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Airport camping, airboat cruisingAirport camping, airboat cruising

Arcadia, FloridaArcadia, Florida

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.

  • Land at Arcadia Municipal in central Florida and enjoy camping under the oaks with your plane. This pilot’s campground has hot showers, nice restrooms, covered picnic tables, and BBQs. Photo courtesy Friends of Arcadia Airport.
  • Aerial view of Arcadia Municipal Airport (X06). The camping area is in the group of trees directly behind the two long, parallel white hangar buildings. Photo courtesy Friends of Arcadia Airport.
  • Aerial view of the camping area, just behind the long hangars. Photo courtesy Friends of Arcadia Airport.
  • A propeller, plaque, and flags from the Recreational Aviation Foundation and Florida Sport Aviation Antique & Classic Association adorn the front of the taxi-in camping area. Photo courtesy Friends of Arcadia Airport.
  • Camp away from the hubbub of the city at Arcadia Municipal. Photo courtesy Friends of Arcadia Airport.
  • The new restroom facility includes hot showers. Photo courtesy Friends of Arcadia Airport.
  • Arcadia was named “Aviation City” in the early 1920s, after World War I and the establishment of Carlstrom and Dorr Fields. Friends of Arcadia Airport decided to keep the name alive by naming their new Fly-In/Camp-Out Center “Aviation City” in honor of Arcadia’s aviation history. Photo courtesy Friends of Arcadia Airport.
  • You’ll probably see a few of these, though not from this angle, on your airboat tour of the Peace River. Photo courtesy Peace River Charters.
  • You’ll view some 20 miles of the Peace River on your airboat tour; free airport pickup and private custom tours are available. Photo courtesy Peace River Charters.
  • Bald eagles can sometimes be seen scanning the river for fish. Photo courtesy Peace River Charters.
  • Take a canoe or kayak down the Peace River; free pickup and dropoff by van or boat is available. Photo courtesy Canoe Outpost.
  • No rapids here—this river earns its name. You’ll be able to hear the many birds that live along the river. Photo courtesy Visit Florida.
  • Arcadia is a haven for antique shops; they have an outdoor Antique Fair once a month. Photo courtesy Visit Florida.

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.

Approaching Arcadia, though, air traffic generally thins out, as do the cities below. You’ll be flying over large areas of intermittent swampland punctuated by numerous lakes and rivers. Highway 17 and the Peace River lead you right to Arcadia Municipal, with crossing runways (one asphalt, one turf). Friends of Arcadia Airport have provided a wonderful camping opportunity here for transient pilots. You just need to register first. A $10 fee helps maintain this luxurious camping area in top shape for all pilots.

Relax around the fire with family or friends. Photo courtesy Friends of Arcadia Airport.

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. 

Check out the baby alligators at Peace River Charters’ office. Photo courtesy Peace River Charters.

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!

An airboat is a fast and fun way to explore the Peace River; haven’t you always wanted to try one? Photo courtesy Peace River Charters.

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Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association.
Topics: US Travel

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