If you’ve never fallen asleep to the soft lullaby of undulating ocean waves or breathed in wafting salt air in the morning, then it’s time to reconnect to nature with a seaside camping trip. The ultimate form of self-medication, beachside camping is a prescription for all. A truly unique opportunity to merge everything Miami and its surrounding areas are known for (hint: tropical atmosphere) with pure, untouched nature in a beachside setting, these campsites are a place to get your feet wet and sandy while enjoying a fair dose of beautiful sunshine and a balmy breeze.
The one downside? For the most popular spots, you’ll want to reserve as much as 11 months in advance (when overnight bookings open for Florida’s state parks).
We’ve highlighted some of our favorite destinations, keeping in mind varying levels of camping experience — and maximum desire for outdoor fun.
There’s a reason why Bahia Honda State Park’s beach is considered the best in the Florida Keys. With its soft sugar-white sands, gleaming turquoise waters and no-filter-needed sunsets, you might be mistaken for thinking you were on a Caribbean island. But alas, you’re stateside, camping at a location known for outstanding snorkeling right off the shore or a quick boat ride to a mesmerizing reef at Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. Bahia Honda’s full-service facility includes three campgrounds for your tent or RV, plus cabins that you can rent. Or, if you have a boat, rent one of the 19 slips on the marina and sleep on the water as your boat gently sways with the tide.
Considered an “if you know, you know” kind of a campground by the locals, Curry Hammock State Park is a hidden alcove on the Atlantic Ocean side of Marathon in the Florida Keys. With nearly 1,000 acres of largely undeveloped land, Curry Hammock has become a favorite for adventurers seeking rustic outdoor life in the form of kayaking through mangroves, hiking amidst native fauna and kite boarding during windy days. The park is also a prime spot for bird watchers, as peregrine falcons travel here in droves during the fall migration season.
A short drive south from the heart of Miami, John Pennekamp State Park is located in Key Largo and is known for being the country’s first undersea park. Petite in dimension, the campsite is a launching pad for all things underwater, including scuba diving to the outstretched arms of Jesus Christ himself just off the coast of Key Largo, where the 8.5-foot-tall statue Christ of the Abyss is submerged. Bring your fishing gear (the area is known for mangrove snapper) to throw your line in any of the designated areas.
Accessible only by boat or ferry, Peanut Island is a quick hour drive north of Miami on I-95 — and a completely different world from the 305. Thoughtfully landscaped with towering palm trees shading your campsite, the 80-acre Peanut Island is the place to be for those new to camping or for families with young kids who are just learning how to rough it. Thanks to its well-maintained walkways, facilities and beaches, plus a festive atmosphere with nearby boaters and revelers, its novice-friendly accommodations make camping here less intimidating and more attainable.
If the traditional idea of camping doesn’t interest you but seaside vacationing in seclusion does, then turn to The Moorings, located in the pristine key of Islamorada. The location of several posh fashion shoots and TV productions, The Moorings is a five-star beachside property with private two- and three-bedroom cottages with fully equipped kitchens and accommodations, not to mention a picture-perfect tropical atmosphere, complete with lush greenery and dozens of palm trees. In today’s fast-paced world, time somehow seems to stop at The Moorings, where visitors can take in the ocean views and feel the breeze on any of the cottages’ covered verandas or swinging hammocks.
Ever imagine sleeping inside a lifeguard tower? Me neither. But for a truly unique seaside stay in Key Largo, rent one of three brightly painted lifeguard towers, which have been converted into sleeping quarters with air conditioning and queen-sized beds. The owners of the towers provide kayaks for use on the nearby mangroves, where manatees have been known to swim by and alongside travelers.
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