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Florida residents get first dibs on camping reservations in state parks

Florida residents will get a one-month head start making campground and cabin reservations in Florida State Parks under new rules signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Included are cabins, RV sites, tent, boat and equestrian camping but not primitive sites and ‘glamping’.

The changes come in response to residents’ complaints that out-of-state visitors dominate campground bookings during the prime winter season. The bill received unanimous support in the Florida Legislature and goes into effect on January 1, 2024.

The new law allows residents to book sites up to 11 months in advance, while non-residents will have to wait another 30 days. An official Florida drivers license or state-issued ID are required for proof of residency.

In reality, the new rules will not have much impact until after the 2024 winter tourist season because sites have already been booked through next April.

In recent years, visitors from out of state have pounced on vacant campsites within minutes on the day they become available, virtually shutting out state residents.

Florida State Parks manages 65 campgrounds as part of its 175 award-winning state-park system under the umbrella of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The new rules follow major changes to the state parks reservation system last year, including a new online reservations system and a $7 per night utilities fee added for recreational vehicles and cabins. The utilities fee does not apply to tent camping.

Resident-preference rules still do not apply to Florida State Forests, which aren’t in demand as much as state parks. Nor does the new rule apply to National Parks or National Forests in Florida or public campgrounds in Florida’s city and county parks, which are managed by their respective government agencies.

Many county parks already have a wider reservations window for county residents.

Read the bill

The recent $7 utility fee remains intact

Florida State Parks recently added a $7 per day utilities fee to campsites and cabins with electric and water hookups, marking the first increase in camping fees at state parks since 2009, according to the DEP.

A new online reservation system was also implemented at Reservations can still be made by phone at 1-800-326-3521.

Other changes implemented in recent years include:

  • A two-night minimum for state park cabin rentals. Prior to May 24, 2022, the two-night minimum stay for cabins only applied to weekends.
  • A $17.50 cancellation fee to discourage overbooking, a tactic often used by snowbirds as they build their itineraries.
  • A one-time, non-refundable $6.70 processing fee is charged with each reservation.
  • State and local sales taxes and fees are additional.

Resident discounts

Florida residents 65 and over are entitled to a 50% discount off the base camping rates, which vary from park to park. The discount does not apply to the $7 utility fee, nor does it apply to cabin rentals.

The 50% discount is also available to Florida citizens possessing a current Social Security disability award certificate or a 100% disability award certificate from the federal government.

A 50% discount on the base camping fee is also available to families operating a licensed family foster home. 

Proof of eligibility is required upon arrival at the campground.

Discounts do not apply to cabin stays.

For more information, visit Florida State Parks Reservation Information page.

Related camping stories on Florida Rambler

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Sunday 28th of May 2023

As an out of state person, I understand the issue and see reservations as an issue everywhere I have looked. I’m from Alabama and have been coming to the Destin area for 15 years are better in late Spring/early Summer and play strictly by the rules with reservations, well within all the rules. We enjoy it, so we will continue to try for a site. They are already hard to get and usually require multiple attempts. I see where third parties snapping up the reservations are an issue, much like they do with concert tickets. What a shame.


Wednesday 13th of September 2023

@Gary, Let the tourist stay at the over priced private campgrounds and let the taxpayers in Florida have access to their Parks.


Thursday 18th of May 2023

I am a Florida Disabled Veteran and a senior citizen and since the reservation system took affect many disabled individuals my self included do to ongoing medical conditions and appointments are now denied the use of State Campgrounds especially during prime season. Disabled individuals do not have to ability to make reservations months in advance they need to have access on a daily basis or with a minimal time frame for reservations. Whatever happened to FF sites? It seems the entire system is in violation of the American with Disability Act and needs to be changed. At least this is the start in the right direction. Let the tourist stay at the over priced private campgrounds and let the taxpayers in Florida have access to their Parks.


Saturday 13th of May 2023

Alabama is looking better by the minute. I was on the fence about DeSantis. Who in the world discourages tourism in a tourism state? What next, Disney?


Saturday 20th of May 2023

@SteveG, I completely agree with everything you said here. Not only have they devised their system to pounce on the reservations within seconds after they are posted, they are rude to the locals who support Florida all year long. They should go ahead to Alabama and hope for good luck treating the people in that state the way they behave toward Floridians. They are so entitled. Bye bye now. Thanks for freeing up the extra campsite.


Sunday 14th of May 2023

Bye, Felicia!

I am a Florida resident, teacher, and volunteer firefighter, and it ticks me off that I cannot camp in my home state in winter, due to all the snowbirds.

These are not "tourists". These are low-budget retirees living cheap off the state park camping system, instead of renting a spot in a RV park.

They will still be here, they will find another place to stay, maybe some of the under-utilized state forests and such


Saturday 13th of May 2023

Talking to the Top Sail park Manager, he said that part of the issue is that the reservation system allows multiple concurrent reservations by a single email address and permits robot programs to scan for open campgrounds and a cancellation is filled with in a minute after the reservation was cancelled.

When we were there even though the reservation system showed no open sites, there were a number of sites that stayed unoccupied for days. This was in April 2023.

Bob Rountree

Saturday 13th of May 2023

That's something I'll have to check out. Under the old reservation system (ReserveAmerica), you were blocked from making multiple reservations at another Florida State Park for the same or overlapping dates. I tested it many times (albeit accidentally), but have not tried since the new reservations system was put in place last year. The problem, under your scenario, is winter campers who book as much as they can on the first day sites are available, then go back and cancel the days they no longer want as their itinerary takes shape. Unfortunately, higher cancellation fees and low daily camping rates make it easier for them to eat the loss without bothering to cancel sites they reserved.


Saturday 13th of May 2023

Rejoice campers. No more camping during hurricane season for me. Happy camper.

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