A subtropical climate with warm, humid summers and mild winters translates into year-around opportunities for tent camping in Florida. During the dry winter/fall seasons, there are days when you can camp in a summer tent.
If you camp in a summer tent (also called a 1-season, 2-season or warm weather tent) during the spring or summer, pack a rainfly or canopy for protection against unexpected downpours. In fact, on days when sudden showers are likely, consider a well ventilated 3-season tent for better rain protection.
The mesh in both 1- and 3-season tents allows in ocean and gulf breezes while keeping the insects out. Mesh, tucked-in mosquito netting, and zippered-shut doors protect you from Florida’s six poisonous snakes: southern copperhead, cottonmouth, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, dusky pygmy rattlesnake and coral snake.
Those who often go tent camping in Florida pitch their tents away from tall grass, brush, rock piles, titi and saw palmetto thickets, and wet areas near rivers, swamps, and marshes to avoid traditional snake habitats. Don’t forget to shake out your shoes, boots and sleeping bags before use.
Most web sites and guidebooks organize destinations and “en route locations” for tent camping in Florida into five regions:
- Northwest (Tallahassee, Panama City, Pensacola)
- Northeast (Jacksonville, Starke, Gainesville)
- Central (St. Augustine, Lakeland, Ocala)
- Southwest (Naples, Sebring, Sarasota)
- Southeast (Miami, Key Largo, Key West)
You’ll find an interactive Florida map showing these regions and the state parks within them at the Florida Division of Recreation and Parks web site: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/parks/default.htm.
The state’s 159 parks offer 723,000 acres of upland forests, wetlands, rivers, and lakes for swimming, boating, fishing, hiking and tent camping in Florida. If you’re drawn to sun, sand and sea, set up your tent at a campsite in the park system’s 100 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to state parks and private sites, there are numerous opportunities for tent camping in Florida at national parks and seashores. For location and details, explore the National Park Service web site at:
http://home.nps.gov/applications/parksearch/state.cfm?st=fl. Florida’s four national forests offer diverse campgrounds, many of which are primitive and require no reservations. Check the national forest web site for directions and information at http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/.
While tent camping in Florida, you won’t see the state animal, the solitary Florida Panther. If you discover a Florida Black Bear or an American Alligator, give them space. You’ll probably hear the Northern Mockingbird, Florida’s state bird, singing its own song or imitating other birds.
In central Florida, perhaps you’ll see the threatened Florida Scrub Jay; in pine forests keep an eye out for the endangered Red-cockaded woodpecker. In coastal parks, you can see gulls, pelicans and terns from the comfort of your tent, while egrets, herons and other wading birds won’t be far away. Wildlife, water, forest and climate are the chief delights of camping in the “Sunshine State” even on a cloudy day.