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4.0
56 votes

Shell Mound Campground

17650 SW 78th Pl., Cedar Key, Florida 32625 USA

  • Independent
  • Pet Friendly
  • Not Wheelchair
    Accessible
  • Public
    Restrooms
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“created by native Americans”

The Shell Mound Unit of Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge is adjacent to Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. This unique feature was created by archaic period Eastern Woodland Indian cultures by discarding oyster and clam shells they used as a food source. The area was inhabited by this culture for at least 1,000 years from about 450 to 1,800 years ago. Once used as a source of materials for road construction (prior to Refuge ownership) the mound is now protected from all but foot traffic, attracting about 60,000 visitors per year, yet it never seems like anyone else is there. This is a sea kayakers playground, a shallow ocean area often only inches deep over hidden oyster bars, located among barrier islands and thick with wildlife. For inexperienced sea kayakers, these serene waters are a safe, accessible place to get comfortable with ocean kayaking without the interference of constant motor boat traffic. Experienced kayakers will love the area for its tranquil beauty or as a jump off point for greater adventures, such as paddling five miles up the coast to the Suwannee River, or wilderness camping on Clark Island, just an hour paddle north of Shell Mound.

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Reviews of Shell Mound Campground

13 people have reviewed this location

Ratings Summary

4.2 Access
4.2 Location
4.2 Cleanliness
3.5 Site Quality
3.6 Noise

Cell Coverage

Verizon 4G

Confirmed by 5 users | Last reported on February 26, 2021

AT&T 4G

Confirmed by 2 users | Last reported on March 06, 2019

T-Mobile 5G

Confirmed by 1 users | Last reported on April 04, 2023
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Reviewed by
jeffsturm

  • 33 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
February 03, 2017
Rated

Looking for somewhere to ride out the remainder of the MLK weekend in Florida, we harnessed the power of the Googler and discovered Cedar Key, Florida.

Located on Florida’s Gulf coast, a few hours north of Tampa, Cedar Key is a funky and eclectic island town that various travel bloggers liken to Key West before the tourists. There are several good restaurants and bars in town, along with a coffee shop that I can’t comment on since the day I tried to visit it was closed (it appeared that a lot of things in town close on Tuesdays). Other diversions include several kayak and paddleboard tour and rental places, boat tours, fishing, and beer drinking.

There are four nearby campground options if staying in Cedar Key. For our visit, three of them were non-starters due to availability or being “Adult Only.” With very little information on the web about it, the fourth campground in the Cedar Key area, Shell Mound Campground, was a mystery. I tried four different phone numbers before I was finally able to speak with an actual person. The phone number that worked was the one listed on the generic Google page: (352) 221-4466.

Other than a curt and gravelly “Campground…” as his telephonic greeting, our Shell Mound Oracle was a little short on in-depth information. I asked if they had any sites available for the weekend. The Oracle stated that while they didn’t take reservations, he had plenty of spots at the moment. Really? Plenty of spots on a Holiday Weekend in Florida in January…please tell me more…I asked about cost and the Oracle’s response piqued my interest, “$15 for electric and water, $10 for electric, and $5 for no hook-ups.” Hmmm…Really?

We rolled into Shell Mound Campground on Sunday afternoon and were immediately surprised. Sitting on the waters of Suwannee Sound on the edge of a Wildlife Refuge, we watched the cedar trees sway in the breeze and the local birds and fishermen buzzing to and froe into and out of the Gulf of Mexico. It was all quite lovely. While a little on the rustic side and dated, the campground was obviously well cared for and it was very clean. Most surprising though, the Oracle was right, we had our pick of sites.

Stunned by the emptiness of the campground, I asked the Oracle if this was typical. In between draws on his well-chewed stogie, his response was something along the lines that they were busier than usual because of the weekend. In a fairly no-nonsense manner, he told me to pick out a site and come back to the doublewide-cum-office and we could settle up.

We slowly perused the sites, which wasn’t difficult due to the diminutive size of the park (there are only about 20’ish sites, 15 or so that would be suitable to a typical-sized RV). Site number 5 looked like the best compromise between close enough to level and far enough away from the buzzing boat launch.

