We quietly sat behind a photographers' blind wearing green hats and jackets for camouflage. We awaited the arrival of the wild turkeys. There also was a possibility wild hogs would venture by. As I adjusted my camera to the changing light, four toms made their way to the feeding grounds. They looked up occasionally as our cameras clicked. Although these Osceola turkeys never showed their colorful plumage, they still were a sight to see.
Turkeys, along with a variety of other birds and wildlife, are the prime attractions visitors will see at the Great Outdoors RV Resort. Located on Central Florida's East Coast, the resort is one-half-mile west of Interstate 95 (exit 79) on S.R. 50 in Titusville, Fla.
But the nature trails aren't the only highlights of the RV resort. There are lakes where big bass hide, and saltwater fishing is just a few miles away. Plus, there's golf, tennis and lots of other activities on site. The Great Outdoors also is located along the Space Coast, minutes from Cape Kennedy, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the beaches of Cocoa, Melbourne and Palm Bay.
The resort is some 3,000 acres, complete with 14 lakes stocked with largemouth bass, crappies, shellcrackers, bluegills, sunshine bass and channel catfish. Some of the lakes are part of the water hazards on the 18-hole, championship golf course. The campground limits rigs to 18 feet or longer, and those without campers can stay in park homes. Sorry, no tents are allowed.
The campsites are nestled between sabal palm, oak and southern pine trees. Many of the trees are covered with Spanish moss. Some sites are along the golf course, others are by the lakes and only a few are back-to-back. All sites have full hook-ups, including cable TV.
A quick tour of the grounds gives a clue as to why this resort is so popular, even among Floridians. The complex feels like a home-away-from-home, with some folks making the Great Outdoors their year-round residence. Campsites and the park homes can be purchased as well as rented. Many locals buy selected locations as a get-away and rent it out the rest of year.
Those who stay at the Great Outdoors for extended periods of time enjoy the small town-like atmosphere with library and woodworking facilities, as well as the fully stocked country store, which doubles as a post office. The resort also hosts RV rallies.
All the surrounding grounds are part of natural wetlands. Bridges and walkways were built over the wetlands to preserve them. Spartina bakeri grasses were retained and added, which encourages deer to come in to feed. Most wastewater is recycled and is used to water the golf greens.
The Great Outdoors offers its own guides to assist guests in finding the fishing hot spots, in addition to taking visitors along the nature trails. The fishery management has been on-going since 1987. A Florida fishing license isn't required when fishing all but one of the lakes at the Great Outdoors. A license is needed for Clifton Lake, the biggest waterway, because it straddles the resort and state land.
Buck Lake is a favorite, located near the ninth tee. It's stocked with bass, channel catfish and some big bluegills. The lake was named in honor of a big 6-point buck that observed the original construction of the area. Lake Judy at the visitor center also offers largemouth.
If you try your luck on Clifton Lake during the evening hours, the fishing almost becomes secondary. The wetlands around the lake come alive with all types of birds, including egrets, herons and many types of ducks. You might even see the resident bald eagles.
The resort also is home to alligators. They usually stay in the backcountry, but don't be surprised to see them peeking out one of the water hazards along the golf course.
Saltwater Fishing Is Nearby
Saltwater fishing is less than 10 miles away. The resort's guides can help you find the best spots if needed. Licenses are required for saltwater fishing. The Indian River offers redfish, drum, jackfish, ladyfish, tarpon, sheepshead and weakfish (speckled trout). Offshore there are cobia and sailfish. Another treat is the manatees. Some have radio transmitters to chart their migration patterns. Porpoises also are likely to show off their jumping skills, and pelicans are ever at the ready to steal any excess bait.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a nearby attraction. The refuge borders on NASA's property and is open to the public. The space shuttle launch pad is visible at some locations. Merritt Island is a series of salt and freshwater canals, dikes and wetlands. The dikes originally were built for mosquito control, but they proved to be of little help. Anglers and sightseers can drive through the refuge's windy roadways and stop anywhere along the way. Black Point Drive and Dummit Cove attract redfish and speckled trout on their way to the saltwater marshes.
The refuge also is home to thousands of birds, of which 310 different species have been identified. Waterfowl hunting for ducks and coots is permitted in designated areas. Check with the refuge for needed permits and licenses.
Cape Kennedy is what gives the Space Coast its nickname. Tours are available to see various aspects of NASA's handiwork. Other points of interest include the U.S. Astronaut Memorial Hall and Planetarium. There's also a United States Space Camp in Titusville, where youngsters in grades 4-7 can explore our world and beyond.
Overnight RV site rental rates for two adults in one rig are $35 (Nov. through April) or $25 (May through Oct.). Site locations include -- shade or sun, golf course and lake view. Weekly and monthly rates are available. For more information, contact The Great Outdoors RV/Nature & Golf Resort, 4505 W. Cheney Hwy. (SR-50), Titusville, FL 32780, 1-800-621-2267. You also can check out their website at www.tgoresort.com.
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