Koreshan State Park Camping

Written by Ryan S.

November in SWFL begs you to be outside. That was the basic impetus behind a recent Friday night trip to Koreshan State Historic Site. Why sit around imbibing on the lanai when you can do it in the woods? So that’s what we did—libations in the wilderness, a.k.a, camping.


Admittedly, it wasn’t the most well planned venture that we’ve put together. For a month now, I’ve been telling my wife and a few friends, two recently married childhood neighborhood friends that recently found themselves in Naples for a stint as travelling medical providers, that camping needed to happen. And so it came to be that my avid camping companions and I decided on a quick Friday night trip 15 minutes up the road. Our destination: the former home of the Koreshan Unity, a utopian society (cult) that were among the first white settlers in Estero. Worry not, no Kool-aid was passed around (as far as I remember). The group diminished after the death of the founder in 1908 and left behind their “New Jerusalem” to the state of Florida to turn into a state park/historic site. A lovely state park, at that.

I have driven by Koreshan several hundred times, I played rugby practically across the street another 100 times, and even kayaked the Estero River that forms its northern border on several occasions. However, I had never actually been through the front entrance of the park until the 5 of us (our dog Reef included) stopped in with a loaded up truck to pick up our camping pass for the night. We only made it to our campsite by 5:15pm, and barely got our tents set up by the time twilight had overtaken the day.

After getting set up, we grabbed a few roadies and went for a walk down to the river, a very short distance from our campsite. When the roadies became empties, we opted to head back to the now dark campsite and tend the fire. It was then we realized that the 1 bag of wood that we had purchased was not going to be nearly enough, so my childhood friend Jackie and I left the isolated wilderness and went across the street to Publix to buy more. Oh the conveniences of the great outdoors. Upon our return, we happened upon an elderly grandmother (who reminded us on several occasions that she was losing her mind) and her 3 young grandsons who were running her ragged. Wife Hilary and other friend Kevin had built up a roaring fire (sort of) and were trying to help the mismatched group find their way back to campsite 54. Or was it 52? Either way, there were lots of trees and a red car nearby. Apparently. Oh, and a white camper.

Hilary and Kevin continued their good Samaritanism and walked the slow moving group back to campsite 52. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anybody familiar there, or at 54, so it became time for automotive intervention. I hopped in the truck, drove the loop back around to the mistaken campsite, and we loaded grandma into the front seat, the 3 Lilliputian boys and Hilary into the backseat while Kevin manned the observation tower--the bed of the truck, thankfully mindful of low-hanging branches.  After a loop around 9/10ths of the campground and several reassurances from the 4 year old that we just had to make 1 more turn, we finally manage to track down the red car, white camper, and frantic mother that called our crew family. Frantic motherly instincts kicked in, the boys and meemaw were quickly ushered out of the truck, and we were sent on our way with a hasty “thanks” followed by distant arguing and apologies.

Once again making the loop, we finally put the truck away back at the campsite where Jackie had built her signature campfire teepee and actually produced a healthy looking blaze. Then, the real camping began. The next 5 or so hours consisted of campground classics such as slamming PBR, cooking ribeyes cowboy style (with TexJoy, as a real cowboy would), playing games, making smores, telling stories, laughing too much, talking too loud, and 4 people simultaneously realizing that it was time for bed a while ago. We retired to our tents so that the raccoons could come see for themselves that we didn’t leave them anything good. It was around then I realized the campground was completely silent except for us. Oops.

The morning light came a little too soon for some and not soon enough for others. My head was a few sizes too big and I would have loved to continue sleeping, but my poor lovely wife had been up most of the night fighting allergies brought on by, well, everything. The morning was a touch on the rough side beyond that. We tried to make breakfast, but poor rationing left us with very little usable wood, too much smoke, and 4 half cooked pieces of bacon, most of which Reef ate.  Without much more cause to stay, we decided we’d do the next best thing—pack it in and go to Survey Café. Always a good decision.


While it’s entirely likely that we were the last ones to set up camp in the evening and the first ones to leave in the morning, I contend that we had more fun than anyone else at the campsite. Sometimes, a seemingly unnecessarily amount of work goes into a trip that consists of more prep time and drive time than actual time conscious and camping. Some people may consider that a bit on the crazy side, but for us, it’s just a sign that we acknowledge that we are living in paradise every day and we are committed to making sure that as long as we’re here, we’re going to #DoFloridaRight. 

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