With our site picked out, I returned to the Oracle’s lair and settled up our bill. While returning to the office I noticed a big sign above the gate with some useful information; in particular a note stating that Active and Retired Military were entitled to a 50% discount off the already low camping price. With this useful piece of intelligence, I proffered my Retiree ID Card. After including state and local taxes, our daily total was slightly over $9. It should be noted that cash is required as they don’t take credit cards. Even without the discount, the advertised $15 per night for electric and water is a bargain and when combined with the beautiful location makes Shell Mound a diamond in the rough.

The details:
Cleanliness. As mentioned, facilities are old but clean and cared for. The bathhouse with toilets and showers was always impeccably clean. Overall, the entire operation was cleaner than a lot of the State Parks we’ve stayed at.

Level. Very few (like maybe two or three) of the sites were level, the rest seem to be haphazardly situated throughout the park. That being said, with a little ingenuity it can be managed. We were able to make things work out with our drive-on Anderson levelers (giving us about 3-1/2 to 4 inches of lift on the downhill side). Other sites maybe more difficult, but since this place appears to never be full, you should be able to find one that works.

Electric and Water Pedestals. The water and electric pedestals are doubled up, meaning that two sites share the same pedestal (separate connections but just one pedestal for two sites). This means that one site has the hook-up pedestal on the correct (road or port) side of their rig, while the adjacent site has it on the other (curb or starboard) side—no big deal if your electrical cable and/or water hose is long enough or if you need to park in your site a little creatively due to the level issue (like we did).

Airboats. We had heard that because of the in-campground boat launch, there would be a lot of noise in the early-morning and late-afternoon as fishermen came and went with their trucks and airboats. That is an accurate statement. While we rarely heard the trucks, we pretty consistently heard the airboats as they were launched, recovered, headed-out or in. While the airboats are loud as all get-out (they are powered by airplane engines, after all), they weren’t overly annoying or obnoxious because the noise rarely lasted for more than a few moments. We kept our windows shut and the A/C on for our entire stay, so they didn’t bother us too bad. We’ve stayed next to airports (like, next to the runways not just “near” the airport) and the airboat noise at Shell Mound was not as bad as those airport campgrounds. Besides the airboats, why did we run the A/C constantly, you may ask? No-see-ums!

Bugs. No-see-ums, or Sand Fleas, or gnats, or tiny biting minions of Satan, whatever you want to call them; they definitely call Shell Mound their home turf. During the day and times of even a small breeze, the No-see-ums were not that bad, but at night? Watchout! So, when we weren’t in town enjoying Cedar Key, we were comfortably able to venture out to walk the dog and explore the Suwannee Wildlife Refuge. However, given a little shade, no breeze, or some salty sweat, they could be bad. Not a deal breaker, but in our experience a little above average bug-wise for the more rural Florida campgrounds located adjacent to water.

Dump Station. The on-site dump station is located by the front entry and requires removing a chain and backing-in. While we didn’t avail ourselves of it, it looked like a fairly straightforward operation and I would have had no problem using it if needed.

Connectivity. No WiFi in park. Cell coverage was spotty and there appeared to be very little rhyme or reason to it. With our WeBoost cell booster, sometimes we had 1-bar (once in a while 2) of AT&T LTE, sometimes only 4G, sometimes nothing. Same with Verizon. It was about the same in town, except we didn’t have our booster with us. A lot of dead zones in the downtown area with our AT&T phones. Didn’t bring Verizon Jetpack into town, so can’t comment. Not the best cellular connectivity out at the end of the road. So, probably not a good choice for the working / telecommuting traveler.

Location. Shell Mound is located at the end of the road in a wildlife refuge. It’s about 8-miles into downtown and takes about 15-minutes to drive it.

My description of the campground Oracle/caretaker is very tongue-in-cheek. He was a perfectly nice, no-nonsense older gentleman who obviously takes great care of the park. He was on-site for two days of our stay. On the third day, he left and a younger guy took his place. It appears that they stay on-site in the doublewide/office and rotate periodically. The bottom line on Shell Mound Campground is that it is a quirky gem that we enjoyed and would stay at again. The in-town campgrounds looked fine (a little tight), but given the price, Shell Mound was our hands down winner.

