Sometimes things just work out. We arrived in Key West, got the last dry camping spot available for our sized rig, and it happens to be one of the limited and highly desirable ocean front sites. This is our front window view:
After leaving Coral Springs we made the 191 mile drive south to the Sigsbee Annex Campground on the Key West Naval Air Station. This is our third time using the NASKW RV facilities, but our first long term stay. Once again the experience has driven home what a fantastic deal it is for anyone with access to military bases. Nothing in the region can compete with the price: There are three private RV resorts on Key West itself, and they run from $75/night (for a questionable quality interior campground with no water access) up to $130 (for a waterfront site at the higher end coastal place.) Add to that a 12.5%(!) tax, and then take into account that it is hard to get reservations there; at least one of resorts reported that they are completely full for the rest of the season, and just like Periwinkle, they offer existing guests priority reservations for the next season.
Now, if you can get in to one of the private campgrounds, perhaps even taking advantage of their monthly discounted rates that sort of compensate for the high tax rate, you will get a couple of amenities not offered on base, specifically free wifi (though I’m guessing it’s the shaky “RV campground typical” type) and cable TV. But compare that to the $24/night for hook up spots on the Naval Station that include access to the water, low cost boat rentals, activities, affordable untaxed sunset bar/diner/lounges, an exchange, commissary, a guarded gate, etc etc etc.
There are some catches, and kind of big ones. First: for retirees the sites are not reservable; in the winter high season the places is very popular, and thus availability might be an issue. It is possible to show up and have no spot available at all, requiring you to drive back up the road to one the very expensive private resorts, assuming they have short term openings, and then come back the next morning. The managing office told me they have turned away 23 RVs this season, though many of them were able to get in the next day.
For some, this uncertainty may be a deal breaker. If you are considering a winter stay here, try to arrive in December or early January before things really get packed in. If that is not feasible, then consider making at least a one night reservation in the upper or middle keys, and then getting up at the crack of dawn to continue the drive down to NASKW and be one of the first in line at the office. The people that got turned away were usually late arrivals. A somewhat riskier tactic is to arrive very late, near dusk, well after the front office has closed. Contact the on duty camp host via the phone number posted on the office door to see about a spot. One of three things happens: he has an opening, he doesn’t have an opening, or he says its too late, they don’t allow negotiation of the narrow roads and maneuvering into the sites after dark. In the case of the latter two, they seem to have an unofficial policy of not making you drive away in the dark, instead letting RVs stay one night (and one night only) in the parking lot. Then you are basically first in line the next morning.
Second possible deal breaker: The drycamping requirement for the majority of one’s high season stay. The annex has 92 hook up sites, and over 400 drycamping spots split between Sigsbee and the Trumbo Point Coast Guard station down the road. Even in the low season those hook up spots can get filled, and during the winter they are filled completely. To ensure fairness the base enforces a strict rotation schedule: when you arrive you will go to a dry site and be put on a First In First Out list for rotation to a hook up spot. Meanwhile all the campers in those hook up sites are on a two week timer: the morning of day 15 they have to rotate back to the dry side. Whatever the number of these rotaters, that’s how many from the dry side FIFO list move to a hook up spot.
Upon arrival we were told it would be a month or more before our number came up to move, but given the great luck we had being placed right on the water, we are perfectly fine with that. Between our batteries and propane driven refrigerator, and the campground’s nearby water refill and dump stations, shower facilities, and liberal generator policy, we have not found it to be a problem. I am sure after a month we will welcome full hookups, but for now we are happier here overlooking the ocean.