A Relaxing Stay at Long Key State Park

December 27, 2016

December 1st we arrived and began camping at Long Key State Park in the Florida Keys. It was a bit of a haul from Savannas, though. We’re quickly learning that reasonable car trips can be taxing RV drives.

As I’m writing this, we have now been to all of the Florida State Parks that allow camping in the Florida Keys. Each one has something about it that makes it worth visiting. Of course, all of them are substantially cheaper than the private parks in the Keys. But you’ve got to plan ahead because the reservations are snapped up 11 months in advance.

Stunning Views From Your Site

camping at long key state park

The campsites at Long Key all have ocean views. So, of course, we decided to pull in instead of back in to take advantage of that gorgeous view.

long key small mangrove

long key state park sunset

Personal Beach Access

Each campsite also has beach access. Some of the beaches are nicer than others, though. Ours, site 20, was a little bit rocky, but The Learning Banks had a beautiful sandy beach up at site 52. There was also a beach for day visitors to the park. Most people seemed to be coming to fish rather than hit the beach.

camping at long key state park beach access

Wildlife

Our favorite part of having that ocean view was the endless parade of birds that would come by our front window. It was mesmerizing watching them do their thing. It made for perfect little work breaks.

Crabs & birds at Long Key State Park – a collection of Instagram stories

A video posted by VeganRVr (@veganrvr) on

Nature Trails

There are two nature trails at Long Key. One is in the park. The Golden Orb Trail is in the park and a short bike ride from the campsites. The trail wanders through several types of communities from mangroves swamp to a kind of scrubby, sandy area and then through a forest.

You’ll hear skittering as you walk through the mangroves. It’ll take you a minute to see them, but there are mangrove tree crabs all over the trees. They look just like the knots on the trees until they move. Who knew crabs could climb trees!

long key state park mangrove tree crab

Hermit crabs were plentiful along the trail. And there are also loads of little crabs living in holes. If you keep your eyes out ahead of you, you’ll see that it looks like the ground is moving. When you get the scrubby area, it’s easier to catch the crabs on the move.

There’s another nature trail outside the park and across the highway. It’s called the Layton Trail. The ranger told us that there was good snorkeling over there on the bay side. So we headed over one day to check it out. There’s no official parking lot, and it’s a little hard to find. You have to be that annoying person driving slowly and looking for a tunnel through the trees.

The bay is mostly sea grass and pretty shallow, but we saw a few fish and a lobster hiding out hoping we wouldn’t grab him and eat him. We didn’t. Kevin also saw a ray. The water is also calm, so it makes it easy to float on top and look for critters.

Cycling

biking near long key state park

The bridge just south of the park has a mini bridge on the side that goes all the way across. So you can head out on the bike trail and ride across the bridge without being on the roadway. The bike trail is a little bumpy in places, though, so be aware of that.

If you head north on the bike trail, the post office, and a convenience store aren’t very far. Again, bumpy trail.

Making Food

The first night, we busted out the grill and the camp stove and cooked everything outside. On the camp stove, I cooked sliced sweet dumpling squash in a cast iron skillet. And we used the grill to make tater tots and Gardein veggie burgers. Yep, we grilled tater tots. And they were amazing. Highly recommended.

cooking out at long key state park

Another night we had masaman curry. I tossed in potatoes, squash, peas, and canned wheat gluten. Before we left Atlanta, I found these small Maesri brand curry paste cans. All of them I found are vegan! The rough recipe is to mix one can of paste with two cans of coconut milk adding in whatever vegetables and protein you like or have on hand. This dish works perfectly on the stove top, but I’ve also tried it in the Instant Pot, and two cans are too much liquid. Next time I use the Instant Pot for these curries, I’ll probably use half the liquid.

masaman curry

You do want to plan for food when you are camping at Long Key State Park. The nearest groceries are about 15-20 miles away in Marathon. The Publix there has a decent selection of vegan proteins, cheese, etc. but if you need something special, there’s also a natural grocery called Food For Thought. They also have a little cafe inside that has smoothies, baked goods, sandwiches, breakfast, and does gluten-free vegan waffles on Saturdays.

Bugs

We tried our first night without air conditioning, but the noseeums get right in through the screen and bite the shit out of you all night. After that night, we closed up the house and have had the air conditioning on ever since. Do yourself a favor and stock up on bug spray before you head down here. We’ve got about a can a week habit between two people.

Cell Phone Service

We had no problems with AT&T or Verizon while camping at Long Key State Park. Our router uses an AT&T sim card, and we didn’t have a booster.

grasses at long key state park

Park Closure

Note: the park is closing for a year. Here’s the message from the Florida State Parks website:

Attention: The campground will be closed beginning October 15, 2017 for a major beach renourishment project. We currently expect the construction to take 12 months to complete. Reservations between now and the closure will remain unaffected, and new reservations prior to the construction can still be made for any remaining vacancies or vacancies created by cancellations.

All in all, camping at Long Key State Park was a wonderful way to ease into the Florida Keys. If you’re looking for a park with a ton of activities and close to attractions, this one might be a disappointment. But if you want to relax and enjoy nature, you’ll be very happy here.

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Laura Nunemaker

About the Author

Laura Nunemaker

vegan. digital nomad. cycling. scuba. intj. former vegan bakery owner.

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  • […] and stayed there for five months. Shortly after our arrival, we discovered Florida’s bugs. Our first night at Long Key State Park we were thoroughly attacked by noseeums. They are tiny little invisible insects that bite the shit […]

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