Florida Beach Camping Guide

By: Lauren Tjaden

If you love the beach during the day, why not try beach camping overnight? Florida’s incredible coastline offers hundreds of beachfront campsites, ranging from primitive tent camping to hotel-quality cabins and sites. Follow this handy guide for the best beach camping in the state.

Have you ever been lying on your beach blanket, watching the sun set and the first stars come out, and dreamed about spending the night right there on the beach?

You can make your dream a reality, because Florida has more than 900 campgrounds with more than 100,000 campsites. Some of the best and most popular campgrounds are located at the beach.

Most beach campsites are located in the slightly sheltered area behind the sand dunes. Camping right out on the beach near the waves is not usually permitted for safety reasons and to protect wildlife like sea turtles and nesting birds.

The season and your choice of shelter both play a big part in choosing your beach campground. Tent campers are more sensitive to weather conditions than RV campers who have access to heaters and air-conditioning. Some campgrounds cater more to RV campers than to tent campers, but Florida State park campgrounds generally make room for both.

Whichever camping rig you bring, you'll find a beach campground to accommodate you, and many will even accommodate your pet. Most campgrounds offer sites that are ADA accessible.

South Florida and the Keys

During the winter months, south Florida and the Florida Keys are in high demand with campers. Humidity is lower, breezes are refreshing, and bugs are at a minimum. Florida Keys beaches tend to have water that’s clear and shallow, making it more suitable for wading than for swimming. A mask and snorkel are musts, because the waters are filled with beautiful live shells, fish, grasses, and other interesting marine life.

For travelers’ convenience, the Overseas Highway has a series of mile markers on the roadside indicating the distance to Key West, located at mile marker zero. Mile-markers are often used when giving directions.

Long Key State Park - Located at mile marker 67.5 on Long Key, this campground offers 60 campsites right on the Atlantic Ocean, both for tents and RV's. The island and beach are narrow, but the water is absolutely gorgeous. The offshore coral reefs block the open ocean swells, resulting in calm, shallow water.

Curry Hammock State Park - Located at mile marker 56.2 on Little Crawl Key, the Park offers 28 campsites situated only about 100 feet from the Atlantic Ocean. The 1,200-foot, sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing, launching a kayak or building sandcastles. 

Bahia Honda State Park, located at mile marker 37, is one of the most scenic parks in Florida.

Lush coconut palms against a backdrop of white sand and clear tropical waters make this Park's campground one of the most popular in the state. And its beaches are widely considered the best in the Florida Keys. Three campgrounds with a total of 80 campsites cater to both tents and RV’s.

Three duplex cabins are also available if you don't want to rough-it.

Biscayne National Park - You can discover this undeveloped, scenic group of islands close to the booming city of Miami. Although most of the park is underwater, there are two islands of note – Elliot Key and Boca Chita Key – where camping is permitted. There are no cars, roads or bridges to these islands, so you'll either need your own boat or you'll have to arrange transportation. You can arrange transportation with Biscayne Underwater Park.

Elliott Key is the larger island and is forested with tropical hardwoods. It features flush toilets, cold showers and drinking water. Boca Chita Key has saltwater flush toilets, but no fresh water on the island.

Camping on these sub-tropical islands is for experienced campers. Mosquitoes and no-see-ums can sometimes be an issue, especially during the summer months. The beaches are small and tend to be rocky, but if you want to get away from it all in a beautiful place -- and especially if you like fishing and snorkeling-- this is the ticket.

Central and Northern Atlantic Coast

Sebastian Inlet State Park – Thanks to the park, you can camp at the most famous surfing spot in Florida, located right off A1A. Even if you're not a surfer, it's fun to watch them riding some of the best waves in the state.

The camping area isn't right on the beach, but it's close enough. The Park spans both sides of Sebastian Inlet. The jetty, popular with fishermen and surfers, is on the north side of the inlet; the camping area is on the south side. With three miles of beautiful beaches, a boat ramp, and the Indian River Lagoon for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing, you'll never run out of things to do.

Canaveral National Seashore – You can camp right on the beach in this pristine paradise, from November through April. The campsites are a quarter-mile walk from the parking area, and there are restrooms within walking distance of the campsites. The park boasts 24 miles of undeveloped Atlantic beach and only two beach camping areas – one accommodates six people, and the other 15 – so don't expect a crowd.

