August 8, 2020
Florida fish camps are great places to experience authentic Old Florida.
They are sometimes overlooked as lodging choices, but many of them do have guest rooms or cabins. This makes them great places to get away for a few days or weeks and experience natural Florida.
Fish camps are typically family owned and give you an experience of being part of the family with all of the benefits of local knowledge.
There are fish camps in all eight geographic regions of Florida with a wide variety of fishing and lodging choices.
Quite often, fishing is optional at a fish camp. Even if you don't fish, you can chill out, rent boats and explore the area on the water or on the back roads in a true Old Florida getaway.
Florida was first settled along its Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and not long after the settlers began to arrive and set up communities on the state's many rivers and lakes. Florida fish camps are quite often representative of that kind of Old Florida.
Most of them do not have lodging accommodations, and when they do they are often spartan and not plush by most standards. Rooms at fish camps are usually quite a bit cheaper than their fancier counterparts among the chain motels and hotels on the busier highways.
If you choose a fish camp without lodging, they are still great places for day trips to launch your own boat or rent one of theirs. Many fish camps also offer fishing guides and conduct ecotours along the water bodies they inhabit.
Waterfront property in Florida is ever increasing in value and this puts the pressure on fish camps. Many have sold out in recent years and what remains in their place is not Old Florida, but New Florida with its high rise condominiums and waterfront restaurants.
Many waterfront restaurants in Florida carry the moniker "fish camp" and we list them from time to time anyway. Just be advised they may not be the real deal.
We have organized this page on fish camps using the 8 geographic regions of Florida shown on the map above.
Enjoy a Florida fish camp or Mom & Pop waterront motel while you still can. Here's a list of some of them across Florida.
Northwest Florida fish camps are located on the bayous and bays that indent the well known Gulf coast. Lesser known waterways also boast some fantastic fishing and camping opportunities.
The Escambia River, for example, is Florida's fourth largest river and its headwaters include creeks, streams and marshes that extend northward into Alabama and offer some of the finest fishing in the State.
Northwest Florida extends all the way from Perdido Key and Pensacola on the west to Apalachicola and Carrabelle on the east.
Bay City Lodge
1000 Bay City Road
Apalachicola, Florida 32329
Bay City Lodge offers full service fish camp facilities on the Apalachicola River just north of downtown Apalachicola. It's a great place to stay not just for fishing, but for visiting the historic town.
The lodge store has everything you need for fishing including bait, tackle and fishermen's clothing. You can even get your fish cleaned by the resort staff.
The lodge has dry boat storage, launching ramps and outboard motor sales and service
The lodge property is really a resort with a large restaurant on the property as well as fully furnished motel units and cabins. Jimmy Mosconis has owned and operated the resort for 40 years and treats all guests like members of the family.
Becks Fish Camp and Wildlife Refuge
2020 Becks Lake Road
Cantonment, Florida 32533
Becks Fish Camp and Wildlife Refuge is a privately owned fish camp and wildlife refuge north of Pensacola in the Escambia River watershed.
Many people consider Becks Lake to be the best fishing spot in Northwest Florida.
You can even catch your share of fish just sitting on the bank with your fishing pole and leaving your boat at home. But if you bring your boat, they have a launching ramp for you.
This fish camp has RV and primitive camping sites and your fee includes bank fishing, picnicking and hiking. They have access to more than 35,000 acres of fishing and nature spots for you to enjoy.
The camp is nestled among ancient live oaks festooned with Spanish Moss, and is located on bayous and streams full of bass, bream, crappie, bluegill and shellcracker.
Tharp's Camp Cedar
4405 Huckleberry Lane
Panama City, Florida 32409
Tharp's is located on Deer Point Lake seven miles north of Panama City.
This lake is a 5,000 acre impoundment fed by freshwater streams that flow in from the north, and it is the source of Panama City's drinking water.
Deer Point Lake is known for abundant shellcracker during the spring season, along with bream and bass.
Tharp's has RV lots for rent and sometimes a mobile home or two. The marina has a bait shop and a boat launching ramp. Although there isn't much in the way of facilities, it's definitely a glimpse into Old Florida.
North Central Florida fish camps are located on the rivers that empty into the shallow Gulf waters along the Big Bend area of Florida. There are also camps on many of the lakes that dot the landscape over this large region that borders Georgia.
Fantastic fishing and camping can be had at these fish camps, and some of them have decent lodging.
Shell Island Fish Camp & Marina
440 Shell Island Road
St. Marks, FL 32355
Shell Island Fish Camp is a family owned and operated slice of Old Florida located on the Wakulla River 18 miles south of Tallahassee, Florida. It is in the fishing village of St. Marks.
Shell Island is noted for great fishing including speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, blue fish, cobia, rock bass, red fish, and more. Non-fishing guests will also enjoy the laid back atmosphere.
Whippoorwill Sportsmanʹs Lodge
3129 Cookʹs Landing Road
This secluded camp is on the north shore of Lake Talquin, a large lake managed by the State of Florida and known for its fine fishing. Speckled perch and bass are favorite catches in this lake.
Whipporwill is at the end of a secluded road, and even though you will only be 30 minutes by car west of Tallahassee, you will feel like you are in Old Florida.
Most of the shoreline of the lake is in a natural forest setting.
The lodge has several modern cottages and cabins along with some RV sites. The Whip Waterfront Pub and Grub bar and grill is on the property so you donʹt even have to leave if you donʹt want to.
Nearby Lake Talquin State Forest has a lot of things to do if you donʹt feel like fishing: hiking, horseback riding, cycling and lots of nature trails.
Northeast Florida fish camps are located along the Intracoastal Waterway and rivers of this northernmost region of the state.
