Here’s the thing: Lake Monroe Park, located on the Volusia side of the Seminole-Volusia county line, and situated on the St Johns river where it empties into Lake Monroe (natch) is, as far as we know, the best value park for short term stays in the North Central Florida region loosely bracketed by Deland, Lake Mary, Wekiva, and Mount Dora. Admittedly, that is a rather arbitrarily defined region directly north of Orlando and short of the Ocala National Forest, but it places us in perfect position to visit our CFL friends and family as well as a handful of markets in the vicinity.
It is not our favorite spot in the region; that would be a toss up between Trimble Park near Mount Dora and Wekiwa Springs State Park. But it is affordable, beautiful, heavily wooded, and convenient, and has thus become one of our go to campgrounds, particularly on winter weekends when our other top options are often hard to reserve.
That said, it’s not for everyone. The reservation system is strictly by phone during regular weekday business hours, and often requires a call back or two. Unlike many, many county and municipal campgrounds we have visited, there is neither a camp host nor an honor system “iron ranger” deposit box to make payment if you just show up to try and camp in one of the open sites. They have a one week maximum stay, and a 30 days total stay limit per calendar year as well.
The gate is locked at dusk, so you better have made note of the combination lock contained in your reservation confirmation email if you are out past then. The trains run regularly and into the night through nearby Sanford, whistles and all. And there is some sort of industrial plant a few hundred yards away across the highway that produces hours and hours of… a steady sort of blow dryer sound, also deep into the night.
Aside from the noise, most of those issues can be dealt with by planning ahead, and I find the train noises vaguely soothing in a nostalgic sort of way, but your mileage may very. Regardless, at less than $17 a night all in, we use it regularly, particularly during this year when other favorites have been closed or limited. So for our return to Central Florida, occurring as it did on a weekend, we locked in a three day stay in advance of our longer, through Christmas reservations at Wekiwa Springs State Park.
This would be a busy weekend. Just as in November, we had locked in 10 markets for December. We completed four in Naples across our Sanibel stay, but had six more to cover during the last two weekends before Christmas. And in addition to the Friday Deland Artisan Alley market and the Saturday Lake Mary event, we also had to get Rosemarie to the airport for another trip up to Virginia to see Linda and the crew.
When we returned to Central Florida in November, our first Deland night market confirmed why we remembered it so fondly (we crushed it) but the following two Fridays had been just so-so. We were pleased that this mid-December Friday returned to form with a great showing, which we partially attribute to some additional lighting we purchased cheaply at Harbor Freight. The next day’s Lake Mary market was solid, though not nearly the extravaganza we had experienced in November, but still significantly better than the alternative Saturday event in downtown Sanford.
We did a rapid market tear down after the Lake Mary event ended, swung back by the campground to refresh, and then it was straight to Orlando International for Rose’s flight. Thankfully it was a weekend and thus we avoided the worst of Orlando’s horrific I-4 traffic, but it was still long ride there and back, where upon arrival I made preps for a complicated move to Wekiwa Springs State Park as well as a market the next day.