The best South Florida camping can be found in taxpayer-owned public parks managed by counties, the state and federal governments.
Taxpayer supported, they also cost less than private campgrounds.
These campgrounds were developed to preserve green space, so you almost always have natural environs with active wildlife, including alligators, amazing assortments of migratory songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl and hawks. Yes, even a few raccoons! 🙂
- Book as far ahead as possible, but be aware of stiff cancellation penalties.
- Weekdays are your best bets for county campgrounds.
- Watch for cancellations. When people book far ahead, they often change plans.
- High cancellation fees and restrictions at some parks can offset lower nightly rates.
Our guide includes only public campgrounds in Southeast Florida financed with your taxes and managed by counties, the federal government, the state and the South Florida Water Management District.
St. Lucie County
Savannas Recreation Area — RVs and tents
The Savannas Recreation Area is part of a 12-mile-long, 6,000-acre freshwater coastal marsh, the last of its kind in South Florida, shared with the adjacent Savannas Preserve State Park and featuring hiking, biking, fishing and kayaking in shallow marsh “lakes.” The campground, managed by Indian River County, offers full hookups — water, sewer and electric — for $26 a night for RVs and $18 for tent campers. Campground reservations can be made by phone or in person up to a year in advance but are not site specific. The noise factor in this campground is a steady stream of freight trains on the other side of the marsh all night long, although we got used to it after our first night camping here.
READ MORE: The Savannas: An unlikely oasis
Phipps Park Campground — RVs, tents and rent-a-tents
This sprawling park on the Okeechobee Waterway is just below the locks that facilitate boat traffic crossing Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. I found Phipps Park by accident many years ago while camping next door at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campground at the locks. Phipps Park stands out with its well-maintained section of rent-a-tents, called “Adventure Tents,” which go for $40 per night. There are 24 RV sites along the riverbank with water and electric hookups for $43 per night (winter rate), and tent sites without hookups tents are $25 in winter. The park lies in the shadow of Florida’s Turnpike, and hum of traffic is most noticeable in the rent-a-tent section, not so much in the RV sites where we stayed.
St. Lucie South Lock and Campground — RVs and boats
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains three campgrounds along the Okeechobee Waterway, all of which accommodate boat campers and RVs. St. Lucie Locks is the easternmost, and the smallest of the three. The park has a fishing pier, dump station, restrooms with showers, a laundry, boat ramp and playground. We were able to launch our kayaks here to enjoy the waterway. Pets are OK. As you might expect, impeccable maintenance makes this the cleanest campground you may ever visit. There are eight boat slips (up to 38 feet) and 9 RV sites (up to 46 feet) with electric and water hookups for $30 per night. Three tent sites have water but no electric for $25/night. A 50% discount is available to holders of National Parks annual passes.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park — RVs and tents
There are two campgrounds in this massive 11,500-acre wilderness, and I favor the 45-site campground deep into the park on the wild and scenic Loxahatchee River near the boat ramp. The other campground, near the park entrance, has 90 sites with full hookups but there’s less shade, less privacy and there is little more than a low berm separating it from U.S. 1 and the Intracoastal Waterway. While the main attraction, for me anyway, is the river paddle, off-road bicycle trails are a big draw. The park also has a loop of well-appointed cabins near the river.
Campsites are $26 plus $7 for utilities per night, plus tax and a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. Cabins are $95 plus taxes and fees. Reservations up to 11 months in advance can be made online or by phone, 1-800-326-3521.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park, 16450 S.E. Federal Highway, Hobe Sound, FL 33455. Phone: (772) 546-2771.
Effective January 1, 2024, Florida residents will have a 30-day head start to book campsites at Florida State Parks, reducing the reservation window for non-residents to 10 months in advance. This new law does not apply to state forests, national parks, county or municipal campgrounds, which have their own rules.
Palm Beach County
Dupuis Management Area — RVs and tents
Camping is free at the two campgrounds in the 22,000-acre Dupuis Management Area, which is managed by the South Florida Water Management District. Tent campers and tent trailers only are allowed in the gated Family Campground, while RV’s and motorhomes are restricted to the gated Equestrian Campground, which has two sections, one for equestrians and the other for RVs. You will need a special-use permit, which is free. To obtain a permit and gate combination, go to www.sfwmd.gov/community-residents/recreation/sul or call the preserve offiice on Kanner Highway.
J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area — RVs and tents (rough terrain)
If you’re looking for free camping, it’s hard to beat the rustic sites in scenic J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, keeping in mind that the unimproved access roads are rough and rutty. Clearance can be an issue. Still, that doesn’t discourage decent-sized motorhomes and travel trailers from working their way into the 60,000-acre refuge. I drove deep into the refuge in my front-wheel drive Ford F-150, but I would not have ventured that far with a trailer on the hook, not without four-wheel drive. During fall hunting season, leave the camping to licensed hunters. Once general gun season is over on January 2, designated campsites are available to the public for weekend use, first come, first served. There are no facilities and no dump stations, and while there is no fee for camping, a modest entrance fee to the refuge is collected at the gate. ($3 per person). Campers should use the North Entrance off Bee Line Highway (State Road 710) just south of Indiantown. Day visitors should use the South Entrance on Seminole-Pratt Whitney Road at the west end of Northlake Boulevard.
