning I took a walk. It was hot and I barely made it back (LOL) but I got some photos of what is offered at this state park. It seems that mostly there are a playground, picnic tables and little pavilion, kayak and canoe rentals, fishing, and trails to explore. This is what I found on my quick walk.

The pool is closed, and I bet that was once a huge draw. The grounds are kept nice with tables near a playground in that area. It’s nice and shady. I’m not sure how long this pool has been closed. It seems that this area has not recovered from the hurricane. There is a Fort somewhere, but it is closed also.

  • closed pool
  • playground and tables
  • canoe and kayak area
  • gift shop store at pool

The River Trails

The walk took me to the kayak and canoe launch area. I suppose they need to be rented, probably from the store across the street. It was way too hot for me to consider kayaking, and I’m not a fan of fresh water in Florida. Alligators can move very fast when they want to, and I’m sure this area has plenty of them.

One bridge was closed and had been since Hurricane Irma-2017. I’m not sure why it hasn’t been fixed by now, or taken down. The other bridge was open and it took me over the water to some trails. I did not get much further because of the heat and mosquitoes. Hiking in Florida is not my thing either, but they have lots of trails for those who like it. I have no idea what condition the trails are in.

  • wild florida path
  • footbridge across the river
  • closed bridge
  • brown river water
  • brown river water
  • Long steps near the river
  • Florida river

Hillsborough River Campground

Overall Observations

I would not make it a point to go here to camp, but for anything having to do with Tampa, this place is close, and affordable, for campers. This is why we were here. We did not have noisy, obnoxious neighbors (like our last trip) and enjoyed our two days.

I will say that navigating this campground can be a bit confusing at first. I took the map with me when I went walking. On the drive in, you follow a long one-way road around to the area with three camping loops. Each loop is marked with campsite numbers, so just pay attention.

Bring a bike. Saw some people on electric bikes – and my son brought his and rode all over, but I would bring my normal bike – if it was a cooler time of year.

  • campground road
  • campground road

On this trip our camper awning quit working. It was out and then wouldn’t go back in! The site was pretty well shaded, thankfully and with a push we got the awning retracted.

I have to say that I am not extremely impressed with this camper. We’ve had it for a year and have had to fix the outside door, the bathroom sliding doors, the window shades, and now the awning. It did not rain, other than a few sprinkles, so the awning would have been nice to use.

Our next planned camping trip will be in September with some friends. We are returning to Salt Springs, where the water is clear and cool! Can’t wait.

More to read…

Our Second Camping Trip to Long Point Campground

A review of our second camping trip to Long Point in Melbourne Beach, Florida.

Back in March (2023) we camped at Long Point Campground in Melbourne, Florida, which is on the east coast. I have a link to that review at the bottom of this page. The whole campground is an island with many sites that back up to the water. On our first visit, we had a small, uneven campsite, but nice water access. I was eager to see how our second trip would go.

This time, in May, we had a great view, but no easy water access directly from our site because of coquina rocks. When booking a site online it’s impossible to tell whether you will have access to the water or not. I thought we would. Don’t assume that every site on the water gives you water access!

Our stay of two days began with wonderful peace and quiet.

Coquina rocks block water access
No easy water access

Fortunately, our site – #67 – was the last in the row of rentable sites (at the time). Every campsite beyond us, down to the end of the island, was closed (photo below) due to erosion from a storm it seemed. That meant we could use the beach access next door (site #68) for putting in the kayak. (The campers in that little tent at the end of the island were working on their boat motor which they ran off and on all morning the next day.)

No campers to the south of us
Empty sites to the south

To the north, our closest camping neighbor was many sites away. We had arrived right after the Memorial Day weekend and the place was nearly empty!

empty campsites
Closest neighbors to the north

Our first afternoon was hot and sunny. The water was calm and perfect for kayaking. The wind picked up the following day, but I went out for a while and kayaked around the southern end of the campground.

Campsites along the water
Site #68 had a beach but the site was closed to campers so we used it to access the water

For about 24 hours we had our area completely to ourselves. It was peaceful and wonderful. I launched my kayak from site #68 with a nice sandy beach. I even did a little swimming in the shallow water. It worked out perfectly.