Fires are allowed in metal containers, except during dry periods. If you really want to get away from it all, this place is guaranteed to soothe your soul.

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area – Located at Flagler Beach, the Recreation Area boasts beach camping at its finest. The 34 sites are just behind the dunes, so close to the water that you can hear the melody of the surf, and all offer electricity and water.

Shade is scarce, but the almost-constant sea breeze will keep you cool and chase away bugs.

North Beach Camp Resort, located along the serene Atlantic Ocean coast in St. Augustine, offers a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy while camping between the Ocean and the North River.

Several other campgrounds on Florida's Atlantic Coast that will put you close to the beach are:

Fort Clinch State Park (Fernandina Beach)

Anastasia Island State Park (St. Augustine)

Little Talbot Island State Park (Jacksonville)

Central and Southwest Gulf Coast of Florida

Known for placid Gulf waters, white sand beaches and abundant bird life, the central and lower Gulf coast of Florida features some stellar beach camping. Your options include discovering a remote island accessible only by boat, or kicking back in a full-service campground within minutes of downtown St. Petersburg.

Fort De Soto County Park –There’s hardly an award this Park hasn’t won. Dr. Beach chose it as the number one beach in the nation in 2005, in 2011 it was named America’s best family beach by the editors of Parents, and TripAdvisor named it America’s Top Beach in 2009. Its beautiful campground is also noteworthy. Many of its campsites are situated on the calm backwater, with the beach just a short drive or paddle away. Mature trees provide thick shade over most of the campsites, and the breeze coming off the water is heavenly. Both tents and RV’s are accommodated and the sites have electricity and water. The Park also offers bike and kayak rentals, two fishing piers and a historical fort.

Cayo Costa Island State Park (La Costa Island) – Since there are no roads or bridges to this island, the Tropic Star ferries passengers to Cayo Costa State Park daily, leaving from Bokeelia on Pine Island. La Costa Island is a fairly large and mostly undeveloped island between North Captiva and Boca Grande. The camping area is right behind the small dunes and just steps from a fantastic crescent-shaped beach. Bring lots of batteries for your camera because you won't be able to stop taking pictures. Several six-person cabins are also available. None of the sites have electricity or water. Showers and flush toilets are available, as is drinking water. You may find that you have the beach practically all to yourself.

Red Coconut RV Resort –Want to step right out of your tent or RV onto a white-sand beach? Located on Fort Myers Beach, this palm fringed Resort caters to RV’s. Many campers return to its shores year after year, forming a little beach community. It's close to all the conveniences of Fort Myers Beach and is on a trolley stop. It's also close to traffic noise. If you don't have an RV, there are rentals available.

Northwest Florida

The summer months bring campers to the pure white sand beaches and clear emerald green waters of northwest Florida, which may be a bit cool during the winter months for beach camping.

Campgrounds in this part of the state are busiest from March through August and on holiday weekends. Where south Florida has palms, northwest Florida has pine trees—lots and lots of pine trees.

This is one of the quietest and least developed areas in the state and it is a pleasure to drive along Highway 98, which closely parallels the coast.

The Pensacola area is home to Johnson Beach, part of Gulf Islands National Seashore on Perdido Key.

It offers primitive camping, with some minor sand-hiking, on its far eastern edge. Sugar-white sand, rolling sand dunes and wetlands make up the landscape of this peaceful camping destination.

Just across the bridge from Perdido Key you’ll find Big Lagoon State Park, which separates the mainland from Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico. It boasts 655 acres, including beaches, shallow bays, nature trails and open woodlands. The park is a haven for nature lovers, and offers kayaking, hiking, fishing, birding and more. Its 75 camping spots are equipped with water and electricity, and accommodate both RV’s and tents.

Fort Pickens is another of Pensacola’s delectable offerings. Part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, on the west end of Pensacola Beach, it features a historic fort.

It also features miles of sugar-sand beach – and its camping locations are located just across the street from it. 

Its 200 camping sites include tent camping and RV camping areas for RV’s up to 50 feet. The sites include water, electricity and picnic tables.

 St. George Island State Park – Just offshore from Apalachicola, you’ll find St. George Island, home to a magnificent state park. If nine miles of white-sand beaches sounds tempting to you, consider reserving one of its 60 campsites.

