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Cabins are fast becoming a popular choice for visitors to Florida’s state parks. According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, 18 parks feature cabins that range from rustic to fully-appointed units.
Many, such as the bungalows in the Panhandle’s Grayton Beach State Park ($110 per night), have full kitchens, screened porches and fireplaces. A few, such as the primitive units ($25 to $35 per night) at Hontoon Island near DeLand, are simple structures with no indoor plumbing.
The cabins’ existence isn’t hush-hush – in fact, the system’s 171 units are extremely popular, said Matt Mitchell, Florida Division of Recreation & Parks spokesman. “Once they catch on, once the secret gets out, you have to book them well in advance.”
Cabins have been a fixture of the parks since the 1930s, when the saw palmetto-trunk cabins of Myakka River State Park near Sarasota were built. Forty-seven units have been added statewide in the past five years, the newest of which feature concrete siding.
The cabins of Fanning Springs State Park, west of Gainesville, are a good example of what’s available in newer models – sparkling kitchens with microwaves, dishwashers and cooking utensils; air conditioning; soaring stone fireplaces; small but comfortable bedrooms; and screen porches with rocking chairs.
Units usually are in quiet, out-of-the-way areas of the parks. Blue Spring’s six weathered units, for instance, line a road in a shady oak hammock. Cabins in Central Florida are among the most difficult in the state to snag, Mitchell said, noting, “It’s virtually a year-round market in Central Florida with the theme parks.” The cabins also are popular sites of family reunions and company retreats.
Most of the parks offer ranger-led hikes and lectures, and opportunities to hike, bike, swim, canoe or kayak. “We believe that the recreational activities are more than enough to keep folks busy and in tune with eco-tourism,” Mitchell said. “When you get back to your cabin, it really feels like a vacation getaway. In the evening, just sitting on the porch and listening to the sounds is wonderful.”