Donald MacDonald Campground
Updated: Oct 18, 2020
Located in the most northern part of Indian River County, a special hidden gem awaits fellow #glampers and #campers. Located less than thirty minutes from our house, yet a world away, the campground backs right up to the Sebastian River. After living in the area for sixteen years, I had never experienced this meandering waterway before our #riverroaming adventures. So glad I did, because now I love it equally as much as the St. John's River! Which for as the mama glamper is a pretty big deal. After all, it was the first river I fell in love with.
Anyhow, back to the campground review. Only four sites actually offer water and electric. Those sites are in the front of the park near the ranger station. Be sure to swing in there upon check-in to say hello and get your bathroom code. Though the county is moving towards more automation, if you don't have a code you won't be able to access the only bathhouse on the property. So, it's worth popping in. It was 4th of July weekend, 2020 during covid. Camping is full of appreciative guests as a result. We had the pleasure of meeting Ranger Dan. He was quite tall and equally as pleasant. Even helped us back in our boat. It was nice to be welcomed and provided a quick rundown of the property.
Due north a bit, you will veer to the west and happen upon the primitive camping area. Plenty of sites to be had, on a first come first serve basis. From what I understand, one would leave a donation. Of course, since our setup requires full electric, we had to reserve online by creating an account using their online technology. Pretty easy to do, with rates around $30 per night which are in line with state parks.
Side note, Be sure you know your license plate number; it's a requirement for the software.
This is also the area where the bathhouse is along with a small playground for the kids. Just beyond that is the walking trails with a path to a terrific fishing dock where one will not be disturbed by those launching boats; like the Tillerys.
Setup of course is getting easier since it's our third trip. However, this go round we didn't have our boy with us. He was having his own adventures in Michigan catching bass. So, it was just Michael and I for setup. Getting there in the peak of the afternoon heat, around 2pm, I was very glad I had my visor on to catch the sweat before it dripped into my eyes. Yet, I must admit we looked like a well oiled machine. Though we didn't feel right doing the pina colada tradition without our boy, we did open up iced cold drinks and worked really efficiently together even when the giant storm rolled in. Yup, as soon as the tent was up and the topper laid, the skies broke open for about 30 minutes. We felt pretty fortunate about the timing of it all and that was the catalyst to a great evening as we toured the Sebastian River into the evening via our Suntracker Bass Buggy.
The boat ramp there is small, yet it fits our 16' Bass Buggy perfectly! It really is a serene setup with parking under shady trees and overflow for trucks and trailers spread over grassy nooks. There is a dock spacious enough to have your guests meet you there to get on the boat while still allowing a fisherman or two room to cast. As you pull out, you are surrounded by luscious green river grass and trees; even a gator or two in view sometimes. If you head east, you are going to get to the Inter coastal in about twenty minutes. Just beyond that is the super popular Sebastian sand bar. Personally, we enjoy making this the second stop if traveling the river first so you can be rewarded with a nice swim. One can still fish there, let their dogs run about when the tide is out and even find plenty of starfish. However, if heading to the sandbar is your soul mission; leaving from the Donald MacDonald Campground might not be a perfect fit for you. Using one of the boat ramps from Sebastian's Main Street or working waterfront will make more sense. Because, the Sebastian River is a slow speed, no wake zone in its entirety so don't be in hurry if this is your route.
Our first night, we went east on the river and took the Inter coastal a bit south to Captain Butcher's. A great local restaurant, known for excellent seafood and drinks with outdoor dining; even in a covid climate it didn't disappoint. Pulling up, we never realized just how impress their marina and lodging accommodations where. Yet by boat, you discover that firsthand and we were able to pull right up to a spot with a ladder and found a nice two top overlooking the water. Our server was also the bartender and she was lovely. Guests were all friendly with lots of positive comments on our red, white and blue outfits. It was July 3rd after all. After sharing their seafood appetizer platter and some chowder, we headed back to the boat for our first evening cruise.
Maybe it was the oysters, but it did seem pretty magical. We brought our spotlight and used our boat lights accordingly, while enjoying great music and the perfect crispness of the air. By the time we got back to the boat ramp it was dark and we saw our camping neighbors out night fishing from their john boat. Fortunately for those happy young gents, they scored a big red snapper and were beaming from ear to ear with plans to fry it up right away. We proceeded back and used our boat as a gate almost for our bit of campfire time with a few rounds of rummy.
Next morning, Michael got up early and drove the 25 minutes home to scoop up our dog, Nemo and his mom, Tammy. As mentioned before, Tammy (aka Nana), helps us with our cat, Snickers when we are away and before that Nemo too. As a token of gratitude and accepting her subtle tips of wanting to try a night of glamping, we made the 4th of July a wonderful holiday with us three and the dog. We went west on the Sebastian River which is how we discovered just how meandering it was. Full of bends and surprises around each one, plenty of kayaks and canoes with an array of wildlife to be seen around each curve. The houses, they all had character but worked to mesh with the landscape rather than compete against it. It truly was blissful.
After a couple hours, not a single fish bit at the lures Michael was trying out. So, we decided to head to the sandbar to cool off and enjoy some turkey and bacon sandwiches. Of course, slow and steady is important on the river, about an hour or so later and fifty-ish skydivers sprinkling the sky, we made it to the sandbar for a display of super impressive patriotism. Tons of American flags lined each boat and all seemed jolly yet respectful of social distancing, practicing being safe on the water.
Thankfully, after about an hour, we read the clouds right and made it back to our campsite just before a huge storm reeked havoc on parts of Indian River County. From pictures online and the visible damage to our trees back at home the next day, this storm was a doozy!
At our campsite, we were able to convert the glampin' kitchen into our screened in porch for Tammy and myself. Michael stayed under the tent's awning and we all chatted while it rained and lightning lit up the sudden dark gray that surrounded us. The intensity of the storm remained in full effect for nearly an hour with no reprieve. All in all, the tent did great!
Unlike Tomoka where we slept through the biggest parts of the storm, this one happened late afternoon deferring all grilling and regularly scheduled card playing. Hence, while inside the tent, I was able to spot where water was coming in through the air conditioning ports and corners during the intense sideways rain. So, a simple towel placement in those areas made clean up easier the next day. We also learned, some additional layers of stylish tarps above the tent would help. We now own two more that are really going to help accentuate our campsite's style while also being an extra barrier for the inevitable summer afternoon storms. In the end, we were able to grill that night and did some sparklers to celebrate America's birthday.
Next morning, Michael made bacon and eggs on the fire pit's grill before we did breakdown. Thus, we drank coffee and took a long walk before getting into complete work mode. Best part, we knew home was just a twenty minute drive away. Even better, Aunt Louisa's opened at noon that day and had a delicious Stromboli for us to pick up piping hot to enjoy once we got home while unloading the boat. See, without our son, Charlie a pizza wouldn't be right. However, a Stromboli seemed reasonable, as it was on the way home, and helped to support a local business and friend.
To summarize, it was a great park and I can't wait to go back. It is also a great boat ramp for fellow #riverroamers. Never been to Indian River County but intrigued? Or, local and just never been before? It is worth the time and energy. Best part,many conveniences await (like our Captain Butcher's adventure) you as it is so close to a super friendly, beach town.