I spent much of last year road tripping the USA in a 31-foot motorhome with my four children in tow. Making it to the Florida Keys was a trip milestone. After all, we left home on the day of a major snowstorm and it happened to be the first day I had driven the motorhome more than a mile. As I pulled out of the driveway on that snowy morning, I figured if I could actually make it to Key West, I would have over 1,700 miles under my driving belt, and that wouldn’t be too shabby of an accomplishment for a solo mom and kid crew. If I could log 1,700 miles, I could take on many, many more miles. Which, of course, I later did….
Much of my adventure was unplanned–talk about winging it and free-spirit living. However, I had learned that campgrounds in Florida can often fill up a year in advance, so I did do a bit of advance planning. As in something like a few days in advance.
Luckily, I was able to get into a few great spots, thanks to some last minute cancellations and my short stay requests. Looking back and knowing what I now know about camping in the Florida Keys, if I had a do-over, I would actually reserve truly in advance and stay a lot longer to soak up the beauty and warmth of this part of the USA.
So, on to that list (in no particular order)….
1. Boyd’s Key West Campground. This campground is really an RV Park, although I did see a few people tent camping. I hesitated to book here because of mixed online reviews and expense, but we really lucked out and it was a memorable experience. We were able to get an ocean front spot for our motorhome, with our back wheels literally only a few feet to the water’s edge. Our site had a lovely palm tree that provided a bit of shade and privacy. Customer service was good, but then again when you’re checking in with four adorable, well behaved kids sometimes that has a warming effect on people. Though you can’t swim in the water off the campground, we spent a lot of time in the beautiful pool. There was an on-site option to rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards for use off the campground docks. Security made periodic rounds through the narrow campground streets. The laundry center was clean. From the campground, it only takes a few minutes to drive to the downtown Key West, where you can find amazing food, entertainment, and of course, snap a pic for Instagram in front of the Southernmost Point Marker. If I wanted to camp in the Key West area again, I wouldn’t hesitate to return here.
2. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. I wished we could have had a longer stay at John Pennekamp, but when you don’t plan in advance, it’s not easy getting a site at this very popular Florida Keys State Park. As luck would have it, it poured the entire time of our stay, so we didn’t get to take in the amazing water and beach opportunities here. The campground is accessed by gate code. It’s a relatively small campground in terms of sites. We had a nice back-in site, near a terrific hiking/walking trail, and within a short walk to the Visitor’s Center/Museum, Marina, beach, and Kayak/Paddleboard rental center. The price for staying here was very reasonable compared to private campground rates at Florida Key locations. I’d definitely stay here again.
3. Key Largo Kampground & Marina. When I entered the Florida Keys earlier than expected and before my reservation came up at another campground, I needed a place to park for the night. Though the State Parks nearby were full, I was able to get a site at the Key Largo Kampground & Marina. I was greeted by a guy sitting on a golf cart at the reservation building. He told me it was a cash only RV Park/campground, so after I selected a site (there were a few to choose from), I had to leave and find an ATM in Key Largo. Note to self: next time carry a bit of cash. The Kampground has a number of permanent or semi-permanent residents living in it, some sites are better maintained than others. A few places near the garbage area were not so pretty. However, the location of this Kampground is convenient, especially for a short stopover or if your looking for a place to park so you can get some local diving in. The RV Park felt safe enough for this mama with her kids (there’s a main gate into the sites). The kids liked throwing rocks into the water at the little beach near our site, though it wasn’t exactly a pretty beach you’d expect to find in the Keys. It’s at a Marina, after all. The kids enjoyed the pool–basic, but we had it to ourselves–as well as the play area for kids. I’d stay here again if I needed an overnight in the Key Largo area and couldn’t get into a State Park.
4. Bahia Honda State Park. It pains me to say that I didn’t have a chance to stay at Bahia Honda State Park. While I wouldn’t normally promote it as a best campground without having stayed there, it seems only fair it gets a mention given the amazing and positive things I’ve heard about this place. As I drove by the Park entrance on my way South–and then North again–I couldn’t help but wish I hadn’t dragged my feet in making a reservation. Well, then again, my entire whirlwind 48 State Tour was a bit spontaneous with little advance planning, so I can’t really beat myself up. This place is at Mile Marker 37 and is said to have an amazing beach, snorkeling opportunities, and fun for families. I tried and tried to get a reservation here. I continually checked for campground cancellations, but no luck. Better luck to you! If you get a campground reservation, please write and tell me all about this spot.
5. Sunshine Key RV Resort. Another place I didn’t make it to, although I had tentatively made a reservation here, which I cancelled when I got into another campground. Although this place has mixed reviews, if you’re a Thousand Trails member (as I was) or Encore member, this place is probably worth the stay if you can snag a deal. While you’re driving along the main highway, it looks like the RV park is in a decent location, and convenient to exploring the Keys. Had I had more time to stay in the Florida Keys, I would have given this place a try.
Have another favorite camping spot or RV Park/Resort in the Florida Keys in mind? I’d love to hear about it. After all, who knows where my Wanderlust will next take me…or when?