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Expect the Unexpected While Camping in Florida


Camping in Florida is a year-around activity in a state blessed with warm, humid summers and mild, dry winters. The state’s subtropical coastal, uplands, marine and freshwater ecosystems offer unique opportunities for camping, fishing, boating, hiking and wildlife viewing. Many federal and state parks in Florida also include heritage and cultural resources. Whether you prefer a summer tent or a well-ventilated 3-season tent, the rich biodiversity of the state’s national forests, parks and seashores will bring you into close contact with plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world.

State Parks

The state Division of Recreation and Parks (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/parks/default.htm) administers 723,000 acres in 159 parks, many of which offer sites for great camping in Florida. Swim and scuba dive at the nation’s first underwater park, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef, north of Key Largo. Explore wooded trails at the Alafia River State Park southeast of Tampa. Swim or search for wildlife in the pine flatwoods of Big Lagoon southwest of Pensacola or amongst the islands of Curry Hammock between Little Crawl Key and Long Key.

National Forests

The Apalachicola (Tallahassee), Osceola (Lake City), and Ocala (Silver Springs) National Forests offer 1.2 million acres of longleaf, slash, sand and loblolly pine forests mixed with savannahs, swamps and bogs. Some of the developed campgrounds require reservations while most are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want a camping in Florida experience marked by a back-to-basics solitude, you can pitch your tent almost anywhere within national forest boundaries except during the hunting seasons. Online information: http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/

National Parks and Seashores
 

Camping in Florida is permitted at 7 units of the National Park System. The map and links at http://home.nps.gov/applications/parksearch/state.cfm?st=fl provide directions, operating hours, fee and permit details, and habitat and recreational information for the following:

* Big Cypress National Preserve, Ochopee
* Biscayne National Park, Key Biscayne
* Canaveral National Seashore, Titusville
* Dry Tortugas National Park, Key West
* Everglades National Park, Miami
* Gulf Islands National Seashore, Gulf Breeze
* Timucuan Preserve, Jacksonville

When you go camping in Florida, expect the unusual from hiking to habitats and recreation to wildlife. Look for Manatees, American Crocodiles and the Florida Panther in the Everglades National Park, the nation’s largest subtropical wilderness area. The adjacent Big Cypress National Preserve offers more hiking, camping and wildlife. If you have yet to explore coral reefs, take a seaplane or boat to the islands of the Dry Tortugas National Park. At Gulf Islands National Seashore, go swimming, snorkelling, fishing, and boating and then explore the old coastal fortifications of Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens, Fort McRee, the batteries, and the advanced redoubt. After camping at the Canaveral National Seashore, take a tour of the facilities at the Kennedy Space Center.

While you may experience a sudden shower in the “Sunshine State,” bring your sunglasses, sunscreen, bathing suit, swim fins and mask along with your camping equipment. But most of all, bring your imagination.


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