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jeffsturm would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $15.00

Days Stayed: 3

Site Number: 5

5 Access
4 Location
5 Cleanliness
3 Site Quality
3 Noise
  • 44 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
April 10, 2017
Rated

I can't add much to the great review that Big Big Trippers wrote. This County Park is indeed a diamond in the rough. We arrived late on a Friday but were still able to get a site. The younger gentleman in the office allowed us to stay in a tent site (no hookups at all) but we were later told by the full-time camp host that this usually isn't allowed. We picked the site because it had great views of the saltmarsh and we could get level in this site: many of the sites will require some ingenuity in order to level. If you have blocks or 4 stabilizer jacks it will be easier to level on the hillside (we have a 3-jack tripod arrangement, which makes front-to-back leveling easier than side-to-side).

The Park was spotless and well-maintained. Because it has a boat ramp, there will definitely be some noise from airboat launching & retrieval. It's not too bad because it doesn't last too long, but if you want to sleep late you can forget about it at this park!

Although we were here in April, bugs really weren't an issue and the breeze off the marsh was nice.

There's nothing around for miles but saltmarsh and trees, and every night we were serenaded by owls. A short drive to the end of the road will let you walk out on the pier at the Shell Mound Archaeological Site for some great birding opportunities, and there's also a nature trail. It's a short drive to hiking or biking in the Cedar Key Scrub Wildlife Refuge or the Lower Suwanee Wildlife Refuge. A 15 minute drive will get you to Cedar Key.

Cell service was minimal but with our booster we were able to stream a movie.

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roadtripper509729 would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $5.00

Days Stayed: 5

Site Number: 9

4 Access
4 Location
5 Cleanliness
3 Site Quality
3 Noise
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Reviewed by
Campendium

February 21, 2018
Rated

“Any organization that would keep a man from his beer, while offering camping facilities and touting the availability of adjacent fishing, is–frankly–not an American.” - Ancient Chinese Proverb.

Are the no-see-ums thicker than molasses on toast? If you hate molasses, absolutely yes.

Is the guy who pulled up in his 1998 ragtop candy apple red Mustang now telling his hot model of a girlfriend that they don’t need to buy firewood because he can just rip down palm trees all around their site creating ten minute bonfires before needing to harvest a new crop doing just that while the old fisherman a few spots down has to sit in his RV because he wants to drink beer without being yelled at? Most definitely.

Did some boaters land at the dock and yell at their dog who ran toward our kids despite being screamed at by their owners as though they were a rabid zombie Olympic runner with a taste for adolescent flesh? You betcha on that one. Nobody got eaten though.

A little love though for glorious sunsets and a bar of occasional LTE/mostly the now practically useless 4G, not to mention the cute little town of Cedar Key making it somewhat worth it for me...though my wife and 7 year old are literally crying as they try and fall asleep blanketed in minuscule biting bugs.

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Nightly Rate: $14.00

Days Stayed: 1

Site Number: 18

4 Access
4 Location
3 Cleanliness
2 Site Quality
5 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

AT&T 4G

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Reviewed by
Campendium

February 27, 2018
Rated

After reading reviews we decided to stay here. We wish we had gone elsewhere as the campground was old and needs lots of TLC. The good news is there is water and electricity right at the site. The bad news was the bugs, no-see-ums, specifically, and the sites are not real level. The most interesting thing for us was the airboats. It was interesting to check out these machines and talk to an owner to learn more about them. As far as the campground itself, it would be okay as a last resort, but it’s just not up to our standards.

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Nightly Rate: $16.00

Days Stayed: 1

Site Number: 5

4 Access
4 Location
3 Cleanliness
2 Site Quality
3 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

Verizon 4G

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Reviewed by
Campendium

March 06, 2019
Rated

My wife and I stayed here for two nights in February 2019. It was 50F and breezy. There were no bugs. We had a lovely campfire. The site had water and electrical hook ups for $16 per night which is great value. The dump station you have to back into which wasn't a big deal for us. There's a sign that says alcohol is not allowed, but we just put beer in a glass when by the campfire. As long as you aren't behaving badly no one will bother you.

It was super quiet and we slept great. However at 8am, the air boats left. It was a brief disturbance and was really more interesting than it was annoying. The Florida Forest Service were hosting a fishing trip for veterans which is great.

It's a 10 minute drive into Cedar Key too.

