The Florida Keys is a unique location in the southeastern United States, an archipelago of coral islands, stunning beaches, mangrove forests, and tropical flora and fauna. Here you can go snorkeling, fishing, boating, walking in beautiful places, and enjoying the famous sunsets and starry sky. With this in mind, it’s clear that Tent camping in Florida Keys is so popular.
The Florida Keys have become an ideal place for camping lovers. Campsites can be found on almost every island, and there are absolutely wild places, primitive campsites with a minimum set of amenities for placing your own tent or motor home, and luxurious RVs. RV campers differ from the rest in their huge number of features, as well as the environment inside. Very popular in recent years are RVs, which have everything you need for a comfortable stay. This includes a stationary shower, a toilet and a refrigerator, a picnic table, and much more.
As avid campers have observed, tent and car camping have long been in short supply in the Florida Keys, as well as in Long Key State Park. The Sandspur Campground at Bahia Honda State Park has also become less accessible for camping since Hurricane Irma (2017). Sandspur reopened in early 2022, although it is no longer used solely for tents. At the moment, it is unclear what will happen to the main campsite in Long Key.
Is tent camping allowed in Florida?
For now, tent camping is allowed in Florida’s national parks. Before going camping, it is worth checking if the park is open, as some of them are closed for maintenance. Others work throughout the year without interruptions, however, it is recommended to find out about the conditions of booking in advance, since most places can be booked no later than 11 months before arrival.
In the Florida Keys are not so many camping sites and they are quite expensive. Ever since the pandemic has eased, campsite prices across the Keys have skyrocketed. Tourists should be prepared for some serious competition with any campsite in the Keys when winter ends and the spiny lobster sport season (last Wednesday and Thursday of July) and the first week of the regular lobster season (August 6-13) begin.
In Keys state parks are booked all year round, so you need to look for a place in advance. Affordable campsites are recommended to be booked at least 11 months in advance and keep an eye out for cancellations.
How much does it cost to tent camp in the Florida Keys and what are the best Locations?
Depending on the location and infrastructure, the price of a campground in the Florida Keys will vary. Here are the available locations with a description of the conditions and a price list for accommodation:
1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Upper Florida Keys)
John Pennicamp is a Florida Key Largo State Park. The state park, located on a coral reef in the United States, is the country’s first marine underwater park. You can conquer the beautiful underwater world located here with the help of scuba diving, or using a boat with a glass bottom.
A big attraction of this Key Largo campsite is the marina with boats for diving and excursions. You can go for a walk on the water directly from the campsite – the boat ramp is a few minute’s walk from the campground. In addition, the territory of Key Largo has several good swimming beaches and a concession area within walking distance.
In Long Key State Park, the campground stopped working, for this reason, the attention of tourists switched to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park. A feature of this place is graphite on the sites for accommodating guests, which is convenient for camping in Florida if the camper use a cot rather than a sleeping bag. When placing a motor home, a gravel cushion does not cause inconvenience. It is worth noting that tent sites are equipped with tables and benches for outdoor picnics.
There are 39 places available in John Pennekamp Park where you can set up tents or motorhomes. Regardless of the type of accommodation, the cost of a place will be 36 US dollars per day. Utilities will also have to pay $ 7 per day. Reservations will cost $6.70 for the entire period. At the entrance to the park, you will also have to pay 8 US dollars for entry.
The full service includes use of the heated swimming pool, outdoor beach access, boat, kayak and paddle board rental, Wi-Fi garden and laundry. Guests are given a full schedule of various activities in the summer. By not using these services, you can get a $25 discount. The park has a games room and a Body’s boutique.
2. Long Key State Park
During Hurricane Irma, many full-service campsites were affected. However, tents along the ocean are currently offered. This place is a real quiet oasis, which is located along the waterfront. Each camping site is equipped with a picnic table and a grill where you can grill meat or vegetables, as well as a shower with cold water. There is no connection to electricity and water. You can also stay with pets here.
The park is perfect for those people who want to relax and unwind in nature. If you have a license, you can do sport fishing here, all the necessary equipment is available for rent. The famous Golden Orb and Layton walking trails will allow you to enjoy nature and fresh air. In addition, visitors can get up close to the mangroves by exploring the shallow waters by boat. The low illumination of the park allows you to see the best views of the starry sky.
Florida Keys is famous for its stone crabs. It is of course a great attraction especially with children to try to catch the crabs themselves. So be sure to take a grill with you and check out this article on how to cook crab legs on the grill easy and tasty.
