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Paradise found at 9 South Florida state parks with camping

From its offshore coral reefs to Everglades habitats, state parks with camping in South Florida and the Florida Keys may be few but they are distinguished.

Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a renowned destination for scuba divers and snorkeling; Koreshan State Park was once home to an obscure cult; Bahia Honda is known for its beaches and two parks defy their presence in suburban sprawl.

These are also the state’s most popular state parks for camping due to their moderate climate most of the year.

South Florida State Parks with Camping
Third in a series

*Best months to camp in South Florida are November through June. Weatherwise, July is borderline OK, but August, September and early October are hot and humid, and its peak hurricane season. In the Keys, ocean breezes offer some relief.

Florida residents can now book campsites at Florida State Parks up to 11 months in advance, a 30-day head start over non-residents. This preference does not apply to state forests, national parks, county or municipal campgrounds, where rules vary.

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South Florida State Parks with Camping

Bahia Honda State Park

beach camping bahia honda sandspur campgrouond south florida state parks with camping
The Sandspur Campground at Bahia Honda State Park now has gravel pads and allows recreation vehicles up to 23 feet. (Photo by Bonnie Gross)
RV, tent and cabins

Bahia Honda has beautiful beaches, excellent boating and fishing, and kayaking here is a joy, making this one of the most popular, if not the most popular, Florida state park with camping.

There are three campgrounds, the main one being Buttonwood for recreational vehicles (42 sites) and Sandspur for tents and small RVs (17 sites). The third, Bayside Campground, has six sites with no hookups.

Well-appointed cabins are another Bayside option, though difficult to reserve because of demand.

The Sandspur Campground has only recently reopened after suffering severe damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017. The renovated campsites now have gravel pads now accommodate RVs up to 23 feet. There are waterfront sites in Bahia Honda’s other two campgrounds, but none compare to Sandspur sites 49-56 and 62-72 for a spectacular beachfront.

Each site has electric and water hookups, a picnic table and grill.

Bahia Honda State Park, 36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key, Florida 33043. Camping fees: $36 plus a $7 daily utility fee for hookups, taxes and a one-time $6.70 booking charge. Cabins (2-night minimum) are $120 in summer and $160 in winter, plus $7 utility fee, tax and booking fee. For reservations, book online at reserve.floridastateparks.org or call 1-800-326-3521.

Read more: Nice beaches, but historic bridge is the star at Bahia HOnda


Cayo Costa State Park no longer offers tent camping and cabins due to severe damage caused by Hurricane Ian in 2022. The ferry dock was also wiped out, and ferry service is no longer available, even for day visitors. The Gulf beach is open for day use by private boaters.


South Florida State Parks with Camping

Collier-Seminole State Park

Kayak trail at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples
Mangrove canopy on kayak trail at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples.
RV, tents and hammocks

On the edge of the Everglades and Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, Collier-Seminole State Park is not on the radar for most people, yet its historical ties to the very first highway to cross Everglades wetlands makes it a special place.

The centerpiece of the park is the last remaining “Bay City Walking Dredge” used to build that road, known as the Tamiami Trail, to Miami through the Everglades.

Collier-Seminole State Park harbors one of the world’s largest mangrove swamps within its 7200-acre boundaries, offering trails for kayaking, hiking and a 3.5-mile off-road track for mountain bikes.

All 104 sites in the main campground have water, electric, picnic tables and grills, with 19 sites set aside for tent campers. Restrooms have hot showers and laundry facilities. Maximum RV length is 50 feet. Hammock camping is permitted on sites 2, 5, 34, 53 and 79.

Tent sites in the campground (1-19) are almost always available, and primitive campsites along hiking and kayak trails are available by arrangement through the ranger station.

Collier-Seminole State Park, 20200 Tamiami Trail E., Naples FL 34114. Camping fee: $22 a night plus $7 daily for RVs, taxes and a $6.70 booking fee. For reservations, book online at reserve.floridastateparks.org or call 1-800-326-3521.