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Nightly Rate: $16.00

Days Stayed: 2

Site Number: 24

4 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
5 Site Quality
4 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

AT&T 4G

Photo of Campendium

Reviewed by
Campendium

April 06, 2019
Rated

Extremely clean and well-maintained, with very nice staff. Surprised to see a large, tiled (HOT) shower, not your typical gross plastic walled options most campgrounds for this price have. Options for primitive ($5), electric only ($10) and water+electric ($15), and each site is slightly different (some of the sites aren't that great, but you can make it work). Common water available too. It was mostly seniors staying among us, and everyone was incredibly respectful and quiet. Not even a threat of a loud party. The campground is very secluded within the wildlife refuge, and there are tons of walks into the forest and marsh. Not sure I would recommend for kids - there's not much to do, besides calmly enjoy the area. Bugs were typical for this area, so bring whatever spray or means you use for fending them off! Cell service was minimal, but consistent and manageable.

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5 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
4 Site Quality
5 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

Verizon 4G

Reviewed by
spronzk

  • 9 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
September 09, 2019
Rated

We chose our site for the view. September is HOT and BUGGY. AC is a must! The tiny noseeums kept us inside mostly while on site. We did day trips to Cedar Key 9 miles, drove thru Lower Suwannee and visited Blue Grotto Williston, Chiefland, etc. Very isolated with weekend boat launching activities. Good deal but winter would be best to enjoy outdoor activities.

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spronzk would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $15.00

Days Stayed: 4

Site Number: 8

4 Access
4 Location
4 Cleanliness
3 Site Quality
4 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

Verizon 4G

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Reviewed by
Campendium

January 22, 2020
Rated

If you want a laid back, friendly spot, this is it. Boating ramp can be busy tho. $10 primitive, $20 with electric, $25 water and electric.

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This reviewer would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $10.00

Days Stayed: 7

Site Number: 19

4 Access
4 Location
5 Cleanliness
3 Site Quality
3 Noise
  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
March 17, 2020
Rated

Nice, small campground.

$10 to $25. Campground has showers, boat ramp, fish cleaning station. Facilities are old but clean.

No beaches in the area but good wildlife opportunities

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roadtripper901481 would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $25.00

Days Stayed: 6

Site Number: 1

5 Access
3 Location
4 Cleanliness
4 Site Quality
4 Noise

Reviewed by
dianagraham

  • 50 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
February 24, 2021
Rated

Stayed 2 nights toward the end of February. This CG is a small county CG that stays busy, with locals and out of towners. We arrived early on a Sunday afternoon and had several sites to choose from. By late afternoon, most of the longer sites were full. If you’re small, like a tent, van or small class C, you’re probably fine to arrive anytime. We’re in a truck camper towing a cargo trailer for a combined length of 40 feet, 11’ 4” high and site 1 was perfect, E/W. The CG is basically a half circle. Most of the exterior sites don’t have trees and there were several big 5Ws. Interior sites have more trees. As others have mentioned, the boat ramp stays busy and the air boats are obnoxiously loud. But, hey, it’s Florida. Immediately down the road is a lovely pier, a walking trail with excellent exhibits about the Shell Cultures and the archeological site the CG is named for, plus a longer walking trail. The office is open and manned 7 days a week. Cash only. I didn’t do a speed test but we were able to stream with Verizon.

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dianagraham would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $25.00

Days Stayed: 2

Site Number: 1

5 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
5 Site Quality
3 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

Verizon 4G

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Shell Mound Campground

17650 SW 78th Pl.
Cedar Key, Florida
32625 USA
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  • Unavailable
    Parking
  • Check
    Pets Allowed
  • Check
    Restrooms
  • Unknown
    Wifi
  • Unavailable
    Wheelchair Accessible
  • Unknown
    Credit Cards Accepted
Max Stay
7
Affiliation
Other public land (TVA, DOD, county parks with campgrounds)
Sites Count
8
Last Nightly Rate
25.0
Lowest Nightly Rate
5.0
Longest Vehicle Length Reported
33.0
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    Sites
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    Laundry
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    Propane
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    Showers
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    Big Rigs
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    Boondock
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    Firewood
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    Fifty Amp
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    Tent Sites
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    Cabin Sites
  • Unavailable
    Full Hookup
  • Unavailable
    Paved Sites
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    Dump Station
  • Unavailable
    Mobile Homes
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    Public Water
  • Unavailable
    Pull Through
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    Sewer Hookup
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    Water Hookup
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    Potable Water
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    Age Restricted
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    Rec Facilities
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    Dispersed Sites
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    Open Seasonally
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    Permit Required
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