Emerging from wetlands southwest of Melbourne, this section of the St. Johns was once a bass fishing mecca. Drainage canals and farming destroyed much of the natural wetlands. River restoration projects have been underway and conditions have improved dramatically. Former fish camps are making a comeback as entertainment venues, with a focus on ecotourism, food, and music.
Camp Holly... www.campholly.net/ 6901 U.S. 192, Melbourne, FL 32904 (2.8 mi. west of I-95)
Lone Cabbage... www.twisterairboatrides.com/fishcamp.html 8199 SR 520, Cocoa, FL 32926
West of Cocoa, near Orlando and Disney, airboat ecotourism is big here. Great water views, weekend music, and a variety of inexpensive food make this a popular getaway with locals. The wine comes in plastic cups, red and white. A few "old Florida" buildings remain, providing fond memories. Tip: a sweeping vista (and maybe a gator) along boardwalk/fishing pier next to boat ramp, on opposite side of highway.
Jolly Gator... www.facebook.com/thejollygator/ 4650 E. State Rd 46, Geneva, FL 32732
An expansive expansive, unobstructed view on the river. The river becomes slightly larger, as the Econlockhatchee River enters about a mile upstream (south). For eats, definitely try the swamp cabbage. We also enjoyed the gator, blackened not fried. The twice a month Sunday jam sessions are popular. Independent airboat tours operate from the county park.
Black Hammock... http://www.theblackhammock.com/ 2356 Black Hammock Fish Camp Rd, Oviedo, FL 32765
Located off the main river channel on Lake Jesup, this former fish camp has reinvented itself as a mini-attraction that kids of any age will enjoy. Feed the parrots. Use a hot dog to "fish" for small alligators. Take an airboat ride. Cool off the bar and gift shop. Plus, a restaurant that uses real plates, metal utensils, and wine glasses. Civilization at last!