Free Camping in Florida – The Ultimate Guide -US Army Corps of Engineers – Part 3

Ortana South Campground - Source Recreation.gov

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a large federal provider of outdoor recreation with more than 400 lake and river projects in 43 states! Their campgrounds are extremely popular with campers. Unfortunately, there are only 3 recreation areas in Florida.

In this article I cover Army Corps of Engineers camping in Florida. Please note – USACE camping is NOT FREE. In fact, it is NOT CHEAP either with sites costing $30 and more for electricity and water. But as stated above these campgrounds are beautiful and much loved by campers nationwide. For this reason I decided to include them in this camping series.

(Feature Image – Ortana South Campground – Courtesy Recreation.gov)

Organization of Public Camping in Florida

Organization of Camping in Florida
Organization of Public Camping in Florida – source: Eben Schoeman (click to enlarge image)

As described in the first article of this series and in the org chart above, there are three Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas in Florida. They are:

USACE Campgrounds in Florida
USACE Campgrounds in Florida (click to ebnlarge)

Information and Booking

I will soon post a video review of each campground. In the meantime, here are the three best sources of information:

  • USACE Lake Okeechobee – informative website describing the USACE Recreation opportunities at Lake Okeechobee. Here you will find directions and information about facilities and amenities.
  • USACE Lake Okeechobee – The USACE Lake Okeechobee Mission Pages. Detailed background information about the area.
  • Recreation.gov – excellent website with detailed information about the campgrounds including maps and photos. Official booking site for USACE campgrounds.

If you are unfamiliar with Recreation.gov, do spend some time exploring the site. It is the official portal for reservations, venue details and descriptions of 12 Federal Participating Partners: Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Federal Highway Administration, National Archives & Records Administration, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, Tennessee Valley Authority, Fish and Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers and US Forest Service.ec

Free or Cheap Camping Map of Florida

This map shows each of the campgrounds or areas, grouped by color. For example, State Park Campgrounds (fee required) are shown as Orange, National Park Campgrounds (fee required) are shown in Red.

In Part 4, I write about National Parks in Florida and camping opportunities.

YES, Take me to Part 4!

Port Canaveral Hotels with Park and Cruise Packages

Port Canaveral Hotels Comparison

If you book a cruise from Port Canaveral it is best to fly in at least one day early and overnight near the Port. Fortunately, there are many Port Canaveral hotels with park and cruise packages to consider. You can choose from hotels in Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach and further out in Titusville, Cocoa or Merritt Island. Hotels near Orlando airport are also popular.

In this article I provide an easy-to-use snooze-and-cruise comparison table for local hotels near Port Canaveral. I also provide a link to a local travel agency with excellent cruise packages.

Most cruisers look for one or more of the following when booking a hotel:

  • Breakfast
  • Free and/or safe parking
  • Shuttles to/from the cruise terminals
  • Airport transportation to/from Orlando, Melbourne or Sanford

It is a time-consuming process to contact each hotel and ask about these requirements because their websites are confusing and often inaccurate. I hope the comparison table below will simplify your search!

How to use the Hotel Comparison Table

The table represents hotels in Cape Canaveral (home of Port Canaveral) and Cocoa Beach (next door).

  • Column 1 – Port Shuttle Service – Cost per person in a shared van, one way from hotel to port or back
  • Column 2 – Airport Shuttle – If available, cost per person in a shared van, one way from or to Orlando Airport
  • Column 3 – Hotel parking cost per vehicle per night during your hotel stay (not while cruising)
  • Column 4 – Hotel parking cost per vehicle per day while cruising (if available)
  • Column 5 – Breakfast cost per person (if available)

Blank entries – information is not provided (perhaps the hotel is new or the service is under review). Call the hotel direct to check!

Port Canaveral Cruise Hotel Amenities Comparison Table

Port Canaveral Hotel Amenities Comparison Table
Port Canaveral Hotel Amenities Comparison Table (click to enlarge)
Booking.com Booking.com

Port Canaveral Cruise Hotel Map

The location of each hotel can be found on my Port Canaveral Map. Go here to Open the Map

Hotel and Transfer Packages offer by a Travel Agency

If you prefer to have someone else take care of your pre-cruise snooze-and-cruise arrangements, look no further than GoPort! Go here to read more about GoPort.

TIP – I think GoPort offers good value for money and will review this company in an upcoming post. However, not all their packages are necessarily cheaper than booking direct with hotels and arranging your own transport. If you are looking to pay the least for your pre-cruise stay, I recommend you do some price research!

PortMiami and Miami Beach Webcams

PortMiami webcam

The Best Webcams near PortMiami

Downtown Miami (and Miami Beach) are wonderful places to visit before or after a cruise.

