All photos and text by Kelsey Walters
With our recent taste of cooler weather, Floridians everywhere are flocking to the outdoors. With the promise of days ahead that won’t feel like they’re being spent on the surface of the sun, my family is gearing up for camping season and we kicked it off with a trip to a fun riverside spot for plenty of fresh air.
Ever since Florida state parks lifted restrictions on park capacity and reopened for camping earlier this year, there has been a huge influx of campers, even in the hottest months. Even with 57 camping parks, finding a spot to lay your head in the perfect weather for camping season can be very difficult right now without scheduling months in advance.
So, we decided to check out some privately owned campgrounds around the state. With the help of apps like The Dyrt, which helps you locate campgrounds and info wherever you may be (over 1,070 in Florida alone!), we locked in on Riverside Lodge Resort in Inverness. It wasn’t far from our all-time favorite FL state park, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. It’s also pet-friendly, which can be tough to find in a campsite, so it was an easy decision.
Riverside Lodge Resort – Inverness, FL
We borrowed a camper from our wonderfully kind and generous friends, and hit the road with our daughter and two pups. Although Avery has been all over the state already in her toddler lifetime, this was a completely new experience for both her and our two dogs, Kodi and Bluey, and allowed them to explore and enjoy being their grubby, stick-collecting selves in the great outdoors.
If you don’t have a camper, Riverside Lodge offers a place to stay no matter what gear you have in tow. Primitive tent sites are offered on the secluded Discovery Island. A covered picnic pavilion is available for shared use along with a mini kitchen to make yourself at home. Small walking trails run throughout the island to explore as well.
Camper, RV and full hookup sites are located on the riverfront for gorgeous views of the Withlacoochee River any time of day. The riverfront loop features a large community campfire circle, fishing pier and clubhouse.
If hauling your home-away-from-home isn’t your thing, but you’re still craving a taste of the outdoors, rent a cabin on the island. Many are situated on the Cypress Creek leading to the river and come in different styles to fit your needs, including classic country cabins, cozy cottages and luxury log cabins. Most of the cabins are pet-friendly as well! Boat, canoe and golf cart rentals are available to all campers, as well as free WiFi and a community playground.
Just across the street you’ll find Wild Bill’s Airboat Tours and River Safaris if you prefer to let someone else do the boating. There’s no shortage of wildlife on these waters. During our stay we spotted plenty of gators right off the shore and fishing pier, much to Avery’s delight. She and Kodi – a 5-year-old Chinese crested powderpuff (yes, that’s a real breed) – are thick as thieves, and spent most of their time wandering, climbing trees and getting muddy collecting rocks, sticks and leaves. Our other dog, Bluey – a 1-year-old blue heeler/dachshund mix – preferred to post up on the bed in the camper for snuggles and lounge around the picnic table and firepit, all while keeping a close eye on her kiddo.
Just a few minutes away you’ll find the historic downtown section of Inverness with plenty of restaurants and shops to visit. There are also plenty of state parks and springs nearby, so you are still close enough to visit even if you can’t find a site inside, including KP Hole, Rainbow Springs and Weeki Wachee Springs. We visited Fort Cooper State Park for a picnic lunch and leisurely hiking along the river’s edge.
The best part of visiting an outdoor riverside resort like this is the sense of community. Each evening was spent lounging on swings by the river and laughing around the campfire with new friends.
Riverside Lodge Resort
12561 E. Gulf to Lake Hwy., Inverness, FL 34450
Office Hours: 12 – 6 p.m. daily
Tent Campsites: $30/night
RV/Camper Sites: $50/night
Cabins: $110 – $130/night