As of today, Long Key State Park currently only offers camping in the Florida Keys. Visitors pay $4.50 to enter this park. For two you will be charged USD 5.50 and for each additional person USD 0.50 for each additional person. The location is open seven days a week 365 days a year. There are many activities for an interesting holiday: bird watching, kayaking and hiking in the Atlantic Ocean.
3. Curry Hammock State Park (Middle Florida Keys)
Curry Hammock has a great getaway overlooking the stunning beach, where water sports are available, including kite surfing and kayaking. Due to the fact that the campsite is located away from the noisy Overseas Highway, there is almost no traffic noise. Given that the gravel pad lies on all 28 sites, it is recommended to place camper vans on them. The remaining areas are covered with sand cushions. Tourists who have tents should avoid places no. 3, 10 to 19, 21, 26 and 28.
The most suitable places for placing tents are places No. 6 – 9 and 22-25.
Near each resting place there is a picnic table, a grill and an electrical outlet.
The central toilet has a shower and hot water. Each parking costs $36 per day. There will also be a daily utility bill of $7.00 and a booking fee of $6.70. Florida residents aged 65 and over are eligible for a 50% discount in this camping in Florida.
4. Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park just recently (Spring 2022) reopened the Sandspur Tent Campground. Perhaps the place is already different from what it was in the past, when mobile homes and trailers were placed on the territory. Fourteen tent sites are now equipped with gravel pads, similar to Buttonwood Campground, the last site is more extensive with 48 dirt sites. Near each resting place there is a picnic table, a grill and an electrical outlet. At the Bay Campground, guests can occupy eight primitive tent sites. They do not have electricity, and they are located next to houses for rent.
In general, the camping lover is praised by Bahia Honda State Park, claiming that the owners provide all the necessary amenities for a vacation. For electricity, water, use of shower and toilet, you will have to pay 7 USD per day.
More information: https://www.floridastateparks.org/BahiaHonda
5. Dry Tortugas National Park (Key West)
For lovers of wild camping in natural conditions without embellishment, you can take a ferry from Key West to the Dry Tortugas National Park. The area available for camping is near Fort Jefferson. A lot of birds live around the island, you can watch them by renting a kayak. To rent it, it is recommended to call Yankee Freedom (employees do not provide more than three kayaks per person).
There are fifteen places for camping with tents on the territory of Key West near Fort Jefferson, for booking it is not necessary to register 11 months in advance, as in previous cases. Renting is done on site on a first come, first serve basis, a night in a tent for one person in the tent camping will cost 15 USD. Only cash is accepted for payment in these tent sites of Key West.
This place is not equipped with tourist infrastructure, so for the weekend you will have to bring everything from dishes to drinking water with you. If you are going to snorkel, it is worth taking all the necessary equipment with you. When returning, you need to take all the garbage with you from Key West to the “mainland”.
More Information: https://www.drytortugas.com/
Tent camping in Florida Keys: Private campsites
While camping prices in national parks are affordable, private camping sites have become much more expensive in the past two years. If in 2020 it was necessary to pay 65 US dollars for a place for a tent, now prices start at 100 US dollars.
The following can be said for sure about private campsites: even primitive places for tents are much more convenient here than in national parks. They are located in the shade and are designed so that guests do not experience any inconvenience. Private campsites are more likely to host trailer and motorhome campers who love a comfortable stay. In most of them, guests can rent a place with a private jetty and enjoy fishing and other water activities. For campers, access to a boat ramp is also a plus, from where you can go fishing or snorkeling.
1. Big Pine Key Fisherman’s Lodge (Lower Springs)
This campsite is suitable for those who love snorkeling and fishing. If you have a boat, it will be ideal to stay here. The territory contains 72 tent sites where tents can be placed. Water taps are available for guests.
Occasionally, Big Pine Key hosts RV campers, however, there are no generators, so there aren’t too many of them. The cost of renting in Big Pine Key is quite high. Bookings in mid-summer 2022 (when lobster season hasn’t started yet) cost $249 for three nights. If a guest wanted to stay on the dam, it would cost him $300 for three nights.
- Beach Access
- Bocce Ball
- Camp Store
- Internet/Wifi Available
- Pet Friendly
- Recreation Hall
- RV Storage
- Swimming Pool
2. Boyd’s Key West Campground (Key West)
Primitive Boyd’s Key West campsite provides places for campers. However, it should be borne in mind that the places for tents are located close to each other. The only thing that separates the tents from each other is a modest fence.
