Last updated on November 8th, 2018 at 05:46 am
When you are looking for a natural setting, as we do, you’ll find the best campgrounds in Florida’s award-winning state and federal parks, forests and wildlife refuges. But there are many private campgrounds and lesser-known county parks that also fill the bill.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine
The four-mile-long beach is nothing short of spectacular, a magnet for beach lovers and surfers who hike to the north end of the beach for the breaks at the inlet.
The campground is tucked away in a stand of trees, well back from the rolling dunes, and there’s a beach concession nearby with a cafe and Wi-Fi serving both the campground and day-use visitors.
A tidal basin on the east side of the park allows kayaking out to the Matanzas River and the historic St. Augustine waterfront, wetlands and feeder creeks.You can also rent canoes, catamaran sailboats and paddleboards if you don’t have your own.
Nature trails wind through maritime hammocks bursting with migrating songbirds, and you can ride your bicycle on the beach and along park roads.
The campground’s 124 campsites are suitable for both tents and RVs, laid out in seven loops cut into a dense coastal forest, protected by sand dunes from onshore winds and salt spray.
Anastasia State Park, 300 Anastasia Park Road, St. Augustine, FL 32080. (904) 461-2033. For reservations up to 11 months in advance, call 1-800-326-3521 or book online.
Web site: Anastasia State Park
Related article: Coastal treasure: Camp near stunning beach, historic city
Long Point Park, Melbourne Beach
Every campsite in this well-run Brevard County campground is on an island with excellent access to fishing and boating, Shaded sites are rare, but most sites are waterfront and enjoy a breeze off the Indian River.
Pull your boat, kayak or canoe ashore right behind your RV or tent, and if you have an inside site, there is a boat ramp with a fish-cleaning station and a small dock.
Long Point is just a few miles south of Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area’s pristine beaches, excellent catwalk and jetty fishing as well as two museums, a treasure museum and the other for anglers.
The island at Long Point has a wildlife pond, a swimming pond and a playground. An adjacent island offers a mile of nature trails.
Long Point Park Campground, 700 Long Point Road, Melbourne Beach, FL 32951. For reservations, call (321) 952-4532 or book online.
Web site: Long Point Park
Related article: Two great campgrounds near Sebastian Inlet
Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Tequesta
There are two campgrounds in this massive park, and I favor the River Campground, deep in the 11,500-acre park on the bank of the Loxahatchee River, one of two federally designated Wild and Scenie rivers in Florida.
The Pine Grove Campground is newer, with 90 sites, near the entrance to the park, adjacent to U.S. 1. “Pine Grove” is a misnomer. Once upon a time, this campground was thick with shade-producing pines, but no longer. The pines were wiped out as the campground was renovated. It will take years for vegetation to return.
The new campground is more suitable for RVs because of the concrete pads, and it is packed with families on weekends. Each site has water, sewer and electric hookups.
Almost all 45 sites in the River Campground are deep in vegetation, suitable for either tent or RV. Cabins are also available near the riverside concession stand.
The river is major draw for paddlers. Paved and off-road bike trails run throughout the park. Hiking trails run deep into the backcountry, where there are two primitive tent sites for energetic backpackers who need to trek 5 miles to one site and 9 miles to the other.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park, 16450 S.E. Federal Highway, Hobe Sound, FL 33455. Phone: (772) 546-2771. For reservations, call 1-800-326-3521 or book online.
Web site: Jonathan Dickinson State Park web site
Related article: Jonathan Dickinson State Park: A Florida treasure
Long Key State Park, Florida Keys
My favorite campground in the Florida Keys for RV camping. Tent, not so much. (See Bahia Honda for tents.)
All of the park’s 60 campsites are oceanfront, strung out along the narrow beach, with grills, picnic tables, water and electricity. There are three conveniently located restrooms with hot showers.
This is a really great beach for kayaking. The water is shallow, even at high tide, so you have to wade out a bit to swim, but it’s worth it. We take our kayaks out to deeper water and drop a small mushroom anchor to keep the yak stable while snorkeling and otherwise playing in the Atlantic Ocean. A tube or rubber float accomplishes the same purpose. Outfit your tube with an umbrella, and you’re in nirvana!
The one big drawback is the closeness of the Overseas Highway. In an RV, it’s OK because you block out the sound. In a tent, the road noise is a bit louder than I like.
For more detail about this park, read this article: Long Key: Beach camping in the keys
St. George’s Island State Park
But the memories of this park are still with me, and it remains one of my favorite campgrounds in Florida, largely because it has 9 miles of one of the most beautiful white-sand Gulf beach you’ll find anywhere in Florida.
And there’s no better location to enjoy famous Apalachicola oysters, which are harvested in Apalachicola Bay and sold fresh locally. I don’t know if it’s still there, but I have vivid memories of an oyster shack near the state park where you sat on the back porch for an afternoon of eating oysters and drinking beer.
The campground is deep in the park, laid out behind a magnificent wall of sand dunes just a hop and a skip from the Gulf of Mexico. There are 60 sites with electric and water, and there are six sites with concrete pads.
On the bay side, there are two natural launch ramps. Both ramps are restricted to small craft less than 24 feet with shallow draft. Launch fees are $8-$10, depending on the number of people in the boats.
Camping fees are $24 a night, including water and electric. Day-use fee is $6 per vehicle.
Fort Desoto Park
The campground has 238 sites on three connected islands and include a separate section for tents and another section for RV or tent campers with pets.
A majority of the sites are waterfront, allowing you to launch your kayaks, canoes or paddleboards right from your back yard with easy access to more islands and paddle trails you can explore by water.
The 1,136-acre park has several swimming beaches, a dog beach, two fishing piers and a historic fort that once guarded the entrance to Tampa Bay from intruders.