Fortunately there are several webcams near PortMiami and overlooking Miami Beach for us to enjoy a year-round view of this vibrant city. If you know of other webcams to review please email me!

NOTE – Some webcams do not display on phones. They may require a subscription. This happens because some ads are blocked on phones and the webcam owners are losing revenue. Desktop views are fine.

My PortMiami Webcam Map

Please open my PortMiami map to see the location of each webcam – marked with a green or purple camera icon.

PortMiami Webcams

These are by far the most popular webcams because of the ship interest. My favorite webcams are mounted on top of the Intercontinental Hotel.

Every cruise day you can watch the cruise ships arrive before sunrise and depart between 4pm and 5pm.

  • The webcam from PTZtv has the best view of PortMiami – the LIVE view is here
  • Earthcam has a webcam that shows the western part of PortMiami (Terminal V – home of Virgin) as well as the Bayfront area. The live view is here.
PortMiami from PTZtv
PortMiami from the PTZtv webcam on top the Intercontinental Hotel
Earthcam View of PortMiami
Earthcam View of PortMiami and Downtown Miami from webcam on top the Intercontinental Hotel

The Miami Beach webcams

As shown on my map there are several webcams showing the Miami Beach area.

Here is an image of the view of Miami Beach – the LIVE view is here

Earthcam view of Miami Beach
Earthcam webcam view of Miami Beach

Bushnell Shield Series Instant Cabin Tent Set Up

Bushnell Shield Series Tent

In this video I demonstrate how to set or pitch my current camping tent – The Bushnell Instant Cabin Shield Series Tent. I chose this tent for several reasons:

  • Easy set up and take down
  • Light weight
  • Compact packing for easy storage
  • Tall enough (6″ plus) so I can stand inside
  • Large enough for two people and plenty of camping gear
  • Large vestibule (veranda) to enjoy the outdoors
  • Openings for electric cables
  • Opening for a portable air conditioner
  • Affordable

In a future video I will show the take down and packing – often the most challenging part of camping!

A few things to consider

The tent is not perfect! Before setting out to camp, do consider the following:

  • Waterproofing! My tent leaked quite a bit at the seams. I sealed all the seams and sprayed the fly sheet with water-repellant.
  • Close the windows when it rains. The design allows for plenty of airflow and great views but zip the windows closed or you will take in water!
  • A good ground sheet to protect the tent floor which is quite thin.
  • It has little hanging space inside and the design does not allow for hanging heavy items from the center hooks.

Where to Buy

You can order the tent from Amazon.

My Youtube Set Up Video!

Pitching my favorite tent – Bushnell Shield Series Instant Cabin

Port Canaveral, Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach Webcams

Port Canaveral Webcam

The Best Webcams near Port Canaveral

I absolutely love webcams and are always searching for the perfect Port Canaveral webcam! I enjoy seeing cruise ships in motion and I want to know the conditions at nearby beaches.

Fortunately there are a few webcams near Port Canaveral and in this article I list them for your enjoyment. If you know of other webcams to review please email me!

NOTE – Some webcams do not display on phones. They may require a subscription. This happens because some ads are blocked on phones and the webcam owners are losing revenue. Desktop views are fine.

My Port Canaveral Webcam Map

Please open my Port Canaveral map to see the location of each webcam – marked with a green or purple camera icon.

Port Canaveral Webcams

These are by far the most popular webcams because of the ship interest. My favorite webcam is mounted on top of Fishlips restaurant.

Every cruise day you can watch the cruise ships arrive before sunrise and depart between 4pm and 5pm. Unfortunately, due to its location you won’t see ships at Terminal 3 and Terminal 1.

Here is an image of a ship cruising by – the LIVE view is here

Fishlips Webcam
Fishlips Webcam Views

The Cocoa Beach webcams

As shown on my map there are several webcams pointing to Cocoa Beach and Atlantic ocean.

While a direct view is fine for checking surf conditions, my favorite is the webcam on top of the Restaurants at the Cocoa Beach Pier – perfect for watching the patrons at the Tiki Bar, the beach, the surf and the surfers! You may even see cruise ships in the distance.

Here is an image of the view of the Cocoa Beach Pier webcam – the LIVE view is here

Cocoa Beach Pier
Cocoa Beach Pier

Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale Webcams

Port Everglades Webcams

The Best Webcams near Port Everglades

I absolutely love webcams and are always searching for the perfect Port Everglades webcam! I enjoy seeing cruise ships come and go, I want to know the conditions at the beaches and keep an eye on potential traffic delays.

Fortunately there are several webcams near Port Everglades! In this article I list my favorites. If you know of other webcams to review please email me!

