It’s that time of year again – time for ORTHAPALOOZA!
Since 2002 or so, we’ve joined dozens of friends and family members on a Ginnie Springs camping trip for our annual Mother’s Day small-cation to the woods. It’s probably the most highly anticipated event outside of Christmas for our crew.
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Camping in Ginnie Springs
Ginnie Springs is less than a 2 hour drive from home in Jacksonville, so I’m actually surprised we don’t go more often. The private campground has electric hookups, clean bathroom and shower facilities, grills, air compressors to blow up floats, tube/kayak/canoe rentals and tons of campsites.
The seven crystal clear springs are a magnet for scuba divers who flock to the underwater cave system, and the Santa Fe River attracts day tripping tubers from Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville. On the weekends, the river has thousands of people on it!
Pro Tip: If you want peace, quiet and nature, visit during the week. If you want raucous shenanigans, summer weekends will give you all that and more. And please, if you value your sanity, don’t visit on Memorial Day weekend.
Vacation Rentals Near Ginnie Springs
Ginnie Springs campsites fill up fast and we know not everyone is wild about sleeping outdoors! Florida can be very buggy and Ginnie Springs can be the opposite of becoming one with nature – especially on holiday weekends in the summertime. If you’d prefer the privacy and solitude of a vacation rental or Airbnb at night, check out these short term stays near Ginnie Springs, Florida.
The Perfect 3-Day Getaway
Rick has limited vacation time, so he looks forward to this 3-day weekend getaway all year. (Considering most of our other trips are for work and not necessarily relaxing. Ahem, Ireland.) I love Orthapalooza weekend, too, though perhaps not as much as he does! My outdoorsy fella fishes, swims, snorkels, and kayaks from dawn to dusk. And I do all that… but I’m more of a hammock-and-good-book kind of camper.
At almost $25/night per person, it’s a bit more money than I’d like to pay for the privilege of sleeping outside, but you really can’t go wrong for location. The springs are gorgeous and refreshingly 72 degrees all year round. Price-wise, it’s still less expensive than a full vacation or a hotel on the beach, and since it’s close by and just for a few days, it really is a fun trip without the hassle of a full-blown vacation.
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Tips for Planning a Ginnie Springs Camping Weekend
We’ve been doing this for my entire adult life, and while I wouldn’t say I’m an “expert,” I do have some tips that might help you plan your own small Ginnie Springs camping trip.
Find THE Spot
Finding the perfect spot is super important while camping, and at Ginnie Springs, you have heaps of options. Two priorities for me: a gorgeous view of the water and a short walk to the bathroom.
At Ginnie, we usually set up camp near Twin Spring. That’s where the tube exit is, so when we’re done floating down the Santa Fe River – we’re home! It’s a great view and they just installed a new bath house in that area a couple of years ago. Easy peasy.
What to Pack for Ginnie Springs
Ginnie Springs is no ordinary campground. Not only do you need all the camping supplies, you also need snorkeling/swimming gear you might take to the beach. My Mom is the queen of taking everything from inside the house, packing it into her Prius, and unpacking it at Ginnie Springs.
I’m not joking when I say we pack everything in our house to go to Ginnie. Since my 2-door coupe can’t fit much more than a suitcase, I upgraded this year. Our neighborhood Enterprise Rent-a-Car hooked us up with a roomy Nissan Rogue for the journey.
Of course you should bring a tent, pillows, an air mattress and blankets, but don’t forget the little things that will make you more comfortable. And if you have to rent a vehicle so you can fit it all, DO IT. So worth it to have everything you might need close at hand.
- Lighting. Our campsite was LIT this year, and not just because some of our acquaintances are basically wild animals. I went all out on solar lighting and it really jazzed up the place (and prevented folks from tripping on tent poles).
- Towels. One for the spring/river and one for the shower. You can easily bring any old beach towels, but if you want something a little more quick-drying, try a Turkish towel.
- Clothesline. To dry your towels and swimsuits.
- Plastic bins. We learned our lesson years ago – Ginnie’s squirrels are chubby jerks, and they’ll steal all your food in the middle of the night if you don’t lock it up! Hodgie brought some big plastic bins this year that even the wiliest forest critters couldn’t get into.
- Sunscreen, extra sunglasses, & a big sun hat. You can’t take sun protection too seriously in Florida. Nothing is worse than camping with a blistering sunburn!
- Board games. UNO and Apples to Apples are favorites.