Waterfront RV sites are $38.50 in season ($40.50 for waterfront) and $37 off-season. Waterfront tent sites are $33.50 in-season ($35.50 for waterfront) and $30 off season. Plus tax. A number of sites are set aside for walkup campers, but reservations are definitely recommended because this park fills up.
The park is public and is operated by Pinellas County
- Fort Desoto Park Official Site
- Reservations can be made on the web site (above) or by phone: 727-893-9185
Cayo Costa State Park
To be truthful, I have never camped here, but I have spent a day exploring the island and its 10 miles of pristine beaches from my boat (photo at left). Florida Rambler co-founder Bonnie Gross has camped in the island’s cabins, and she loved it.
The biggest attraction for me was the gorgeous beach, but a really good argument can be made for the scenic nature trails through pine, oak and palm hammocks, which you can hike or bike. The park is accessible only by boat or ferry. There’s a dock for private boats, or you can take a ferry from Pine Island.
The 12 rustic, one-room cabins near the beach (no water or electric) are $40 a night and the 30 primitive tent sites are $22. Boat camping at the docks on Pine Island Sound is $20 per night. Restrooms, cold water showers and potable water are located in the park
Camp Venice Retreat
Live oaks and tall palms shade both campgrounds, one for RVs and a more primitive area for tents and cabins. The cabins and many of the RV sites sit on the banks of an inlet that leads out to the wild and scenic Myakka River, one of Florida’s great paddle trails.
The campground is well-maintained and scenic with a small-boat ramp for those who do not have waterfront sites. All campers have access to a heated swimming pool, club house with TV and a small camp store.
Owners Tom and Harry personally roll out the red carpet to greet their guests, and every other Thursday, they host a chicken or rib barbeque in the shaded picnic area near the pool.
Nearby, within walking distance, is the historic Snook Haven Restaurant, which recently re-opened under new management. Sit on the deck overlooking the Myakka River or the outdoor picnic area in a grove, where you can enjoy a cold beer, good seafood and a daily dose of jazz, ragtime, Elvis or country music.
RV sites with full hookups, including water, electric and sewer, are $50 off-season to $65 in peak season (Jan 1 to April 1). Tent sites are $40 and the one-room cabins are $75. Weekly and monthly rates available.
Read more about Camp Venice in this article: Best camping near Sarasota: Camp Venice
- Camp Venice Retreat web site
- Reservations by phone only: 941-488-0850
There are no facilities (there’s an outhouse on an adjacent island), and the only way you can get there is by boat. And that’s what makes this such an attractive camping destination. You can actually see the stars at night without even a slice of ambient light!
Best camping can be found on the leeward crescent beach at the north side of the island, overlooking West Pass. The island provides superb access to back bays and mangrove trails for paddling and fishing, and the oyster bars provide for some of the best redfish catches in Florida.
Sandbars extend out from your beach to the West Pass channel, where campers cast a line into the currents for snook and spotted bass.
There’s a small bay off the beach that is deep enough for a mooring, but bring a chart and be aware of shallow waters and sandbars. I have a few twisted propellers as proof. Your best bet, though, is to paddle the trails for 9 miles from Everglades City. We’ve done that many times.
The primitive campsites on Tiger Key and other nearby islands is within the jurisdiction of Everglades National Park. You can only reserve a campsite in person at the ranger station in Everglades City up to 24 hours in advance. Camping fee $10, plus $2 per person.
Everglades City is also the northern terminus of the 100-mile Wilderness Trail, which is haunted with history of smugglers, pirates and other questionable characters of Florida’s past.
Read more about camping in the Ten Thousand Islands in this article: Best camping in the Tent Thousand Islands
- Everglades National Park
- Reservations must be made in person at the Everglades City Ranger Station no more than 24 hours in advance.
Kelly Park/Rock Spring
There are only 26 campsites, and every one is spacious, clean and well-shaded. It’s also just a short walk through the woods to one of the most treasured springs in the state, Rock Spring, where you can swim in the refreshingly cool, clear water that extends down the Run in a series of elongated pools.
Near the park is a privately run canoe and kayak livery, King’s Landing, where you’ll be set up for an 8.5 mile paddle down Rock Spring Run through a pristine tropical jungle to the Wekiva River.
Kelly Park is very busy on weekends, with lines building after 10 a.m. on exterior roads, but campers have a private entrance day or night.
The basic camping rate is $23 per night for non-residents, with discounts for seniors and Orange County residents. No pets. This is bear and alligator country, and Fido would be seen as an easy meal.
Kelly Park is about 50 minutes from Disney World and Universal Studios via the Western Expressway (SR 429) and Florida’s Turnpike.
Read more about Kelly Park in this article: Cool camping near Orlando
- Official Orange County web page for Kelly Park/Rock Spring
- Reservations can be made up to 45 days in advance by telephone, 407-889-4179, with a MasterCard or Visa.
Lake Kissimmee State Park
Every one of the 60 campsites is shaded by oak hammock, and they are separated by thick vegetation that offers plenty of privacy between sites.
While I was there, no fewer than four deer crossed a clearing behind my site, through a common area where the campfire ring is shared. These woods are filled with wildlife and birds who seek shelter from northern winters.
The lake is nearby and easily accessible for canoes, kayaks and there’s a boat launch for motorboats. Lake Kissimmee is in the heart of cracker country, and you can visit a restored 1876 Cow Camp, where you can learn about Florida’s frontiers men and women.
Campsites are $20, including water and electric. Primitive campsites are available for $5. Day use is $5.
Read this article for more details about this park: Lake Kissimmee State Park: Where old Florida lives on
Do you have suggestions for Best Florida Camping? Tell us in the comments below, and we’ll visit them and see if they will make our “favorites list.”