NOTE – Some webcams do not display on phones. They may require a subscription. This happens because some ads are blocked on phones and the webcam owners are losing revenue. Desktop views are fine.

My Port Everglades Webcam Map

Please open my Port Everglades map to see the location of each webcam – marked with a purple camera icon.

Port Everglades Inlet and Harbor Webcams

These are by far the most popular webcams because of the ship interest. My favorite webcam is the Port Everglades Inlet webcam located in an apartment building next to the channel.

Every cruise day you can watch the cruise ships arrive before sunrise and depart between 4pm and 5pm.

Here is an image of the Inlet view of the webcam – the LIVE view is here

Port Everglades webcam - Inlet view (click to enlarge)
Port Everglades webcam – Inlet view (click to enlarge)

To see the cruise ships at the terminals, I also like the Port Everglades Harbor webcam.

Here is an image of the Harbor view of the webcam – the LIVE view is here

Port Everglades webcam - Harbor view (click to enlarge)
Port Everglades webcam – Harbor view (click to enlarge)

The Fort Lauderdale Beach webcams

As shown on my map there are several webcams pointing to the Lauderdale beach and Atlantic ocean .

While a direct view is fine for checking surf conditions, my favorite is the webcam on top of the Courtyard by Marriott! It looks north towards the Elbo Room – perfect for watching the beach, the surf, the road and people traffic!

Here is an image of the view of the Courtyard webcam – the LIVE view is here

Port Everglades Webcam - Courtyard
Port Everglades Webcam – Courtyard (click to enlarge)

Lauderdale-by-the-Sea webcam

It is no secret that this little downtown area is one of my favorites near Port Everglades! Here is a webcam of both the pier and Anglin’s Square!

the LIVE view is here

Webcam - Lauderdalebythesea
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea (click to enlarge)

Hollywood Beach webcam

Old Florida has a charm that’s all its own and you can take in the charm while strolling along Hollywood Broadwalk!

But how is the weather down there? Luckily there is a webcam!

the LIVE view is here

Hollywood Boardwalk
Hollywood Broadwalk (click to enlarge)

Other webcams shown on my Map

Fort Lauderdale Jetties – watch the cruise ships at sea

15th Street Fisheries – watch the water taxi and yachts

Hilton Beach Resort – Lauderdale beach and Atlantic Ocean

Dania Beach Pier – watch the ocean and beach

Lauderdale Beachplace – A busier part of Lauderdale beach and ocean

Walkabout Beach Resort – a quieter side of Hollywood Boardwalk

Where is my Ship docked at Port Canaveral in Cape Canaveral – Cruise Ship Locator

Port Canaveral Terminals

You are driving to Port Canaveral and wondering where your ship is docked! In this article you can see a real-time location map of all the docked ships at Port Canaveral (those with location beacons enabled).

If this is your first time in Cape Canaveral, do not be concerned. Once you enter the Port Canaveral area there are plenty of sign boards to guide you.

Cruise Terminals and Parking Map

Cruise Terminals and Parking
Cruise Terminals and Parking (click to enlarge)

Planning Tip!

The Port Authority at Port Canaveral publishes a ship schedule valid for about 6 months. The PDF file shows all cruise ships visiting the Port with information such as date, docking terminal, arrival time, departure time, etc.

Unfortunately things do change so it best to check my real-time map below on your arrival day.

Here is a sample page – note the Terminal column. CT8 means Cruise Terminal 8:

Port Canaveral Cruise Ship Schedule
Port Canaveral Cruise Ship Schedule Sample (click to enlarge)

The Port Canaveral Cruise Ship schedule is here – Go to Cruise Ship Schedule.

Link to my Port Canaveral videos

I post videos on Youtube showing Port Canaveral! Go Here to Watch my Videos!

Ship Locator

This map is easy to use! Simply zoom in out out and hover over the BLUE ships for names and information. The BLUE ships are cruise ships.

Where is my Ship docked at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale – Cruise Ship Locator

Port Everglades from the AirPort Everglades from the Air

You are driving to Fort Lauderdale and wondering where your ship is docked! In this article you can see a real-time location map of all the docked ships at Port Everglades (those with location beacons enabled).

If this is your first time in Fort Lauderdale, do not be concerned. Once you enter the Port Everglades area there are plenty of sign boards to guide you.

Cruise Terminals and Parking Map

Port Everglades Terminals and Parking
Port Everglades Terminals and Parking (click to enlarge)

Planning Tip!

The Port Authority at Port Everglades publishes a ship schedule valid for several weeks. The file shows all cruise ships visiting the Port with information such as date, docking terminal, arrival time, departure time, etc.

