5 Places To Camp In FL When The Snowbirds Reserve Everything
Trying to book a camping reservation at an RV park, state park or national park in the winter in Florida is like trying to buy a ticket for the Superbowl on game day from the box office. It's probably not going to happen.
The northern snowbirds book up most campgrounds over a year in advance, making it almost impossible to book anything from the Panhandle to the Keys. If you are lucky, you can show up and maybe, just maybe, hope for a spot for a night or so. Or if you hunt 24/7 online, you might be able to piece together a reservation for a couple of nights, but that's not guaranteed.
Many city ordinances and Walmarts in Florida don't allow any overnight parking (Many Walmarts across the country do welcome RVers and allow overnight parking for free. Always check with store management before parking for the night.), so as an RVer, it can be really frustrating visiting this state if you didn't plan a year ahead. We are not the planning type, so we had some difficulty in Florida. But, we get it- Florida has some of the best weather, activities, attractions and food in the winter while the rest of the county is shoveling snow.
Here are a few tricks and tips on places to park we discovered while in Florida. Hopefully they will help you out too!
1. Cracker Barrel Restaurants
Just type 'Cracker Barrel near me' in your google maps app and you will likely find several close to your location. They are all over the south! Most RVers know that you can stay a night at a Cracker Barrel with no problems. But many don't realize that you can spend multiple nights here without any issue.
When we were in Florida we stayed at the Cracker Barrel in Homestead (close to Miami, The Everglades, The Keys and Biscayne National park) for almost two weeks off an on while we did day trips to the parks. There were a lot of RVers coming and going, but none that took advantage of the ability to have a longer stay.
Parking here for several days only worked for us because we have a tow car (our Hyundai Sonata), so we could leave the RV during the day and drive the Sonata to the National Parks. If you don't have a tow car, then this option might be difficult for you.
Cracker Barrels are great because they are safe, quiet, well lit, and have great southern cooking at your doorstep. They are also usually located next to a field of grass, which made it super easy and convenient for doggie potty time too. Just realize that this is not hook-up camping, so you will definitely be dry camping aka 'boondocking'. But if you have solar, like we do, it's a great solution when all else fails!
2. Check Out Inland RV Parks
The coastal parks are the ones that are mostly overbooked, but we had some good luck at finding several open reservations for long periods of time at some of the inland parks.
For two weeks we stayed at the very cute and quiet Grandma’s Grove RV Park right outside of Fort Meyers, Florida. We were able to pull in with our 35’ RV and our attached tow car with no problems and the rate was very reasonable for all the amenities it offered (dump station, 30 amp hookups, laundry room, swimming pool, community events and more!).
Even though it was a little bit further inland, which meant it would be a bit longer of a drive for day trips, we didn't mind one bit because we were so grateful to actually have a place to hook up for a few weeks and run some AC in the Florida heat. It was nice to not worry about whether or not we would eventually be kicked out of the Cracker Barrel parking lot for overstaying our welcome! We loved Grandma's Grove, the staff, and the property. It is definitely a great secret spot in the sea of snowbird mania! Click here to read our full review of Grandma's Grove.
3. Water Management Districts
Florida has many Water Management Districts (similar to BLM land on the west coast) that offer spots for large RVs. Most of the spots are remote so if you are sick of asphalt camping at Cracker Barrel, you can get your nature fix here. The only downside is the website for the campgrounds is quite confusing to navigate.
Trying to figure out where they are, where you are, how big of a rig it can hold, costs, if you need to reserve or not, etc is not an easy task online.
However, each time we actually called to speak with someone, they were incredibly helpful and had great suggestions for us. Just go to the website and call the district office that you are in (i.e. Northwest Florida WMD or Suwannee River WMD).
Many of the districts have free camping and others have camping for a small fee, but most of them are boondocking. We loved hanging out in the WMDs whenever we could and highly recommend them!
4. Wildlife Management Areas
Florida also has Wildlife Management Areas run by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to manage species and habitats throughout Florida. They also regulate hunters and licensing. Like the WMD, these areas also have several campgrounds that are affordable and sometimes even free. But you have to obtain a license to camp through their online reservation system.
Just make sure to double check that the area can accommodate your size RV before booking.
5. Search For Casinos!
Casinos are one of the best ways to dry camp for free in Florida. They usually have large parking lots, are well lit and have security so it feels very safe. There are only a handful throughout Florida, but they are in great locations that worked out well for our route.
When we went to Shark Valley in the Everglades (see our post on the Everglades) we stayed at a Miccosukee Resort & Gaming very close by and it was very convenient! Plus casinos usually have good food and nice bathrooms.
Let us know if these tips helped you and if you have any other suggestions for alternative RV camping spots in Florida!