John Prince Park — RVs and tents
John Prince Park is one of those jealously guarded secrets, but its 300-plus sites are hard to overlook given their location in the heart of Palm Beach County. And 50 of those sites are waterfront on Lake Osborne. Bring your boat and use the campground boat ramp. All sites have water and electric hookups, and there is a dump station available. Reservations may be made by phone up to 90 days in advance. Resident rates are $31 plus tax for waterfront, $29 plus tax for interior sites. Add $3 per day for non-residents, $5 extra per day for boat trailers. Weekly rates available. Payment must be made at the time of reservation by VISA or MasterCard. Length of stay is 5 months in any 12-month period on interior sites; lakefront max is 14 days every 28 days.
Peanut Island — Tents, only accessible by boat (ferry available)
Peanut Island offers 17 landscaped, reserved campsites with tent pad, grill and picnic table. (Sites 1 & 2, 8 & 9, and 15 & 16 have double pads.) The facility also features restrooms with hot indoor showers, a picnic pavilion and a large fire ring. Swimming and snorkeling are popular with both campers and day visitors. While camping here can be quite an experience, be aware that the 79-acre island is surrounded by busy boat channels at Lake Worth Inlet, including commercial ship traffic. Camping fee is $28 per night plus tax for a maximum three-night stay. Cancellations require one week notice or a one-night fee will be charged. Changes are allowed with limitations. Reserve your tent site online at www.bookyoursite.com/campgrounds/peanutislandfl or by calling 561-845-4445. The island is accessible only by boat and is served by the Peanut Island Shuttle, based at the Riviera Beach Marina, and Palm Beach Water Taxi, which is based at Sailfish Marina on Singer Island.
South Bay RV Campground — RVs
Palm Beach County’s South Bay RV Campground is the farthest west in this roundup, located on the south levee of Lake Okeechobee on U.S. 27 west of Belle Glade. Spacious and clean at the foot of the levee with full hookups and a boat ramp on the levee, this campground is an ideal overnight playground for bass anglers, kayakers and canoes. Atop the levee, hikers and bicyclists have access to the 110-mile-long Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail. The campground has 72 paved RV sites, each with grill, picnic table, and full hook-ups to water, electric (30/50 amp) and sewer. Rates are $29.38 plus tax for tents and RVs. Reservations must be made by phone or e-mail. Call the campground office at 561-992-9045 or email [email protected] for your reservation. It’s worth your time and effort.
C.B. Smith Park — RVs and tents
I really love this sprawling 300-acre Broward County park with two large lakes and a spacious, well-maintained campground. The water park has two 50-foot water slides (open spring to fall), and facilities include a golf driving range, miniature golf, batting cages, volleyball, basketball, racquetball, tennis, pickleball, picnic areas and shelters, horseshoes and playground. Sites are $45/night (Nov. 1-Apr. 30) and $35/night (May 1-Oct. 31). Cancellations must be made at least 15 days prior to start date and include a $25 fee. Requests for a refund must be submitted in writing, with the original receipt, to park management.
C.B. Smith Park, 900 North Flamingo Road, Pembroke Pines, FL. 33028. Phone: 954-357-5170.
Easterlin Park — RVs and tents
This charming little park is in the heart of Broward County and the closest campground, public or private, to the beaches of Fort Lauderdale (about 7 miles). I’ve never camped here, but it’s near my house and I do use their dump station ($15) when returning from trips. Besides the campground, the 50-acre park includes basketball courts, volleyball, disc golf, horseshoes, shaded picnic areas and hiking on trails with 250-year-old cypress trees. The only drawback is its proximity to railroad tracks for South Florida’s commuter trains, Tri-Rail, Amtrak, and overnight freight. Sites are $45/night (Nov. 1-Apr. 30) and $35/night (May 1-Oct. 31). Cancellations must be made at least 15 days prior to start date and include a $25 fee. Requests for a refund must be submitted in writing, with the original receipt, to park management.
Easterlin Park, 1000 NW 38th Street, Oakland Park, FL 33309. Phone: 954-357-5190
Markham Park — RVs and tents
Sitting below a levy that holds back the Everglades, Markham Park is the largest regional park in Broward County encompassing 670 acres, and it features a huge campground, an observatory, a model airplane field, mountain bike trails, and an outdoor shooting range. If gunfire throughout the day bothers you, you might not want to camp here. Sites are $45/night (Nov. 1-Apr. 30) and $35/night (May 1-Oct. 31). Cancellations must be made at least 15 days prior to start date and include a $25 fee. Requests for a refund must be submitted in writing, with the original receipt, to park management.
