Camping / Florida Keys

Camping near Key West: Try these ‘affordable’ hideaways

So what do we mean by “affordable”?

Considering the high cost of overnight stays at Key West hotels, cottages and B&Bs, often ranging from $300 to $600 per night, these campgrounds are almost bargains by comparison.

And campground prices drop in May and June through summer and into fall when steady breezes crossing these subtropical islands help make Florida’s summer heat and humidity almost bearable.

Here are our favorite campgrounds in the Lower Keys:

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LEO’S CAMPGROUND, 5236 Suncrest Road, Stock Island (1 mile from Key West). Leo’s bills itself as the most affordable campground in the Florida Keys, and at $58 per night during the summer, it’s hard to argue otherwise. Only state park campgrounds in the Keys are less expensive, but they are many miles from Key West and really difficult to book.

Leo’s is right there, less than a mile away from Key West. Who knew? We didn’t until a recent three-day stay.

We were pleasantly surprised. The campground is a bit cramped, but it was very clean and most sites have ample space for a mid-size RV. Tent sites are bundled along the canal at the end of one loop, adjacent to the bathhouse and laundry building, also the source point for the campground’s Wi-Fi. All sites, RV and tent, have access to the canal for your kayaks and paddleboards. Pets are permitted on RV sites, but not tents.

Each RV site has 30- or 50-amp electric, cable TV, water and sewer hookups, not to mention a small army of iguanas to keep you entertained. The nine tent sites have electricity available.

Notes: Frequent bus service into Key West. Tent rentals available. Key West is also a short bike ride.

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BOYD’S KEY WEST CAMPGROUND6401 Maloney Avenue, Stock Island (2 miles from Key West). On the other side of Stock Island for Leo’s is this old standby, Boyd’s. Like Leo’s, it can be a tight fit for RVers on some sites. Tenters have their own area.

Boyd’s manages to convey a tropical feel with coconut palms, a swimming beach and waterfront vistas.  There are 150 RV sites with full hookups, including 90 with 50-amp electric service and 30 sites on 30-amps.  Cable TV available, and Wi-Fi is free.  The campground has restrooms and showers, boat ramp, dockage, laundry facilities and a store with limited supplies. Tent campers have wonderful waterfront views, but the sites are close together.

The campground is gated with 24-hour security. Children are welcome, and pets are OK, with the exception of Dobies, pit bulls, chows, Rottweilers, wolf hybrids and German shepherds. The swimming pool is heated, and there is a poolside tiki hut with a big-screen TV.

Notes: Bus service available, or you can ride your bike into Key West.

Campsites at Geiger Key Marina and RV Park

Campsites at Geiger Key

GEIGER KEY MARINA & RV PARK, 5 Geiger Road, Geiger Key (10 miles from Key West).  This campground is far enough away, yet close enough, to Key West to provide a laid back stay “on the backside of paradise.”  The sites are not glamorous, but the overall tropical setting makes up for it.  This small RV park and marina is tucked away behind mangroves and palms.

If you are lucky enough to secure waterfront, you can keep your boat outside your door at a long dock for an additional $35 per night ($140/week; $11 per foot over 20 feet). The 37 sites are on a broad gravel base (parking lot, really) with full hookups. You don’t want to camp here in a tent, and RV sites are a tight fit.  There’s a laundry, rest rooms, a boat ramp, kayak ramp and dockage.  Kayak rentals are available at the marina, and the kayaking in this area gets high marks.

The waterfront tiki bar (and smokehouse) may be the best reason to stay at this campground. The restaurant is run by the same folks who own the popular Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island.

Bluewater Key RV Park

Bluewater Key RV Park

BLUEWATER KEY RV RESORT, 2950 Overseas Hwy, Saddlebunch Keys (14 miles from Key West). Sites in this upscale, scenic and tropical-landscaped park are RV only and privately owned, and owners make them available for rentals when not in use. The park is nicely landscaped, much of it by the lot owners, and the sites are spacious.  Many sites are waterfront with docks and tiki huts. There’s a boat ramp and resort-style swimming pool.

Minimum RV length is 24 feet, and all sites have water, sewer, electric (30-, 50-amp), cable TV and Wi-Fi access.  No tents, no popups or truck campers. Pets OK, but no more than two. Eighteen sites are on a canal (sunsets!); 21 interior sites are in the Tropical Area; and there are 41 Bayfront sites.

  • Off-season rates (May 1-Oct. 14): Tropical Area, $90-$105; Canal Area, $104-$120; Bayside, $125-$150. (2017)
  • High-season rates (Oct. 15-April 30): Tropical Area, $135-$172; Canal Area, $145-$183; Bayside, $160-$200. (2017-2018)
  • For reservations, call 305-745-2494. Web site: www.bluewaterkey.com. E-mail:

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Sugarloaf Key KOA

Sugarloaf Key KOA

SUGARLOAF KEY KOA, 251 State Road 939, Sugarloaf Key (20 miles from Key West) The southernmost KOA in the U.S., this resort-style campground has all the amenities, including a sandy beach, a full-service marina and pool area with a hot tub.  There are 200 gravel-based sites, including 15 waterfront sites, with full hookups and 30/50-amp electric, and a shaded primitive camping area for tents.  RVs and cabins are also available for rent.

