Fly to a fully-equipped, lush airport campground in central Florida. Throw in a fun airboat cruise or a quiet canoe trip down the Peace River, add a horseback ride, swamp buggy tour, or a little antique shopping, and you’ve got yourself a great little getaway.
Arcadia Municipal Airport is in central Florida, just 50 nautical miles south of Lakeland Linder Regional, site of the annual Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo. Be prepared for busy skies near Lakeland during Sun 'n Fun, and around Class B Tampa International any time. Those busy airports plus the many military operations areas and restricted areas southeast of Tampa make VFR flight following an especially good idea if you’re not already on an IFR flight plan.
After landing, just taxi past the tiedowns and behind the hangars to the wooded fly-in/camp-out area. The website provides clear photos that show you exactly where to taxi, so there’s no confusion. Park your airplane in the shade of the beautiful oak trees and pull out your camping gear. Look around and you’ll see a 20-by-30-foot pilot shelter equipped with clean picnic tables, a beautiful brick fire pit, and two barbecue grills, plus running water and electricity. Top it off with spotless, fully plumbed restrooms and hot showers, and you’ve got all you need to dine comfortably, stay clean and civilized, and camp outdoors. Who could ask for more? If any other pilots are spending the night, you’ll even have people to meet and enjoy a campfire with who probably love flying as much as you do.
If you’re up for a little adventure, contact Peace River Charters. They know you don’t have a car and they’ll be happy to shuttle you to and from the airport. They offer a plethora of activities. The Peace River is just that: quiet, peaceful, and perfect for canoeing. They’ll drop you off upstream and pick you up eight miles downstream. If you’d like, they can take you back upstream via one of their airboats. Isn’t riding an airboat in Florida on your bucket list? It sure is on mine.
Or, you can forgo the canoe and take the airboat river tour with Captain Zac, who will take you both fast and slow for 20 miles, pointing out wildlife along the way. Look for bald eagles, alligators, and water birds. Private tours catered to your specific interests are available. They also offer one-hour horseback rides along the river. You’ll have plenty of time to check out the birds in the cypress trees and just enjoy a relaxing ride. If you’re more into wild than mild, try a swamp buggy tour. These things have giant tires and you’ll have an elevated vantage point, 12 feet off the ground to be exact, from which to see all as your driver weaves and winds through thick Florida hammocks. As they say at Peace River Charters, no terrain is safe and their buggies give a new meaning to “off-road.” Thick mud, uneven terrain, shallow water—the swamp buggy can handle it, but so can you because the buggy and driver also keep it smooth and safe.
Finally, know that it’s just a short walk north from the airport into town. Here you’ll find the Historic District, built in the 1800s, which offers 25 antique shops, along with restaurants and specialty shops, all on four blocks of West Oak Street. They have an Antique Fair the fourth Saturday of each month, and most stores are open daily. Stop for an ice cream or pie at one of their home town restaurants. Closer to the airport, try the Reef and Beef Restaurant and Lounge, Beef O’Brady’s, or the Country Café. Now you know you can camp in the woods, right next to your airplane, at a facility built just for pilots. Enjoy!
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