If you want to go van camping in the Florida Keys, you definitely need to plan ahead.
Whether you are camping in an RV, van, or tent, Florida Keys campgrounds can be expensive and fill up months in advance.
Start planning now with these suggestions for camping in Key Largo, Long Key, Marathon, Lower Keys, and Key West.
Van Camping in the Florida Keys
In February, my husband and I decided to escape the cold in our home state of Ohio and drive to Key West.
The Florida Keys are a quintessential road trip destination, and we were excited to take our campervan all the way to Key West.
We knew the benefits of van camping and even had our top ten van camping hacks, but we didn’t realize just how far ahead we needed to plan to secure campsites in the Keys. And not just the Keys!
The Snowbirds in search of warmer weather make finding campgrounds in the Sunshine State hard to come by during the winter months.
I had hoped to camp every inch of our trip but that didn’t work out. We did learn a few lessons through. Don’t make our mistakes!
Here’s what you need to know when Car Camping in the Keys:
- Florida is a very popular spot to camp in February. We knew this, but didn’t really plan for it. We had a HARD time finding available campsites.
- Campsites in the Keys are stinking expensive, especially if you don’t plan ahead.
- There aren’t rest stops or Wal-Marts along the way to use as a backup like we would in other parts of the US. The Wal-Marts we found were either neighborhood stores that aren’t open 24-hours a day or they were patrolled to deter overnight camping and loitering.
- When we went we found quite a bit had been damaged by one of the Hurricanes and some of the parks are still closed due to Ian.
- Take note that reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance for Florida State Park Campgrounds so plan ahead. This is not a destination that is ideal for last minute trips.
The last minute campsites we found in the Keys came with a premium price tag.
I couldn’t convince my husband to fork over $100+ for a primitive campsite.
However, since I already researched the best spots for van camping in the Keys, I’m sharing my info here so you can benefit.
Key Largo Camping
As you exit the Everglades and mainland Florida, the first stop along Highway 1 is Key Largo.
As a popular day trip destination from Miami, it’s best to start your Florida Keys camping adventure on a week-day to avoid crowds and have the best chance at scoring a good camping spot.
Key Largo is also a prime diving destination. If you enjoy diving or snorkeling, you will definitely want to park your van here for a few days. Key Largo has dozens of camping options including these campgrounds:
- John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: 47 campsites for tents and RV camping in the Keys; accessible restrooms and showers; 24-hour WiFi at the concession building.
Several boating excursions depart from the park, including one in glass bottom boats.
Call the park to make reservations: 1-800-326-3521
- Key Largo Kampground & Marina: This camping resort has two beaches on Newport Bay, a heated swimming pool, 24-hour security and tons of family-friendly amenities and activities.
Rates for RV sites start at $100.
Camping in Long Key
100 miles from Miami, Long Key is a nature-lover’s paradise with bird-watching, kayaking, fishing and much more. Layton is the main “city” on Long Key, with a population nearing 200 residents.
This area tends to be a bit less crowded than Key Largo or Key West.
Many visitors drive right through, as it’s “on the way” to Key West.
As such, there are fewer campgrounds in Long Key, but still enough choices – from no-frills to fancy – that you should not have any trouble finding a spot to park your van if you plan ahead.
- Long Key State Park: This state park has 60 campsites with Atlantic Ocean views and hot showers at the campground.
Kayak rental is also available at the state park. (Note: This campground is currently closed due to damage from Hurricane Ian).
- Fiesta Key RV Resort: One of the more luxurious Florida Keys RV parks, this resort on Long Key has thought of everything.
From a swimming pool and hot tub, to a Tiki Bar & Cantina Restaurant, there are numerous activities and amenities at Fiesta Key RV Resort. Rates vary.
Prices in winter start around $175+ during the week.
Campsites in Marathon
The city of Marathon is spread across 13 islands in the Florida Keys and is best known for the coral reef nearby.
At 115 miles from Miami and about 50 miles from Key West, staying in Marathon puts Key West within a reasonable day trip distance for your Florida Keys camping trip.