- Hammocks. With all these trees, you’d be crazy not to string up a cozy hammock with a spring view. Get the ones with super easy straps – no knot-tying necessary.
- Packing Cubes. To keep clothes, kitchen, outdoor gear and bathroom supplies separate and organized.
- Eco-friendly garbage bags. To leave things cleaner than you found them.
- Extra blankets. We had 95-degree days and 60-degree nights. It was chilly!
- Fishing gear & a Florida fishing license. FYI – no fishing is permitted in the springs, only in the river. And I have it on good authority that spear-fishing is a no-no. Don’t even ask me how I know that.
- Snorkel gear. Snorkeling in the springs is a must! And when the river is clear, that’s a fun drift snorkel as well. You’ll see the natural spring water bubbling up from the earth, the mouth of deep caves, fish, turtles and lots of Florida’s finest citizens.
- An axe. You can’t chop down trees (duh!) but anything that’s already on the ground is fair game for bonfire-ing. An axe is also great protection from ninja squirrels.
- Mosquito net or screened tent. On nights when the gnats and no-see-ums got particularly aggressive, it was nice to retreat to our little mosquito timeout zone!
This year, we also added a few (okay, a lot of) things to our packing list:
- Gas-powered leaf blower (perfect for blowing up air mattresses quickly)
- Solar powered curtain lights
- Mason jars with solar powered lids
- Tubes & rafts for the river
- 3 hammocks
- 4 kayaks
- 1 teepee
- 1 stand-up paddle board
- 4 bicycles
Figuring out what to pack for Ginnie Springs is a science that we get closer to perfecting each year. I really think we outdid ourselves last year!
Make sure you bring your good cameras
The seven springs are crystal clear, so even if you aren’t a seasoned underwater photographer, you’ll be able to snap high quality fun and/or scenic shots. We love the GoPro 10 for Ginnie Springs. It’s durable, waterproof, easy to handle inside the caves and a great way to step up your Instagram game. (For my underwater photography tips, click here!)
This was our first year bringing our DJI drone, and while we got a little footage, a malfunction meant our shoot didn’t quite go as planned. Next year! Camping in Florida
Test Your Gear Before You Go
Make sure everything works before you bring it! Flashlights, portable chargers – everything! Poor RaeRae bought a new tent and didn’t set it up before we left. When we got to the campsite, we noticed a piece was broken and her tent was lopsided the whole weekend. It could have been worse, and Ginnie Springs has a very well stocked store just in case you forget something or your gear breaks, but she should have listened to her big sister and tested it in the backyard. She also bought new snorkel mask that snapped the moment she went to adjust it. amping in Florida
Keep it Clean
There’s nothing so annoying as arriving at the campsite and finding bottle caps and cigarette butts left all over from the last group. We make it a priority to leave the place cleaner than we found it.
I also have to mention, because it seems to be getting worse every year, but keeping it clean also means language and general behavior. Camping is a family activity and nobody’s kids need an education in filthy language or twerking because some yahoo doesn’t know how to day drink.
Pack Extra Clothes
Camping in Florida means layers are key. Shorts and swimsuits during the day transition to jeans and sweatshirts in the evenings. At least in early May! Bring extra towels and bathing suits, too. I hate putting on a damp bathing suit and using a wet towel to dry off. Camping in Florida
Bring a First-Aid Kit
Be prepared for bumps and bruises along the way! Pack a first-aid kit with Ibuprofen, bandages, tweezers and Neosporin. There are plenty of ready-made kits you can order on Amazon so you don’t have to give it too much thought.
You never know what you’re going to get while camping in Florida. While we were tubing down the river, Rick kicked something underwater and immediately had sharp pains shooting up his leg. By the time we got back to camp, I was extremely worried. He never complains so I knew something was seriously wrong.
I did some creative Googling – what could it be? A snake? A splinter? Hodgie guessed that he might have encountered a catfish, and based on his symptoms, it made sense. We boiled water on the fire and used tweezers to squeeze out the poison. He felt immediate relief!
What are the chances you step on a fish? You just never know what kind of shenanigans are going to go down at Ginnie Springs.
Our Ginnie Springs camping trip is our oldest family tradition. I can’t wait to see what the next few years look like! Hopefully no more catfish situations.
Want to explore more of Florida? Check these posts next:
- How to Visit Florida’s Space Coast in a Weekend
- 48 Hours in Orlando and Not a Theme Park in Sight
- Behind the Scenes Secrets and Tips for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
41 thoughts on “Why You Must Plan a Ginnie Springs Camping Trip”
Wow sure looks like fun…from the way you guys are handling your food it seems to me that there are no bears there.