Water is the Reason to Camp Here

If you get a water access site (and in my opinion it’s the only reason to camp here), it’s a great area to do some kayaking, or paddle boarding, if the wind holds off. This campground also has a boat ramp and a place to keep the trailer.

Kayaking near the fishing dock and bridge to Scout Island
camping next to the water in Florida
Water view from inside the camper

Then, Everything Went Downhill

From complete peace and quiet for 24 hours to a family invasion next door. Campers came and took both sites along the water next to us.

Of course it’s a campground, and we simply lucked out by having so much space to ourselves, but the campers who set up next door were rudely loud, with no consideration for the fact that they had neighbors. They spoke loudly to each other, the kids yelled and then more people came to visit them! It was party time. The woman was up at 7AM talking loudly on her phone – on speaker!

All this has made me wonder if I am cut out to be a camper. I couldn’t wait to leave.

We had one good day and quiet night, but once the peace was gone, nothing was fun. If we hadn’t been leaving the following morning, I’d have asked for another site.

My Thoughts on Long Point

After staying at Long Point Campground two different times (see review #1 here), I’ve come to realize that the sites are pretty well crammed together. Because campers can place their trailers, and tents, in any position on their site, you could be directly facing other campers. And if they are loud and obnoxious all day long, there is no buffer.

Some spots are larger – longer, but many are quite small. Not every site along the water has water access. Some have nice little beaches, and some have only a small access through the bushes. Some sites have no water access, or it is shared with the camper next door.

Scout Island has a nice beach with shallow clear water. This island is accessible by a bridge at the campground. I have no idea if the island is ever closed for scouts to actually camp there. When I walked over to Scout Island this time, I had the place to myself (due to a low volume of campers), but last time there were many people walking their dogs and letting them swim.

Scout Island beach
The beach area on Scout Island

In comparison to the waterfront campground near us, this one is half the cost, so I still think it’s a good value if you like a water view. Having access from a site is the best. You are also very close to the beach at Sebastian Inlet. My son rode his electric bike there – all sidewalks on the main road. For more thoughts from campers who stayed at Long Point, read the reviews at RV Life Campground Reviews.

Some negatives for me: The trash truck came by at 7:30 in the morning (on a Thursday and ?) to empty all the dumpsters in the campground. It is loud if your site is near a dumpster (we were). There were a lot of loud crows. I suspect people feed them so they have learned to be annoying. Right across the road from our site was a lamppost with a light that was on all night (not good for night sky viewing if you like that sort of thing). Getting there (from the north, and probably from the south) means driving in traffic, which is typical for Florida especially near the coast.

camper at night

I’m not sure we would ever go back here to camp again. I live in Florida and there are many other campgrounds to try.

The Campsites: Here’s a Map

My thoughts on some of the sites. If you only want a great water view, the site we had, and the three next to it were perfect (65-67). Site #65 was also on the rocks, but had a little area to access the water. We watched those campers put a kayak in. Also, if you don’t care about being in the water, or need a big site, sites 114 and 115 at the southern end are large. All the sites beyond us on the water, which were closed, did have nice little beaches with water access, but they were fairly small. They were closed for a reason, and who knows what will happen. More rocks could be added, but I hope they can keep the water accessible.

Most campsites have water and electric only, but a few in the center of the island have full hookups. There are two dump station areas for the rest of us.

  • map of Long Point campground in Melbourne Florida
  • Campsite 67
  • No campers to the south of us
  • Closed campsite to the south
  • camping on the water

More stories on the blog…

Camping Review of Long Point Campground in Melbourne

Camping in Florida right on the salt water river in Melbourne. Long Point offers water access sites and we stayed for two nights in March.

In March 2023 my sons and I went camping at Long Point campground in Melbourne, Florida. When I first saw the images of this campground I was very excited to go there. Many of the campsites are set around the edge of the island and have water access. The cost of a stay is also reasonable, so I went online and found a spot for us. This was our third camping trip with the 28 foot long Imagine.

Our Site #14

We chose site #14 because of the beautiful view, and it certainly was a beautiful view in person. However, the site itself was a bit difficult for maneuvering our 28 ft. trailer. The ground slanted downward toward the water and we had to lower the front of the camper all the way down to level it. Also, that open water access was set between two campsites, so the little beach area was shared with site #13. You can’t tell any of that from the online picture when making the reservation.

