By Sara Sheehy
Florida is so much more than what first meets the eye. While you may think of Disney World, fashionable cities, and retirees, those who are lucky enough to call the Sunshine State home know that it’s full of a natural beauty that begs to be enjoyed.
As a bonafide snowbird state, there is no shortage of RV parks and state campgrounds to pitch your tent or park your camper for a night, a week, or a season. But if free camping is more your style, and you don’t mind venturing a bit off the beaten path, you’ll see a side of this wild state that few explore.
Where to Find Free Camping in Florida
Finding free camping in Florida takes a bit more planning than other states, but don’t let that put you off. The state’s public lands, where you’ll find the bulk of the free tent camping and RV camping, often require a reservation and permit that can be acquired online or by calling ahead. This extra step only takes a moment and opens up a world of possibilities.
Once you’ve secured your permit, be sure to check Campendium to get up-to-date knowledge on what kind of amenities you’ll find at the campsites. Most free camping options will be “off the grid,” with limited services.
The Best Free Camping in South and Central Florida
Easily some of the most well-known free camping spots are in southern Florida’s DuPuis Management Area, which has 16 primitive campsites along with miles of hiking trails, equestrian trails, and ponds for fishing. Campers can stay for 8 days at a time, up to 30 days annually. If you’re staying at DuPuis and crave that city life, West Palm Beach’s oceanside glamour is less than an hour’s drive away.
Another popular spot is Lake Panasoffkee in centrally-located Wildwood. You can stay for up to 14 days in this central Florida gem, and even spend a day or two exploring nearby Disney World.
If a shaded, quiet spot in the palm trees sounds heavenly, look no further than remote Hickory Hammock campground in Lorida, or Potts Preserve - Dee River campground in Inverness. Both of these spots offer beautiful, primitive camping in Florida.
There is no free camping in the Florida Keys, but it’s such a spectacular spot, it’s worth the splurge on a state park campground or RV park!
The Best Free Camping in North Florida
What northern Florida lacks in the glitz and glamour of the south, it more than makes up for in natural, rugged beauty. 17 Mile Hunt Camp, located just outside of the Big Gum Swamp Wilderness, is set in a secluded and peaceful forest. It’s a great spot to meet up with friends and family for a weekend of fun.
Explore Florida’s Gulf of Mexico with a stay at the well-loved Bayside Campground near Pensacola. This is boondocking in Florida at its finest, with waterfront spots and plenty of trees for cooling off in the shade. Other Gulf of Mexico spots includes Pope Still Hunt Camp and Dead River Landing Recreation Area.
Whether you’re spending a month in the state or simply taking a getaway weekend close to home, there’s a free camping spot waiting for you in Florida.