The full-service marina has 25 boat slips, and an inlet leads from the marina out to the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, there is a restaurant, cafe, convenience store, game room, miniature golf, laundry facilities and a heated swimming pool. There’s also a bar on premises with occasional entertainment.

 

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BIG PINE FISHING LODGE & RV PARK, 33000 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key. (33 miles from Key West) The campground is located in an open area behind the motel. The beauty of this campground is access to nearby Looe Key Reef. The sites themselves are barren. Boat ramp and dockage, as well as boat rentals and charters. Laundry, dump station and playground. Convenience store on site. Children are OK, but no pets because of the threat to the endangered Key deer.

There are 97 RV sites with full hookups and 30-amp electric (10 sites have 50 amp),  and 61 tent sites with shared water spigots in the gated campground. Rates run about $50 per night year-round. There are also 16 motel rooms, some waterfront on a canal.

Notes: No dogs or generators are permitted in the campground.

  • Year-around rates: RV with full hookups, $69 for interior sites, $73 for oceanfront, $76 on a canal with docks; Rustic (Tent and RV, no hookups) $43 for interior sites and $46 for oceanfront. (2017 rates)
  • For reservations, call (305) 872-2351. Web site: www.bpkfl.com. E-mail:

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Bahia Honda tent site on the beach

Beachfront tent site at Bahia Honda

BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK, 36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key (36 miles from Key West).  This state park has it all: top-ranked beaches, snorkeling, scenic views, nature trails, boat launch, docks and kayak concession.

Fishing and kayaking are also a big draw, but the gorgeous beaches are the main attraction.

The main recreation beach is near the park concession, but the top-ranked beach is on the other side of the island, past the Sandspur Campground.

There are three campgrounds, one for RVs on the bay side and another for tents and pop-ups on the ocean side. A smaller campground and three duplex cabins are accessible only by low-height vehicles.

Boat slips are available for boat camping.

  • Off-season rates (May 1-Oct. 31): RV and tent w/water and electric: $36/night plus tax and a $6.70 reservation fee; Cabins, $120.
  • High-season rates: RV and tent w/water and electric (Nov. 1-April 30): $36/night plus tax and a $6.70 reservation fee; Cabins, $160.
  • For reservations, call 800-336-3521. Web site: www.floridastateparks.org/Bahia-Honda E-mail:

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Sunshine Key RV Resort

Sunshine Key RV Resort

SUNSHINE KEY RV RESORT & MARINA, 38801 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key (38 miles from Key West) Sunshine Key is an island unto itself and one of the largest campgrounds in the Keys. The 75-acre island is surrounded by crystal-clear water, accessible to kayaks from your waterfront campsite or from the marina.

This RV resort has all the amenities, including a restaurant, laundry facilities, playgrounds and boat rentals on site. There are 409 campsites, including 54 beachfront sites, all with full hookups and cable TV.  The waterfront sites on the outside of the island are prime, of course, and that will ease the pain of an otherwise crowded campground.

The campground also has cabins and travel trailer rentals, but the prices are so high, you may as well stay at a hotel in Key West.

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Tent site at Sigsbee RV Park at the Naval Air Station

Tent site at Sigsbee RV Park at the Naval Air Station

Military Only — SIGSBEE RV PARK/Naval Air Station Key West Campground, Kennedy Blvd., Key West. Only active-duty and retired military qualify to camp here.  As you can imagine, this campground is tough to get into, even if you are military.

There are 93 RV sites with hookups (water, sewer and 30/50 amp electric), 10 sites for tents and 300 sites without hookups in the overflow area, and overflow is where most end up. Townhouse and mobile home vacation rentals are also available.  Only active-duty can make reservations up to three months in advance. For retirees and others, it’s first come, first served.

A retired military friend says campers have access to a very nice (but small) beach with palm-thatched shade huts and kayak rentals. Dockage and boat rentals are available at both Sigsbee Park marina and the base marina on nearby Boca Chica Key. Wi-Fi available at the base Exchange. Pets OK (up to 2).

  • Eligibility: Active military, National Guard, Reservists, Retired, 100% DAV, DoD Civilians, DoT civilians working for Coast Guard, NATO allies on orders to the US. Background checks on all guests; proof of insurance on all vehicles.
  • Year-around rates: RV sites w/water, electric and sewer, $23-$25 per night; Overflow sites with no hookups, $13-$15; Tent, $13-$15.
  • For reservations, call (305) 293-4432 or online. Web site: militarycampgrounds.us/florida/sigsbee-rv-park

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