Florida in Fall: the best places for camping

Discover the prime spots for camping this upcoming season


The Sunshine State has always been a beloved beach vacation destination for Americans, but many people seem to forget that there’s more to Florida than theme parks and beaches! Camping is a huge travel trend right now, with first-time campers at an all-time high according to the North American Camping Report. Florida’s combination of sunny weather and natural beauty make it the perfect destination for your camping trip this fall. Holidu, the search engine for vacation rentals, decided to find out which places in Florida are the best for camping during this season. These camping hotspots were found using the Google search volume and the historical weather data for each town, and the data has highlighted that:

  • Coastal camping reigns supreme: all cities in the top 10 are located on the coast
  • Florida’s west coast is the most popular with campers 
  • Tampa Bay area is the best place for camping, with 4 cities in the top 10


Camping in Florida

1. Top Rated: Key West | Camping score: 10

Key West takes the cake in this ranking with a whopping 8,900 searches per month for camping. That’s not too surprising given the fact that the Florida Keys are not only one of the most beloved destinations in the country, they are also an area that holds immense natural beauty, and is the perfect destination for a camping getaway. From the mangrove forests to the Dry Tortugas Natural Park, Key West offers plenty of ways to immerse yourself in nature. Thanks to the 11.5 sun hours per day, even in fall, you won’t need to give up all your favorite water activities like snorkeling and scuba diving.

Top 3 things campers can’t miss:

  1. Explore the mangrove forests by kayak
  2. Discover the coral reefs while snorkeling
  3. Visit the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
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Image: Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden – credit Barb & Dean Russ & Williams via Flickr

2. Well-deserved second place: Clearwater | Camping score: 9.67

Coming in second place, the next camping hotspot is Clearwater. Clearwater is located on the same peninsula as St. Petersburg, with the Gulf of Mexico to the west and Old Tampa Bay to the east. This camping destination is a prime camping spot for any nature lover. Clearwater is home to several nature parks and reserves, such as the Moccasin Lake Nature Park or the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve, a great place to start your tour of Tampa Bay, whether you decide to go out on the water or hike along the shore. Bird watchers and fishers will also love Clearwater for the diverse wildlife you can observe in the area.

Top 3 things campers can’t miss:

  1. Discover Tampa Bay by kayak or boat
  2. Get to know Florida’s marine life at the Sand Key park
  3. See birds of prey up close at the Moccasin Lake Nature Park

Image: Clearwater – credit Roman Eugeniusz via Wikicommons

3. Close third: Naples | Camping score: 9.52

Beautiful Naples to the south takes third place! This town has the most sun hours of every place in the ranking, coming in at almost a full 12 hours of sun per day during the fall. Combine this with its proximity to several big natural parks like the Everglades, and it’s no wonder why Naples is the third most popular camping spot. Discover the unique ecosystem of Florida during your camping trip: manatees, dolphin and several indigenous bird species are waiting for you! The parks around Naples also offer many trails for hiking, biking and even for BMX-ing and off-road driving for all different ages and skill levels.

Top 3 things campers can’t miss:

  1. Get up close and personal with manatees
  2. Visit the magical Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
  3. Explore the mangrove forests of Collier-Seminole State Park
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Image: Everglades and Turner River, Naples – credit Chauncey Davis via Flickr

4. Surprising fourth: Miami | Camping score: 9.44

It might seem surprising to see a big city such as Miami in fourth place in this ranking, but the truth is that Miami is one of the best places for camping in the Sunshine State. You only have to drive a couple of miles to the south, and you’re in the middle of the Everglades! Other notable parks in the area are the East Coast Buffer Preserve, the Biscayne National Park and the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area. Take advantage of Miami’s 11.5 sun hours per day in fall to explore its beautiful parks. Whether you love hiking, biking, horse riding or kayaking, the parks around Miami have awesome trails for you to explore!

Top 3 things campers can’t miss:

  1. Discover the Everglades by airboat
  2. Go hummingbird spotting at the Castellow Hammock Preserve
  3. Explore the reef at the Biscayne National Park
Everglades, Miami

Image: Everglades National Park, Miami – credit Matthew Dillon via Flickr

5. Tampa | Camping score: 9.44

The third most populated city of Florida, Tampa, comes in fifth place for our list of camping hotspots. While Tampa, just like Miami, might not be a place you’d associate with camping, there are plenty of campgrounds and recreational areas in the outskirts of the city. The parks in and around Tampa, like the Rocky Creek Trails Nature Preserve or the Morris Bridge Road Preserve, have trails for all levels, not just for hiking and biking, but also for off-roading, horse riding and more! Tampa is also a prime spot for canoeing and kayaking, with plenty of waterways and rivers for you to explore.

