Florida has plenty of RV parks, but for some, sitting in a trailer with cable TV, wireless Internet and all the comforts of home just isn't camping. If all you need for a perfect camping trip is a shady spot to pitch your tent, you're in luck. Florida is home to numerous outstanding tent campgrounds, from the secluded forests of the Panhandle to the dark wetlands of the Everglades.
Peace and Quiet in the Panhandle
Blackwater River State Park is among the Panhandle's best campgrounds for tent campers. The park is situated on the Blackwater River, where tea-colored water flows over a bottom of pure white sand. The river is open to canoeing, kayaking, fishing and swimming, and the campground itself has 30 campsites split into two loops. Each site includes full electric, water and sewer hookups along with a picnic table and campfire ring. While the park is also open to RVs, the spacious sites are divided by dense vegetation and towering hardwood trees, providing ample shade and privacy for tent campers. Other prime tent campgrounds in the Panhandle include Ochlockonee River State Park and Big Lagoon State Recreation Area. State Park campground reservations are available by phone or online through Reserve America.
Northern Florida's Natural Wonders
With thick coastal hammock forest overlooking a pristine Atlantic beach, Anastasia State Park is one of northern Florida's wildest and most scenic tent camping destinations. More than 100 campsites are carved into the dense forest of live oak, magnolia and palm trees. The campsites include electricity, picnic tables and campfire rings. As with most Florida state parks, drinking water, modern restrooms and flush toilets are readily available. In addition to canoeing, fishing access, swimming and surfing, the park is located along the Great Florida Birding Trail, which offers bird watchers a chance to spot hundreds of native and migratory species. Farther west, Manatee Springs State Park is another highly regarded tenting spot, with more than 75 campsites within walking distance of a spring-fed river where manatees spend the winter months.
An Oasis in Central Florida
Central Florida's Ocala National Forest is an hour away from both Orlando and Gainesville, but don't let its proximity to these urban centers fool you. This 383,000-acre wilderness includes dozens of campgrounds, most of them with only primitive accommodations, making them perfect for tents. Options include the Juniper Springs Campground, Fore Lake Campground and Salt Springs Campground, among others. With the exception of Salt Springs, which includes full-hookup sites, the campsites throughout Ocala National Forest are limited to drinking water, vault toilets and, in a few cases, showers and modern restrooms. Reservations are available by phone, but campsites are typically available on a first-come, first-served basis as well. For true wilderness experience, dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in several areas throughout the forest. Nearby Blue Springs State Park also has tent camping opportunities.
South Florida Adventures
Everglades National Park encompasses more than 1.5 million acres of forests and wetlands at Florida's southernmost tip, protecting one of North America's most fragile ecosystems. A handful of campgrounds exists in this wild landscape, perhaps the best known of which is the Flamingo Campground. Overlooking the south Florida coast, this campground consists of nearly 300 campsites, divided between tent sites, RV sites, large group campsites and walk-in beachfront tent sites. Drinking water, flush toilets and showers are available. Other campgrounds within Everglades National Park include the Bear Island and Long Pine Key campgrounds, and recreational opportunities include fishing, wildlife viewing hiking, swimming, canoeing and kayaking. South Florida is also home to Bahia Honda and Cayo Costa state parks, both of which offer tent camping.
- Darrin Klimek/Photodisc/Getty Images