Fall Camping: As the humidity breaks, get into your groove outdoors

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 along the Florida-Georgia Line, where there really is a change in leaf color most years.

Scroll down the page for our picks in North, Central and South Florida

fort clinch amelia island fernandina beach
The beach at Fort Clinch State Park on Amelia Island

Go North!

4 great picks on the Florida-Georgia Line

North Florida offers a taste of the seasons in late fall with temperatures in the 70s on most days, dropping as low as the 50s at night. And as many of you already know, North Florida and South Georgia are interchangeable, culturally and geographically.

Although Hurricane Michael has disrupted the norm in the Panhandle this year, there are still some great escapes awaiting your adventurous spirit in the northern reaches.

Crooked River State Park. I love this park a few miles north of the Florida-Georgia line. The campground overlooks the Crooked River and low-country salt marshes beyond. Rent one of 11 well-equipped cottages or pitch camp in one of 64 tent and RV sites. There’s plenty to keep you busy within the 500 acre park — hiking, bicycling, boating and fishing — and even more nearby. Visit the quaint fishing village of St. Mary’s and take the National Park Service ferry to pristine beaches and wild horses on Cumberland Island.

Crooked River State Park, 6222 Charlie Smith Senior Highway, St. Marys, GA 31558. Phone: 912-882-5256. Reservation can be made by phone 800-864-7275 or online. Cottages: $160-$225; Campsites with electric, $32-$42. Plus tax and reservation fees.

Stephen C. Foster State Park. Primary gateway to the legendary Okeefenokee Swamp. This park with its 66 campsites, nine cottages and 10-cabin Eco-Lodge is a magnet for paddlers and photographers attracted by the breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife. The 402,000-acre refuge is a haven for hundreds of species of wildlife, from alligators to wood storks and beyond. Guided pontoon-boat tours are available. Birding, stargazing, fishing, kayaking and canoeing are prime activities for campers.

Stephen C. Foster State Park, 17515 Highway 177, Fargo, GA 31631. Phone: 912-637-5274. Reservations can be made by phone 800-864-7275 or online. Cottages: $85-$150; Eco-Lodge cabins, $85-$145; Campsites with electric, $35-$37. Plus tax and reservation fees.

Fort Clinch State Park. Oceanfront park on north end of famous Amelia Island. The campground features 61 sites in two separate campgrounds – 40 sites in the Amelia River Campground and 21 sites tucked behind the dunes on the ocean in the Atlantic Beach Campground. Each site has a fire ring, picnic table, water and electric hookups. We loved the shady river campground best, although you may find it a little tight for big rigs. Visit nearby Fernandina Beach, an Old Florida fishing village with historic homes, fabulous restaurants and the oldest tavern in Florida.

Fort Clinch State Park, 2601 Atlantic Ave., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034. (904) 277-7274. Camping fee is $26, half-price for Florida seniors and campers who meet disability standards. For reservations, call 800-326-3621 or book online at ReserveAmerica.com

Suwannee River State Park. We sensed autumn’s promise in the air when we visited last fall, and by our second night, temperatures had dipped to the 50s and 60s. Suwannee River State Park is at the junction of two rivers, the scenic Withlacoochee River joining the Suwannee, to continue the Suwannee’s lazy journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Explore both rivers in a kayak, canoe or small motorboat. The campground’s 30 campsites accommodate both tents and RVs, and it’s hard to beat for an all-inclusive $22 a night, plus taxes and the one-time $6.70 booking fee. Seniors and disabled person pay half. Day visitors pay $5 per vehicle.

Suwannee River State Park. 3631 201st Path, Live Oak, Fla. 32060. Phone: 386-362-2746. Camping fee is $22 per night, half-price for Florida seniors. For reservations, call 800-326-3621 or book online.

More Options 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.

Options 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.

Go Central!

4 great picks near Orlando, Tampa Bay

Moss County Park Campground, Orlando. This 1,500-acre Orange County park campground is nestled between two large lakes, one of which has a swimming beach. Next door, enjoy the 2,000-acre Split Oak Nature Preserve for hiking and orienteering. In the evening, I saw dozens of deer grazing in the pinewood and oak forest that blankets the campground’s 54 spacious, shady sites. The park is a refuge for the endangered Florida sandhill crane, and I saw three pairs near my campsite at various times during the day and evening.

Moss Park, 12901 Moss Park Rd., Orlando, FL. Campsites are $23 per night for out-of-county residents. No pets, no alcohol, no weapons. Call 407-254-6840 for reservations up to 45 days in advance. 23 miles to Disney World; 26 miles to Universal Studios.

Wekiva Falls RV Resort, Sorrento.  We visit this humongous 800-site campground once a year, usually in the fall before the snowbirds arrive. Tent campers can choose from 20 cozy sites along the spring run, which empties into the nationally designated wild and scenic Wekiva River. The spring shoots up through a tower and sprays like a waterfall over the swimming area. Really cool fun for kids. There’s a well-stocked campground store and fabulous access for paddling this awesome river.

