Florida Winter Camping

Written by on December 28, 2013 in Campskunk with 33 Comments

gamble2 As a native Floridian, I’m in a good position to jump on targets of opportunity that pop up over the winter here, and I just snagged three nights at one of the most coveted camping locations in the Sunshine State – Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreational Area.

Here’s a photo of our setup at the next door site last year. A person could be happy here ;-)

This is a tiny oceanfront park just north of Daytona Beach, administered by the state park system, and they use the ReserveAmerica system to allow people to make online reservations. With 34 spots and millions of visitors to Florida every winter, they’re usually booked solid, but people cancel and things happen, and lo and behold there were three nights in a row at a beautiful spot next weekend when I checked the reservation website, so I pounced right on that baby.

The ReserveAmerica website is here, and if you aren’t registered already you should be, and at recreation.gov as well.  Both of these sites are used by state park and federal systems to make campsites available online. You can search by area – all campsites near a particular city – which is way better than some of the less user-friendly reservation systems.  State park camping fees here in Florida are $30ish a night, half off for resident seniors, so I can afford $46 or so for three nights of oceanfront camping right after New Years.  The next available night at this particular campsite is August, to give you an idea of the demand.

Here we are at the day stay area at St George. With a Class B, you can do this, returning to the campground at dusk. Try it in a big rig and they'd bounce you back  to the campground posthaste.

Here we are at the day stay area at St George. With a Class B, you can do this, returning to the campground at dusk. Try it in a big rig and they’d bounce you back to the campground posthaste.

Florida state parks that I like besides Gamble Rogers are Julian Bruce on St George Island over southwest of Tallahassee on the Gulf, and St. Joseph Peninsula State Park a little further west, approaching Panama City. Neither have the beachfront camping like Gamble Rogers, but you’re still close enough to hear the surf at night, and with a Class B you just go down to the oceanfront day stay area and hang out all day.   These two parks are also much easier to get reservations for.

Come back to the Gulf Coast, Mike. All that white sand is waiting for you ;-)

The beach at St. Joe. Come back to the Gulf Coast, Mike. All that white sand is waiting for you ;-)

The blindingly white gulf beaches are what had Mike Wendland mooning over how wonderful it would be to spend forever there – until he went to Colorado and fell in love with the mountains. Oh well, I am sure a month or two of Michigan winter weather will reawaken his fond memories of toes in the sand down by the Gulf. I’ll throw a photo of the beach at St Joseph Peninsula State Park in to jog his memory. As you can tell, I’m partial to beach camping – there are plenty of inland state parks, but I seldom visit them.

I really don’t have much experience trying to camp in South Florida in the winter, but the laws of supply and demand dictate that it’s going to be a lot harder than it is up in the part of the state where I live. Commercial campgrounds are pricey, state and county parks are full, and if you go to the Keys, expect to pay hotel money for a campsite – if you can get one.

I did have good luck snagging a spot for a few days at a St Pete county park out on the tip of the sandspit at the mouth of Tampa Bay, Fort De Soto, and it was $35-40ish.

I know winter camping in Florida is everyone’s dream, but that’s a problem, when “everyone” includes a good proportion of Florida’s 45 million annual visitors who arrive by car or RV.  I have a low tolerance for crowds anyway, so you won’t find me down there in South Florida often.

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About the Author

About the Author: "Campskunk" is a blissfully retired former public servant who has left the challenges of how to run the government to younger and less cynical hands, and wanders the continent in his Roadtrek Class B RV with his wife and cat. In addition to his work in the public sector, he has also at various times been a mechanic and delivery driver, skills which come in handy in his new role. Because his former job involved the forensic evaluation and sometimes the subsequent detention of some not-so-nice people, he uses the name Campskunk instead of his legal name on the Internet. His was not the type of job where customer service feedback would be welcome. .


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33 Reader Comments

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  1. Laura H P says:

    Thanks for the info. We have reservations at one campground on the Gulf side but have discovered that you need to make plans a year in advance. That’s way too hard for us to do. So, we are going to take our chances and try the drive-up method. If we don’t have any luck, oh well. This is our first year as “snowbirds” and we’re learning lots of things! Camo Ken has a 10# bass on his bucket list; that’s our focus this winter. Thanks again.

  2. Barbara D says:

    Thanks for the FL camping ideas. We are headed there in late Jan to spend Feb in FL. We have often make this CA to FL trip and always enjoy it. Love visiting friends, relatives and birding along the way. A couple of parks we like is the St. Joseph Peninsula SP that you mentioned , Manatee Springs SP near Chiefland, DeSota (you mentioned it) and Anastasia SP.

    Now we have a few more to try!!

  3. Dana Christine says:

    Sarah Morehead

  4. Thanks for the insight on the Keys. I am a budding seasonal employee trying to figure out options.

  5. Don Grant says:

    Quite the concept on winter camping.


  7. Same here, wish that was me!!

  8. Kelly Atchison Shelton says:

    Jackie Atchison Bradley, Connie Blake Atchison, Jim Atchison, Rob Bradley

  9. We may be doing this next winter

  10. Gary Eckler, read this article. Lots of good info!

  11. Would love to be doing this right now.

  12. Helen Trammell Cash Suppes says:

    would love to have one of these–but ——

  13. Oughta try it sometime!

  14. Kim Bourne Kim Bourne says:

    We enjoy our small motorhome and we stay on the road a lot would love to be full time.

  15. Raven Rayne Raven Rayne says:

    stop by when you get here

  16. Lib Simon Lib Simon says:

    The only way to hangout….the Roadtrek way!

  17. Nancy Miller Nancy Miller says:

    I would love to have this so I could go whenever I wanted too!

  18. Sherilyn Morrill says:

    Wow, wish I were there!!!Beautiful

  19. Jerry Glenn Hartwig says:

    “I know winter camping in Florida is everyone’s dream, “. Um – sorry, but no. Like the B though… We travelled for years in a B until we felt the need for a bit more space. Enjoyed the article.

  20. Fred Showker Fred Showker says:

    You cannot stress enough — MAKE RESERVATIONS EARLY … there are sites in Florida that are book a year in advance — specially for winter dates. If you drive to Florida from December to mid-February, you’ll encounter endless caravans of campers and RVs from up north, headed to Florida. — MAKE RESERVATIONS EARLY

  21. It gets cold in Florida also!

  22. It gets cold in Florida also!

  23. Gina Marie Werrick says:

    Love the Roadtrek, wish I could afford one. Sigh!

  24. I’m really digging this thing ive always wanted a little camper and it beats doing short hop tours in a car

  25. Khai Le Khai Le says:

    Nice place . I love camping at the beach

  26. Russ Palmer says:

    Nice…. looks like fun to me…

  27. What is the highest level on top of the pictured Roadtrek? Solar?

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