Read more: Collier-Seminole Park: Kayak trail, camping near Naples


Pets are allowed in all Florida State Park campgrounds, but restrictions may apply to other areas of the park. Alcohol is permitted within the confines of your campsite.


South Florida State Parks with Camping

Curry Hammock State Park

beach camping curry hammock state park
Our kayaks on the beach at Curry Hammock State Park. (Photo by Bob Rountree)
RV and tents

Curry Hammock State Park is my favorite destination for beach camping in the Florida Keys, especially with the untimely demise of the RV campground at nearby Long Key State Park.

Both parks got slammed by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Miraculously, Curry Hammock survived.

Curry Hammock sites 7 through 19, 21 and 22 are on the beach, and the remaining 14 sites are very close. The ocean is shallow, the surf mild and currents are weak most days, making it ideal for families with small children.

Kayaks and canoes can be launched from the campground, and the day-use beach area is popular with kite-boarders. You’ll enjoy the kayak trail through mangrove tunnels.

Campsites here are hard to get, so be persistent in your search for cancellations.

Curry Hammock State Park, 56200 Overseas Highway, Marathon FL 33050. Camping fee is $36 per night plus a $7 daily utilities fee for RVs, taxes and a one-time $6.70 charge for booking. For reservations, book online at reserve.floridastateparks.org or call 1-800-326-3521.

Read more: Curry Hammock State Park: Great beach camping, kayaking


South Florida State Parks with Camping

Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Best kayaking in South Florida; Loxahatchee River (photo: Bonnie Gross)(Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The wild and scenic Loxahatchee River. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
RV, tent and cabins

Jonathan Dickinson State Park is vast and wild, sprawling across an Atlantic coastal plain along the scenic Loxahatchee River, one of only two National Wild and Scenic Rivers in Florida. (The other is the Wekiva River.)

It’s no surprise, then, that the park offers outstanding kayaking, allowing you to paddle to a remote historic site, the jungle camp of “Wild Man of the Loxahatchee” Trapper Nelson, an early settler who created an attraction for well-heeled tourists daring to venture into these alligator-infested badlands.

The park has more than 25 miles of multi-use trails for hikers and bicycles, and an off-road system of trails for mountain bikes, and hikers can wander on dozens of nature trails. 

The park has two campgrounds. The Pine Grove Campground, near the park entrance on State Road A1A, has 90 sites with full hookups. The River Campground, about four miles from the park entrance, has 52 sites with all but sewer hookups. Max RV length is 40 feet.

Cabin rentals are available near the River Campground.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park, 16450 S.E. Federal Hwy., Hobe Sound, FL. Phone: 772-546-2771. Camping rate: $26 plus $7 for utilities, tax and a one-time booking fee. Cabins: $95 (winter), $85 (summer). For reservations, book online at reserve.floridastateparks.org or call 800-326-3521.

Related story: Jonathan Dickinson State Park cabins make it easy to explore a great park


Florida residents can now book campsites at Florida State Parks up to 11 months in advance, a 30-day head start over non-residents. This preference does not apply to state forests, national parks, county or municipal campgrounds, where rules vary.


South Florida State Parks with Camping

Koreshan State Park

Historic buildings at Koreshan State Park
Historic buildings at Koreshan State Park. (Photo by Bonnie Gross)
RV and tents

Koreshan State Park offers great natural beauty. Sprawling along the lovely Estero River, there are gardens and exotic bamboo forests left over from beautification efforts by a strange cult that once occupied the land.

In 1894, the park was home to a cult that moved here from Chicago and created a commune: “The Koreshan Unity believed that the entire universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere.” 

Their bubble is yours to explore: Hike and bike park trails, tour 11 historic buildings, or paddle the Estero River, which runs through the park. Paddle down to Estero Bay. Cross the bay, and you’re at Lovers Key. Veer north and you’ll paddle into Mound Key Archeological State Park and Estero Bay Preserve State Park.

