Free RV Camping in Florida
A bastion of hope and heat for those RVers who travel full-time, tend to stick to the United States, and don’t want their rig confused for an ice chest come Old Man Winter’s knock, the Sunshine State plays host to snowbirds and sunseekers of all lanes of life.
Florida has absolutely no shortage of places to dock your RV for the night–or a season–and whether you want to post up cabana side in the Keys or float a kayak through the Everglades, nearly every type of tropical paradise is possible. If the most important feature in your camping experience is cost though, you’re in luck, as there are ample free places to stay, and the experience isn’t always limited to just camping in the jungle.
Free Camping in Florida’s Public Lands
Nothing against the jungle, of course, it’s one of the best things about this state–nowhere else in the US will you find forests quite like those in Florida, and indeed its everglade ecosystem is something found nowhere else in the world. Still, free camping on Florida’s public lands can mean everything from palm-shaded waterfronts to Spanish moss dripping from pine trees.
If you’re used to just rolling up to national forest or BLM land and finding a spot, note that most of the organizations that oversee Florida’s public lands will still require you to call ahead (or visit them online) to make a reservation.
Notable exceptions are found in the state’s national forestlands. Near the Georgia border, East Tower Hunt Camp in Osceola National Forest–as the name implies–is a busy place during hunting season but not particularly so the rest of the year. The front portion of the camping area is largely wide open, and suitable for any sized rig, while cozier, more private areas are tucked back into the forest for you vanlifers and tent campers. A handful of other free camping spots exist within 30 minutes of East Tower as well.
In Florida’s Ocala National Forest–in the central part of the state, north of Orlando, near infamous Lake George–a handful of additional places to camp for free, and without a permit, exist. While some, like Lake Mary, are tent camping only, there isn’t exactly a shortage of places appropriate for somewhat larger RVs.
Over in the panhandle, Apalachicola National Forest has more free camping than its siblings. Hunting camps in the forest get a smorgasbord of ratings from sunshine hot to toes in the water cold, but Porter Lake Campground stands above the rest. Like all of the state’s free national forest offerings, don’t expect much in the way of amenities, but if seclusion and quiet are on your list, these are some of your best bets in the entire Southeast.
For the other 40 or so places you can camp for free on Florida’s public lands, though, getting a permit is often as easy as visiting a website, and never more than a phone call away (see individual listings on Campendium for all of that juicy info.)
Central Florida holds the lion’s share of free camping on public lands, with its shining jewel, DuPuis Campground, a South Florida Water Management District facility, where each site boasts a fire pit and picnic tables, plus flush toilets, showers and dumpsters to round out the experience. The campground has an equestrian focus and is a short distance from Lake Okeechobee as well.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District, snazzy name and all, hosts several other free campgrounds as well. Hickory Hammock Campground is a typically quiet, secluded getaway while Cypress Creek Preserve promises even less interruption from the outside world.
More Free Camping Options in Florida
Outside of your more stereotypical camping experience, and particularly in Southern Florida, options to find a free place for the night range from a Cracker Barrel near Fort Myers to various casinos happy to give you a place to stumble back to after the drinks and cards have all been had. Miccosukee Resort & Gaming is one such location outside of Miami. It’s become a hotspot for travelers due to its convenience when traveling to and from the Everglades, and is known as a safe place thanks to the security patrol. The fact that it’s free probably doesn’t hurt either.
For the whole shebang though, check out Seminole Casino Hotel near Immokalee where you still get the safety of a private security force but with a heaping helping of electrical hookups, a bathroom, and if you register in the casino to truly verify your stay, you may end up with a few gambling vouchers and some restaurant coupons.
Beyond camping in jungle paradises and casino parking lots, there are plenty of Walmarts, big chain restaurants and rest stops where you can camp for free, sprinkled across every corner of the state. Florida can be an expensive affair when it comes to private parks, and its gorgeous state park offerings are often booked out months in advance, making these free spots not just free, but downright near priceless.