7 Best Tent Camping Sites in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys is one of the most iconic vacation destinations in the entire United States. Gorgeous sights, countless activities, and all the partying you can stomach make for anyone’s dream vacation spot.
But you don’t have to shell out a ton of money to stay at an expensive hotel or condo. Many people take advantage of the wonderful campgrounds located around the Keys to enjoy a spectacular trip on a reasonable budget.
There is so much to do and see in the Keys that picking the right campgrounds to stay at can be a hassle. Plus, you don’t want to sacrifice comfort when you’re looking for a relaxing vacation spot. Save yourself a bunch of research, and check out this list of the best tent camping sites in the Florida Keys.
1. Bahia Honda State Park
This state park occupies the entire Bahia Honda Key, which is nearby the iconic Big Pine Key.
Bahia Honda has eighty total campsites that allow tents or trailers, spread out across three campgrounds. The smallest of these campgrounds is the coveted Bayside Campground, with is right along the northern coast. Boat slips are also available to anyone that has ever wanted to try boat camping, but space is limited.
Campers should be advised that the sites at Sandspur Campground have a low clearance due to the area being a hardwood hammock. Sandspur also does not have a dump site, but campers are allowed to use the site at the nearby Buttonwood Campground.
All of the campgrounds feature a few waterfront sites, and they all come with a private picnic table. There are restrooms within walking distance of all the sights, but the only place to grab a hot shower is the bathhouse by the Buttonwood campground. Though, no site is more than a half-mile away from there.
Whether you find you joy by land or sea, there are plenty of experiences and amenities for campers to pick from. Bahia Honda has both scuba diving and snorkeling available, and you can even book a snorkel tour of the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. There is a buoyed off area where swimmers won’t have to worry about running into boaters. Bahia Honda has spectacular fishing spots, but they expressly forbid spearfishing of any kind. So, if you want to fish while at Bahia Honda, make sure you have some good saltwater lures at the ready.
There is a nature trail that leads up to the top of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, a former overseas highway which has a view of the entire island. There are also plenty of running and biking spaces. Animal lovers will delight at the wide variety of shorebirds and wading birds that rest and feed on the island, as well as the seasonal hawk migrations.
2. Curry Hammock State Park
Barely two miles east of the Marathon Airport, Curry Hammock State Park offers a wonderful cozy camping experience.
The campground has twenty-eight campsites, all of which are oceanfront. Each site has a picnic table, charcoal grill, water, and electrical hookups. Any site can accommodate an RV or tent, but there are some sites with sandy mounting areas that are meant more specifically to be tent sites. The main restrooms on the campsites have composting toilets, and the hot showers are powered by solar panels — environmentally conscious campers can feel great about staying at Curry Hammock.
By staying so close to the water, you’ll rarely be more than a few minutes away from all you’re favorite aquatic activities. You can go fishing off the shore, but there are also some flats in the park that can be prime spots as well, just be sure to follow Florida’s fishing regulations, or you’ll end up in some serious trouble.
Since this is a smaller Florida State Park, you won’t be able to take any powered boats out from Curry Hammock. But, you are more than welcome to go kayaking or canoeing, and there are paddleboards for rent. You aren’t just committed to boating on the ocean, either; Curry Hammock has a few inland waterways that you can navigate in your kayak.
The sights are one of the biggest draws to this State Park. The miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline and clear blue waters are something to behold. If birding is more your speed, there are several bird species that frequent the island, some of which are endangered.
The grass flats are home to many beautiful fish species. You can sometimes catch manatees and dolphins off the coast when they come in to feed. On clear Saturday nights, there is even a stargazing group that meets on the beach.
3. Boyd’s Key West Campground
A private campground situated on the coast of the iconic Key West, Boyd’s is the perfect destination for the boating enthusiasts looking for an accommodating tent camping site.
There are several different types of campsites to choose from for tents. There are inland and waterfront options, but the waterfront tent sites have no electric or water access. Inland tent sites have the option for primitive sites or ones with electric and water hookups. Unfortunately, the dockside reservations are RV sites only.
