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Camping is a popular activity in Florida, especially in the winter. There are beautiful beaches to enjoy, springs to cool off in, and forests to explore. There are, of course, world-famous theme parks waiting for you as well. But free camping in Florida? Is that a thing? Let’s give you the inside scoop on where to find free camping in Florida!
Is There Free Camping in Florida?
Yes, there is!
It’s no secret that camping can be expensive in the Sunshine State. Full-service resorts often offer stunning views and unmatched amenities, but they may not be within your budget. Thankfully, high-end resorts aren’t the only way to enjoy your time in the state. Florida has plenty of free camping, and we want to help you find it.
Best Spots for Free Camping In Florida
We’ve gathered a few of our top picks for free camping in Florida and can’t wait to share them with you! It may seem too good to be true, but you can experience Florida on a budget. With these spots, you’ll save your hard-earned dollars for more adventures. So, let’s check them out!
1. DuPuis Management Area
The DuPuis Management Area is 21,875 acres in the northwestern Palm Beach and southwestern Martin counties. It features ponds, wet prairies, pine flatwood, and cypress domes where you can hike, go horseback riding, camp, or hunt seasonally. In addition, its distance from urban areas makes it ideal for stargazing.
To utilize the camping area, you must have a permit. Two sections divide this campground: equestrian and non-equestrian. To camp in the equestrian section, you must have a minimum of one horse with you; otherwise, you won’t qualify for the Special Use License. This rule applies to both day and overnight users.
2. Cypress Creek Preserve
Cypress Creek Preserve is just north of Tampa Bay, Florida, and it’s a fantastic place to stretch your legs and get moving. There are around 5 miles of paved and 11 miles of unpaved trails for biking and inline skating. In addition, hikers can enjoy 19 miles of designated hiking trails, and horse riders can trek around 14 miles worth of trails.
Those camping at Cypress Creek Preserve will have the option of non-equestrian or equestrian campsites. Each comes with a picnic table and fire ring or grill. You’ll need a free camping reservation to stay here.
3. Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area
Hunting, fishing, birding, nature study, hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling are some activities you can look forward to at the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area. Wildlife viewing and bird watching are both very popular here.
This free camping spot is about an hour southeast of Orlando, Florida, which means you aren’t far from the theme park action of central Florida. Yet, you’re far enough away from the commotion to take it easy.
When established hunts aren’t happening, you can access primitive camping at a walk-in campsite at the Prairie Lakes Unit year-round. There are individual sites, a group campsite, and four family-sized campsites. You must obtain a free camping permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by calling (352) 732-1225.
On the rest of Three Lakes, you can camp during hunting season as long as it’s in a hunter-designated camping area. But if you go to the Florida Trail, you’ll find camping throughout the year.
4. Kowechobe Campground
Kowechobe Campground sits within Dinner Island Ranch, 30 minutes from Lake Okeechobee, a well-known lake in southern Florida. Those who enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking, off-road biking, and wildlife viewing will appreciate what this area offers. Horseback riding is yet another favorite activity near Kowechobe Campground.
Those seeking a genuinely primitive experience will enjoy this free camping in Florida, as there are no amenities. But there are 20 sites for both tents and small RVs. Campers should arrive with all items needed to safely camp, including drinking water. All campers at Kowechobe Campground must receive a free permit and site reservation using the online reservation system or calling the South Regional Office at (561) 625-5122.
5. 17 Mile Hunt Camp
Hunters in the Osceola Wildlife Management Area forests should look no further than 17 Mile Hunt Camp. It offers fantastic opportunities for hunting, hiking, horse riding, and fishing–it’s an outdoors person’s dream! It’s also excellent for seeing a side of Florida that many don’t see–the forest. Camping among the pines may not be a beach view, but it’s quiet and peaceful.
Campers have reported that while the camping experience is considered primitive, you’ll find two vault toilets and bear-proof trash receptacles. There are campsites suitable for tent campers as well as smaller RVs. However, campers should remain bear aware and take care not to leave food in tents or outdoors.
What You Need for Free Camping in Florida
Free camping typically means you’re on your own as far as facilities go. You’ll need to be self-contained for cooking, showering, using the restroom, and electrical needs. Having access to a generator or battery bank will be essential for many people, especially in an RV.
Water is another limiting factor in utilizing free camping, so bring enough water for cooking and washing. Cutting your trip short due to a water shortage can be a frustrating end to an otherwise fabulous trip.
Be mindful of proper waste disposal for both bagged trash and wastewater. Have a plan for disposing of it, even if it means taking it with you when you leave. Just as important–never dump RV gray or black tank waste on the ground. Doing so is not only unsanitary and disrespectful to the next camper, but it’s also almost always illegal.
Did you know there was free camping in Florida? If you want to see Florida on a budget or just keep it simple, these free campsites might be worth your time. Don’t forget to check out these Harvest Hosts in Florida for more free camping options!
What’s your favorite activity to do while camping in Florida?