For hiking, biking (street and mountain), paddling, boating, and a great camping experience, Jonathan Dickinson State Park gives you all of that and more. Located off U.S. 1 in Hobe Sound, this park and campground offer a variety of activities. And depending on which of the 2 camping areas you choose, you can also have a Florida camping experience where the only noise you’ll hear is the rustling of the palm fronds in the breeze. Welcome to our Jonathan Dickinson State Park Camping Review.
Choose Your Campground Wisely – Pine Grove or the River Campground
Jonathan Dickinson is the largest state park in southeast Florida, and one of the largest in the state. There are two distinct and very separate campgrounds in the park. The Pine Grove Campground is located along U.S. Route 1 after you go past the ranger station. We looked at the campground from the satellite view on Google Maps. It seemed very open with almost no trees. When we rode through it on our bikes it confirmed what we saw on Google. Immature trees next to flat slabs with no atmosphere. If you want to just experience the rest of the park, or you are just stopping over a night or two on the way to somewhere else, this might be an okay choice. And there are more campsites in this campground that can accommodate Class A motorhomes better than the River Campground.
But if you want to experience the best Jonathan Dickinson State Park camping, pick the River Campground. The River Campground is about 6 miles in from Hwy U.S. 1 and rests on the edge of the Loxahatchee River. These sites are smaller than at the Pine Grove campground. There isn’t a lot of shade here either, but the overall atmosphere is great. Lots of palms trees, pine trees, and saw palmettos. It’s quintessential Florida. And there is no ambient noise at all because you are so far in from the highway.
Which are the Best Campsites at the River Campground at Jonathan Dickinson State Park?
Because we looked at Google Maps and Google Earth to view Jonathan Dickinson State Park campsites before making our reservation, we got a really good site. In fact, site #125 in the River Campground is the best campsite in the park. It was nice and wide. We were able to put up our new 12 x 12 canopy just outside the camper to give us plenty of shade. (However, a rainstorm, while we were away from the campsite, destroyed this canopy). And we were able to also put up our screened tent where we ate our meals. Sites #115, #199, and #137 are good alternatives if #125 is booked.
How are the Bugs at Jonathan Dickinson State Park Campgrounds?
There are bugs but with the right protection, they aren’t a problem. We use REPEL plant-based lemon eucalyptus insect repellent. This stuff works great, last for hours, and it’s deet-free.
How Well is the River Campground Maintained?
The entire state park is well maintained. About 3 feet is mowed on either side of the paved biking trails. The campground itself is free from fallen palm fronds and debris. The bathrooms are clean and conveniently located. The trash drop is a bit of a walk but not too far. There is no dump station at the River Campground. You have to go back toward the ranger station and use the dump station at the Pine Grove campground. Because it’s near the exit it’s not a hassle.
What to Do Inside Jonathan Dickinson State Park
Clearly, there is more going on for things to do and activities than any of the other campgrounds we’ve visited so far. In fact, one of the pamphlets they give you at the ranger station upon check-in is “25 Things to Do at Jonathan Dickinson State Park”. Here are our top choices:
Paddling the Loxahatchee River
You can kayak, canoe, or paddleboard the long and windy Loxahatchee River. There are a few places you can launch from including the boat dock near the River Campground. Rentals are available at the River Store or the Visitor Center.
Pontoon Boat Tour
Learn about “The Wildman of the Loxahatchee” during a 2-hour guided boat tour down the Loxahatchee River.
Boating and Fishing
At the River Campground, there is a boat ramp into the Loxahatchee River. Largemouth bass, Snook, and Bluegill are the most common fish caught in the river.
There are 17 miles of hiking trails in the park. However, we attempted to hike the Kitching Creek Nature Trail and it was overgrown from the summer rains. Granted we aren’t huge hikers. I had sneakers and shorts on so I wasn’t prepared for traipsing through mud and brush. So, if you want to hike come prepared.
This is where Jonathan Dickinson excels. There are about 15 miles of paved trails. There are also designated biking-only off-road trails for your mountain biking pleasure. This was quite popular with locals and campers alike. The place was packed on Saturday morning. Bike rentals are available.
Hobe Sound Observation Tower
The observation tower is at the top of the highest natural point in south Florida. You can view the Intracoastal, the Atlantic, and as far to the west as the eye can see.
Fully Equipped Cabins
If you don’t have a camper and don’t want to go rustic in a tent, there are fully equipped cabins for rent off of The River Campground.
Picnic Areas and Pavilions
If you come as a group there are several pavilions around this part of the park. There is a pavilion on the river that appears to be perfect for a wedding.
The Gator Culvert
Along the road from the Ranger Station to the River Campground, and on the paved bike trail, you can stop and view alligators at the Gator Culvert from a small observation deck. We didn't see any gators but it's a beautiful spot.
Things to Do Near Jonathan Dickinson State Park
The Tiki Bar
Just south of the park on U.S. 1 is an interesting looking restaurant and bar with live music named the Tiki Bar. We didn’t stop there but would have had we had more time.
This is the very best and coolest park we’ve ever been to. And, it’s free. Miles and miles of hard-pack and wide hiking and biking trails along the Loxahatchee River. This is our 2nd visit to Riverbend Park. To see all the details, read our full article on Riverbend Park. You’ll have a chance at seeing deer, turtles, alligators, woodpeckers, raccoons, and more. Plan on spending at least 2-3 hours riding or hiking around this amazing park. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Jonathan Dickinson.
Check out this Pileated Woodpecker at Riverbend Park
Taylor Farmhouse Cafe
Before visiting with some friends that live at "The Farms" in Jupiter we stopped in at Taylor Farmhouse Cafe. This was our second time there and we weren't disappointed. They have a really nice but small menu and we were able to take advantage of their happy hour that goes from 4 to 7 pm. We each had a few beers and a nice meal for just under $50.
Would We Return to Jonathan Dickinson State Park Campground?
Yes, but only if we could get one of the campsites in the River Campground that we listed above. And, if we could camp during the week. Friday afternoon the place went from peaceful to jam-packed in just a few hours.
It is easy to see why Jonathan Dickinson State Park camping is so popular. There are lots to do and see. And it’s conveniently located off of U.S. Route 1 and close to both the Florida Turnpike and Interstate 95.