Even if you can’t get one of the dockside spots, Boyd’s has a boat ramp open to all guests. Right next to the boat ramp, there is a marina with a dump station and cleaning tables for both fish and lobsters. Boyd’s dock area opens up immediately into the Atlantic Ocean. If you run into any issues with your vessel, Boyd’s has an on-site maintenance shop.
If you’ve ever wanted to try boating but felt too intimidated by it, have a look at these compelling reasons to take up boating.
Even if boating isn’t your thing, there are plenty of reasons to visit Boyd’s Key West Campground. There is a private beach area with a fishing dock. At the other end of the complex is a heated swimming pool, right next to Elsie’s Tiki Hut that features a large screen TV and free WiFi. There is also a game room with a pool table and plenty of space for a family game night.
Plenty of bathhouses are spread out across the campground, meaning you never have to walk too far for a hot shower. The picnic pavilion also provides a great space to hang out outdoors while sheltering from the sun. Plus, at Boyd’s you’re only a short drive from all the highly sought after Key West hotspots, like Duval Street, Mallory Square, and the Ernest Hemmingway Home and Museum.
4. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
At mile marker 102.5, you’ll find this lovely Florida State Park on Key Largo. Named after former Miami newspaper editor and conservationist John D. Pennekamp, this is the first undersea park in the United States and covers nearly seventy nautical square miles.
The grounds themselves feature a few different campsites to chose from, depending on the level of modernity you are looking for. Both grounds have convenient access to restrooms though.
There are a few different walking trails on the park grounds. You can also kayak and paddleboat through several miles of mangrove swamps throughout the park. If you want to still observe nature but aren’t so active, there is a huge saltwater aquarium and nature exhibits on the park grounds.
There are a playground and a few different beaches on-site within walking distance. One such beach is called Cannon Beach, named for the artifact from a Spanish shipwreck held in the waters off its coast. Snorkeling of Cannon Beach will let campers observe cannons, anchors, and seagrass beds filled with wildlife such as crabs.
A place doesn’t get to be named “Coral Reef State Park,” if it isn’t known for its coral reefs, though. The reef on this reserve is the only living coral reef in the continental United States, and since reefs are incredibly sensitive biomes, physical contact with the reef itself is strictly prohibited. But you’ll have plenty of opportunities to look since Key Largo isn’t considered one of the diving capitals of the world for nothing.
Daily boat trips are made for both snorkeling and scuba diving. If you aren’t already, you can pick up your scuba certification at this park. For those of you who aren’t much for diving, the Park also provides trips to go observe the coral reefs on its high-speed glass-bottom boat. Whichever way you have to take to get there, don’t miss out on this chance to see one of the most gorgeous and biological diverse locations in the world.
5. Long Key State Park
Once known as “Viper Key” to Spanish explorers, referring to its shape and not the wildlife, this Key is a favorite among campers.
The park has sixty campsites spread out across two campgrounds along the east coast of the island that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Each site has access to water and electrical hookups, but the stations are placed between campsites, so it would be a good idea to bring an extension cord. There are three restroom complexes with hot showers and a dump station. The park also offers many accessibility amenities, such as beach wheelchairs, a ramp to the boardwalk through the mangroves, and accessible showers.
A few of the sites are much more coveted because of their location. They are right next to the Golden Orb Trail — named for a native species of a spider — and an observation tower. These sites are also much further away from US Route 1, the Overseas Highway, meaning they have less noisy traffic to worry about. Though, that’s usually only an issue during particularly busy days.
The campsites themselves only cover a small portion of a huge island with tons to do. The east coast side of the island is great for swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and boating. More inland, there are huge flats that are great spots to reel in bonefish or go birding for migratory and endangered species. Along the west coast of the island, there are yet more fantastic fishing spots and a leisurely nature trail that takes campers to a gorgeous view of the Florida Bay.
