If the thought of RVing brings to mind of endless rows of 5th Wheels, Travel Trailers, and large Buses, well yes that does indeed reflect many RVing experiences. But no, today we have the exact opposite for you. Today we’re going to share one of our absolute hidden gems. One of our favorite places for Boondocking (or Dry-Camp), and I hope you’ll see why.
It’s Boondocking at Bayside Campground at Escribano Point Wildlife Management Area located in the wilderness to the west of Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle. It has just 12 Boondocking spots and a whole lot of wilderness. Let’s get to it.
Discovering the Campground
First off, how did we find this place? Jessica learned about this Boondocking spot through Freecampsites.net, a website where RV’ers and Campers post camping spots that they’ve found that are free, or at least very cheap. Some require permits on state land, and some have water and restroom facilities, but some are as basic as a Cabela’s or Walmart parking lot. Freecampsites.net only includes as much information as its users provide however, but is updated by members as they review a given campground. Once we discovered this place was near our route to Pensacola, we made an easy online reservation at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website and decided to stay for four days, and were on our way.
Accessing the Campground
Getting to Bayside Campground is going to require you driving off paved highways. The last 4 miles to the campground are on clay surfaces, with a few soft spots along the way, so enjoy the drive but you must stay alert. Stay on the road and do not turn off on any tracks that look iffy. The last 3 or so miles on your GPS should look like the photo below. If you do not see this picture on your GPS, DO NOT FOLLOW the GPS. Look at the map and find the roads that look like the photo. Also, don’t stray into Eglin Air Force Base property either. Staying out is easy, just don’t open any fences, or cross into obviously labeled areas.
Here’s the Campground Layout
Your campsite at Bayside comes complete with a picnic table, and fire ring. Beyond that there are two port – a – potties, one of which is wheelchair accessible, and bear proof trash bins. This a boondocking location so there is no fresh water, sewer, or electricity. You have to bring in everything else with you: Fresh water for drinking, cooking and/or bathing (if you’re into, you know, cleanliness), or better: Epic Wipes for cleaning yourself! Visit Epic Wipes! and enter “local10” at checkout for a discount! Epic Wipes. Yes they are Epic and awesome. For electricity, you will need to bring in your Solar or Generator like ours with you (Check out our discussion of RV Generators that meet our NEEDS HERE. Be courteous with your generator and be sure to turn it off by 10pm. While I don’t recall it being posted, 10pm is the typical start for quiet hours at all campgrounds we’ve been to. Don’t be a jerk. Cell signal reception on our Verizon MiFi was fair at best, but it allowed us to get all our necessary work done.
Once you’ve arrived, what is there to do? It depends on where your priorities lie. The kids and I decided on relaxation and spent most of our time playing in the water. This was easy to do since the water is shallow, and the campground is quite literally, on the bay. Camping Spots 1 through 8 are right on the water, and 9 – 12 are just seconds farther away. For the more adventurous there are miles of hiking trails in the area as well. Be sure to carry plenty of water with you as that hot Florida sun starts early and always be watchful for bears, snakes, and other wildlife. Kayaking, paddle boarding and canoeing are also a great option as the beach provides an easy launch platform. Blackwater Bay is huge and there are many inlets to explore that will keep you busy for hours. Fishing is also a great option as the Florida Wildlife Commission works diligently to stock and maintain native fish in the area.
To Not Do
Bayside is secluded so it is not a great launching off point for visiting Pensacola or nearby Navarre. Don’t expect to get back and forth to the city quickly so do not overschedule yourself. With our take it easy pace, this wasn’t an issue. We only went on two side trips in the 4 days we were there. One was to the National Naval Aviation Museum, and the other was to visit out friends Crazy Family Adventure who were staying at Gulf State Park Campground just over the border in coastal Alabama. Additionally, do not be careless with your surroundings. Always clean up your campground, not just to be a good neighbor to other RVers and Campers, but also to the local wildlife. The local wildlife was very present on our visit with watersnakes, bear, and raccoon nearby. We came across this little family unit not more than a mile from camp!
The best recommendation we can give is to just enjoy the raw environment at Bayside, and watch the short video below as an example of what we chose to do.