We just finished up a four night stay at Manatee Springs State Park. We had been to the spring there numerous times before for the day, but this was the first time we camped there. We have a travel trailer and like that they do have sites that provide a full hookup. We stayed in site #17, which was a great spot. The view out the back of the site is all woods and it was only about a 10 minute bike ride to the spring.
Manatee Springs campground has several areas you can stay. There's a primitive area, a tent camping only area, and then two other campsite loops where tents and RV's are allowed. Magnolia 1 and 2 are the loops where RV's are allowed. Magnolia #2 and the dedicated tent camping, called Hickory Camping Area, are both the closest walk to the spring. However, all of the non-primitive sites are only about a 10-minute bike ride to the spring. There is a bike rack down by the spring, too, so you can park your bike there.
The campground is very shady! Nearly every site is well shaded. I only saw a few that were not well shaded. You get a decent size buffer between sites, too. We really liked the campground. This campground is filled with wildlife. There are deer all over it, racoon, rabbits, birds, etc. It was great!
During the day, we would leave to go check out other springs. This trip we went back to Fanning Springs, Levy Blue, Little River Spring, and Troy Springs (other springs not far from the campground that you could check out include Hart Springs and Otter Springs). Then we'd come back to hang out at the campground. We'd go to the spring there every evening for a dip, followed by a lovely walk in the boardwalk that leads back to the Suwanee River. We'd sit there for a bit on the dock watching for the sturgeon to jump. It was lovely!
The pros of staying at Manatee Springs State Park campground:
The nature view is wonderful and they have an abundance of wildlife. We biked around, including to the check in area and the spring. If you are tent camping, the bathhouses are well placed in the center of each loop and they are nice and clean. All of the non-primitive sites are close enough to the spring to bike there. Some of the spots in Magnolia #2 are really close to the springs area parking lot, so it's a quick walk to the spring. Those spots in closest walking distance to the spring are 44, 45, 46. The outer ring of the Hickory Camping Area is also a closer walk to the spring (sites 75-79). I like that some sites offer a full hookup for our RV's.
The cons of staying at Manatee Springs State Park campground:
There's literally no phone signal at all. And you can't get one unless you go six miles away from the park! That's kind of crazy. I did find out on the last night there that if you go over to the spring area by the place that rents out kayaks there is a wifi provided by them. So if you want to stand there to use the phone a few minutes you can do that, otherwise it's a 6-mile trek up the road to be able to use your phone at all. There was an abundance of red ants at the campsite, too. I would stand outside for a minute and they were on my feet biting me (ouch!). They seemed to be all over outside at the campsite. I don't know if other sites were like that, but ours was filled with little biting red ants.
If you want to go up the road the six miles to Chiefland, there are stores and restaurants. It's not a big town, but there are some pizza places, Walmart, etc. This is a beautiful area of the state that is filled with nature and there are numerous springs within an hour's drive. Plus, the springs in this area do not get crowded like the ones located central state. We've been to them many times and there's hardly anyone at them when we go. Often times, we are there alone or just with a few other people.
Overall, it was a great time at Manatee Springs! The spring is beautiful and isn't busy at all. We usually had it to ourselves or there would just be a couple of people in there with us. The campground was great, lots of nature and wildlife all around us. We'd stay there again for sure!
Check out the pictures of Manatee Springs campground, spring, and a map of the campground/spring area: