Last updated on November 23rd, 2021 at 09:26 am
Florida state park cabins are one of the best things about the park system
Florida cabins in state parks will surround you with wildness and beauty. They offer the benefits of camping, but you don’t need camping gear or to experience the discomforts of rain and bugs.
Florida state park cabins are often a great deal too — if you can secure a reservation.
Today, 19 Florida state parks offer cabins you can rent. They range from new, well-equipped cottages that are like two-bedroom two-bath homes — that’s Lake Louisa, near Disney and Orlando — to rustic cabins where you cook outside and bring your sleeping bags — that’s Cayo Costa, on a spectacular barrier island off Fort Myers in the Gulf, where cabins don’t even have electricity.
All are moderately priced, ranging from $30 for the rustic no-frills cabins to $160 for the largest best-equipped ones that are suitable for large families or groups.
The negative: All Florida state park cabins require advance planning because they are so popular. Increasingly, it is very difficult to book these cabins. Forget about being spontaneous, for some, you have to make getting the reservation a weeks-long campaign.
For weekends in the most popular cabins, like Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys, you need to book the cabin the moment reservations become available, 11 months in advance. At other parks, like Lake Louisa, there are enough cabins (17) with a slightly higher price tag ($120 a night plus tax) so that you sometimes can book a cabin with shorter notice on weekdays or Sunday-Monday “weekends.”
As of June 2021, all state park cabins now require two-night minimums, which reduces the number of people who get access to the cabins. (When you look at a park’s calendar for the cabins, you’ll see a lot of unused single days. In the past, at popular parks, they would be snatched up.)
Because reserving cabins requires such advance planning, it’s good that the cancellation fees aren’t substantial. I had reserved two nights at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys one stormy August, but canceled when the forecast was for nonstop rain. I got my money back except a $17.75 cancellation fee and a $6.70 reservation fee. If I had just changed the date, the fee would have been $10.
Tips for renting cabins in Florida state park: Do your research first
- Snagging a cabin reservation is the hard part. Even if you look at the very furthest-away available date 11 months out, you will find many cabins are already booked. That’s because on the day 11 months away when a cabin becomes available, someone can reserve that cabin for two weeks. That means the next vacancy doesn’t occur until 11 months and 14 days in the future.
- Got a cabin? Great. Know what to bring. Some require you bring bed linens, cooking gear and everything else. Others come with everything from linens to dishwashers to microwaves. Information is on the park reservation website. I’ve stayed many nights in many Florida State Park cabins and if you plan to cook, count on the cabin having the most minimal supplies. There are usually coffee filters. But bring paper towels, salt and pepper, cooking oil and any gear that isn’t common and basic. (Example: A lasagna pan or tupperware for leftovers.) They do not come with shampoo or soap either.
- Know the capacity. There are big cabins — Lake Louisa’s cabins have a queen, a double and two singles, two bathrooms and sleep six quite nicely. And there are smaller ones with limited capacity — some at Topsail Hill in picturesque Santa Rosa Beach, are one-bedroom cabins with a four-person maximum.
- Know what to expect from the weather. Cayo Costa is wondrously lovely. But if you book a January weekend, you may get a cold snap and be staying in an unheated, drafty cabin on a night the temperatures plunge into the 30s. Similarly, mosquitos and no-see-ums can be fierce there in the summer.
- Be prepared to live without phones, TVs and wifi. Most cabins lack electronics. In most cases, cell phones work: To my surprise, remote Cayo Costa had fine reception.
- Unlike Air BnB and VRBO, you do not pay a (sometimes sizable) fee for housekeeping or a large transaction fee. Visitors pay a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee (per reservation, not per night.) Bahia Honda cabins also have a Monroe County surcharge of $2.50 per night. As such, these cabins are a bargain. Two nights at a comparable cabin on vacation rental sites would probably cost you $50 more, at least.
There are more photos of state park cabins at this Florida Rambler page.
Florida cabins in state parks in central region
Blue Spring State Park cabins, Orange City. Blue Spring State Park has something special every season of the year, thanks to the stunning spring and its clear water. There are manatees to view (sometimes hundreds of them) from November to March, and in summer, it is wildly popular for swimming and tubing in the 73-degree water.
Blue Spring also has top-notch cabins. With six cabins and the park’s popularity, however, snagging a cabin here takes planning and patience.
The two bedroom cabins are secluded from the busy spring and its parking lot by their location in a thick oak hammock. Cabins can accommodate up to six people with two bedrooms (one double bed and two twins) plus a sleeper sofa in the living room. There’s one bathroom. Kitchens have dishwashers and microwaves. The cabins have a screened porch, and an outdoor grill with a picnic table, heating and air conditioning. Price: $95 per night.
Hontoon Island State Park cabins, Deland. Located on the St. Johns River, the park is accessible only by boat or the free park ferry.
The rustic cabins are beautifully situated in a secluded, shady hammock and make a good base for a kayaking or canoe trip on the St. Johns River. These six one-room rustic cabins have bunk beds with vinyl-covered mattresses, a ceiling fan, overhead lighting and one electrical outlet. In addition to a picnic table and ground grill, each cabin has a screened porch with table and chairs. Visitors provide sleeping bags/linens.
There are no restrooms, cooking facilities, or heat and AC units in the cabins. Cabin residents use the same central bath facility as campers and, indeed, these cabins will be most popular with folks who want a camping-like experience with a few comforts. Price: $30 to $35 per night.
Silver Springs State Park cabins, Ocala. These cabins are the best I’ve stayed in within Florida parks and I’ve returned to them over and over. The beauty of these cabins starts with the setting. Each “cabin” – and these are really houses more than cabins – is situated in the woods surrounded only by big trees and vegetation, separated from neighboring cabins. Out back, there’s a fire ring for campfires and s’mores. The metal roofs and big porches make these structures look like Florida Cracker houses.
The screened porches are massive. You could hold a sit-down luncheon for 40 in the porch if there were tables and chairs. Instead, there is a big picnic table, a few rocking chairs and solitude.
Inside, there are two bedrooms, one with a double bed; one with twins. A sleeper sofa increases capacity to six. The bathroom is designed to work well with multiple guests. These accommodations would lend themselves to two families or even three couples sharing. (Warning: The mattresses are pretty awful. If you have an air mattress or compact mattress topper, you might consider bringing it and stacking them princess-in-the-pea style.)
There are 10 cabins. Price: $110 per night.
Here’s a Florida Rambler story about Silver Springs State Park, which is great for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and canoeing on the beautiful Silver River.
The cabins in Lake Louisa are terrific — among the best in Florida state parks. Each of the 17 cabins is located on a hill overlooking Dixie Lake. Each has a huge screen porch, perfect for watching sunsets over the lake.
What is also exceptional is that they have two bathrooms, making them suited for two families or two couples or a gathering. Maximum capacity is six people, using a sofa bed in the living room. Cabins have heat and air conditioning and ceiling fans. (Sadly, the gas fireplaces no longer can be used.)
The cabins are well equipped with the exception of offering absolutely no toiletries. (Bring your own bar of soap, dish lotion and paper towels.) Be aware: Not a deal-breaker, but the beds aren’t great and the lack of fitted sheets will give you new appreciation for this bedding innovation.
But here’s a plus: Because there are 17 cabins, Lake Louisa is one of the easiest of the state parks in which to find a reservation. (With the extra plumbing, these cabins are bit more costly — $120 a night plus tax.)
One unusual Florida cabin in Central Florida:
Rock Springs Run State Reserve , Sorrento. This park has one cabin, the Hammock House, located in a sub-tropical oak hammock overlooking the Wekiva River. It has four bedrooms, four baths and comes with linens, a fully equipped kitchen, a family room with TV, a fireplace and a back porch with table and chairs. Two canoes are available for exploring the river. For information and cabin reservations, contact Debbie Zito at Rock Springs Trail Rides or call 352-266-9326. Price: $200 per night, plus tax.
Florida cabins in state parks in the southwest region
Cayo Costa State Park, off Pine Island. Staying in the little rustic cabin in Cayo Costa steps from the beach on a wild island is one of my favorite Florida experiences. Cayo Costa is never crowded. It is accessible only by a boat and it is a one-hour ferry ride from Bokeelia, itself a remote spot on Pine Island west of Fort Myers.
Cayo Costa offers a campground with 30 sites and 12 small wooden cabins without electricity. Both the camp sites and the cabins are steps to the spectacular beach and surrounded by native vegetation. The sites have drinking water, cold showers and flush toilets in a central bath house. A mile away, on the dock side of the island, and easy to reach via the tram that circulates back and forth, you can buy ice, cold beverages and charcoal. Still, cabining at Cayo Costa is a little like camping — you have to bring everything, cook over a fire and forgo electricity. The cabins are $36 a night.
Myakka River State Park, Sarasota. This is one of the oldest state parks and biggest state parks with lots of wildlife and extensive recreational possibilities. Florida state parks have a lot of great cabins, but these CCC-built ones made out of palm-tree trunks, have to be among the most picturesque. The cabins are set back in the woods, separate from each other and away from the road. They have big stone wood-burning fireplaces. Cabins have heat and air conditioning and bathrooms, but few extras. Bring your own dishes, pots, pans, soap and paper towels. (Basically, pack like your camping except there’s a stove and refrigerator.) We fell in love with these cabins because of their history and charm. Cabins are $70 a night.
Florida cabins in state parks in the southeast region
Bahia Honda State Park , Big Pine Key. These cabins on stilts overlook Florida Bay and are equipped with kitchen appliances, utensils, linens plus heat and air conditioning. These cabins fill up immediately a full 11 months in advance, so if you want to stay here, plan to really work at it. A ranger from Bahia Honda told me: “You have to vulture the internet. Just keep hitting refresh on that page. We see cancellations and we see them fill up almost immediately.” Prices: $120 per night May 1 to Oct. 31; $160 per night Nov. 1 – April 30.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound. Dickinson is a large park with hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming and fishing, yet these cabins are a bit more available than many. It’s a stretch to call these 10 units cabins, actually. They are miniature trailers/modular homes. They lack that rustic cabin ambiance, but they do have complete kitchens; small bathrooms, plus heat and air conditioning. Price is $95 a night for up to six people.
Oleta River State Park cabins, North Miami Beach. You’d never guess you were in the middle of the city when you take up residence in one of these 14 little cabins, each with 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. Consequently, they cost less than others: $55 per night.
Florida cabins in state parks in the northwest region
Fanning Springs State Park cabins, Fanning Springs. Located along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail with access to the Suwannee River, hiking trails and a second magnitude spring, two-bedroom cabins have central heating and cooling, an electric fireplace, screened porch and kitchenette. Cabins are equipped with linens and kitchen utensils. Each cabin can accommodate up to six people. Price: $100 per night.
For reservations, call (800) 326-3521.
Grayton Beach State Park cabins, Santa Rosa Beach. Grayton Beach cabins are nestled in the pine woods only minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico and a mile of sugar-white beaches. These cabins are exceptional in that the park land on which they are located has a separate entrance for which you require a code. This means they are within walking distance of that exceptional beach and there is nobody else there except those staying in the cabins. The cabin area was originally to be developed commercially, and the blacktop roads for those streets now winds through beautiful woods where nothing was built; they’re great for walking, running or biking. While staying here, we saw deer.
The cabins accommodate six people using the sleeper sofa. Grayton Beach State Park offers 30, two bedroom, one bath duplex cabins. Each cabin is equipped with a gas fireplace (available November through March), central heating and cooling, kitchen with basic cooking and dining utensils and outdoor grill. The screened-in porches overlook lovely woods. Linens, pillows, blankets and towels are provided. Price: $110 per night Aug. 1 – Jan. 31; $130 per night Feb. 1 – July 31.
Lafayette Blue Springs State Park cabins, Mayo. Lafayette Springs’ five cabins are expansive two-bedroom houses on stilts set in lovely quiet woods. They’re a short stroll to the Suwanee and the spring but the thick forest is all you see from the wraparound screen porch, which is its most spectacular feature. Each cabin has an electric fireplace, a full kitchen, one bedroom with a queen bed, and one bedroom with twin beds. It would easily accommodate a family or two couples. Price: $100 per night.
Suwannee River State Park cabins, Live Oak. Located along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, these cabins are terrific bases for touring springs and paddling the Suwannee River. Each of five oak-shaded cabins accommodates up to six people. These two bedroom cabins have central heating and cooling, a gas fireplace, screened porch and kitchenette. Cabins are equipped with linens and kitchen utensils. No minimum or maximum stay is required. Price: $100 per night.
T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park cabins, Port St. Joe. The park has one of Florida’s top rated beaches. Located on the bayside of the park, eight cabins each accommodate up to seven people with a fold-out futon and a day bed on the main floor and two queen-sized beds in the loft. The kitchen is complete with a stove, refrigerator, microwave, coffee-maker, basic dishes, cookware, silverware and a dining table. A screened porch with rocking chairs and a picnic table faces St. Joseph Bay. Each cabin has central heat and air, as well as a wood burning fireplace. A grill and shower are located outside each cabin. Linens are provided. Price: $100 per night.
Three Rivers State Park cabins, Sneads. A single cabin is available: A one bedroom, one bathroom log cabin with air conditioning, heating and a wood-burning fireplace overlooking Lake Seminole. There is a queen size bed in a downstairs bedroom and two smaller beds in the loft. A fully equipped kitchen includes an electric stove, microwave, refrigerator and utensils. Bring linens, pillows, food and fishing gear. Price: $65/night.
Here’s a Florida Rambler story on Three Rivers State Park.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park cabins, Santa Rosa Beach. Topsail Hill has a lot of cabins compared to other state parks – 32. They come in two styles – 16 smaller bungalows and 16 larger cabins.
The bungalows, which sleep four, are smaller, closer together and located in an older forest. The cabins, which sleep six if you use the sleeper sofa, are laid out on a loop that looks like a suburban street with small young trees. Both bungalows and cabins are located in the same area and are served by the same tram stop that takes people to the beach a little more than a half mile away.
The best part of the cabin is a wrap around screen porch with rocking chairs and a picnic table, and, of course, the location in this spectacular park.
A tram runs from the cabins to 3.2 miles of white sandy beaches. Each bungalow is fully furnished and equipped with all appliances, cable TV (unusual for Florida State Parks) and linens. A sleeper sofa in the living area provides additional sleeping accommodations. Each bungalow has a carport, full kitchen, bathroom, living room and utility room. Cabins accommodate up to six people with two bedrooms and two baths, full kitchen and a living/dining area. Cabin amenities include a screened porch, picnic table and grill. Linens are provided. Price: $100 to $120 per night.
Florida cabins in state parks in northeast region
Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park cabins, Keystone Heights. Sixteen cabins overlook Little Lake Johnson. Linens and towels are provided. All cabins have rocking chairs, a picnic table, a ground grill and fully equipped kitchen. Cabins include historic Civilian Conservation Corps cabins, concrete-block cabins and modern cabins. Price, depending on cabin type, is $65 to $100 per night.
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park cabins, White Springs. Located along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, each of five riverside cabins accommodate up to six people. These are big, well-equipped cabins with two bedroom, heating and cooling, a gas fireplace, screened porch and kitchenette. They are equipped with linens and kitchen utensils. No minimum or maximum stay is required. Price: $100 per night.
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.