Unfortunately things do change so it best to check my real-time map below on your arrival day.

Here is a sample page – note the Date column. the vessel, the “To” or” From” Column (it shows the Terminal number, eg. ARR TO or DEP FROM):

Port Everglades Ship Schedule
Port Everglades Ship Schedule (click to enlarge)

The Port Everglades Cruise Ship schedule is here – Go to Cruise Ship Schedule.

Link to my Port Everglades videos

I post videos on Youtube. Go Here to Watch my Port Everglades Videos.

Ship Locator

This map is easy to use! Simply zoom in out out and hover over the BLUE ships for names and information. The BLUE ships are cruise ships.

Where is my Ship docked at Port of Miami (PortMiami) – Cruise Ship Locator

Port of Miami Terminals Map

You are driving to PortMiami and wondering where your ship is docked! In this article you can see a real-time location map of all the docked ships at PortMiami (those with location beacons enabled).

If this is your first time at PortMiami, do not be concerned. Once you cross the bridge (or tunnel) to PortMiami, there are plenty of sign boards to guide you. You can also watch my series of videos showing the terminals and parking garages or lots.

Link to my PortMiami videos

My videos are available on Youtube. Go Here to Watch!

Upcoming Cruise Ship Schedule

I do not know of a reliable cruise ship schedule where one can see the berthing or docking locations of cruise ships. In the meantime, please use the map below and the cruise ship locator to find your ship!

PortMiami Cruise Terminal Map

PortMiami Cruise Terminals and Parking Map
PortMiami Cruise Terminals and Parking Map (click to enlarge)

Ship Locator

This map is easy to use! Simply zoom in out out and hover over the BLUE ships for names and information. The BLUE ships are cruise ships.

Best Miami Hotels for Cruise Passengers near PortMiami and Miami Airport

Port Miami Cruise Hotel Clusters

Cruise Hotels Near PortMiami (Port of Miami) and Miami Airport

The hotel choices near PortMiami can be overwhelming especially for first-time cruisers who are concerned not only about costs but also about safety. In this article I list the most popular areas in Miami to book a hotel for your next cruise.

Much have changed in Miami in recent years and some of the internet stories about crime are simply not true anymore but visitors should remain cautious and book wisely!

Please open my PortMiami Map to see the locations of these hotels as well as other important information such as public transportation routes (metrovers, Metrorail and trolleys)

The Four Most Popular Cruise Hotel Clusters

Here are the four most popular areas (or hotel clusters) to consider when booking your cruise hotel.

  • Miami Airport Hotel Clusters
  • Brickell Hotel Clusters
  • Downtown Hotel Clusters
  • Omni (Arts & Entertainment District) Hotel Clusters

Miami Airport Hotel Clusters

Miami Airport Hotel Map
Miami Airport Hotel Map

With over 50 hotels to choose from, the Miami Airport area is a popular choice for cruisers for many reasons.

Rates can be more affordable than elsewhere, airport transportation is mostly free and most of the hotels are very familiar to cruisers. Frequent travels can easily use their loyalty perks to secure complimentary rooms or upgrades; not so simple for beach or downtown properties!

Go here for my Miami Airport Hotel Guide For Cruisers

Brickell Hotel Clusters

Map - Brickell Hotels near PortMiami
Map – Brickell Hotels near PortMiami

The urban Brickell District is my favorite location for pre-and post cruise stays!

Known by some as the “Manhattan of the South”, Brickell was once known mainly as a financial district but it has grown into a residential hotspot with spiraling skyscrapers!

I love Brickell’s safe walkability, access to free public transport, outdoor and indoor shopping, vibrant nightlife, fabulous restaurants and proximity to Downtown and PortMiami.

Go here for my Brickell Hotel Guide For Cruisers

Downtown Hotel Clusters

Map - Downtown Miami
Map – Downtown Miami

If you want to stay near PortMiami with views of the cruise ships then look no further than Downtown Miami!

The Bayside Marketplace and areas immediately to its south and west are very visitor-friendly with easy access to sightsee companies and public transportation services.

Some hotels are surprisingly affordable making Downtown Miami my second choice for cruise hotels.

Go here for my Downtown Hotel Guide For Cruisers

OMNI (A&E) District Hotel Clusters

Hotel Map - A&E District In Miami
Hotel Map – A&E District In Miami

The old OMNI district is being transformed into a modern Arts and Entertainment District connecting the Arts and Design District (to the north) and Downtown (to the south).

While the area does not (yet) have the vibrant style of Brickell for example, the hotels are skyscrapers, giving you fabulous views of the Miami skyline and Port.

Go here for my A&E District Hotel Guide for Cruisers