Last updated on July 2, 2023 by Wandering our World
With it’s famous sunny weather, fun atmosphere and hundreds of miles of beaches, free (dispersed) camping in Florida has to be on your must-do holiday list! The Sunshine State also happens to be the flattest state in the United States, so finding a place to pitch a tent here is easy.
Dispersed camping in Florida is legal in several areas, whilst there are also some free campgrounds in the state parks.
We cover dispersed (free) camping, and Florida’s free campgrounds in this article. As well as cheap campgrounds that are suited to RVs and tents, but are also in some of Florida’s most beautiful spots.
So grab your tent or RV, and get ready for starry nights and spectacular scenery. Let’s start your camping in Florida adventure!
Dispersed Camping In Florida: A Free Holiday In The Sunshine State!
DISCLAIMER: Below we give general advice, but we always recommend staying in an official campsite. If you choose to go dispersed camping, then make sure you do so with someone who already knows the area where you’re planning on camping for your own safety.
In our opinion, there’s nothing better than dispersed camping. It’s your chance to get back to basics, enjoy nature, and separate yourself from the hustle and bustle of 21st century life. It also allows you to experience some of nature’s best views for free.
The fantastic thing about Florida is that dispersed camping is legal, as long as you are camping on state ground and adhere to a few simple guidelines.
Land looked after by the Bureau for Land Management, National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service, will be state owned. Typically any areas that are green on Google Maps are also publicly owned. A great map, such as this one, could help in finding free camping spots too.
However camping on the beach is not tolerated in Florida. If you still want to camp on a beach, then make sure you choose a beach that is far from buildings and towns. Pitch your tent at dusk and take it down at dawn, and hopefully you will avoid a fine.
Yet with 37 state forests covering 1.1 million acres, you should be spoiled for choice in Florida when it comes to camping in woodland. Furthermore, there’s over 90 camping areas that have been set up within these forests in order to try and minimize wild camping and it’s impact on the environment.
You can see these camping areas by following this link, many of which have corresponding maps.
Florida’s five water management districts are also made up of millions of acres of public property that include thousands of miles of hiking trails and countless great primitive camping spots. This book here is a fantastic resource for discovering those hiking trails.
Dispersed Camping In Florida: The Guidelines
The guidelines that authorities ask campers to adhere to when free camping are below:
You should leave your pitch the way you found it, and minimize waste. When going to the toilet you should do it at least 100m from a water source (such as a river or lake), and use a trowel (like this folding one) when needed.
Be aware of restrictions on campfires in whatever region you are. If in doubt, avoid making a campfire. You might want to think about bringing a storm cooker with you for cooking. They tend to be safe, and are often fine to use – but you should check local laws first. Without a doubt, the best ones on the market are Trangia storm cookers.
It’s best to stay for only a limited time in each camping spot. However in national parks, you can often stay for up to two weeks at a time. This does vary from place to place though.
Be aware of the flora and fauna in the region of Florida you’re planning to camp in. There is the chance you could come across bears while staying in forested areas.
When possible, you should use a free camping ground (also known as a primitive site) in order to reduce your impact on the environment. The state parks have a few free campgrounds – we will explain that next.
Florida State Park Campgrounds: Basic Camping With A View!
Some of the best places to camp in Florida are the state parks, as they have some of the Sunshine State’s most stunning scenery.
In order to minimize the impact on the environment, there are several campgrounds and camping grounds in 30 of the state parks – a few are free, but most require a fee of 5 USD a night per person. That has to be paid online.
However these sites are almost always located in very rural areas, usually on hiking routes.
Therefore they are perfect for hiking and walking enthusiasts. But a map and a plan of where you are going is crucial, especially as these camp grounds most often have no phone signal.
The campgrounds can vary from ones with a simple toilet and drinking water, to ones with absolutely no amenities at all.
To see what campgrounds are available, as well as book online, visit this link to the Florida State Park website, and choose which park you wish to primitive camp in.
RV Camping & Campgrounds In Florida’s State Parks
While there are dozens of campgrounds that are available to hikers and walkers, many are situated on hiking trails. Therefore the facilities are basic, and most are inaccessible to RVs.
Thankfully, there are nearly 60 different state parks that have campgrounds with RV spots too. In fact there are hundreds of campgrounds to choose from across those parks. They are a great way to see some of Florida’s best scenery, but for very little money.
To find the campground that you wish to stay in for the night, first identify which state park you want to visit. You can find all the state parks that have campgrounds at this link.
Simply click on the state park, and you will be taken to a dedicated webpage on that park. All the available campgrounds at that park are included there!