The Florida keys have shown its resilience in the face of destruction. Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the 125-mile island chain in September of 2017. But as of one year later, just over 90 percent of the properties are back open and welcoming visitors to beachfront camping in Key West and local attractions.
It has been a hectic time for the Southernmost part of the contiguous U.S., but the Key West spirit has not been crushed and the healing process is bringing in visitors. Comparatively, the Key West and its pristine beaches are attracting more visitors per month in 2018 on average than recorded in previous months from the past six years.
Where to find the Best Key West Camping Spots
Despite being hit hard by hurricane season, those high winds and flooding waters haven’t wiped out Key West camping. Many campgrounds are open, but some are still undergoing rehabilitation from Hurricane Irma’s devastation. Be sure to check on campground websites available through listings on The Dyrt for availability and conditions.
The Boyd’s Key West campground boasts “southernmost hospitality,” and welcomes visitors for an ocean-front stay in their tent, RV, and camper spots. The campsite also offers free Wi-Fi, four bath houses, a heated swimming pool, and 50- and 30-amp electricity hookups. At this Key West camping site, you’ll only be minutes away from the popular tourist area of Duval Street.
“This campground is great because of its location. Sites are very small, you will be within three feet of your neighbor. Small fences provide some privacy, while sites in the mangrove area provide the most space.” — The Dyrt camper Alex F.
Just a mile up the road from Bahia Honda State Park, Sunshine Key RV Resort offers RV-friendly Key West camping, located on the 75-acre Ohio Key. The plots permit one RV, two cars, and one golf cart. Outdoor grills and collapsible canopies are allowed, but swimming pools/hot tubs are prohibited.
Some sites have waterfront access. Whether you’re just driving to or from the Keys, or you plan to park your fifth wheel for one to six months, the Sunshine Key RV Resort and Marina will bring the Gulf of Mexico sunsets to your front door every evening.
“I spent a month there in my fifth wheel with my mother and my kids. There was something for everyone. Good fishing on the old bridge, nice little marina and pool. The manatee like to hang out in the marina. Large spaces. Electric golf carts only if you have one. Bring the bicycles.” — The Dyrt camper George S.
Curry Hammock State Park is part of the Florida State Parks system. In the middle of Key Largo and Key West, Curry Hammock State Park protects mangrove swamps, rockland hammocks, and seagrass beds, creating a Key West camping experience in diverse ecosystems.
If you reserve a spot at one of the 28 campsites at Curry Hammock State Park, you’ll be able to view the Atlantic Ocean just outside your tent flap. Sites accommodate tents with sandy tent pads, and RVs up to 70 feet on any plot. Each campsite offers a grill, picnic table, water, and electrical service. Restrooms and solar-powered hot showers are also available on site.
“We had the best weather and the most amazing time. The beach, kayaking and nature trails were spectacular. Loved that we could ride our bikes just two miles to a local fish house.” —The Dyrt camper Lise M.
Long Key State Park has a storied past of being a luxury destination along the railroad line to Key West. Today, the site is a secluded haven for Florida Keys beach camping.
All 60 of Long Key’s campsites are beach front, and provide campers with a front row seat to the Atlantic Ocean. Water recreation like kayaking, snorkeling, and fishing are popular pastimes here. A picnic table, grill, electric and water hookups is present at each site—though the park advises that campers bring an extension cord because the hookups are located between sites.
“If you’re looking for a view of the ocean this is the perfect place. The sites are literally on the beach. It’s a great place to kayak or just lounge in the shallows.” —The Dyrt camper Sarah T.
The 524-acre Bahia Honda State Park is a slice of natural beauty among the much-traveled Florida keys. The Sandspur, Buttonwood and Bayside campgrounds are the only three camping spots in the park, all within the shady comfort of a canopied hardwood hammock. This dense tree ceiling, however, lowers the overhead clearance allowance for campers, so be sure to check the height regulations for specific campgrounds on the Florida State Parks website.
All campsites have a water source, picnic table, and grill. Pets are required to be kept on a six-foot leash, and are not permitted on the beach or in the water.
Unfortunately destruction from Hurricane Irma has temporarily closed the Sandspur campsite for repairs. Updates on the restoration effort can be found at the Florida State Parks website or by calling 305–872–2353. For those still looking to camp in the Bahia Honda State Park, both the Buttonwood and Bayside campgrounds are currently open.
