HipCamp, the Suwannee, and World Class Horses

Over the past ten days we’ve been bopping around north central Florida. There’ve been no major adventures, but we have had some fun. Here’s a quick recap.

After leaving Cape Canaveral we headed inland to just outside of Ocala. We tried out a new booking option called Hipcamp, which is an app that’s kind of like Airbnb for camping. Landowners list their spaces, specify the services they can offer, and travelers like us can book right on the app.

We were lucky to find The Homestead in Anthony, FL and the ranch of Allison Cumley. Allison welcomes RVers with full-hookups located on her 25 acre ranch that is home to cows, horses, a donkey, and numerous dogs. We loved the beautiful setting which gave us an opportunity to explore the nearby Ocala countryside. We hit the farmer’s markets but spent most of the time indoors to stay away from the rain. 

The rain persisted off and on throughout our next stop: Suwannee River State Park. Another great Florida state park, this campground was a beautiful setting right along the river, and we enjoyed a few nice hikes.

We learned that we were a little too far north to avoid the terrible winter weather that hit most of the country last week. In fact, we experienced tornado warnings one night and received about two inches of rain on another night. It was pretty chilly too! Still we were grateful to be out of the path of the worst weather unlike our family in the midwest. 

From Suwannee River we headed south again to the cute little town of Williston. We were really impressed with Williston Crossing RV Resort and the very warm welcome we received. Upon arrival we were invited to join others around the roaring fire that night. Everyday the resort has activities and events (pickle ball, poker, live music, etc.) and the people were super friendly. 

As the weather turned beautiful again we were able to get out and enjoy some new adventures. For me the biggest highlight was exploring the newly opened World Equestrian Center in Ocala. Having grown up showing horses, this place was like Disneyland.

Billed as the largest equestrian complex in the United States, the over 300-acre facility has 22 outdoor arenas, four climate-controlled indoor arenas, and a world-class stadium, all surrounded by barns with over 2000 stalls, a hotel, an RV resort, and more to features to come. 

We walked the barns, checked out the RV resort for a future stay, and watched several jumping competitions in various arenas. We then returned on Saturday evening to see the $75,000 Grand Prix, a show jumping competition with the world’s top horses and riders. This was Olympic-level competition and beyond impressive.

Also while in Williston we checked out the Cedar Lake Woods and Gardens, a botanical garden set in a 110 year old abandoned lime quarry. Dr. Raymond Webber purchased the property for his own private use, initially intending to use the quarry as a fishing pond.  

He dug out what was left behind, including old mining remnants, and began to transform the old, polluted, swampy quarry. Now, almost 30 years later it is a multi-level botanical garden with three waterfalls, gazebos, and lots of koi fish.

We visited Cedar Lake at the same time they were hosting a large radio-controlled truck “rally.” Having never seen anything like this, it was just as fascinating as the gardens. Ten custom courses had been carved into the woods, and “drivers” guided their custom trucks through natural obstacles like roots, rocks, and embankments.

We also walked through their expo where vendors were selling components, parts, and accessories for every kind of radio-controlled vehicle you could imagine. We particularly liked the radio-controlled Winnebago motorhome, which Steve said looked like one his brother Brian had back in the day. Only you had to push Brian’s Winnebago!

Despite some wet weather, we enjoyed our time in the north central part of Florida and will likely return, but probably a bit later in the season next time.

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