Special Issues » Summer Guide

Find great beach camping to the north, south, east and west of Orlando

Castles in the sand

by and

Nothing beats bonfires, vibrant ocean sunsets and napping on the beach. Few getaways rival a beach camping escape, and some of the best spots are within driving distance of Orlando. Here are a few of our favorite places to camp in the sand.

EAST COAST

Anastasia State Park

 300 Anastasia Park Road, St. Augustine, 904-461-2033, floridastateparks.org

Each campsite on four miles of pristine beach is equipped with electricity and water, a picnic table, an in-ground grill and a fire pit, so you don't have to worry about resorting to primitive survival techniques. On Saturdays there's even a farmers market on the property – enjoy fresh fruits and veggies with that added sandy bonus that comes with eating anything on the beach. 

Canaveral National Seashore 

212 S. Washington Ave., Titusville, 321-267-1110, nps.gov/cana

All the campsites at Canaveral are primitive – you won't have luxurious facilities, like a toilet, that you might be used to. But if you can stand roughing it for a few days, not many other campgrounds can offer such a cool experience: Not only do you get to camp on some gnarly beachfront, but you might also see a rocket launched from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Station. 

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area 

3100 S. Oceanshore Blvd., Flagler Beach, 386-517-2086, floridastateparks.org

At Gamble Rogers, when you wake up and roll out of your tent, the Atlantic Ocean is just feet away. This park has 34 campsites located on the beach dunes and 34 facing the Intracoastal Waterway – either way, you're waking up or turning in with an incredible, uninterrupted view of the sun reflected over a colorful horizon. 

Little Talbot Island State Park 

12157 Heckscher Drive, Jacksonville, 904-251-2320, floridastateparks.org

Located on one of the state's few remaining undeveloped barrier islands, this campground is nestled among ancient dunes in a lush grove of live oaks, American holly and Southern magnolias. Sounds like the perfect place to string up a hammock and take a long nap. 

Sebastian Inlet State Park 

9700 S. Highway A1A, Melbourne Beach, 321-984-4852, floridastateparks.org

Why wake up before the crack of dawn to fish when you can beat the crowds by simply taking a couple of steps outside your tent? This three-mile-long beach is a favorite for catching snook, redfish and Spanish mackerel, so bring a pole and reel in your dinner. You can cook it at one of the grills found at all 51 campsites. 

WEST COAST

Caladesi Island State Park 

1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin, 727-469-5918, floridastateparks.org 

Caladesi Island is a unique campground in that you have to have a special type of shelter to camp there – a boat. Visitors can take a ferry or kayak over during the day to enjoy the white sandy beaches, but only those with boats are allowed to dock at one of the marina campsites overnight. Those lucky guests are treated to an island getaway without the nuisance of towering hotels and beach condos ruining their Instagram pics. 

Cayo Costa State Park 

Cayo Costa, 941-964-0375, floridastateparks.org

Take a private boat or ferry to set up camp at this private destination. On your way there, keep a lookout for manatees and dolphins. The nine-mile beach consists of nature trails for hiking and off-road bicycling, and the park offers cabins and 30 tent sites that can be reserved up to 11 months in advance. 

Fort De Soto Park 

3500 Pinellas Bayway South, Tierra Verde, 727-582-2267, pinellascounty.org 

This 1,136-acre park is made up of five interconnected islands, filled with a variety of different campsites for novices to experienced wilderness explorers. 

Turtle Beach Campground 

8862 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota, 941-349-3839, scgov.net 

True to its namesake, campers on this beach might just spot a few wave-riding reptiles crawling on the seashore. Just don't touch the little guys: Sea turtles are endangered, so it's illegal to get too close. The 14-acre campground features boat ramps, a canoe/kayak launch area, fishing, picnic area, playground and free WiFi. 

THE PANHANDLE

Big Lagoon State Park 

12301 Gulf Beach Highway, Pensacola, 850-492-1595, floridastateparks.org 

The saltwater marshes along this shore turn into pine flats that house 75 campsites. Campers should keep on an eye to the sky for some feathered neighbors: These woods attract a wide variety of migrating birds. 

Grayton Beach State Park 

357 Main Park Road, Santa Rosa Beach, 850-267-8300, floridastateparks.org 

Looking for somewhere to camp at night and paddleboard, canoe or kayak during the day? Grayton Beach State Park is nearly 2,000 acres and consists of 59 camping sites, suitable for RVs or tents. Campers also have the option to stay overnight in modern cabins. 

St. George Island State Park 

1900 E. Gulf Beach Drive, St. George Island, 850-927-2111, floridastateparks.org 

This campsite has 60 sites with water, electricity and other amenities, but campers looking to step out into the real wilderness can reach two primitive sites via a 2.5-mile trail or by kayak. 

THE KEYS

Bahia Honda State Park 

36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key, 305-872-2353, bahiahondapark.com 

Bahia Honda State Park offers an award-winning beach and three camping areas, with a total of 80 campsites for both tent and RV campers. Overlooking the bay, three cabins on stilts give a lifted beachside view, plus they have central air. 

Curry Hammock State Park 

56200 Overseas Highway, Marathon, 305-289-2690, floridastateparks.org 

The shallow, protected waters make Curry Hammock State Park a good getaway for the entire family – even your furry family members, as long as they remain leashed or under your control at all times. Set up your tent along the oceanfront in one of 28 campsites, grab your kayak or canoe and launch your boat right from your front "lawn."

Dry Tortugas National Park 

Key West, 866-758-6420, drytortugas.com 

It's hard to say "no" to camping on an island that's 70 miles away from civilization. Be sure to make a reservation because the popular destination tends to fill up, and the 11 campsites run on a first come, first served basis. 

comment