8 Best Places for Camping in Florida — From Forests to the Beach
If you're searching for the best places to camp in Florida, you're going to be met with a lot of warnings about hot, muggy, mosquito-filled nights in swampy environs. And while choosing the wrong place at the wrong time is guaranteed to reward you with this exact experience, there are many wonderful places to camp when the season is right. (Stick to the months between October and March if you want to avoid sweltering heat, potential heavy rains, and an excess of biting bugs on your camping trip.) From dense forests to the tropical Florida Keys, read on for the eight best places to go camping in Florida.
Ocala National Forest
When it comes to the best camping in Florida, Ocala National Forest is hard to beat. Located in the center of the state, just north of Orlando, it's the southernmost forest in the continental United States. There are dozens of places to spend the night throughout the forest's 673 square miles, from full-service campgrounds to tent camping and even a few cabins.
Aside from the peaceful middle-of-nowhere camping experience, highlights of the Ocala National Forest include the Yearling Trail, which passes a sinkhole and remains of 19th-century pioneer homesteads, plus more than 600 lakes, rivers, and springs.
Cayo Costa State Park
You can camp in the great outdoors in almost any state, but what makes camping in Florida unique is the opportunity to do so on the beach or near the ocean. For gorgeous oceanfront camping views, look no further than Cayo Costa State Park, where primitive campsites and cabins are available for overnight stays.
Getting to this unspoiled Gulf Coast island is a bit of an undertaking — you can only reach it by boat or kayak, though a ferry service runs from several spots on the mainland — but those who make the trip will be rewarded with blue water, dunes, sun-bleached trees twisted by the wind, and nine miles of freedom along this undeveloped shoreline.
Myakka River State Park
What makes Myakka River State Park one of the best places to camp in the Sunshine State is that its 58 square miles are pure, unadulterated Florida — there are wetlands, prairies, pinelands, and more, with the Myakka River flowing through all of it. Here at one of Florida's oldest and largest parks, you can expect lots of palm trees, live oaks, and wildlife from ospreys to alligators. There are also plenty of trails to explore and places to paddle a canoe or kayak.
Biscayne National Park
Most people visit Miami for the glitz and sizzle, but for a totally different take on the Magic City, go camping in Biscayne National Park. The two campgrounds in the park are located on islands — Elliott Key and Boca Chita Key — so the only way to reach them is by boat. Boca Chita Key has toilets, but no showers, sinks, or drinking water, while Elliott Key has restrooms, cold-water showers, picnic tables, grills, and drinking water (though campers are advised to bring their own in case the system goes down). Biscayne National Park is tropical Florida camping at its best.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
In Hobe Sound, you'll find 16 different natural communities — including rare habitats like coastal sand hills, upland lakes, and scrub forests — at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. At 11,500 acres, it's the largest state park in southeast Florida and offers family, group, primitive, and even equestrian campsites.
While there, you can partake in activities like horseback riding, fishing, bird-watching, mountain biking, paddling the Loxahatchee River, and even hiking Hobe Mountain, an ancient sand dune that towers 86 feet above sea level. Don't miss a ranger-guided tour of the 1930s homestead of Trapper Nelson, a legendary local "wild man," aboard the Loxahatchee Queen pontoon.
Bahia Honda State Park
Another popular spot for tropical Florida camping, Bahia Honda State Park is located in the Florida Keys and offers everything from primitive campsites to RV hookup spots. Campers are treated to salty sea breezes year-round, as well as palm trees, beaches, wading birds, and gorgeous sunsets. Be sure to take a snorkeling tour to the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary during your visit.
Canaveral National Seashore
Though there are only 14 campsites at Canaveral National Seashore (all of which are solely accessible by boat, canoe, or kayak), we're including it on this list because where else can you wake up to an untouched beach and a front-row seat for a NASA rocket launch? Aside from the awe-inspiring experience of feeling the ground beneath you rumble as humans launch into space, there are also dune, hammock, and lagoon habitats to explore plus ancient Timucua Native American mounds.
Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo
If glamping is more your thing, Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo is a solid choice. For those who want to camp without roughing it, a glamping tent is the perfect in-between (though there are also campsites on the 1,700-acre ranch if your group is divided). The spacious canvas tents are permanent fixtures installed on platforms in a wooded area. There are also Conestoga wagons (yes, you can sleep in a luxe replica of a traditional 18th-century covered wagon) and luxury glamping tents, which are larger than the ranch's standard options and have full en suite bathrooms.
All of the ranch's glamping stays offer the rugged feel of camping, while also being fully furnished, air-conditioned, and stocked with luxury linens. Plus, the nightly campfire will be lit for you by the staff, so no pyrotechnic experience required. There are many activities on the property, too, from archery to airboat rides, but don't miss the weekly Saturday night rodeo, where athletes from across the region compete in trick riding, barrel racing, and bull riding.