A lot of RVers assume there isn’t free camping in Florida. Given it’s an RVers mecca, it’s easy to assume the only options are fancy RV resorts or beautiful state parks. However, there is plenty of free RV camping in Florida to choose from.
In the winter of 2018, we spent nearly two months camping across Florida in our RV for free. This blog post will show you how to do the same. Additionally, we’ll share 5 of the best free camping spots in Florida to enjoy.
The best time for free camping in Florida
The best time to enjoy Florida’s free camping spots is in the winter (November – March). Summer starts early in Florida with the weather getting warm and humid around late April or early May. This heat and humidity only get worse as we enter the rainy season. The heat usually subsides around early November and stays temperate until late March.
The northern part of the state can be quite cold in winter. If a cold front comes through mornings can dip into freezing temperatures. If you want to avoid cold snaps in the peak winter season, we suggest sticking to the Southern part of Florida. Instead, enjoy the cooler weather in the North in spring and fall.
Camping etiquette (leave no trace)
Before we begin it’s super important to remind you to be a mindful and responsible camper. I can’t tell you how many free RV camping in Florida we’ve stayed at across the country that have been riddled with piles and piles of trash. It’s also super annoying to secure the perfect free camping spot only to have a neighbor park right next to you.
No matter where you are camping always:
- 🧹 Leave no trace!
- Take your trash with you. Even better, pick up any trash that may have been left behind by others before you. Dennis always does a clean-up at the free camping spots we stay at.
- Only park in areas designated for camping (don’t make your own camping spot on natural vegetation).
- Always use a designated dump station. Never dump your tanks in the wild, even if it’s just gray water.
- 🔥 Distinguish all fires when not in use. And adhere if there is a burn ban in effect.
- 🚐 Adhere to the rules and regulations for that camping site. Including but not limited permit requests and time limits.
- 🔌 Keep generator use to a minimum when possible if other campers are around.
- 🅿️ Leave space between other campers. Even if they have a better view, be respectful of camping spaces.
What to expect from free camping spots in Florida
Most campgrounds that offer free camping will have very limited services. You should be prepared to boondock, aka camp off-grid without access to water, electricity, or dump. Having a solid RV solar setup will allow you to camp for free more comfortably.
Most camping spots won’t be near major towns or cities. However, there are a select few that are close to modern amenities, stores, and other conveniences.
Finding free camping in Florida
Popular apps and camping websites may advertise a free spot to camp, but that doesn’t mean it’s allowed.
Campendium.com is a great free resource to find camping across North America. They have user-submitted reviews of camping spots which makes searching for a free camping spot in your desired area much easier. Just remember to verify the camping area is a legal spot using the appropriate site below.
Three different entities manage public lands that offer free camping in Florida. Almost all spots will have a 14-day camping limit. Many spots will have camping restrictions during hunting season. So make sure to check the campsite’s website before your visit.
1. Water Management Districts
Florida is broken up into five different water management districts.
- Southwest Water Management District
- South Florida Water Management District
- Northwest Water Management District (NWMD)
- Suwanne River District (only one spot, Goose Pasture, allows camping)
- St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD)
Each district has a different process for searching for and booking camping. Your best bet when landing on the website is to find the tab for or search for “recreation”, then “camping” or “equestrian camping” to find free camping spots in these regions.
2. National Forests
The US National Forest Service offers free camping across the country, Florida included. Three forests in Florida offer camping:
- Apalachicola National Forest (north Florida in the panhandle)
- Ocala National Forest (central Florida)
- Osceola National Forest (north Florida)
Some of the campgrounds charge a fee offering modern RV amenities like electric and water hookups as well as a dump station. Other campsites are dispersed camping (aka wild camping) and charge no fees.
3. Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC)
The last option for free camping in Florida is the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC). This entity manages public lands, commonly used for fishing and hunting. But they do allocate some areas for camping.
There are five main regions it offers camping in, with each spot having anywhere from one to five different campgrounds to choose from.
- Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area (north Florida)
- Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area (southeast Florida – near Fort Myers)
- Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail (north Florida – not far from the town of Perry)
- Dinner Island Wildlife Management Area (south Florida)
- Hungryland Wildlife Management Area (southwest Florida – near West Palm Beach)
5 fantastic free RV camping spots in Florida
Below are five of the highest-reviewed free RV camping spots in Florida. We have personally visited several of these and can vouch for the quality of the sites.
Don’t be scared to visit less reviewed spots. We found one of our all-time favorite camping spots we’ve ever stayed at on the websites above. This spot wasn’t on any user-submitted websites like Campendium.com. Without a bit of research on our part, we would have never found it!
DuPuis Campground (Southwest Water Management District)
We loved DuPuis Campground. This free camping spot in Florida is just a 4-minute drive to the shoreline of Lake Okeechobee which is the largest freshwater lake in the state. It’s also about 25 – 30 minutes from the nearest town which has every store you could possibly need.
The land itself is just a big open grassy field that has several barns and stables for horses. The equestrian and non-equestrian sites are separated. They also have an area just for tent campers. It has several bike trails and nature trails that wrap throughout the managed land but it’s quite sandy and rather flat.
You might see wild boars, migratory birds, raccoons, and if you’re lucky – an alligator. There were a lot of campers when we were there, as this is a pretty well-known spot. But most campers leave plenty of space between their rig and yours so you don’t feel crowded or cramped.
This is off a major road so traffic will be heard in almost all of the camp. Park as far away from the road as possible and you won’t hear much noise.
Hickory Hammock Campground (Southwest Water Management District)
Hickory Hammock Campground is toward the center and southern tip of the state. This camping site also has equestrian and non-equestrian camping which is separated by a nice grassy field. You will find old oak hammocks throughout the park, but there are still plenty of spaces to get in case you’re using solar power on your RV.
This campground is a bit farther from civilization, about 45 minutes to an hour’s drive depending on what you may need.
Deep Creek Preserve (Southwest Water Management District)
Deep Creek Preserve is a smaller campground just outside Arcadia, FL in southwest Florida. The camping area feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. But in reality, you’re a 25 – 30 minute drive to a very happening, busy town. We even went to a nearby brewery during our stay.
There are several dedicated camping spots sprinkled throughout a grassy field under beautiful old oaks. There were three other campers, one group being 15+ large. We decided to head toward the very back of the campground. There are a few nature trails just past the area which are all flat.
Lake Panasoffkee Wildlife Management Area (Southwest Water Management District)
Lake Panasoffkee Wildlife Management Area is in Wildwood Florida, and a great camping area to explore southwest Florida. There are both equestrian and non-equestrian areas for camping with plenty of room for sun exposure for solar.
The campground has some amenities including a non-potable water spigot, fire rings, and a dumpster for disposing of trash. There are several trails in the area so make sure to get outside and enjoy the beautiful scenery while camping.
Potts Preserve (Southwest Water Management District)
Potts Preserve Campground is in the wetlands near Inverness, FL about an hour and a half from the city of Orlando. This natural oak area helps regenerate groundwater quality in its various marshlands and river systems. Campers can choose from shaded or sunny spots in the open field.
As you’ll see there are loads of free RV camping in Florida. You could easily spend three to four months staying at each spot and not even see half of them. We hope this blog post helps you get outside and enjoy the beauty of Florida this camping season.