Amazing Post. Fulfilled with amazing views. Blog looks so amazing.Thanks for sharing.
wow very nice place for camping 🙂
I’m still DYING to go to Ginnie Springs. Will you promise to take me there on my next JAX vacay?
Snakes? Bears? Alligators? Lmk because I am in love w this spot and want to go! Thanks!
Snakes for sure. We saw a couple this year.
Alligators are there but you rarely see them. They don’t like crowds.
Bears – nah. There might be a little one bopping around but it would be a really, really rare thing to see one. And our Florida bears are pretty chill anyhow.
We had a difficult time getting a reservation but supposedly snagged the last one. Strange when we arrived there were plenty of empty sites? The campground is right by the water with plenty of places to fish. Our site was the second row from the water but we had a view.
This place is beautiful. We would love to visit there soon. Very timely since we’re planning to spend a couple of weeks in Florida. This post made me really excited to go fishing again.
Wow, that looked fun. I have always wanted to go there. The water looks so clear, but snakes…..*shudders..
We have seen a few snakes in our many years there but they always slithered away as fast as they could!
This looked to be an amazing camping trip. I think that spot would be on my short list considering it’s so close to home for you. Seems awesome, good share.
Ginnie Springs looks so cool and fun. I have camped in other Florida spotsbut not there. Gotta try it some time!
No mention of whether small puppy are allowed???????
Hi Annett, Unfortunately dogs are not allowed at Ginnie – I wish they were! We have a small pup we’d love to bring, too!
Wow!!! Awesome place for camping & fishing. Cute idea. love this.
Thanks so much!
Can u bring a small travel trailer?
Ginnie Springs has guidelines for what’s allowed on their website. I believe I’ve seen small trailers but best to double check to be sure.
This is a great post but I was thinking to go for the first time for Memorial day weekend… Is really that bad?
You couldn’t pay me to go over Memorial Day! Honestly Mother’s Day weekend is bad enough… Memorial Day triples the people and it just gets to be a bit too much. But to each his own!
I am planning to go camping this 4th of July weekend with my wife and child. Does it get crowded on 4th of july weekend? Also do i need reservation prior to arrive at the camp site? I try to call and speak with someone but always I get a machine! Is there eletricity hook ups at the tent camp sites for Blowing my air matress with our pump?
4th of July is one of the busiest times of the year. I imagine it will sell out by Friday morning. They’ve been shutting down access early every weekend day this summer because it’s so busy. If you don’t already have a reservation, it will probably be pretty tough to get one.
There is electricity at some of the sites, pavilions and bath houses – you may have to hunt for an outlet, but you can find one. You can also blow up air mattresses at the air station near the front.
If you decide to go, I wish you luck! It’s guaranteed to be a madhouse!
go!!! i went and yes it’s wild but it’s so much fun if your down to party and drink!!!!!
would this be a good place to take cub scouts?
During the week, yes. NOT on a holiday weekend or at the height of summer.
OMG thank you so much! Going camping tomorrow with a group of school mates, and this post was SUPER helpful! Added quite a few things to my list hehe! Have a lovely summer <3
What campsite number is the best to try and book?
Wow! That looks like an awesome place to go! If I ever get down to Florida, I’ll be sure to check this place out.
Love this place for camping! Gives me lots of ideas for my next vacation
Gives me lots of ideas for my next camping vacation! Love the place
Thank you for not forgetting the eco-friendly garbage bags. It’s so important when going camping!
You all know how to camp right! It looks like a gorgeous place, we will add it to the list.
Camping gives us a great excuse to put the phone down, shut the laptop, and go outside for a spell. Because after all, there’s a whole lot to see and do at every stop along the journey!
We are going in in a week an two days so not on a weekend. I’m worried about the crowds and rowdiness but hopefully being there not on a weekend will be fine.
It’s been very crowded of late from what we are hearing, even during the week. Wishing you luck if you go!
Wow the water is crystal clear! You just inspired me to plan our family’s next camping trip there.
Looks like you had a great time! Awesome shots 🙂
Thank you so much for the great pro tips. I look forward to visiting Ginnie Springs on Weekdays. Cheers to a great new year 2021!
Surely you enjoyed the trip very much! will catch you soon
Thank you for sharing this article.
Amazing article. Thanks for sharing with us.