Though we lean towards country parks these days, there are some state parks that are “must see” visits, especially in Florida. I have not been to Silver Springs since I was a child, but it definitely lived up to my nostalgic memories. Only 90 minutes from our Lake Monroe Park spot in DeBary, we had a nice drive through part of the Ocala National Forest before arriving at Silver Springs. This state park as three entrances: main, equestrian, and campground. We mistakenly pulled into the main entrance, but it is a large drive through area with a big parking lot, so we had no problem turning around after getting directions to the campground entry less than a mile down the road.
Silver Springs campground is, simply put, fantastic. The spots are huge, many are enormous pull throughs, most have full hook ups including sewage, and all are surrounded by nature. After taxes and the irritating Reserve America fee, our rate came out to slightly less than $29 per night. There are several hiking trails within walking distance of the campground, and the rangers had excellent recommendations for which to focus on based on the season.
Three days is too short for Silver Springs, and since we were on a budget we chose to skip the famous glass bottom boat tour. Despite our limited time and access, we were fortunate enough to see a good bit of nature during our stay. In addition to the deer and box tortoise, we also spotted a river otter successfully hunting fish in the spring on our second morning there.
While in the area we also made an attempt to attend the annual Golden Corral Military Appreciation Night dinner. While a lot of places are doing free meals on Veterans Day for those who served, Golden Corral has been doing it for 15 years. And perhaps to set themselves apart, the host there free dinner the Monday after the holiday. We made the short drive to the Ocala location, only to find the line stretching out the door, down one side of the building and around the corner. Good on Golden Corral, but that sort of wait was beyond our patience, and we headed to a local Italian joint instead.
What a pleasant surprise! You see a lot of pizzerias outside of New York advertising authentic NY style pizza, but most fail to deliver, so it’s nice to find one that get its right. At Fiore’s Cafe, not only was the pizza true to the New York tradition, but the service and dining environment were also top notch. The house red wine was nice, but the giant pour made it even better. We found this place not merely a consolation prize for the Golden Coral meal, but rather an excellent accidental discovery.
There are a lot of places we want to revisit, but Silver Springs really drew us in, and we would love to stay there for a week, especially after we have acquired a couple of kayaks early next year. We are headed back towards Central Florida for a few days before Thanksgiving. We are looking at going “all in” on farmers markets and related vending opportunities for the rest of November and through December, and have a serious line up of options that will define our travel through the state for the rest of the year. If you are in SE, SW, or Central Florida for the rest of 2016, we would love to meet up with you.