As snowbirds cruise south this season, some will join a growing nautical trend and try winter boat camping in Florida state parks. It’s the perfect getaway with benefits beyond escaping the cold northern weather. Winter in the Sunshine State means only a few pestering bugs, cooler temperatures, open slips, small crowds, and lower costs than hotels or resorts. What’s not to love?
Bring your own boat or rent a vessel, then pitch a tent at one of the following boat camping parks that provide dockage, water, electricity, access to amenities and miles of gorgeous nature preserves.
Hontoon Island State Park
Only accessible by private boat or ferry, this hidden gem is located about 30 miles inland on the St. Johns River. The park offers fishing, paddling, kayaking, canoeing, bike rentals, rustic cabins and 12 tent sites with picnic areas and grills. The boat camping area has shore power and 42 boat slips accommodating vessels up to 60 feet.
Caladesi Island State Park
Another island only accessible by boat, this state park boasts unspoiled beaches, lush mangroves and hiking trails through historic ruins. The park’s bayside marina offers two dock areas for overnight slips with 30 AMP electric, provisions, grills, a covered pavilion, kayak/canoe launch, a marina gift shop and fishing in permitted areas.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
This unique destination is the country’s first underwater park where snorkelers and scuba divers explore colorful coral reefs. Home of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, guests can enjoy year-round warm waters and camping. Guests can choose from 47 full-facility campsites for tents and RV campers throughout the park. The marina offers a deepwater boat ramp for vessels up to 36 feet, overnight slips with water, electric and shower facilities, dinghy dockage and mooring buoys located in Largo Sound. The park also offers powerboat rentals featuring 21-foot center consoles.
Bahia Honda State Park
Head south through the Keys to this palm tree-lined beachfront park known for camping. Enjoy amenities at Buttonwood Campground, accommodating everything from large RVs to small tents and providing electricity, water, picnic areas and bathhouses, or venture into the secluded Bayside Campground non-electric sites for a rustic camping experience. The park’s marina includes 19 slips in a protected basin and offers overnight rentals with water, electricity and access to facilities.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Located just outside of Miami, escape to this tropical paradise full of activities and natural wonders. You won’t find traditional tent campsites here, but guests can cozy up in the boat cabin and anchor overnight at No Name Harbor with complimentary pump-out and access to park amenities. Launch canoes and kayaks off the harbor’s sea wall and take advantage of bike rentals, fishing and on-site restaurants. Visitors not anchoring overnight can enjoy a day trip for an $8 entrance fee.