Beach camping on Shell Key, near St. Pete Beach and Fort Desoto Park.
Above: Camping on the beach on Shell Key, Florida

 

Beach Camping in Florida

Florida beach camping opportunities fall into two categories: State or County parks, and private campgrounds. Private campgrounds tend to cater to RV campers, since that is where the money is. After all, they are running a for-profit business. They also tend to maximize the amount of "campsites" they can cram into a given area, which means more trees get chopped down.

State and County parks, on the other hand, do not have to maximize profits, so they are more likely to reserve areas for tent campers and to leave plenty of trees and vegetation, which greatly improves the whole experience. This page focuses mostly on State and County Park campgrounds.

With over 1800 miles of coastline, most of which is sandy beaches, you'd think that finding a good beach campground would be easy. But no, it isn't. Camping directly on the beach sand is often not possible. Campsites are usually behind the dunes. Why?

Because having a bunch of tents and camping gear out on the beach interferes with bird nesting in late winter and early spring and summer. It also interferes with turtle nesting from May through October. There are a few places where you can camp right on the beach, and I'll tell you about those below.

A good camping guidebook is indispensable. I have two books in my collection that I strongly recommend. They are:

Beach and Coastal Camping in Florida , and

 The Best in Tent Camping: Florida: A Guide for Car Campers Who Hate RVs, Concrete Slabs, and Loud Portable Stereos (Best Tent Camping)

 

Below is a great beach camping video produced by Cavin Brothers of ColorBlindMedia. It's time lapse video of a camping trip to an island near Cavin's home, set to music. You'll like it.

 
Winter at Home from Cavin Brothers on Vimeo.

Northwest Florida Beach Campgrounds on the Gulf of Mexico

Northwest Florida (Panhandle) campgrounds can get really cold in the winter time. Spring, summer, and fall are the best times to visit.

Gulf Islands National Seashore / Fort Pickens  Seven miles of brilliant white sand beaches. Campsites not right on the beach.

Grayton Beach State Park 
Campsites and cabins. Park is located along scenic 30-A. Sites not right on beach, but close enough to hear the waves.

St. Andrews State Park 
Beautiful park near Panama City Beach. Large campground. Some sites are on the bay. None are directly on the beach. Gorgeous beach and water. Fishing jetty.

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park 
Has 2 campgrounds, one near the beach, and one not so near. Has cabins, and 10 miles of remote white sand beaches.

St. George Island State Park 
Nine miles of pristine beaches. 60 sites with electric & water. Primitive camping available.

 

 

West Central and Southwest Florida Beach Camping on the Gulf of Mexico

Anclote Key
Access by boat. Ferry available for day visitors only. Primitive camping available. Ferry does NOT carry campers or camping gear. No dogs. Camp directly on the beach on the north end of the island. Composting toilets. No water available. You can kayak to the island.

Shell Key
Primitive camping in certain areas of the island. Fees required beginning in 2009. Boat access only. Permit required. Camp directly on the Gulf beach. No water or restroom facilities available.

KEEP YOUR STUFF DRY!

One of the biggest challenges in beach camping is keeping your stuff dry. Plastic bags will (more or less) suffice for a short camping trip, but they rip easily, are hard to open and close, and they just get all crinkly. I use the dry sacks that I got when I bought my kayak. They are fantastic! In fact, my 4-liter dry sack has become my default camera bag all the time, not just when I'm camping. I use the Sea to Summit brand.

Fort Desoto County Park
Has one of the most beautiful and well-maintained campgrounds anywhere. Backwater sites. Not on Gulf beach but close.

Charlotte Harbor Wilderness Camping
Camp in the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve on an offshore island. Arrange through Grande Tours.

Red Coconut RV Resort Fort Myers Beach. Park your RV right on the beach. White sand, coconut palms. Pretty cool.

Cayo Costa State Park
Camp on an island with no cars. Overlooking the beach. Cabins and tent sites only. Cabins and tents sites are just behind the low dunes, not out on the beach, but you can see the beach and gulf. No pop-ups or RV's. Boat access only. Take the ferry.

Keewaydin Island - Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Preserve. Boat access. Camping is allowed on the south end of the island.

Flamingo Campground In Everglades National Park. Not on Gulf beach, but has waterfront sites. Great fishing/kayaking. Too many mosquitoes in summer.

 

 

 

Beach Camping in the Florida Keys

Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
There are better campgrounds in the Keys. This one's OK for seeing the park. Very busy.

Long Key State Park
60 full facility campsites overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Very nice, but close to highway noise. Campsites are on the narrow beach.

Bahia Honda State Park
Most beautiful park in the keys. Sandy beaches; shallow, clear water; cabins, 3 campgrounds. Popular.

Curry Hammock State Park
Ocean front camping. Open Nov 1 - May 31. Tents and RV's.

Dry Tortugas - Fort Jefferson National Park. Boat access only. Reservations required. Ferry from Key West or take your own private boat. Located 70 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, west of Key West.

 

 

Atlantic Coast Beach Camping

Wind can be a factor on Atlantic Ocean Beaches. Most campgrounds are behind the dunes and are protected from the wind and salt spray.

Fort Clinch State Park
Fernandina Beach. 2 campgrounds, one right behind the dunes.

Little Talbot Island State Park
Undeveloped barrier island. 4 miles beaches. Guided Segway tours. Campsites are 1/4 mile from the beach. Near Jacksonville.

Anastasia State Park
139 campsites for tents and RV's within walking or biking distance of the beach.

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park
34 campsites overlook 1/2 mile of Atlantic Ocean beach. In high demand.

Canaveral National Seashore
Backcountry island camping requires a permit. Camping right on the beach is allowed at 2 campsites in Apollo Beach from Nov 1 thru mid April.

Sebastian Inlet State Park
Beautiful park straddles the inlet. Most famous surfing beach in Florida. Camp sites are on the bay side. Short distance to the beach.

Peanut Island
Palm Beach County Park. 20 tent sites. Reservations mandatory. 3 night maximum stay.

Biscayne National Park
No roads, cars, or bridges. Camp on Boca Chita Key or Elliot Key. Boat or Ferry access.

CAMPING? KEEP YOUR PHONE CHARGED!