Free Wi-Fi is provided in this tent camping. Visitors can swim in the heated pool and take a steam bath (as many as four saunas are available at the campsite). At Key West campground you can go down to the pier where boats are rented. Accommodation rates in 2022: $65-105 per one night.
The advantage of camping is the stunning view of the embankment. Boyd’s Key West campground is a short drive to Key West, a short bike ride away. The famous local restaurant Hogfish Bar and Grill is located just two blocks from the campsite. Tourists praise this place, speaking about excellent food.
- Beach Access
- Internet/Wifi Available
- Planned Activities
- Recreation Hall
- Swimming Pool
More information: https://www.boydscampground.com/key-west-camping-rv-sites.html
3. Fiesta Key RV Resort
Fiesta Key RV Resort is located near Long Key State Park, the Dolphin Research Center and Bun n’ Mary’s Dive Center. Key RV Resort has been updated over the past two years with 49 new RV sites available on site. Fiesta Key tent camping offers paid Wi-Fi, but cable TV is not yet installed in Key RV Resort. In general, guests praise Key RV Resort, especially noting the availability of accommodation with pets.
- Swimming pool
- Pets allowed
- Boat docks
- Wi-Fi Hotspot
Can you camp for free in the Florida Keys?
For those who are not going to a paid campground, a free campsite may be needed before traveling to the area. In most cases, vacationers are arranged to sleep in a car in free parking lots. This method has been used for many years; some travelers come to Florida Keys every year to familiar locations.
There are parking lots in the Florida Keys with full free 24/7 parking. There are not so many of them, but it is here that those who want to relax for free can stay. In order not to be detected, you do not need to open the crash in the camper, then there will be no problems. Where you can park for free, you can easily spend the night without spending money. However, for those who put up a tent, 24-hour free parking is hardly suitable.
One such car park is Casa Marina Key West. Many people know about this place and use it for overnight stays. The most attractive thing is that the place is not controlled by security, which could prevent the placement of people in the parking lot. This secret campsite will save you tons of money when you’re camping in a beautiful place like the Florida Keys.
Another place for free camping will be the road “behind the Leo campground”. This place on Stock Island also hosts free campers for several days or weeks.
Those who used to often go to the free camping at Ramrod Swimming Hole should know that now this place is not available for camping. According to local residents, it was forbidden to put up tents on the territory. However, Ramrod is still free to visit, which is definitely worth doing as the place is so beautiful.
Free overnight parking is available and safe if you are staying in a new location every day. In this case, you can find campsites near Key Largo, on Sugarloaf and on Marathon Key. If you have a lot of time, you can always look for good places for free camping, not only in 24-hour free parking lots. The most adventurous travelers can search daily for new places to save money and enjoy the excitement of the search.
What you need for camping in Florida Keys
Depending on which campsite you decide to stay in, a different set of necessary things may come in handy on vacation. In primitive places for recreation, where there is no the slightest infrastructure, you will even have to take water with you. However, regardless of the chosen campsite, tourists in Keys will need:
1. Beach or water shoes
The beaches of the Florida Keys are littered with pebbles and shells, which are not very pleasant to walk barefoot on. The standard beaches of this place are a little rough, so it is worth protecting your feet so that the rest will leave only pleasant impressions.
2. Swimsuit and swimming trunks
Water activities are one of the main activities for the guests of the Keys. Even if you settle in shallow water, you can always swim on an air mattress or in a circle, play ball and enjoy other water activities.
3. Flask for water
If you choose to camp in Florida Keys, you should carry a bottle of water or a handy flask with you so you can drink a little during the daytime. Try not to get sick to take water with you on long walks, this will help you get great health throughout the day.
In the local climate, a large percentage of the sun’s rays hit the skin during the daytime, so rest can turn into torture. To protect yourself from sunburn, be sure to take sunscreen with you, apply it before going to the beach and use it after swimming.
The Florida Keys is becoming an iconic destination for everyone who comes here. During Camping in the Florida Keys, travelers enjoy water sports, diving and snorkeling, fishing, and other recreational activities. Sunsets in the Florida Keys are legendary for locals and tourists alike. Picturesque nature and clear sea make this region one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Check our beach camping tips for your next trip to get the best Florida keys camping experience.
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