Not many people know this, but you can camp for free in Florida. And I’m not talking about in the Walmart parking lot. I’m referring to several peaceful, dry camping and boondocking areas in natural surroundings found across the state of Florida. Most of the websites refer to it as primitive camping which means they offer very limited (if any) services. However, these campsites are located across the Sunshine State and the price is right!
Public Lands in Florida
There are both federal and state managed public lands in Florida that offer camping. Examples of federally run dry camping are the National Forests such as Apalachicola National Forest where you can camp at the Wood Lake Campground. In Osceola National Forest, you can camp at the Ocean Pond campground for only $8 per night (for primitive sites) with access to the two-mile wide lake with a sandy beach, restrooms, fire rings and picnic tables.
One Florida state agency that manages free campgrounds is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Camping at any of their locations is free but does require a permit which can be obtained online.
Many of these campgrounds are based on local hunting seasons, but there are a few that offer year-round camping. In the southern part of the state, Dinner Island Ranch Wildlife Management Area’s Hammock Camp is named for the area’s oak hammock that provides plenty of shade for its 10 RV and 7 tent camping sites. Up in the panhandle, the Escribano Point Wildlife Management Area hosts the Bayside Campground (also known as Grassy Point). It has 12 sites, all free with no hook-ups.
The bulk of the free camping in Florida is under the purview of the state’s five Water Management Districts. Each one runs its own website with camping information.
- Northwest Florida WMD
- Suwannee River WMD
- St. Johns River WMD
- Southwest Florida WMD
- South Florida WMD
Just down the road from Tampa, in Thonotosassa, Florida is the Washburn Equestrian Areain the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve managed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Primitive camping sites with Sites picnic tables, fire rings and/or grills set among 16 miles of multiuse trails.
One of the highest-rated free camping areas in the state is the Dupuis Management Area not far from Lake Okeechobee. It has a butterfly garden, a partially covered fishing pier, a boardwalk, and 22 miles of hiking trails. The DuPuis Nature Center and the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society host free Astronomy Nights to educate participants about stars, nebulas, planets, and neighboring galaxies.
See more of this campground and others in the video below where our friends Liz and Dennis at Eat See RV share their quest to find free camping across the state.
Free Camping on Private Land
There are two different membership programs with plenty of sites in Florida to enjoy short stays. Our personal favorite is Harvest Hosts, which offers RVers a network of farms, breweries, wineries, and museums to overnight at for an annual membership fee. Harvest Hosts currently offers 18 locations in the state of Florida from Tallahassee all the way down to Miami and they are adding more all the time. Sign up here and use code HHFRIENDS15 at checkout for a 15% discount.
Another option is Boondocker’s Welcome. This is also a membership program, but it is with private landowners that are willing to allow overnight stays on their property. There are currently 88 properties listed in Florida with several offering 3-5 night stays.
So How Do You Camp Without Hook-Ups?
I know we first got our RV I never planned to dry camp. Even now, I’m more of a glamper than a camper, but I’ve learned to love boondocking too. Especially now that we’ve upgraded our power system and added solar to the mix. Here are some boondocking tips to help make your dry camping experience more enjoyable.
Are Full-Service Campgrounds More Your Style?
If you’re looking for campgrounds with full hook-ups and amenities, check out our article on the best campgrounds in Florida. We share our favorites and even include recommendations from our readers.
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