Free Camping in Florida – The Ultimate Guide – State Forests – Part 6

Florida State Forest Camping

With 38 State Forests, Florida offers a wide selection of camping opportunities away from the crowds. While most of the State Forests are in the northern half of the State, there are luckily a few forests with camping in the warm south (much appreciated in winter)!

Florida State Forests Map
Florida State Forests Map – Clik to enlarge

In this article, I cover State Forest camping in Florida. Please note – State Forest camping is NOT FREE but affordable starting at $10 per site per night.

Point Washington SF Entrance
Point Washington SF Entrance – click to enlarge

Organization of Public Camping in Florida

Florida Camping Org Chart
Florida Camping Org Chart (Click to enlarge)

As described in the first article of this series and in the org chart above, Florida State Forests are a Division of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Several Florida State Forests are managed in cooperation with other agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and different sets of camping rules may apply. Safety regulations during hunting season are of specific importance to State Forest visitors.

At last check, I counted 77 vehicle accessible campgrounds available to book via the online booking service Reserve America. In 2020 as a result of COVID-19, booking options changed and online booking is the only method to reserve sites. Drive-up and pay is no longer an option.

If you do not have an account, I suggest you register with Reserve America at your earliest convenience.

Florida Camping Org Chart - State Forests
Florida Camping Org Chart – State Forests (Click to enlarge)

Camping Guide for each National Forest

With so many camping options available in each State Forest, I will write a separate guide for each Forest or region. In the meantime, you can locate all the campgrounds and sites on my interactive map below!

Please check in often!

Krul Campground 1
Krul Campground in Blackwater River State Forest (click to enlarge)

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, State Forest Campgrounds (fee required) are shown in Blue.

In Part 7, I write about Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in Florida and camping opportunities.

Florida State Forests have this signage:

Florida Forestry-Logo
Florida Forestry Logo

Return to Part 5 of this series

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Free Camping in Florida – The Ultimate Guide – National Forests – Part 5

National Forests in Florida

National Forests and BLM lands offer the ultimate free camping experiences in the USA. Unfortunately, BLM camping is not an option in Florida but the State has three wonderful National Forests to explore.

Let me introduce them:

National Forest Map - Florida
National Forest Map – Florida – Click to enlarge

In this article, I cover National Forest camping in Florida. Please note – National Forest camping is NOT always FREE.

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 (green block), there are three National Forests in Florida with drive-up camping facilities.

Dispersed drive-up camping is allowed (with restrictions) but developed campgrounds are very popular for many reasons as I will describe:

Florida Camping Org Chart - National Forests
Florida Camping Org Chart – National Forests (click to enlarge)

Camping Guide for each National Forest

With so many camping options available in each National Forest, I will write a separate guide for each Forest. Please check in often!

Below is a summary.

Apalachicola National Forest – Information and Booking

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

  • Recreation.gov – excellent website with detailed information about campgrounds in Apalachicola National Forest including maps and photos. Official booking site for National Forest campgrounds.
  • Apalachicola National Forest – official website with detailed background information about the Forest and camping opportunities.
White Oak Landing Campground

Ocala National Forest – Information and Booking

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

  • Recreation.gov – excellent website with detailed information about campgrounds in Ocala National Forest including maps and photos. Official booking site for National Forest campgrounds.
  • Ocala National Forest – official website with detailed background information about the Forest and camping opportunities.
Clearwater Lake Campground

Osceola National Forest – Information and Booking

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

  • Recreation.gov – excellent website with detailed information about campgrounds in Osceola National Forest including maps and photos. Official booking site for National Forest campgrounds.
  • Osceola National Forest – official website with detailed background information about the Forest and camping opportunities.
West Tower Campground

Recreation.gov

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.

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 Forest Campgrounds (fee required in most cases) are shown in Grey.

In Part 6, I write about State Forests in Florida and camping opportunities.

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Free Camping in Florida – The Ultimate Guide -National Parks Service – Part 4

Everglades NP Camping at Flamingo

The National Parks Service (NPS) needs no introduction! With over 130 camping areas to choose from nationwide, families can spend a lifetime exploring the great American outdoors in the NPS.

Unfortunately, there are only a handful of NPS camping opportunities available in Florida.

Florida Camping Map - National Parks
Florida Camping Map – National Parks – click to enlarge

In this article, I cover National Park Service camping in Florida. Please note – NPS camping is NOT FREE. In fact, it is NOT CHEAP either with rates up to $42 (electricity) per site! But National Parks campgrounds are very popular and for this reason, I decided to include them in this camping series.

