Photograph by Walter Bibikow, Getty Images
Tucked away in some of Florida’s wildest spaces are cozy cabins, barebones huts, and other back-to-nature hideaways offering unbeatable amenities such as wildlife viewing, campfire circles, and easy access to hiking, biking, and kayaking trails.
Billie Swamp Safari, Clewiston
Spend the night on the remote Big Cypress Seminole Reservation in one of the barebones Billie Swamp Safari chickee huts. The Seminoles developed the design—an elevated cypress log frame covered with a palmetto thatch roof—in the early 1800s as a way to quickly build disposable shelters while being pursued by federal troops. These chickees are authentic re-creations, meaning there’s no electricity, indoor plumbing, or air-conditioning. Up the wild factor by also booking a Twilight Expedition, an hour-long, after-dark swamp buggy tour through the Everglades that's followed by a tribal campfire storytelling session under the stars.
Cayo Costa State Park
Accessible only by private boat or passenger ferry, Cayo Costa is a pristine barrier island located north of Captiva Island and west of North Fort Myers. The park’s more than nine miles of white-sand beach attracts both day-trippers in search of a remote setting in which to snorkel, swim, and collect shells, and adventurers who want to remain on the island after dark. There are 12 primitive, one-room cabins for rent. All sleep six, are steps from the beach, and get booked several months in advance. There’s no electricity or water in the cabins, but there are public restrooms, outdoor grills, and a tram to transport you and your gear from the ferry docks to the cabins.
Fanning Springs State Park, Fanning Springs
If you’d rather go into the wild equipped with many of the comforts of home, the five cabins at Fanning Springs fit the bill. Each two-bedroom cabin has central heat and air-conditioning, an indoor electric fireplace, a kitchenette, and running water. Just outside your screened-in porch is a world of adventure: kayaking and canoeing along the historic Suwannee River; hiking, biking, and horseback riding opportunities on the Nature Coast State Trail; and, in winter, the chance to see manatees in Fanning Springs' crystal-clear water, which remains a near-constant 72 degrees.
Practical Tip: The Cayo Costa camp store does sell essentials such as firewood, charcoal, and ice, but you’ll have to carry in food, drinks, linens, and cooking utensils.
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