Wekiva Falls RV Resort, 30700 Wekiva River Rd, Sorrento, FL 32776. RV campsites run $44-$49 per night; Tents, $35. Call for information and reservations (888) 4-WEKIVA

E.G. Simmons County Park, Ruskin. This little gem on Tampa Bay is a real hot spot in winter for snowbirds, but you should be able to slide into a campsite this fall or in late spring and summer. All but a dozen of the 112 campsites are waterfront, and each has a fire ring, picnic table, water and electric hookups. A prime boating destination, paddle trails run through dozens of mangrove islands and out into Tampa Bay.

E.G SIMMONS PARK, 2401 19th Ave NW, Ruskin, FL  Phone: (813) 671-7655. Rates: $24/night. Reservations are not accepted; sites are assigned first come, first served.

Manatee Hammock County Park, Titusville. This 27-acre RV and tent campground on the Indian River Lagoon is shady but often crowded. The shoreline offers a fishing pier and a great view of Kennedy Space Center rocket launches. Easy access to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Canaveral National Seashore and Kennedy Space Center.

Manatee Hammock County Park,7275 S, US-1, Titusville, FL 32780. Phone: (321) 264-5083. Rates, $26/night. Reservations accepted online at Brevard County WebTrac.

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

Orlando options. 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

 

Go South!

4 great picks in South Florida and the Florida Keys

 C.B. Smith Park, Fort LauderdaleBest known locally as home of the KISS Country Chili Cookoff every January, C.B. Smith is geared towards family activities and features a water park with multiple waterslides, including two designed for youngsters under 5. For older children, there are five water slides, including a 450-foot slide and 410-foot tube slough. Park also features batting cages, a golf driving range, tennis center, playgrounds and fishing lakes.

CB Smith Park, 900 N. Flamingo Road, Pembroke Pines, FL. Phone: 954-357-5170. 83 RV campsites. $40 for non-residents and $30 for residents of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. For reservations, call 954-357-5170 or book online.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park. There are two campgrounds in this massive park, and I favor the River Campground, deep in the 11,500-acre park on the banks of the wild and scenic Loxahatchee River. The Pine Grove Campground is newer, with 90 sites with concrete pads near the entrance to the park. There are 45 sites in the River Campground. The river is major draw for paddlers. Paved and off-road bike trails run throughout the park. Hiking trails run deep into the backcountry.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park, 16450 S.E. Federal Highway, Hobe Sound, FL 33455. Phone: (772) 546-2771. Campsites, $26. Cabins, $95. Tax and non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. For reservations, call 1-800-326-3521 or book online.

Collier-Seminole State Park, Marco Island. This state park is a hidden gateway to the remote Ten Thousand Islands off the Southwest Florida coast. Prime recreation activities are paddling and off-road bicycling. The 120 campsites book up early for winter dates, although I often see a few of the 19 tent and tent-trailer sites available year around. Mosquitoes in summer are tortuous, less so in winter, but always be prepared. The park is nested in a mangrove marsh. Read more here.

Collier-Seminole State Park, 20200 Tamiami Trail E., Naples FL 34114. Phone: 239-394-3397. Campsites, $22/night plus taxes and a $6.70 booking fee. Includes electric and water. For reservations, call 1-800-326-3521 or book online.

Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo. The campground’s 42 RV sites have recently been refurbished, and they are decent enough, but they are too close together. The gravel pads leave no room to pitch a tent on smooth ground. There is little old-growth vegetation between sites, which are barely two feet apart. Still, this is a great base for getting out into the undersea areas of the park for its legendary diving and snorkeling.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Mile Marker 102.5 Overseas Highway, Key Largo FL 33037. Phone: 305-451-1202. Campsites, $36/night plus tax and a $6.70 booking fee. Includes water and electric. For reservations, call 1-800-326-3521 or book online.

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.

Best tent camping in the Florida Keys. While there is no shortage of campgrounds for RV’s in the Keys, it’s another story for tents. We pick the best campgrounds for tents in the Florida Keys.

A few more of our favorites:

Sarasota/Venice: Oscar Scherer State Park

Melbourne/Vero Beach: Sebastian Inlet

County campgrounds make good choices for fall camping

Sunset at Fort Desoto Park
Fort Desoto at sunset

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 this weekend in Florida State Parks

Camping at Oscar Scherer State Park
Oscar Scherer State Park

The official campground reservations site for Florida State Parks offers a quick online search for Camping This Weekend.

My experience with this tool is mixed. Search results might show “RV Sites Available” or “Tent Sites Available,” but when you click through you won’t find any available.

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.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Cancellations occur often, and sites are returned to inventory shortly after they become available.

Related Links:

Index of camping articles by Florida Rambler

Tent camping: The essentials checklist

RV Camping: Tips for booking campsites in Florida

Best apps for exploring Florida’s outdoors

 

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