This is no resort, marina, port or busy boat dock. You can’t order a skinny soy vanilla lattechino here. But you can buy bait in the small, on-site shop. Honest John’s is old Florida at its best. It is simplicity and history.
In fact, this family-owned fish camp has a history that dates back to the 1880s. The building used to be home to farmers who raised yams, collards, beans and citrus that was sent to the White House, and it was an original Florida "cracker" homestead.
A sunset at Honest John's Fish Camp in Melbourne Beach, Fla. — Photo courtesy of Honest John's Fish Camp
“Honest John,” a man who lived there, disliked farming, so he transformed the grounds into a fishing haven instead. As the story goes, he once caught a gater-sized, 13-pound-plus trout. He still holds the record.
Today, visitors and locals flock to this quaint but charming site to see dolphins, manatees and birds; go fishing; or take to the water on a kayak, canoe or motorboat.
Float along Mullet Creek and the Indian River Lagoon with a fishing pole to snag up massive seatrout, snook, mangrove snappers, redfins, sheepshead and more. The fishing here is considered legendary.
Or keep your camera handy to capture photos of the water wildlife. Sit in the silence on the banks and watch dolphins play. It’s quite a different experience than the bustling, flashy Florida sites just south of the Space Coast in Orlando. The lengthy, winding drive through tree groves immediately begins unraveling your worries and setting the scene.
Rent a boat here, bring your own or sign up for a tour or activity that departs from the docks. Book an Indian River Lagoon eco boat tour and learn about the animals and environment in this area. You can even participate in stand-up paddleboarding (known as "SUP") that sets off from the fish camp.
Set out on an aluminum motorboat for fishing for a half day (about five hours) or a full day. Solo or tandem kayaks are a less expensive option, if you're on a budget, and they're ideal for toodling around through the canals. The glassy, no-wake zone is a favorite manatee hangout.
But overall, prices here are reasonable, especially for a full day’s activities with breathtaking views. Plus, there's the satisfaction of supporting a longtime local business.
For a true taste of the Florida wilderness, plan on staying the day and pack a lunch (or better yet, plan on catching it). Honest John’s modest shop carries bait, beverages and ice, but limited snacks and food. It's also closed every Tuesday year-round.
Honest John’s is a hidden gem unlike anything else in the area and an ideal attraction for a family-friendly, relaxing retreat.