Wildlife is abundant in this area, with the Dolphin Research Center and Turtle Hospital both located here. As with the other Florida Keys destinations, Marathon offers a nice assortment of affordable state park camping and luxury RV resorts with all the amenities. Two of the more popular options include:
- Curry Hammock State Park: A pristine park that protects large swaths of mangrove swamps and Rockland hammocks along the shoreline.
The 28-site campground has composting toilets and solar showers, plus beach access. Kayaking, cycling, fishing, and hiking are all popular in this park.
- Grassy Key RV Park & Resort: This upscale RV resort has a swimming pool, clubhouse, white sand beach, and organized activities.
Prices for self-contained models start at $90 off season and $135+ during the inseason.
Traveling on from Marathon, one enters the Lower Keys, which includes over a dozen islands between the Seven-Mile Bridge and Key West. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to park your van in Key West, staying in this area is a great nearby option.
- Bahia Honda State Park: One of the Keys’ most coveted destinations is Bahia Honda State Park on Bahia Honda Key and hands down my pick for THE best place for camping in the Florida Keys.
The beach is award-winning and the park has some of the best snorkeling and beachcombing in Florida.
The park has multiple campgrounds, including some hammock camping sites, and offers cabin rentals as well if you need a break from the van!
- Sunshine Key RV Resort & Marina: This resort & marina is located on a 75-acre island near Big Pine Key.
The resort offers a swimming pool, a game room, organized activities, and a fitness center.
Key West Campgrounds
It’s a small island, but Key West is very popular with tourists.
Key West camping is limited, but there are a few options.
And if you’re willing to drive a bit to the Lower Keys, you can still easily explore Key West several times during your Florida Keys vacation.
- Boyd’s Key West Campground: The first campground you pass as you approach Key West, Boyd’s offers everything from full hookup sites to primitive camping, some of which are right on the water.
The campground includes a pool, paddleboard and kayak rental, a game room, and a marina.
- Leo’s Campground & RV Park: Located at mile marker 4.5, Leo’s has RV and tent sites, some of which have electric.
They even offer tent rentals and setup if you prefer.
This no-frills Key West campground has fun outdoor games and resident iguanas.
One final note on camping in the Florida Keys: As mentioned, it’s a very popular RV destination in the winter months.
If you plan to use RV parks, you need to make reservations well in advance and should expect to pay up to and over $100- 200 per night and up for a fully-equipped site with hookups.
State Parks are less expensive, but also very popular.
There are cheaper options, and van camping gives you some flexibility, but it’s good to do all your research upfront and plan ahead.
Make sure your van is fully self-contained or plan to camp at a tent site.
Have you van camped in the Florida Keys? What tips would you share?
Monday 22nd of November 2021
I have a VW Westfailia & spent many nights camping in KW. I don't mind sharing, as I tell my wife, "the best things are free" ! Here goes.. 1. There is a $25 -pkg lot a few blocks off Duval St. You must leave by 6am. 2. There's a place by bridge that leads to the Naval installation (not airfield). Several "regulars" park their vans overnight., adjacent to the bridge. 3. The list could go on & on. Our biggest problem was that our "Hippie Van" attracts pix takers & people with their own neat VW stories. Otherwise, we didn't have any probs. If anyone has a decent over-night spot, please post.
Saturday 11th of December 2021
Thanks so much for the tips, Garry! I'll keep those in mind next time we're in KW. We can fly a bit more under the radar with our Promaster but have found that since van camping is getting more popular, more people are asking if ours is a camper van and if they can see inside it. LOL I'm sure it will never attract the attention your VW does though! It sounds awesome.
Wednesday 28th of July 2021
When I vacationed in Keys I stayed in a hotel at Homestead and just drove back and forth to different islands, including Key West. It was much cheaper that way for us and we didn't mind the drive.
Monday 30th of August 2021
My husband and I also stayed in Homestead and you're right, it is very affordable. That is definitely an option.