Florida Camping in the Great Outdoors
Florida Camping can be an awesome experience. Blue skies, warm sunshine, swimming, fishing and hiking are usually staples of the experience. You can also find boating, snorkeling, diving, rentals and even tours in some campgrounds!
Extra-hot weather, humidity and bothersome insects are also part of the Florida outdoors, unless you know where and when to go to avoid them.
Let's take a look at the dos, don'ts and insider tips for an excellent trip.
The Best Campgrounds Are...
Hands down, the very best campgrounds in Florida are part of the Florida State, Federal and National Parks service. Private campgrounds cannot compare with the facilities, things to do and great campsites.
True, you do want to be comfortable while camping, but you also want to see the great outdoors! You can do this best at the Florida State, Federal and National Parks.
For this reason, I'll be describing these campgrounds and not the privately-owned ones. This isn't to say that the private campgrounds aren't any good -- many are very nice -- but if you want the true Florida outdoors, go to a park.
The Best Time of Year for Florida Camping
Now part of the answer to this is "it depends". Do you like warm days and mild nights? Days and nights on the cool side? Do you want hot weather for water sports, and nights don't matter because you have air conditioning? Are you in an RV or a tent?
As you can tell, there are all kinds of options.
November through April is the best bet for dry weather. Not to say you won't get any rain, but you'll certainly have a better chance at blue skies in the late Fall through early Spring in Florida.
If the rain doesn't get you down, add May, June, July and October to the list. You'll stand a pretty decent chance at least a few rainshowers, but usually they only last a few hours each. And you might get lucky and have blue skies the entire time.
I don't suggest camping in Florida in August and September for four reasons: heat, humidity, insects and hurricanes. The first three are pretty much a certainty, and the hurricanes have been targeting Florida in the last couple of years. However, hurricanes are not foregone conclusions, and they don't visit all parts of the state. If you're feeling lucky, by all means camp during these months.
Cool-Weather Florida Camping - Winter
Florida has some spectacular winter weather! Ranging from days in the 30's in the Florida Panhandle to the 70's in the Florida Keys, you're sure to find the camping climate you prefer. Blue skies and sunshine are the norm, and the waters of the springs, lakes, rivers and oceans are still swim-able for those who don't mind waters in the low 70's.
(How can you tell a Floridian? They won't dip their toes in water less than 78 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Cool-weather camping in Florida has a couple more advantages. First, the humidity is low and second, the insects are either gone altogether or are very sparse.
This wonderful weather starts in October in the Florida Panhandle and moves down the state, until even the Florida Keys are basking in it by late December. Especially in South Florida and the Keys, you may still see days in the low 80's even in December and January -- but the 70's is more usual.
A word of warning -- nights can get pretty chilly and sometimes downright frosty during the winter. Nights in the teens and 20's aren't all that uncommon in the Florida Panhandle. Even South Florida can get a cold snap and have nights in the low 40's to upper 30's. Most nights are warmer, but plan for chilly weather -- you never know when a cold front will come down suddenly.
Warmer Weather Florida Camping - Spring and Fall
Spring and Fall in Florida tends to be warm, with days from the 50's up to the upper 80's and low 90's. As you might guess, the further north you go in the state, the cooler the days and nights tend to be. Dressing in layers will allow you to adapt to whatever weather mother nature sends your way.
Warm weather camping is great for when you want to get out and enjoy Florida, but you don't want the really chilly weather. Biking, hiking, boating and fishing tend to be comfortable, although it can sometimes be a little cool for swimming.
If you're planning to camp in the spring and the winter hasn't been wet, you can probably do without insect repellant -- or at least without the heavy-duty stuff. In the fall it can still be damp, so expect flying insects at dawn and dusk. And during the day if you are in the back woods.
Hot Weather Florida Camping -- Summer
Summers in Florida are hot and humid as a rule. With that heat and humidity come insects, especially mosquitoes. If you plan to camp in Florida in the summer, you really need to bring some heavy-duty insect repellant. And I do mean heavy-duty -- something with DEET is best. (I know, I hate the thought of slathering DEET on too, but if you don't want to be miserable, bring it along.)
Hot weather is the best time for swimming though, especially if you are at one of the Florida springs. And if you are camping in the Florida Keys or along the Gulf Coast, the waters tend to be calmer along the beaches.
A special note for tent campers -- Summer is not the best time of year for you. In addition to being wet and humid, we have frequent thunderstorms which can generate some spectacular (and dangerous) lightening.
Campground reservations are very much suggested for any Florida State Park, at all times of the year. Reserve America handles all the reservations -- call them at 1-800-326-3521 or visit their website. You can make reservations up to 11 months in advance. You can also use Reserve America for the Federal recreation areas. You'll need to contact the National Park Service for the National Park campgrounds.
There is a two-week limit for camping at any given park, unless otherwise noted. However, you can always go and explore another campground when the two weeks are up, if you have an extended vacation. There are lots of camping options in Florida!
Most campsites are accessible by small to medium RVs and pop-ups unless otherwise noted. If you have a really big RV (you know who you are), check with the individual campgrounds to verify that they can accommodate you. Some campgrounds also have height restrictions (Bahia Honda for example) because you have to pass under a bridge to get to some of the campsites.
What Parks and Where?
There are over 60 Florida State, National and Federal Parks that have campgrounds. Click on the area where you want to check for campground details.
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