Camping at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve – Trip Report

Growing up in the suburbs most of my life, I have rarely gotten to experience a starry night view without light pollution. My husband, Andrew, went camping often as a kid and always raves about how much better it is to see the stars out in the wilderness. When I found out that you can see an internationally certified dark sky in Florida, I decided we had to go there and see for ourselves! And with that we started to plan our trip for camping at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve.

Becoming an International Dark Sky Place requires certification that shows the area is without light pollution and has sufficient outdoor lighting policies to keep it that way. Because of this, most Dark Sky places are far away from cities and traffic. The Kissimmee Prairie is at least an hour drive for most and requires camping overnight to see the stunning dark sky. If you want to see the stars of Florida like never before, this trip report has everything to know about camping at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve.

kissimmee prairie preserve camping

Location and Getting There

The Kissimmee Prairie Preserve is just south of the dead center of Florida. It’s basically west of Vero Beach, but because of the roads to get there, it is a little bit of a drive. Most Central Florida areas should expect over an hour-long drive to get here. It is open from 8 AM to sundown and only costs $4 per vehicle to enter.

If you plan on camping, you want to get here before sundown, so you can see the layout while its light out. Being a certified dark sky, it gets very dark here and you can’t have your high beams on or having flashlights without a red filter. If you do get here after dark, call ahead so the office will give you the gate code, as it closes at sunset. From the gate on Peavine Trail, it is five miles to the campsite, but you have to stay under 25 MPH, mainly so you don’t hit a deer or any wildlife in the dark.

kissimmee prairie preserve state park

Campsites at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve

If you want to go camping at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve, you can book a campsite online at the State Parks website. However, the best time to see stars is when the moon is in the new moon phase. Because of this, the campsites book up very early around new moon weekends! We had been trying to book a campsite during a new moon weekend for almost a year before it finally worked out!

Other then finding a date, booking a campsite online is a simple process. Campsites cost around $16 per night. I am not sure this is the norm, but we received a call from the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve on the day of our stay with the gate code in case we got there after sunset. They were also able to answer any other questions. We had no issues and found our campsite easily.

There are 36 campsites, including some equestrian and astronomy pad sites. Most include an electricity hookup and room for an RV. There is also a picnic table, potable water and a grill fire at each site. There are two bathrooms, with one having showers and a little community center. They even have a washer and dryer and a sink for washing dishes. I was very pleased to see how clean everything was, even the showers, though we didn’t use them for our one-night stay.

camping at kissimmee prairie preserve

Things to Do

If you are planning to go camping at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve, you will be happy to know there are many things to do here. Of course, as mentioned earlier stargazing is the most popular. There is an astronomy pad specifically for stargazing, but you can get excellent dark sky views around most of the campsite. If you go during a new moon, you have a decent chance of seeing the Milky Way, however, we were unable to see it when we went.

There are plenty of daytime activities to experience at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve too! We spent a few hours hiking the different nature trail and were able to see different birds and animals, including lots of deer. If you are into birding, this is a top spot for it and we saw all sorts of birds on the nature trails. Other activities you can do here include biking, horseback riding (BYOH-Bring your own horse), or a buggy tour. There is plenty to do and see here if you enjoy the great outdoors.

kissimmee prairie preserve nature

Our Experience at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve

We live a solid two hours away from the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve, so we left after lunch and got there before 3 PM. It was an easy drive down and we had no issues finding the dirt road to turn on to using our GPS. Though almost everyone at the campsite had RV’s, this was my first time camping so we wanted to experience it in a tent. Andrew had a small two person one and we set it up quickly.

It was a beautiful afternoon with weather in the high 60’s, so it was perfect for hiking. There are multiple nature trails throughout the reserve, each of varying distance. We wanted to eat before it got dark, so we embarked on the simple prairie loop trail. This was a little over two miles, but it provided incredible sights. We saw so many deer frolicking around! It was amazing to see them in their natural habitat. We also saw so many birds, bunnies and other interesting sights, like this big fallen down tree.

kissimmee prairie preserve hike

Once we got back to the campsite, it was time to cook dinner. We didn’t realize there would be a fire pit at each campsite that includes a grill on top. I wish we had, or we would have brought fire wood and made smores! We had brought our backpacking stove instead, which also works great for cooking. Since we are trying to stick to a pescatarian diet, we brought potatoes, peppers and eggs to make a hash. We had already cut up everything at home, so it was as simple as cooking it on the skillet! We also made Old Fashions to drink, thanks to the idea from the cookbook Feast of Fire.

After our lovely dinner, we relaxed until sundown. Now it was time for the reason we came all this way, to see the stars! I was pretty impatient waiting for it to get completely dark. We also started to layer up now, because it was going to get into the low 40’s that night. This is rare for Florida, but still better than it being too hot to camp.

kissimmee prairie preserve camping trip

By 9 PM, it was completely dark and we went to the astronomy pad. With the pandemic still going on, I was worried about it being crowded, and was happy to wear my mask over there, as it kept my nose warm. However, we were the only ones out there that night! Weirdly, most people seemed to be in their RV’s the entire time, despite it being a great night for stargazing.

I was able to see so many more stars than I had ever seen before. My phone has the app Sky Guide, so I could see the names of each constellation. I tried to keep phone use to a minimum though so my eyes stayed adjusted to the dark. Andrew was very excited to photograph this view and had brought his tripod and his DSLR to take pictures. I think he captured some really great ones!

stargazing at kissimmee prairie preserve

Unfortunately, we were not able to see the milky way, but we stayed outside for over two hours viewing the stars. I even brought a blanket over at one point and we laid in the grass viewing. It started to get really cold around 11 PM, so that is when we headed into the tent. This was my first time ever sleeping in a tent and I can’t say I am eager to do it again. Luckily, we were able to stay a lot warmer than I expected with just blankets since we did not have a sleeping bag.

We woke up around 5:30 and left the tent for one last star gaze. By then, we could see significantly less stars with the sun starting to come up, but it was still very peaceful. We got out the campfire stove again and made our morning coffee. Though checkout time isn’t until 11, we decided to leave after that because of the long drive ahead of us. It was a short trip, but I would say my first camping experience was a success!

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Know Before You Go: Camping at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve

Though anyone can visit Kissimmee Prairie Preserve during the day, it is best to go camping so you can see Florida’s only certified dark sky. The campsite is immaculate and the views are stunning, so it is definitely worth it. Camping at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve requires a bit of planning though, so here is everything to know before you go!

  • Book your campsite at least one month in advance if you want to go during the new moon phase. This is the best time for seeing stars and it books up fast, especially on weekends.
  • As of 2021, campsites cost $16 per night and day of cancellations will be charged on night stay.
  • Try and arrive before dark, but call during the day and get the gate code if there is any risk of not arriving before sunset.
  • You can camp in an RV in most sites or your car or a tent at all sites.
  • Each campsite comes with a picnic table, potable water and a fire grill, but no fire wood.
  • Make sure to pack flashlights with a red filter for walking around at night to keep this a certified dark sky area!
  • If you want to photograph the stars, it helps to have a DSLR and a tripod and to set your camera for a long exposure.

Have you ever been camping in Florida before? Let me know where your favorite place to stay is if you have! For more ideas for nature things to do in Florida, check out my 101 Things to do in Florida Bucket List and my Central Florida Attractions guide.

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