The campsites, located between the Bay and Gulf, are about a half-mile from the beach. They’re nestled under a canopy of pines, and offer electric, water and a central dump station. The park also offers primitive camping and a group camp area. The primitive camp is located at the end of a two-and-a-half mile trail, and is also accessible by canoe or kayak. There are no facilities or water at the primitive camp, while the group camp is designed for organized groups and offers a restroom and cold showers. Fishing and shelling are exceptional at the park.

With a special permit and an additional fee, fishermen can access East Pass. Common catches from the beach or bay include redfish, mackerel, trout, whiting, flounder and more.

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park – This park’s 10 miles of secluded beaches are favored by nesting Loggerhead turtles -- and by beachcombers looking for a soul-soothing escape.  Located near Port St. Joe, the Park boasts two camping areas with a total of 119 campsites. The sites are complete with water and electric, and both are only a short hike to the beach. Gulf Breeze camping area is more open to the sea breeze, but lacks shade. Shady Pines camping area is appropriately named with ample shade provided by large pines, oak and palm trees.

The park also offers eight fully furnished cabins with air conditioning and heat that can sleep up to six people. The cabins have two queen beds in an open loft and a futon.

Camp Gulf in Destin offers an assortment of RV sites - from open beachfront sites with a view of the Gulf to tree shaded, grassy sites. Every RV Site is within walking distance to the Gulf of Mexico's emerald hued waters.

Emerald Beach RV Park, located half way between Pensacola and Destin on Santa Rosa Sound, is one of the closest RV Parks to the Gulf.

Two other stunning parks with campsites near the beach are St. Andrews State Park and Grayton Beach State Park. St. Andrews is at the east end of Panama City Beach. At any one of the 176 campsites, you can get away from it all without being too far away.

Grayton Beach State Park is located roughly halfway between Panama City Beach and Destin, south of U.S. Highway 98, a quiet respite that encompasses an award-winning beach.

Its campground scores high marks for privacy between campsites and most are easy on the eyes: some campsites even overlook a lake.

Cabins are available as well.

Getting Started

Campers who plan ahead are happy campers. 

Making reservations is a must. During the slower times of the year (winter in northwest Florida, and summer in the rest of the state), you may be able to get by without reservations on weekdays, but it’s better not to take the chance.

And to snag a campsite during the busy season and on all weekends and holidays, you'll need to make reservations months in advance.

Florida State Parks have a reservation system set up through Reserve America. It's a lot like making a hotel reservation. Just click and book. You can also go directly to the Reserve America website.

Click here to order a Camp Florida camping directory.

Photos by Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA

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I'm a 63 year female who is renting an rv from Iowa to Florida next Christmas and looking for the best area for me to camp along the gulf coast! Must be on the beach area! Have a dog and need a friendly campgrounds to help me set up. Also would like a grocery store close, because I would have to walk! May stay for one to two weeks! I hope you can assist me, know its early to be planning this, but need to save for this trip! Thanks, patti Wirtanen. 1081. 27th Street, Spirit Lake. Iowa. 51360
Hi Patti, I'm Kevin Mims, VISIT FLORIDA's Outdoors and Nature Insider. I'm responding to a question you submitted about RV'ing in Florida.

I RV travel full time, and hear good things about the Red Coconut RV Park, which is right on Fort Myers Beach. I haven't been there (yet!), but do hear lots of other folks talking about it on my travels. Plus, there's a Publix grocery store about a mile down on the same street. Not too bad!

I also use the Camp Florida and Allstays websites to help me find exactly the place I'm looking for. I'd recommend taking a look at those resources as well.

Hope that helps - have fun!