(Feature Image – Flamingo Campground – Everglades National Park)

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 National Parks in Florida with drive-up camping facilities.

Dispersed drive-up camping is NOT ALLOWED. You must camp in developed campgrounds as listed below:

National Parks Service (NPS) Campgrounds in Florida (click to enlarge)

Everglades National Park – Information and Booking

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

  • Flamingo Adventures – the official booking site for the two drive-in locations Long Pine Key Campground and Flamingo Campground in Everglades National Park. Guest Services, Inc. is an authorized Concessioner of the National Park Service to provide retail, restaurant, lodging, campground, boat tours, boat rentals, kayak, and canoe rentals, and bike rentals.
  • Everglades National Park – official website with detailed background information about the Park.

Big Cypress National Preserve – Information and Booking

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

  • Recreation.gov – excellent website with detailed information about campgrounds in Big Cypress National Preserve including maps and photos. Official booking site for NPS campgrounds.
  • Big Cypress National Preserve – official website with detailed background information about the Park.

Gulf Islands National Seashore – Information and Booking

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

  • Recreation.gov – excellent website with detailed information about campgrounds in Gulf Islands National Seashore including maps and photos. Official booking site for NPS campgrounds.
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore – official website with detailed background information about the Park.

Recreation.gov

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.

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 5, I write about National Forests in Florida and camping opportunities.

Return to Part 3 of this series

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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 the 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 enlarge)

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.

Recreation.gov

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.

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.

Return to Part 2 of this series

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Free Camping in Florida – The Ultimate Guide – Bureau of Land Management (BLM Land) – Part 2

BLM Website Search

When you arrive in Florida after camping on BLM Land in the Western part of the USA, you may find the free camping opportunities confusing and rather disappointing. In fact, some folks still think free camping in Florida is a myth! Well, BLM Land camping in Florida is non-existent. But you have plenty of other opportunities to explore.

While talking about camping in Florida, there is no need to discuss BLM in-depth but I want to point out a few important things just as a comparison to the public land management in Florida.

What is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)?

Simply put, it is an Agency within the Department of the Interior responsible for administering public lands as shown in the diagram below.

The diagram also shows the States where BLM operates (including all the Eastern States) as well as two websites – one for information and one for booking.

BLM Organization
BLM Organization

Where does BLM operate?

Nationwide as shown above but in terms of camping, most of the opportunities are west of the Mississippi River.

The image below illustrates the distribution of BLM land quite clearly.

Bureau of Land Management Map
Bureau of Land Management Map (Source – Department of the Interior)

How to find BLM Campgrounds and sites?

There are mainly two types of BLM camping styles –

  • Campgrounds – developed camping areas with amenities of some kind! Most are fee-based. Many (most?) are first-come-first-serve, meaning you choose an available campsite and pay a nightly fee. Some sites can be pre-booked online (link below)
  • Dispersed – Mostly free. You scout the BLM land and set up camp away from developed campgrounds. As long as you follow the rules for that particular land you can generally stay free for 14 days.

To find developed campgrounds, you have two options:

BLM Camping Search
BLM Website Camping Search

To book a reservable site in a developed campground, Go Here to Book Using Recreation.gov

Recreationgov Booking
Recreation.gov Booking website

Experienced campers often go straight to Recreation.gov because they know what they are looking for and how to navigate this useful site! I will write a future article to share tips and tricks!

To find dispersed campsites, the third-party websites mentioned above are your best friends. The dispersed campsites listed on their maps often have fire rings and you can expect these sites to comply with local rules (such as distance from water sources, etc). Unfortunately, when sites are easy to find and listed everywhere they tend to get busy!

Many full-time road warriors use free dispersed camping and their Youtube videos are fun and informative if you’re interested. Some say they have not paid for camping in 5 or more years!

To avoid the crowds, experienced gypsies do their own research using Google Maps and Google Earth to scout for new dispersed camp spots in advance. To avoid getting into trouble with rangers, they educate themselves with land boundaries and local rules. If you want to do the same, please adhere to “Leave-no-Trace” principles and don’t unintentionally “develop” new campsites.

BLM areas have this signage:

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Logo
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Logo

Return to Part 1 of this series

Continue to Part 3 – US Army Corps of Engineers Camping in Florida