The majestic St. Johns River flows north through this part of the state on its way to the ocean and offers some of the finest bass fishing in Florida.
Some of the camps have good lodging and others are great places to launch your boat or rent one of theirs and have a great day on the water.
STEGBONE'S FISH CAMP
144. N. Fish Camp Road
Satsuma, Florida 32189
Here is the motto from the home page of Stegbone's Fish Camp:
Ever wonder where that place went where your Grandfather first took you fishing; that place where life-long memories were made? The place where you fished during the day and told stories about the day's catch over a camp fire? Join us for new memories on the St. Johns River in Welaka, Florida.
Stegbone’s Fish Camp is a natural spot tucked along the banks of the St. John’s River between Satsuma and Welaka.
It's a quiet part of Old Florida with several neat cottages available for daily or weekly rentals. It has been around under several different owners and names since 1946.
It is secluded, yet close enough to Palatka, St. Augustine and Daytona for easy day trips.
Welaka Lodge & Resort
1001 Front Street
Welaka, FL 32193
As fish camps go, this fish camp, lodge and RV park is a Ritz Carlton. You also have to love a place whose home page quotes Florida literary icon Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings:
If I could have, to hold forever, one brief place and time of beauty, I think I might choose the night on that high lonely bank above the St. Johns river.
Welaka is about 40 miles southwest of St Augustine, and about the same distance northwest of Daytona Beach. It is close enough for comfortable day trips, but far enough away from the maddening crowds.
This resort caters to fishing enthusiasts and their families, and it is on a magnificent stretch of the majestic St Johns River in the village of Welaka.
The resort boasts a swimming pool and a variety of cottages of varying sizes perfect for a couples getaway or a larger family. Most of the cottages are fully equipped with kitchens and are set up so you can live there for long periods of time.
You may just want to do that once youʹve tried this place with its great views of the largest river in Florida.
Central East Florida Fish Camps are located along the Intracoastal Waterway in this region of the state, as well as on the St. Johns River.
There are also some interesting Old Florida camps on the several lakes that dot this area.
This region of the state includes the northeastern shoreline of Lake Okeechobee with its multitude of fish camps.
Highland Park Fish Camp and Campground
2640 West Highland Park Road
DeLand, Florida 32720
This small resort, RV park and fish camp has been under the same family ownership and management since 1962. It's located on Norris Dead River, a backwater of the St. Johns River.
They rent boats, have fishing guides, and it's one of the quietest little places in Central Florida.
They even have a nice small pond stocked with bass for the kids to catch and release.
This fish camp is located 4.5 miles northwest of DeLand. It's close enough to all of the Central Florida attractions like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Daytona Beach and so forth; but it is definitely Old Florida is its ambiance. The camp only has three cabins, so make sure you have a reservation before showing up. They also have 55 full hookup RV sites.
Honest John's Fish Camp
750 Old Florida Trail
Melbourne Beach, Florida 32951
This small fish camp has been in the same family for more than 100 years. It was originally the family homestead, and is a genuine slice of Old Florida.
There are no lodging facilities but it is a great place to fish or just soak up the authentic pioneer surroundings.
More at Honest John's Fish Camp
Central Florida fish camps are usually on the lakes and rivers that are the most prominent features of this land locked region of the state.
There are literally hundreds if not thousands of lakes ranging from small ponds to major chains of lakes like the Harris Chain in Lake County and the Winter Haven chain of lakes.
Many of the lakes in Central Florida are spring fed and most of them are loaded with fish.
Some fish camps have lodging, others are just great places to launch your boat or rent one of theirs and get out on the water.
Palm Gardens Restaurant and Marina
1661 Palm Garden Street
Palm Gardens is on the Dead River that connects Lake Harris to Lake Eustis in Tavares.
It is a fish camp, a marina and has a small restaurant. It has an Old Florida atmosphere that is becoming increasingly rare in Central Florida.
As the name implies, there are plenty of tall palms on the property and a nice deck with shady umbrellas to sit and enjoy a meal or a beer and watch the boat traffic go slowly by on the river.
Palm Gardens has RV lots for rent, an adjacent public boat ramp, bait and tackle for sale and they rent boats. They also sell fuel and have a store with plenty of beer, soft drinks, bottled water and various snacks.
The restaurant has quite a local following with their Wednesday "Steak Nights" and they also serve breakfast and lunch. On hot days you can dine inside in their air conditioned Riverview Room.
Central West Florida fish camps are on the estuaries along the Gulf Coast, and on the rivers and lakes that are all over the region. Many of these camps offer lodging, and others just offer you a great place to launch your boat or rent one of theirs and get out on the water.
There are literally hundreds of lakes in Central West Florida ranging in size from small ponds to major chains like Tsala Apopka at Floral City and Inverness, and Lake Panasoffkee near the town of the same name.
The Withlacoochee River is the main stream flowing through this part of Florida.
Many of the lakes in Central West Florida are spring fed and most of them are loaded with fish. Some fish camps have lodging, others are just great places to launch your boat or rent one of theirs and get out on the water.
Southwest Florida fish camps are becoming scarce because of the rising value of waterfront property.
Many rustic little camps that existed no more than ten years ago are now just footnotes in history, replaced by high rise condominiums and waterfront restaurants.
There are still a few in the boonies of Collier and Charlotte Counties, and in the fishing village of Everglades City.
Southeast Florida fish camps are on Lake Okeechobee and at various spots in the Florida Keys.
The ever increasing value of waterfront property in this Gold Coast area of Florida has turned many old fish camps into high rise condominiums or trendy waterfront restaurants.
A few still remain, and some of them offer rustic lodging in the authentic Old Florida style. Others are great places to fish. There is something for everybody in Southeast Florida.