Perhaps the most ecologically diverse state park in Florida, Myakka River State Park has lots of nature viewing opportunities. Located just east of Sarasota you’ll find lots to do without having to leave the park. However, because of the age and condition of the campsites, for an exceptional camping experience, we provide you with valuable information in our Myakka River State Park Campground Review.
It’s an easy drive to get to Myakka River State Park. If you’re already on the west coast, take I-75 north or south to FL-72 east. The entrance to the Myakka River State Park is about 9 miles up on the left. From the east coast it’s a straight shot west on Hwy 70 to Arcadia, then 28 miles on FL-72 west.
The park is situated along Park Drive leading from the ranger station running alongside the river until you reach Upper Myakka Lake. You can continue on Park Drive to the Outpost where you can eat, launch your boat, rent canoes, and bikes. You can also take a boat tour that leaves from the Outpost.
Or, you can veer off to the right on North Drive and continue to the North gate which is open only on weekends and holidays. There are 4 dirt roads for hiking and biking opportunities that you can access from Park Drive and North Drive.
The Outpost is the only place inside Myakka River State Park where you will get cell service.
Myakka River State Park Campsites
Be sure to check site length and width before you book your campsite.
There are 3 separate and distinct campgrounds at Myakka River State Park. Depending on whether your tent camping or have an RV, you really want to pay attention here.
Old Prairie Campground (sites 27 – 48) and Big Flats Campground (sites 1 – 26) are the oldest. These sites were not necessarily built for large RV’s although you can get into some of them with an RV up to 30 feet. Palmetto Ridge Campground (sites 49 – 90) is the newest and will accommodate RV’s of any size.
We camped with friends who have a 25-foot Class C. Their site, #37 in Old Prairie Campground was sufficient in both length and width. It also had nice shade throughout the day. However, we were just 2 sites away with a Popup camper and squeezed into #39. We also had the sun beating directly on us each afternoon. There are also a lot of tree roots in these sites. Because of the small size and the tree roots, we couldn’t put up our 10 x 10 screened tent.
Old Prairie and Big Flats have dirt roads while Palmetto Ridge is paved throughout.
The bathhouse facilities in the older campgrounds were in need of some modernization. The shower stalls lacked privacy. We didn’t go into the bathhouse at Palmetto Ridge but from the outside appeared to be new and was much larger.
Lastly, Old Prairie and Big Flats are located at the edge of the main road. Depending on the location of your site you will get traffic noise from visitors driving throughout the park. Palmetto Ridge, the newest campground, is set back from Park Drive.
The only downside to the Palmetto Ridge campground is that because it is new, there are fewer shade trees on many of the sites. We made note of a few sites in Palmetto Ridge that had great shade (#78, #77, and #72). See if these sites are available. They’re the best campsites in the park.
What About Bugs?
There are no doubt bugs at Myakka River but with the right bug spray, you’ll be fine. We did visit there right after Tropical Storm Eta. The lake and river were high and there were pockets of water seemingly everywhere, including right up to the edge of our campsite. So, the bug count may have been higher than usual.
The Highlight of Myakka River State Park is Nature
We can’t imagine going to another Florida State Park and seeing more of nature than we did here. While riding our bikes along Park and North Drive, and taking a drive early one morning to the Outpost to get some cell service, it was a Florida safari!
I’ve never seen so many alligators in the wild. From babies to big daddies, they lined the river and the edge of the lake. We saw black vultures by the dozens, turkey vultures, turkeys, and deer. There was a family of raccoons that visited each night to see what we might have left out for them. They had no luck. And the variety of birds in and around the lake was amazing. There were several that we hadn’t seen before.
What to Do at Myakka River State Park
If you love to see varieties of birds, Myakka River is a great place for that. There is a Birdwalk on Upper Lake off North Drive for just that purpose. You can walk out approximately 100 yards from the shoreline on this boardwalk/pier structure. It was surrounded by water when we were there so gators were present as well as birds.
From the Myakka Outpost, you can take a boat tour of the lake and river. It leaves several times a day. It’s a huge pontoon boat and looks to accommodate a few dozen people.
By all means, bring your boat and do some fishing. You can launch from the Myakka Outpost but wake speeds are minimum throughout the lake. You may see some manatee depending on the time of year.
Bring your kayak or rent a canoe at the Outpost. Just remember, there are alligators everywhere in the lakes and the river.
The most popular fishing area seemed to be from the bridge across the river. But, of course, if you have a boat, there are endless fishing opportunities.
As mentioned above you can hike along the roads that run perpendicular to Park Road and North Road. There is also a Nature Trail, Canopy Hike, and Tower. We didn’t venture down this trail because of the flooding from Tropical Storm Eta. But you can simply hike along Park Drive and see nature on either side of the road. This is where we saw gator, deer, turkeys, and more.
Our favorite activity when camping is biking. This is a great park for on-road and off-road biking. Between the main roads and side roads, you see it all. Get some exercise and see nature. Perfect!
Myakka River State Park Campground Review
Despite the undersized campsite near the main road, this was one of our best camping experiences to date. Next time we will definitely book a campsite in the Palmetto Ridge campground to ensure a bigger site, shade, and a more modern bath house. Other than that you can’t go wrong at Myakka River State Park as long you at least drive, bike, or walk the main road to see the nature that this park has to offer.