Camp Mars is a quiet, serene property most of a mile off the highway, and a lightly used highway at that. Dale, Tom and Korin are the face of the camp though there are also several part time employees.
The forty-acre property is situated at the end of Goff Road through a gate alongside an endless pasture across which campers can enjoy spectacular Key West style sunsets, be those across grass rather than ocean. In years past sunset potluck dinners took place on the lawn in front of the office with everyone bringing a chair and a dish and settling in for the show. The potluck dinner became so popular it is now an integral part of the Camp Mars culture happening every Saturday night presided over by Korin with her wooden spoon poised to push back any attempt at early indulgence.
Camp Mars has a total of 86 sites, about 60 RV sites, 12 rentals ranging from cabins, to yurts, to one to three bedroom houses with kitchens and baths. Many of the RV sites are new 50amp pull through sites designed and built to accommodate big rigs. Mars is mostly covered by enormous Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss. There are green pastures, lush tropical foliage, nature trails, ponds, creek, and oak hammock. Campsites are scattered hither and yon without apparent planning.
The heated in ground clothing optional swimming pool is large with ample lounges, a shade area, appropriate music and unlimited sun. Mars is not a clothing optional property and caters to both men and women over the age of twenty one. WIFI is available free throughout the park. There is no restaurant or bar service and the location of the property thirty minutes from the nearest retail bodes for good planning prior to arrival.
A recreation hall is the social center of Camp Mars. The Saturday night potluck dinner is not to be missed. I am amazed at the food a gay man or lesbian can cook up in a camper; I am lucky to get a decent ziti done. Bingo is a mainstay of many gay campgrounds and each has its ‘rules’; beware erroneously calling Bingo at Camp Mars. After bingo on weekends the recreation hall dims the lights and turns up the music for disco or country depending on the weekend theme.
Korin was one of Dale and Tom’s first campers, hailing from Miami. Now she lives and works on Mars. On first meeting her some years ago she delivered fresh eggs from her chickens. Though she no longer raises chickens, she did make a point of stopping by to correct one point Tom made to me in conversation; she is eighty-eight years old, not eighty-seven. Korin, over and above being the most energetic eighty eight year old I have met also does antique repair. A year ago Mars almost lost her to sunstroke while she cleaned the chicken coops. There are no longer live chickens, at least the cock-a-doodle variety, at Mars.
There is a strong community of permanent campers at Camp Mars. Though no one is allowed to live there, there are no hard and fast rules as to the time limit. Seems you just have to have another address. The sense of camaraderie has expanded into a second home community.
That community has a new infatuation, sailing. Yes, sailing in Central Florida. Puddle Ducks are Dale’s inspiration, he is an avid sailor, and a group of seasonal campers have gotten together to build and sail their one-person crafts on nearby Lake June.
In the past year the Boardwalk has been completed. The oddly geometric planking pattern crosses a marshy area to a secluded clearing furnished with chaises, tables and chairs and a bar-b-cue grill. Camp Mars has a wedding officiant and the first same sex marriage has already been performed, on the new Boardwalk.
Mars focuses on their seasonal camper population offering day passes to the park, yet no night nor annual pass. Though not a member of Friends With Benefits, the gay campground industry’s half price membership program, annual memberships at Camp Mars are only ten dollars.
Located west of Lake Okeechobee, Camp Mars is easily accessible for much of the south half of Florida.
326 Goff Rd.
Venus, FL 33960
Located 3.8 miles west of US27 on County Road 731, then one mile south on Goff Road. Camp Mars is near Venus, west of Jupiter.