When the heat and humidity lighten up, Floridians come out of the A/C and flock to a nearby campground. The more adventurous seek relief in the cooler Panhandle, where there really is a change in leaf color.
No better time to visit Panhandle than autumn
The Panhandle offers a taste, though not a bitter taste, of the four seasons, and the fall weather is fabulous with temperatures in the 70s on most days, dropping into the 50s at night.
You can even get a taste of fall foliage along the I-10 corridor in early November.
The time is absolutely right for a Panhandle trip. The summer crowds are gone, and the coast is blessed with pristine, sugar-sand beaches, rivers and streams inviting for paddlers, and wild forests thick with scenic adventure and wildlife.
Check out Florida Rambler’s Guide to camping in state parks in the Panhandle for some excellent suggestions.
Quick camping getaways elsewhere in the state
There are a lot of public park campgrounds accessible for a weekend escape:
Along Interstate 95 in northeast Florida, there are a half-dozen fabulous state parks from Daytona north to Jacksonville. All of these parks offer access to a variety of recreation from beaches to paddling, hiking and biking. This is the beeline through Florida for snowbirds coming south from the Northeast, so beat them to the punch. Check out our Guide to Florida State Parks along I-95. Distances range from one to 18 miles from I-95.
Along Interstate 75 in northwest Florida, you can explore springs, paddle sleepy rivers or peddle down never-ending paved and unpaved trails in state parks and forests. This is a traditional snowbird route from the Midwest, so you want to make sure you get into these parks early. Check out our Guide to Florida State Parks along I-75. All of these state parks are less than 18 miles from I-75.
If you live in the Tampa Bay area, you’d probably be surprised how many public campgrounds are within an hour’s drive of your home, and there’s nothing stopping Orlando residents from shooting down I-4 for a little R&R. Here’s a detailed article about the Best Camping Near Tampa Bay: 9 choice campgrounds.
Live in Orlando? (Or perhaps Disney is your destination) We’ve picked out a really awesome list of great places to camp less than an hour from Disney and Universal, some closer than others. For more details, read our Best RV and Tent Camping Near Disney
What about Southeast Florida? It may come as a surprise for you to learn that Broward County operates six public campgrounds near Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Miami. All six campgrounds are excellent close-to-home destinations. Read about them in this article, Best Public Campgrounds Near Fort Lauderdale.
A few more of our favorites:
Marco Island/Naples: Collier-Seminole State Park
Jupiter/West Palm Beach: Jonathan Dickenson State Park
Sarasota/Venice: Oscar Scherer State Park
Melbourne/Vero Beach: Sebastian Inlet
County campgrounds make good choices for fall camping
Don’t count out county campgrounds for close to home escapes. Try Fort DeSoto in Pinellas County, Moss Park near Orlando, or Long Point Park in Brevard County. Other county campgrounds to consider are Rock Spring/Kelly Park in Apopka and Manatee Hammock near Titusville, close to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Kennedy Space Center and Canaveral National Seashore.
Here’s an article about a few of our favorites: County Campgrounds worth discovering
Finding a campsite
Research vacancies online for state and federal campgrounds on ReserveAmerica. When I locate my destination with ReserveAmerica’s search engine, I approximate the dates and number of days, and select “Flexible” in the menu. You’ll also want to filter by RV or tent.
If nothing is available in results, click on “Next Available Date” or “Nearby Campgrounds.” Pick a campground from the list.
A full schedule of available campsites will appear, marked with an “A” in the dates column. Select dates and reserve.
If you’re not comfortable with finding a site online, you can call ReserveAmerica at (800) 326-3521 from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. They can sort through available campgrounds for you.
You can also get a list of available campsites this weekend at all Florida State Parks by going to floridastateparks.reserveamerica.com
If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Cancellations occur often, and sites are returned to inventory shortly after they become available.
Index of camping articles by Florida Rambler