The campground features 60 campsites, including 12 designated for tent camping, all with electricity and water, a picnic table and fire ring. The tent are next to the Estero River. 

There are 54 sites, with 12 designated for tent campers, and campsites are large and wooded with vegetation providing privacy. There are four paved ADA campsites.

While Koreshan campsites book up in advance, they are a bit more available than many in the park system.

Koreshan State Park, 3800 Corkscrew Rd, Estero, FL 33928. Camping: $26 per night plus 7 nightly utility fee for RVs, tax, and a nonrefundable $6.70 reservation fee. For reservations, book online at reserve.floridastateparks.org or call 800-326-3521.

Read more: Koreshan State Park preserves wacky Florida history


Pets are allowed in all Florida State Park campgrounds, but restrictions may apply to other areas of the park. Alcohol is permitted within the confines of your campsite.


South Florida State Parks with Camping

Long Key State Park

Morning paddle at Long Key State Park
Morning paddle at Long Key State Park.
Primitive tent camping and hammocks, no RVs

Once the premier RV destination in the Florida Keys with tent and RV sites neatly lined up along the beach, the only camping left after Hurricanes Irma and Ian is in primitive tents along backcountry trails.

Irma, in 2017, wiped out the beach and the campsites, and even as limited restoration began, Hurricane Ian put the final nail in the coffin in 2022. When I visited the park in late 2023, I was told by rangers there are no longer any plans to restore the campground.

The park and its shallow main beach are still there for day use, but camping has been relegated to a pair of hike-in tent sites with picnic table, grill and hammock stand. No hookups, but there is a rest room available with cold showers.

Long Key State Park, 67400 Overseas Highway, Long Key FL 33001. Hike-in primitive camping in tents or hammocks, available only first-come, first served. For more information, call the ranger station directly at 305-664-4815.

Read more: Long Key State Park: Fun place for a day


South Florida State Parks with Camping

Oleta River State Park

oleta river south florida state parks with camping
Cabins at Oleta River State Park.
Cabins only, no RVs

Nestled in a decidedly urban setting 30 minutes from downtown Miami, Oleta River State Park offers a surprising amount of recreational activity, from off-road mountain bike trails to a large swimming beach and picnic area on the Intracoastal Waterway to its river trails for kayaking.

There are two launch areas for kayaks and canoes, but be prepared to carry your vessels from the parking lot. No kayak or canoe rentals are available in the park.

For off-road cyclists, Oleta River has more than 10 miles of intermediate and advanced mountain bike trails, four miles of novice trails and three miles of paved multi-use trails. 

Aside from camping areas set aside for organized youth groups, all you get are KOA-style cabins. Thought charming, these rustic cabins have no kitchen or bathroom, and you have to bring your own linens. Restrooms and hot showers are available nearby.

Oleta River State Park, 3400 N.E. 163rd St., North Miami Beach FL 33160. Cabins: $55 per night plus tax, plus a nonrefundable $6.70 reservation fee and a $7 nightly utility fee. For cabin reservations, go to reserve.floridastateparks.org or call 800-326-3521.

Read more: Oleta River State Park feels like island getaway in Miami urban sprawl


South Florida State Parks with Camping

Oscar Scherer State Park

The Legacy Trail runs through Oscar Scherer State Park
Legacy Trail goes through Oscar Scherer State Park. (Photo by Bob Rountree)
RV, tent and ‘glamping’

Tucked into Sarasota’s suburban sprawl is this 1400-acre wilderness with paddle trails for canoe and kayak, a freshwater swimming lake and 15 miles of off-road trails for hikers and mountain bikes.

Oscar Scherer is also at the core of the paved, multi-use Legacy Trail system that extends from Sarasota to Venice and beyond.

The park is also known for its resident population of Florida scrub jay and as a nesting ground for the American bald eagle.

Half of Oscar Scherer’s 104 campsites (Nos. 1 through 20 and 68 through 98) are on the banks of South Creek, which spills into the Intracoastal Waterway. There are seven ADA accessible sites. Maximum RV length is 36 feet.