Markham Park, 16001 West State Road 84, Sunrise, FL 33326. Phone: 954-357-8868
Quiet Waters Park — Rent-a-Tent (No RVs)
You really have to love this beautiful little campground with its high-end cabin tents, set up and ready to go for your family adventure. I live nearby and ride my bike here often. Although I’ve never camped here, I just love the setup and often think about giving it a try. There are four lakes in this 430-acre park near the Broward-Palm Beach county line. The park has both paved and professionally maintained off-road bike trails, a dog park, a water park and sandy beach (open only in summer), and a very popular cable wakeboard and water-ski system. At the time of this writing, the rent-a-tent camping area is closed. When the campground re-opens, the nightly fee is $40 plus $3 for each additional persons over four. A security deposit of $50 is also required. Camping fees include park admission. Cancellations must be made at least 15 days prior to start date and include a $25 fee. Requests for a refund must be submitted in writing, with the original receipt, to park management.
T.Y. Park — RVs and tents
T.Y. Park is smothered in shady Live oak trees that sheltering multiple picnic areas and trails around a lake. It’s 150 acres include a water park, tennis courts, volleyball, basketball, fishing and a playground. I was impressed with the paved multi-purpose trails for bicyclists and joggers. Not my favorite campground, but it was very clean and a few waterfront sites stood out above the rest. Otherwise, the sites lacked privacy and felt a bit clustered. On the positive side, the park is only four miles straight down Sheridan Street to Hollywood’s North Beach Park, where you can access the city’s beachfront Broadwalk for walking and cycling. Sites are slightly higher than other Broward County parks: $50/night (Nov. 1-Apr. 30) and $40/night (May 1-Oct. 31). Cancellations must be made at least 15 days prior to start date and include a $25 fee. Requests for a refund must be submitted in writing, with the original receipt, to park management.
Topeekeegee Yugnee Park, 3300 North Park Road, Hollywood, FL 33021. Phone: 954-357-8811
Biscayne National Park — Tents and boat camping, only accessible by water (no ferry)
Two islands in Biscayne National Park welcome campers on primitive sites with limited amenities, and both islands are accessible for camping only by private boat. There are no ferries. Boca Chita Key is the park’s most popular island, featuring waterfront views, a grassy camping area, picnic tables and grills. Toilets are available, but there are no showers, sinks or drinking water. A cleated bulkhead is the only place for docking. Elliott Key is the park’s largest island. Restrooms with sinks and cold water showers, picnic tables and grills are available. Drinking water is available, but bring your own in case the system goes down. There are 33 boat slips in the marina. Nightly fee is $25 for a tent site and docking ($12.50 per night with senior pass, $15 for tenting only). Fees must be paid using your mobile phone and Scan & Pay. Download the free Recreation.gov mobile app.
Oleta River State Park — Cabins only
You’d never guess you were in the middle of the city when you take up residence in one of these 14 little cabins in Oleta River State Park. Each cabin has a covered porch and picnic table. Most cabins are equipped with one double bed, a bunk bed and air conditioning. Linens are not provided and these cabins do not have kitchens or bathrooms within the units. You’ll have to use a centralized restroom. The park has a beach facing Haulover Inlet, kayak and canoe trails, and mountain biking. Rates are $55/night, a $7/night utilities fee and a one-time $6.70 booking fee. Minimum two nights on weekends. Reserve a cabin online at reserve.floridastateparks.org or call 800-326-3521.
Oleta River State Park, 3400 N.E. 163rd St., North Miami Beach FL 33160. Phone: 305-919-1846
Everglades National Park — Houseboats, glamping, RVs and tents
There are two main campgrounds in Everglades National Park, Long Pine Key and Flamingo, as well as an off-beat “glamping” experience and overnight houseboat rentals in Flamingo. Long Pine Key Campground is closest to the Homestead park entrance and is open only from November 1 until April 30. Sites are first come, first serve at $25 per night. Reservations are suggested at the Flamingo Campground, which is much deeper in the park on Florida Bay. The Flamingo Campground features dozens of pull-through RV sites, but only a limited number have electric hookups. None of the sites have water, but you can fill your tanks before docking. Both campgrounds have bath houses, dump stations, picnic tables and grills.
The Eco-Tent Campground was introduced in 2019 and features 18 furnished tents on raised platforms, starting at $90 per night in winter, and the houseboat rentals out of the Flamingo Marina feature two bedrooms, galley and a living area, starting at $300 per night. For reservations, visit the park concession online at Flamingo Adventures, or call 855-708-2207. Tent campers can walk into an open field near the Eco-Tent Campground, 38 sites with no amenities other than a restroom with showers, or hike (or paddle) out to primitive sites on the beaches of Cape Sable, 10 miles or so from Flamingo.
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 14 years ago.