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Are Florida state parks open for beach camping?
Florida state parks are currently in the process of a phased reopening of all parks and campgrounds. Most of the 175 state parks and 900 plus campgrounds in Florida are already open, although with varying degrees of access. This means it’s entirely plausible to go beach camping in Florida right now!
The best way to find out which Florida state parks are open and which have operating beach campgrounds is to visit their official website. All parks with beach camping listed below are accepting RVs and/or tent camping with advance online reservations as of the publishing of this article.
Social distancing considerations:
- Florida state parks are actively reopening with special precautions. These include limited capacity for both day use and overnight accommodations in addition to reduced public amenities. Some restrooms, playgrounds, and pavilions may be closed. Please visit the website of each state park or campground as social distancing restrictions can vary by location.
- Currently, campsites are not available on a walk-in basis within the state and must be booked online in advance. Most Florida campgrounds are operating at reduced capacity.
- All park visitors, campers, and staff members are expected to wear a self-provided mask when inside buildings, maintain a distance of 6 feet from people outside their group, and to avoid gathering in large groups.
Where is the best RV beach camping in Florida?
If you’re taking a Florida road trip, the following three beaches are excellent options for RV beach camping.
1. St. George Island State Park
Often touted as the best RV camping on the panhandle, St. George Island State Park isn’t your average city-side beach. Boasting miles of untarnished beaches ideal for fishing, beachcombing, and stargazing, it’s nearly 2000 acres are a true wildlife haven. Within, you’ll find 60 rig sites with electricity, water, and grilling pavilions. Find it within the Apalachicola National Forest midway between Tallahassee and Panama City.
2. Bahia Honda State Park
Probably the top choice for RVers looking to beach camp in the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda State Park is an idyllic oasis for small to midsize rigs (6’8” height clearance and 50 feet max length). Just 35 miles from Key West, this 500 acres park is home to the infamous Bahia Honda Rail Bridge, soft white beaches, tropical forests, and turquoise seas.
3. Fort De Soto Park
Next on the list for a prime spot of island whiling, Fort de Soto Park is a genuine paradise for every kind of camper located in Tampa Bay. One of the best perks of this 1136 acres park is the dog-friendly beachfront campsites (and dog park) which accommodate all styles of camping from primitive tents to grand size RVs. But just because Fido can come doesn’t mean it’s not wild. Fort de Soto Park is renowned for its 7 miles of beach with ultra-calm water, two fishing piers, sea turtle nesting grounds, and over 300 unique bird species.
Where is the best beach tent camping in Florida?
1. Cayo Costa State Park
This gem of a Florida beach campground literally requires island hopping and a skipper for access, and it’s a definitive no-go for RVs. But, for the tent folks, Cayo Costa State Park is utter bliss. There are just 30 rustic sites on this pine blanketed island known for its manatee sightings, shelling beaches, and snorkeling. Discover it blissfully hidden away on the tiny Pelican Bay, midway between Sarasota and Naples.
2. Gulf Islands National Seashore
If you’re dreaming of plopping your tent right on the sand just feet from the splashing sea, there are very few places in Florida where that’s a possibility. Fortunately, Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola is one of them and it’s nothing short of epic.
Strictly off-limits to RVs, the super tiny Perdido Key is a tent camping paradise. Even so, the best-kept secret has to be it’s unique accessibility features. Not only does the ranger offer beach wheelchairs, but there is even an accessible one-mile-long boardwalk.
3. Biscayne National Park
For those who are really serious about getting away from it all, there may be no better choice than Biscayne National Park. However, this one is not for the faint of heart and is likely best left for the true camping pros. These pristine Florida beach campsites are about 25 miles by sea from Miami and can only be reached by boat.
There are two small islands in this park, Elliott Key and Boca Chiquita Key. The first has flush toilets, cold showers, and drinking water, but Boca Chiquita has zero freshwater and no amenities beyond vault toilets. But, if you’re prepared, the rustic, rocky shorelines of both islands offer second to none snorkeling and fishing paired with a truly off-the-grid beach camping experience.
Other know before you go FAQs
Still have some questions? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Browse through some of the most asked questions about beach camping in Florida:
Fortunately, Florida is chock full of wilderness areas that allow free camping. Sites can range anywhere from limited to full amenities, even though they don’t cost a penny. Your best bet to find free camping in Florida is to skip the state parks and head to the national forests. The downside to this that they are forests, not beaches, so the scenery probably won’t be oceanfront.
Both yes and no. This one really depends on where and what you are doing. In most cased, it is illegal to simply park your car and sleep in it. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. It is widely known that you can “camp out” in Walmart parking lots without being bothered. However, you’ll definitely have to nix the idea of a beach site.
Keep in mind that police officers can still approach you. If you are found to be intoxicated or under the influence of any illegal substance, you can be arrested and charged with a DUI even if your car isn’t running.
It may also be okay to sleep in your car if you are inside a state park or national forest where camping is permitted. But, you still need to be parked in an actual campsite, and you must have a paid reservation as well.
Sleeping in your car in a closed public beach parking lot is not permitted anywhere in Florida.
Yes, most public Florida beaches are accessible 24/7. It is possible to walk on the beach at night, but it can depend on your location. Different beaches, municipalities, and other jurisdictions may have their own regulations. Before you decide to go out at night, consider whether you are in a safe location in regards to both crime and wildlife.
There are many free RV campsites in Florida national forests. Once more, they probably won’t include beach camping. You’re more likely to find forests, mangroves, springs, creeks, and lakes. If you do choose free camping over the beach, very carefully consider where you swim as alligators are quite common in Florida.
Always double check campground websites before setting out for your destination. Social distancing regulations can change quite abruptly and a paid reservation does not guarantee access if the park or campsites have been closed.
Campsites are often small and close together, so be prepared for a tight squeeze. In order to comply with social distancing regulations, most Florida campgrounds are running at 75% capacity or less. So, even if your personal site is small, you may have empty sites between yourself and your nearest neighbor.
If traveling by RV, be aware that sewer hookups are surprisingly rare at Florida state parks. However, in some cases, you can pay a reasonable fee for dump service.
Unfortunately, beachside camping in Florida is notoriously not pet-friendly. For a flawless sea and sand escape, it’s best not to simply show up with your pooch and hope for the best. Always verify before your arrival if the campground of your choice allows dogs on-site.
Sun and sand come in abundance in The Sunshine State, you’ll definitely want to bring your own shade, ice, sweepers, sunscreen, and bug repellant, too. Not all campground stores are open right now, so err on the side of caution and come prepared with everything you might need.
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