Four campsites are set up for Glamping with ready-to-camp, fully equipped safari tents that sleep four.

Launching kayaks and canoes from waterfront campsites is discouraged but possible. Campers are encouraged to use a nearby launch ramp. Canoe and kayak rentals are no longer available in the park, so bring your own.

Oscar Scherer State Park, 1843 South Tamiami Trail, Osprey FL 34229. Phone: 941-483-5956. Camping rate: $26 per night plus 7 nightly utility fee for RVs, tax, and a nonrefundable $6.70 reservation fee. Glamping: $150 and up. For campground reservations, book online at reserve.floridastateparks.org or call 800-326-3521. To book a glamping tent, go to resnexus.com

Read more: Oscar Scherer State Park a wild oasis amid urban sprawl


South Florida State Parks with Camping

Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

coral reef key largo
Explore the reef at Pennekamp State Park. (CanStock Photo)
RV, tent and boat camping

Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a renowned undersea preserve encompassing 72 square miles of pristine coral reefs that make up the longest system of live coral reefs in North America.

But that’s not all. Pennekamp has two beaches, hiking, on-shore and off-shore fishing, kayak and canoe trails, a kayak launch (free), and a boat ramp ($10) for larger boats seeking access to the reefs.

Kayak, canoe, paddle board and boat rentals are available at the marina.

For those who want to see the reefs from a glass-bottom boat, regularly scheduled tours are offered in the marina. Diving tours and gear are available at the park concesssion, as well as outside the park at dozens of dive shops.

The campground has 47 tent and RV campsites with water, sewer hookups, 30/50/20-amp electric, picnic table, grill. There are three ADA sites. The gravel pads can be a bit uncomfortable for tents, and on my last visit, a group of college students preferred to sleep in their cars, not their tents.

Boat camping is available in the marina or on moorings in Largo Sound.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Mile Marker 102.5 Overseas Highway, Key Largo FL 33037. Camping fee: $36 plus $7 per day for utilities, taxes, and a one-time $6.70 reservation fee. Boat camping: $80 in the marina (25-foot slip); $170 (50-foot slip); $30 for a mooring. For campground reservations, book online at reserve.floridastateparks.org or call 800-326-3521.

Read more: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: Snorkel, dive, camp, kayak


Florida State Parks camping FAQ

These frequently asked questions apply only to Florida State Parks camping, not campgrounds managed by other agencies, such as Florida State Forests or water management district recreation areas. Nor do they apply to federal and county campgrounds.

Is park admission included in state park camping rates?

Yes. Park admission is included in the base camping rate.

Do Florida residents have any benefits when reserving campsites in state parks?

Yes. As of January 1, 2024, Florida residents can book campsites at Florida State Parks up to 11 months in advance, a 30-day head start over non-residents.

Are Florida residents entitled to discounts?

Yes. Florida residents 65 and older are entitled to a 50% discount off the base camping fee. The discount does not apply to utility or booking fees, which are additional. 

A 50% discount on the base camping fee is also available to families from a Florida-licensed foster home and to Florida residents with a Social Security disability award certificate or a 100% disability award certificate from the federal government. 

Can an individual reserve more than one campsite?

No, at least not for the same dates in the same park. However, some parks have group camping areas with some restrictions and qualifications, such as youth groups or non-profits. Contact the individual parks directly.

Can I reserve a campsite for someone else?

No. Registered campers must produce identification to rangers upon arrival at the campground, and the ID must match the name on the reservation.

Is there a limit on how long I can stay?

Yes. There is a two-week limit for a reservation at any one state park, and there is a waiting period between bookings at the same park. Reservations are matched in the database to ensure compliance.

Are pets allowed in state park campgrounds?

Yes. Pets are allowed in all Florida State Park campgrounds, but restrictions may apply to other areas of the park, such as beaches or trails. 

Is alcohol allowed in state park campgrounds?

Yes. Registered campers are permitted to use alcohol within the boundaries of their campsite.


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