Where to Pitch a Tent in the Florida Keys
A camping trip through the Florida Keys is one of the more epic ways to experience the quirks and beauty of this sprawling string of islands. Explore the beaches, mangrove swamps, hammocks and waterways by day, before settling into camp for the evening. Take the time to spend the night in campsites close to brilliant, turquoise waters, as you gaze at twinkling stars and grill up dinner. Below, we've sourced our favorite spots to camp in the Florida Keys.
The prettiest slice of sand -- and the best camping -- in the Florida Keys belongs to Bahia Honda State Park, a tiny island comprised of 500 acres just offshore from Mile Marker 37 along Overseas Highway. If you've driven down to Key West you've likely seen the haunting remnants of tycoon Henry Flagler's attempted railroad bridge rising from the sparkling, turquoise surf. That dramatic view, as well as silky stretches of soft, white sand lapped by tranquil waves are what make the island's beaches so popular.
Three campgrounds in the park offer 80 sites, though sites 64 to 72 are the most desirable. Amenities include bathrooms and hot showers, as well as a concession stand. Be prepared: Bahia Honda's campgrounds get booked up to a year in advance, so plan ahead or be willing to check regularly for cancellations.
You'll find a snorkelers and divers haven at John Pennekamp in the thick of Key Largo, the northernmost of the Florida Keys. The parks serves as the gateway to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and boasts the only living coral reef in the United States (located a few miles offshore). Though the campground can get crowded with RVs and groups, it's well worth a visit -- namely so you can charter a diving or snorkeling trip through the park's concession. If you have time, rent a kayak and slip through the park's Mangrove Trail, or relax on its tiny beach. Not one for adventure activities? The park also offers glass bottom boat tours of the reef.
Pennekamp features 47 campsites for both tent and RV campers. Each site also has a picnic table and grill; toilets and hot showers are also available.
Finding any undeveloped patch of land in the Florida Keys is a minor miracle these days. Incredibly Curry Hammock still remains one of the largest swaths of its kind. Campers will find themselves in the quiet midst of a mangrove swamp, rockland hammocks and seagrass bed, all perfect to explore via canoe, kayak, or on foot. A peaceful, windswept beach only adds to the Curry Hammock's allure. As the sun dips toward the horizon and the day-visitors leave, evening can bring a sense of unrivalled solitude.
The campground is home to a mere 28 sites -- all within view of the ocean and each with picnic table, charcoal grill, water and 20/30/50-amp electrical service. The main restroom has composting toilets and solar-powered hot showers, and most sites have an adjoining sandy area for pitching a tent.
This sprawling, family-owned campground is a Key West classic perched along the island's waterfront. What Boyd's lacks in peace and quiet it makes up for with its stellar location just minutes from famed Duval Street. Since the 1960s, Boyd's has played host to tent and RV campers, and today offers an exceptional number of amenities, including a heated pool, Wi-Fi, beach and convenience store. No need to worry about getting bored at Boyd's, either. If you're not heading into Duval Street for shopping, a bar crawl or sunset celebration, you can enjoy Boyd's ice cream socials, movie nights, cookouts, and live music.
From seasoned road tripper Mike Shubic to founder and CEO of RoadTrippers.com James Fisher, meet the panel of advisors behind Travel’s Best Road Trips 2015.