“This is a must if you are visiting the keys! The beach is pretty typical Keys – gorgeous but nothing special. What sets this beach apart is not only the picturesque bridge and walking trail, but also the opportunity for snorkeling and guided tours to the reef.” —The Dyrt camper Megan K.
While not connected to the Florida keys via U.S. Route 1, Dry Tortugas National Park is a unique and secluded camping option within the keys, and is accessible from Key West through ferries, seaplanes or for those feeling adventurous, via kayak.
The park was once Fort Jefferson, a service post for the military to protect shipping channel in the Gulf of Mexico. Later being designated a National Monument and eventually a National Park, much of the old masonry in the fort is still in tact, and campers can set up their tents within the old cistern.
Camping at Dry Tortugas National Park separates itself from many other Key West camping spots for its truly rustic and peaceful feel, having only eight primitive campsites and little to no amenities. The park offers composting toilets, however campers must provide for all of their basic needs, including food, water, shelter, medication, and other essentials, as there is no store or running water.
The park has compiled a camper’s checklist on their NPS website. Campers should also be aware of the park’s resident hermit crab population, as campers have reported their seemingly endless population around the park.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime spot for sure. We rode a catamaran over there and were able to bring our supplies. It is a fantastic spot for snorkeling & scuba diving. The boat was able to drop you off and pick you up the next day. Make sure you’re able to bring whatever you may need because you are on your own once you’re there.” —The Dyrt camper Chris E.
Save this list of these Key West camping spots for your next Southern(most) excursion!
Can’t-Miss Attractions in Key West
Florida’s Key West is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, meaning the string of islands has plenty of water activities, but its dry land recreation has plenty to offer for campers as well.
From scuba divers looking to explore shipwrecks to the literary and history enthusiasts, Key West has cultural and outdoorsy recreation for everyone. No matter how you spend your time in the Keys, you’ll be greeted warmly be the 100-mile U.S. Route 1, a scenic way to spend a daytrip with a sunshine-filled drive (or bike!) over the ocean.
Travel to the Southernmost Point Buoy
The Southernmost Point Buoy is a concrete, anchored buoy that marks the south end of the keys. Even more so, the buoy is recognized as the southernmost point in the contiguous United States. Since 1983, visitors have made it a point to reach the lowest latitude land and photograph the buoy.
However, for the literal-minded, this buoy is not exactly the southernmost point in the keys or the U.S. Ballast Key is privately owned and 10 miles south of the buoy. Be that as it may, the buoy has become a cultural and tourist landmark in the Florida Keys.
Take a Literary Tour at Hemingway House
From 1931 to 1939, Key West was the home of literary giant Ernest Hemingway. The home and gardens of the famed author are available for tours year-round, and serve as a major attraction in the Key West area. A warning if you have cat allergies—around 100 cats roam about the property, many of whom are descendants of Hemingway’s own cat, Snow White.
Scuba Dive for Shipwrecks
There’s a world of unseen history to explore in the Key West abyss around the Atlantic ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Lost Reef Adventures is just one of many dive companies that offer underwater visits to hsitoric ship wrecks in the Keys. One sunken ship available for underwater exploration is the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, a World War II ship that was purposely sunk in 2009 to act as an artificial reef.
Visit a Butterfly Haven
The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory is a paradise for beautiful winged creatures. Hundreds of butterflies flit around the flower-filled habitat, in coexistence with more than 20 exotic bird species. Inside the Learning Center, witness every stage of life from egg to caterpillar, cocoon to butterfly.
Make your way down the All-American Road U.S. Route 1
U.S. Route 1 is a major connector that threads the entire East Coast of the United States together. The entire roadway runs over 2,300 miles, but you can start at mile zero in Key West.
This southern portion of the highway is about 100 miles long and creates two lanes of overseas passage for those driving to the Keys. This route boasts unforgettable ocean-surrounded sunsets. Adventurous bike-campers can ride portions of the road, both on the shoulder of the main road and on separated pedestrian bridges.
Celebrate the Sunset at Mallory Square
The Sunshine State takes its rays seriously. And the Key West community doesn’t take a single sunset for granted. At the world-famous Mallory Square, there’s a celebration at every sunset. As the sun begins to dip behind the horizon and casts the evening in hues of red, orange, and pink, performers from musicians to psychics come out in ceremonious reverence to Florida’s most defining quality —sunshine.
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