Patti, you MUST get yourself to Red Coconut on Fort Myers Beach. We live near there and frequent as often as we can. Front row spots go FAST and aren't cheap, but it is the time of your life! There's a trolley that runs throughout Fort Myers Beach, so you'll be able to get around quite nicely. Since you're coming during our busy tourist season, be prepared to wait in lots of lines, too! Oh, well, there's nothing else to do but soak up the sunshine, so what's a few more minutes in line? The Red Coconut also has spots not directly on the beach, as well as across the street, so there may be many opportunities for you. The staff has always been nice and helps direct you to your site (beachside is very tight). People are friendly and many return season to season. We bring two yorkies and most everyone else has at least one pet. Hope this helps!
Is there anywhere on or around Mexicao Beach FL where you can drive out on the beach and cookout and maybe build a camp fire?
Hi Kelly,
Thanks for reaching out.
The only place you can drive on the beach in northwest Florida is on Cape San Blas with a permit. Theyâre 24 miles and 33 minutes apart, according to Google Maps. Hereâs info on getting a permit: http://www.capesanblas.com/cape-san-blas-visitor-information.cfm
But even though there are picnic areas in the parks on Cape San Blas, theyâre not right on the beach and you canât just go out and build a fire.
In Mexico Beach, you canât build a fire on the beach either. However, two of the three parks offer picnic areas. Check them out: http://www.mexicobeach.com/pages/Things-to-Do/Beaches/
I know in Canal Park youâre right by the beach walkoverâand you can drive right out to that point-- but I canât recall if there are grills. Just contact the folks at Mexico Beachâs visitorsâ services and they can let you know. The number is 1-888-723-2546, and theyâre open 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Mon-Fri.
Sunny regards,
What are the campgrounds that allow you to actually camp on the beach (like in the first and last photos in the article)?
Hi Chris,
Thanks for reaching out.
Most beach campsites are located in the slightly sheltered area behind the sand dunes. Camping right out on the beach near the waves is not usually permitted for safety reasons and to protect wildlife like sea turtles and nesting birds.
BTW, I took those pictures in the photos you mentioned behind the dunes—not right by the waves.
You can camp very close to the beach in Canaveral National Seashore, from November through April. The campsites are a quarter-mile walk from the parking area, and there are restrooms within walking distance of the campsites. The park boasts 24 miles of undeveloped Atlantic beach and only two beach camping areas – one accommodates six people, and the other 15.
Bahia Honda State Park, located at mile marker 37 in the Florida Keys, has a couple of sites very close to the beach, but they go really fast so you have to book early.
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach, has 34 sites are just behind the dunes, so close to the water that you can hear the melody of the surf, and all offer electricity and water. They go fast too though.
Sunny Regards,
Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA
Florida National Camp Grounds Jacksonville st Augustine area for rv campling
Reply: Hi Sonia,

To order a free camping guide, map, VISIT FLORIDA Magazine and other publications, click here. It should give you a lot of help.

Here’s info from Jacksonville’s visitors’ service on area camping (You’ll have to filter the results, but there are 3 areas: http://www.visitjacksonville.com/where-to-stay/

Here’s info from St. Augustine’s visitors’ services on its many camping areas: http://www.floridashistoriccoast.com/listings/hotels/sto5

Also, check out this info on RV camping from Reserve America. http://www.reserveamerica.com/outdoors/florida-camping.htm

Sunny Regards,

Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA
does anyone have info on camping on the uninhabited islands off of the florida keys? we have a seaworthy boat and would love to ruff it on an island for a week but can't seem to find any information on the legalities of camping on the offshore islands of the lower keys.
It's a shame the RV's have ruined most campgrounds. RV lazies should stay home and watch TV and leave camping to real campers.
Can anyone tell me about Carabelle RV resort? How is the water? Is it nice or brackish? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks.
Hi Sarah,
Thanks for reaching out.
Check out these reviews of Carrabelle RV Resort from TripAdvisor. There are something like 36 photos from visitors so it should be easy to figure out if it’s what you want. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34121-d1485546-Reviews-Carrabelle_Beach_an_RVC_Outdoor_Destination-Carrabelle_Florida.html#REVIEWS
Actually, I scrolled through the photos, and it’s not completely clear how the water looks.
You can contact Carrabelle’s visitors’ services and they could tell you for sure: http://carrabelle.org/ Ph: 850-697-2585
Sunny regards,
Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA
big pine key-hows the fish these days-/?/any treasure lately-jollyrogers-anywhatsoever/?/
no storm damages;hurican Mathew-Nicole/?/hard to believe.
Hi I'm 50 next year and hiring a motor home from Orlando
I was going to drive to Bradenton area, are there any good Rv parks around there ?
Looking for a camping guide for Florida State Parks and privite
Camping on the beach is always a fun adventure. And, if you want to take it one step further, getting out on the water is even more fun! If you do not currently have a boat but would love to spend the day on one with your closest friends or family, consider a daily boat rental. With cleanup, maintenance, and storage handled for you, there really isn't much to do but enjoy the adventure that awaits you on the open waters.

If you are in the Deerfield Beech area and are interested in a daily boat rental, look here for more information - http://dailyboatrentals.com/
hi ! there are lots of place to visit in the world for traveling taking peace of mind i recently visited khasab musandam for beach camping and dhow cruise is the best place to visit i booked with this agency greate experence