Top 3 things campers can’t miss:

  1. Conquer the class II rapids at the Hillsborough River State Park
  2. Visit Morris Bridge Road Preserve for off-road biking and birdwatching
  3. Explore Tampa Bay’s waterways by kayak
Camping at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve

Image: Camping at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve – credit CityofStPete via Flickr

6. Fort Myers | Camping score: 9.43

In sixth place we find Fort Myers, the City of Palms! While the city is a favorite in summer because of its great beaches, fall brings warm but milder temperatures that are perfect for camping. A lot of the campgrounds are located on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River, where you can enjoy activities like fishing in a beautiful natural setting. Trail lovers can get their fix at one of the many forests and nature preserves nearby, where they can hike, bike and go off-roading.

Top 3 things campers can’t miss:

  1. Visit the Manatee park for a day of fun
  2. Discover the river’s ecosystem at the Caloosahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
  3. Enjoy the trails at the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
Six Miles Cypress Slough Preserve

Image: Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Fort Myers – credit Chris Griffith via Flickr

7. Dunedin | Camping score: 9.42

Let’s go back to Tampa Bay for the next town in this ranking: Dunedin is the next on our list coming in seventh place! This coastal town consists of two areas: the main city on the Florida peninsula, and several islands that make up two state parks. The state parks of Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island are two of the must-visit places in Dunedin. Take advantage of the warm weather and 11.6 sun hours in fall to enjoy a day full of fishing, hiking, biking and boating in Dunedin and around the islands. 

Top 3 things campers can’t miss:

  1. Explore the natural beauty of Caladesi Island
  2. Enjoy a bike ride along the Dunedin Causeway to Honeymoon Island
  3. Discover native Florida plants in Hammock Park

Image: Dunedin – credit Joanne C Sullivan via Flickr

8. Tarpon Springs | Camping score: 9.42

We stay in the Tampa Bay Area with Tarpon Springs in eighth place. This town is the perfect camping destination for everyone who loves to get out on or be close to the water. With the Gulf of Mexico on the east, Lake Tarpon on the west and a lot of waterways crisscrossing the city, there is no shortage of places to fish, sail and kayak. You can also explore the bayous on foot or by bike thanks to the beautiful trails of the North Anclote River Nature Park. Off the coast of Tarpon Springs you will also find the Anclote Key Preserve State Park, a picturesque island with plenty of camping opportunities and awesome hiking trails.

Top 3 things campers can’t miss:

  1. Enjoy freshwater fishing and boating on Lake Tarpon
  2. Explore the Tarpon Springs Bayous
  3. Learn everything about the Florida ecosystem at the Brooker Creek Preserve
Lake of Ferns, Tarpon Springs

Image: Lake of Ferns, Tarpon Springs – credit Melvin “Buddy” Baker via Flickr

9. Venice | Camping score: 9.41

While Venice is most famous for Venice Beach, it is surrounded by several state parks and nature preserves that make campers absolutely love this city! The campsites in the outskirts of Venice are the gateway to impressive parks and preserves like the Myakka River State Park and the Oscar Scherer State Park. A short drive will take you to the biggest hot springs in the world at Warm Mineral Springs Park: enjoy 85ºF water all year round! At only 25 minutes from Venice, this unique park is an experience you can’t miss. Relax your muscles in the therapeutic waters and recover from all your hiking and biking.

Top 3 things campers can’t miss:

  1. Explore the canals of Venice by kayak
  2. Wander through forests and wetlands in the Myakka River State Park
  3. Take a dive in the warm waters of the sinkhole at Warm Mineral Springs Park
Myakka River State Park, Venice

Image: Myakka River State park, Venice – credit JR P via Flickr

10. Cape Coral | Camping score: 9.40

We close the ranking with Cape Coral, another one of those popular beach destinations with hidden gems for camping. To the north of the town lie Yucca Pens Unit State Wildlife Management Area and the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, two amazing areas for hiking, fishing, off-roading and much more! Cape Coral also boasts access to many maritime reserves like the Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve, a protected channel between the city and Pine Island. Campers will be able to enjoy the very best of Florida’s wildlife!

Top 3 things campers can’t miss:

  1. Spot dolphin and manatee in the Matlacha Pass
  2. Enjoy a relaxing day on the water in the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve
  3. Explore all the trails in the Charlotte Harbor Preserve
Cape Coral

Image: Cape Coral, Florida – credit Domenico Convertini via Flickr

Discover the rest of the ranking in the table below:


Over 200 Florida towns and cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants were considered for this study. The starting point of the ranking was the average number of monthly searches on Google for the terms “camping in [town]” and “campgrounds [town]”. After gathering that data, the average amount of sun hours in the fall months (September-November) was calculated using historical weather data from World Weather Online. These two data points were normalized (adjusted to a common scale) in order to determine which destinations were the best places for camping. In case of a tie, the search volume of the respective destinations decided which town was ranked higher.

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