If we’d had a smaller camper like the ones beside us, this site would have been plenty big. As you can see in the photos below they just drove in and parked.

At this place everyone just pulls into the spot as they choose. Both of our neighbors were horizontal to the water. They had drivable campers, so they could do that. We had a truck and camper which made setting up a bit tough. My advice: if you pull a trailer, choose a larger site.

Long Point Campground Map

I’ve noticed that campground maps are handed out when you actually arrive at the campground. Sometimes you can find a map online, but it would be helpful to have more information before booking a site. I’ve never actually called a campground to ask for a site.

Without seeing this campground and the sites in person, it’s tough to realize what type of site you will have. I took a walk and found some big, level sites with great views and private water access – although all sites are pretty close together with no buffer between.

Here’s a tip: If the site looks small on the map, it probably is. View the Brevard County Site to find Long Point Campground information.

map of Long Point campground in Melbourne Florida
Campground map

Our Beach

We had a beautiful view, and set up our chairs behind the camper at the water. If I’d had to share that beach with other campers (as it is set up), I would not have been all that happy. It was our only somewhat private area.

Fortunately we had friendly neighbors. They had a long term reservation and didn’t seem to be interested in the water. We only stayed two nights, and they never came out to the beach area except to to view the rocket launch. We did have the water to ourselves, but that was pure luck. If you camp together with friends, this set up might be perfect.

This is saltwater, but there is little change from low to high tide.

Being Near the Water Has Pros and Cons

The obvious good think about camping near the water is the view. A manatee came up just at the edge of the mangroves (the bushes that grow in the water) right in front of us. He stayed there and ate for a while and we saw his nose pop up. We saw dolphin swim by and pelicans dive down to catch dinner. We faced west and could watch the sunset. On our second night, it got so cool and breezy that we slept with the windows open and could listen to the waves being blown onshore by the wind.

On the other hand, bugs can be a problem whenever you are near the water. Along this waterway tiny, biting bugs called “No see ums” can be a real nuisance. They are hard to see but you will feel the bites. To be outside when they are around means wearing bug spray. They can come through screens, so close the windows when they are present. Mosquitoes can also be a problem. My sons were sitting outside by the water on the first night we camped and were driven in by a swarm. These things are random and unpredictable, although no-see-ums tend to be worse in Spring.

The water is brown near the shore and a sign in the campground warns of alligators. Whenever you are near any water in Florida gators are possible. This is the same water we boat in all the time, only we are further north. It is all part of the Indian River Lagoon. It was not super hot when we camped, but if it was, I would have dunked in to cool off. Or better yet, head over to Scout Island where the beach has clear water.

And then there is the wind. On the second day of our stay it was very windy. I did go kayaking, but it wasn’t very relaxing.

Exploring the Campground and Scout Island

A bridge will take you over the water to another island names Scout Island. It is apparently where boy scouts can come in groups and camp – I read this somewhere. No one was camping here when we visited, and many people were using the area to walk their dogs, and let them swim. My son, who was visiting us from New Hampshire, went swimming at this beach.

A Final Word About Long Point Camping

We camped for two nights which is not long at all, but did enjoy ourselves. On our one full day, I took the kayak out, but it was very windy and tough to paddle. On the other hand, because of the wind, we slept with our windows open that night and it was wonderful.

If you pull a boat behind your camper, there is a boat ramp and a field for the trailer. The water here is very shallow! If you love to fish, there is a dock for that, or fish from your water access right at your campsite, like my son did (he caught nothing!). These are typical Florida things to do – don’t forget to buy a fishing license.

The downside: The campground island is mostly wide open with very little shade. Occasionally a site will have a tree – Site 19 has one (photo below). With a tree comes falling leaves, roots, and possible bird droppings, but also some shade.

Site number 19 at Long Point campground has a tree for shade and water access on the west side of the island.
Campsite #19 has a tree and water access

The campsites are wide open with little privacy and no shade. Also, remember that if you camp during hurricane season you might have to pack up and leave the coast if there is a warning. Hurricane season is June – November.

We enjoyed our short stay here and have booked a site for the end of May (See Review of Stay #2 here). We live only about an hour and a half away, so it will be another mini vacation. By the way, the cost of these sites is very reasonable for what you get. There is a campground near us with sites right on the water that charges more than double what we paid at Long Point.

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