The Top Campgrounds in Florida

The Top Campgrounds in Florida
With eleven national park service properties, 160 state parks, and multitude of county parks, wildlife management areas, state and national forests, and private properties to offer, determining Florida's best is no small task. Florida is blessed with having magnificent places to pitch your tent throughout the year, many of which are close to major metropolitan areas. Here are the Top 10 from around the state.

Bahia Honda State Park

Grilling freshly caught lobster at your campsite is not the only draw to this state park campground in the Florida Keys. Offering campsites with beachfront views, secluded beaches, snorkeling in tropical waters, sport fishing, Atlantic Ocean sunrises and Gulf of Mexico sunsets, Bahia Honda is popular both in and out of lobster season.

Fort Desoto Park

Collecting sand dollars is a popular activity in this family-friendly Pinellas County park at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Featuring seven miles of one of the top-rated beaches in the United States, the park also offers a chance to explore Fort Desoto, dating back to the Spanish-American War, hike more than ten miles of trails or rent a kayak to paddle the 2.5 mile-canoe trail. Anglers will enjoy the two full-service fishing piers that stretch into Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Anastasia State Park

South of St. Augustine, this East Coast jewel provides something for everyone. Catch the sunrise over the Atlantic, swim in the lifeguarded surf, bike the island, kayak the Intracoastal Waterway, even check out a book for your child from the rangers. The full-facility campsites under the Anastasia State Park oaks are sheltered from the ocean and provide privacy.

Cayo Costa State Park

Shell collectors will enjoy strolling the nine miles of beaches in this park north of Fort Myers at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor. Cayo Costa is only accessible by boat but a ferry service is available. Full amenities are available.

Big Lagoon State Park

Hiking, fishing, swimming, sunning, are only part of the draw at Big Lagoon State Park along the Intracoastal Waterway southwest of Pensacola. Adjacent to Perdido Key State Park and Gulf Islands National Seashore, there are plenty of opportunities to find privacy along the Gulf of Mexico. It is also the beginning of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, a 1,500-mile kayaking trail.

Paynes Prairie State Park

Bison and wild horses are just two of the many animals that can be found in Paynes Prairie State Park just south of Gainesville. Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy the 300-acre lake, 50-foot observation tower, and more than 30 miles of trails that enable viewing of deer, alligators, snakes and the more than 270 species of birds that occupy the diverse ecosystems within this park.

Ocala National Forest

The setting of Marjorie Kinnan Rawling's "The Yearling" is within the 30,000 acres of Ocala National Forest. Whether swimming in one of the four major springs, canoeing the two rivers, or fishing one of the more than 600 lakes, there is always something to do and explore. The forest harbors black bears, deer, manatees and even sharks and rays in the St. John's River. Hunting occurs within the forest and a gun range is maintained. While full facilities are available at some campgrounds, those with a pioneer spirit may tent-camp throughout the general forest area.

Everglades National Park

There is a campsite for all preferences and experience levels in the wetlands of this World Heritage Site. Best visited in the winter dry season, the Everglades is teeming with wildlife. The endangered Florida panther survives here, even being spotted on occasion roaming the various boardwalks that wind through the park.

Peanut Island Park

Only accessible by boat, 80-acre Peanut Island Park in the Intracoastal Waterway is surrounded by the clear water of Lake Worth Lagoon. The island is a mecca for boaters, fisherman, and swimmers. Operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, a limited number of campsites are available.

Canaveral National Seashore

Stretching between New Smyrna Beach and John F. Kennedy Space Center the Canaveral National Seashore shelters islands along aptly named Mosquito Lagoon. Only accessible by boat, the primitive campsites allow a view of the clear, shallow marine waters where pods of porpoises journey by a few yards from the campsites. Redfish, snook, tarpon and grouper are common targets among anglers in these waters. Although available year-round, Canaveral National Seashore is best enjoyed in the cooler, drier and less buggy months from late fall through early spring.

Article Written By David Chandler

David Chandler has been a freelance writer since 2006 whose work has appeared in various print and online publications. A former reconnaissance Marine, he is an active hiker, diver, kayaker, sailor and angler. He has traveled extensively and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida where he was educated in international studies and microbiology.

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