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.
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.
Related Articles on Camping at Ginnie Springs, Florida
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- Florida Bucket List: Chilling and Grilling at Ginnie Springs
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.
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