This state park is also only a few miles away from the wildly popular tourist destination, Islamorada. Islamorada is a series of islands incorporated into one village. It features many beaches and parks, such as the Key Tree Cactus Preserve. Islamorada hosts new programs constantly, so there is always something to do, such as a bird IDing class, a synchronized swimming club, and a tennis program.
6. Dry Tortugas National Park
If you’ve been reading this list and thinking “none of these campsites are nearly secluded enough for me,” then this is the campsite you’ve been waiting for.
Dry Tortugas National Park is housed on an island far off the coast of Key West. It is accessible only by boat, and the nearest civilization is over seventy miles away. As you can imagine, these means the only campsites available are super primitive tent sights. You even have to bring your own water.
Camping space on the island is extremely limited, and the ferry used to access the island is also used for general tours, so you’ll have to book your stay sometimes more than a year in advance. Campers have to meet at the ferry dock at 6 am for registration. But for the people than make it through all this, an unforgettable experience awaits you.
The majority of the land at Dry Tortugas is taken up by the Fort Jefferson historical sight. Your camping reservation includes access to the Fort, along with a forty-five-minute tour. The tour takes you around the Fort, preserved in all its glory. You’ll see soldiers’ barrack, officers quarters, and several of the original cannons. Some of these cannons weighed up to twenty-five tons and could fire a 400-pound projectile up to three miles.
The rest of the landmass that isn’t taken up by Fort Jefferson or the docks is several gorgeous beaches. Since the island is so far from civilization, you’ll enjoy crystal clear blue waters and spotless sandy beaches. This is one of the best snorkeling spots in the entire Florida Keys. You’ll be able to observe a coral reef and several species of wildlife that you’d never be able to if you were any closer to the mainland.
Dry Tortugas is a hub for turtle activity as well. If you don’t spot one while in the water, you might be able to see their trails in the sands during the nesting season. The seven islands that make up Dry Tortuga are integral parts of migratory patterns for many rare bird species, making this park a fantastic place for birding. The lack of light pollution means that you can see the stars better than you ever imagined on cloudless nights.
7. Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge
Right outside Sugarloaf Key, this camp combines the feeling of an RV resort while still accommodating their tent camping guests.
The campground is quite spacious, and there are quite a few tent sites to choose from. The tent site section of the campground has a boat mooring area all its own and is right next to the playground and nature trail. They even offer and allow boat slips for anyone that enjoys camping on a boat.
There are plenty of amenities to keep you comfortable: a well-stocked camp store, a spacious recreation center with a pool, and a clean bathhouse. As you’d expect from a fishing lodge, there is plenty of docking space, a fishing pier, and multiple cleaning stations.
Their private beach is perfect for swimming and features well-protected seagrass beds. Clearly-marked waterways ensure boats never get too close to the beach waters.
Big Pine stands out by way of their events. There is always something to do if you get tired of lounging on the beach. Paint coconuts and wine glasses, dance the night away at one of their block parties, get in some exercise with their water aerobics class, and eat your heart out at one of their Lobster Mac-n-Cheese parties.
Of course, they wouldn’t be a proper fishing lodge if they didn’t host fishing tournaments. Depending on how hardcore of an angler you are, Big Pine offers several different levels of fishing competitions on the regular. For the shellfishing fans, they even have competitions for the largest lobsters caught during the season.
Vacationing at the legendary Florida Keys doesn’t have to come with an equally legendary price tag. You’ll be able to enjoy the gorgeous waters, fish to your heart’s content, boat on the high seas, watch the stars, observe nature or learn about local history, all on a tent camping budget.
There are plenty of reasonably priced options for places to stay, for all levels of tent campers. Whether you want to retreat into nature at a Florida State Park, camp in style at a private resort, or be as far away from modern life as you can get on a secluded island, there is somewhere for you to stay in the Florida Keys that can make you a happy camper.
Bonus tip: While you’re at it, you can discover more of the best Florida Keys camping spots with this useful video!