Look just past the seemingly endless urban-suburban sprawl of Florida’s second largest city and you’ll find plenty of sparkling coastline and wild wetlands to explore. The Tampa Bay area offers a surprising array of campground options from beachside tent spots and primitive wilderness sites to upscale RV campgrounds with all the comforts of home. See our picks for the best Tampa, Florida campgrounds and no matter your preference, you’ll only be a short drive from the top area attractions including Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium.
Beachside Tampa Bay Campgrounds
Located just off the St. Petersburg Coast, Fort De Soto County Park is spread across five offshore keys connected by bridges. The tiny islands have a long and storied history, first occupied by the Tocobaga people over a thousand years ago and then used as a military post from the Civil War through World War II. The historic military barracks are open for tours and visitors will also find miles of sand beaches, nature trails, a paved bike path, and 236 campsites for both tents and RVs. The campground is immensely popular so book in advance or keep your fingers crossed for one of the walk-in sites.
One of the few undeveloped islands off Florida’s Gulf Coast, Caladesi Island is known for its pristine beaches and abundant sea life. The island can only be reached by boat or ferry from Honeymoon Island State Park and several boat slips are available with water and electric hookups for overnight boat docking. No tent camping is allowed on the island, but spending the night in a boat and being able to explore the island before the ferry boats arrive in the morning is a truly memorable tampa camping experience.
Camping out on the Shell Key Preserve is like having your own private island. Shell Key is only accessible by boat and a short, relatively inexpensive, shuttle boat is available from Pass-A-Grille Beach. Primitive camping is allowed on the south side of the island with a permit, while the rest of the island is off-limits to the public as a protected nesting ground for seabirds. There are no bathrooms, running water, or trash services, but on the plus side, you may have the entire island to yourself for the night.
Tampa Area Nature Park Campgrounds
Located an hour south of Tampa, Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s oldest and most diverse state parks. The Myakka River winds through the park providing habitat for alligators, turtles, herons, cranes, and more. Plus it’s known for its fantastic kayaking, hiking, and wildlife viewing opportunities for visitors. All 76 campsites have water and electricity, and five rustic cabins are available for rent. Don’t miss the views of the wetlands from the treetops along the Myakka Canopy Walkway.
Comprised of over 5,000 acres of cypress domes, winding creeks, and open pasture land, Colt Creek State Park is one of Florida’s newest state parks. The land has a long history as a cattle ranch, but ownership was recently transferred to the state of Florida. It has since been turned into a protected area for threatened species, including the gopher tortoise and Sherman’s fox squirrel, making this one of the best Tampa, Florida campgrounds for wildlife lovers. Sites are spacious, but not a lot of shade is available. Group and equestrian campsites are also available. Additionally, the park offers several miles of hiking trails, fishing, a boat ramp, and picnic facilities.
Just northeast of downtown Tampa, Hillsborough River State Park offers miles of nature trails, canoeing and kayaking in the river. Plus, you’ll also hear the occasional cannon firing in the distance, during reenactments at Fort Foster. RV and tent camping is available, with electricity offered at most sites. Canoes are available for rent at the park, or you can cool off at the ADA accessible man-made swimming hole.
Little Manatee River State Park sits 30 miles south of Tampa near the town of Sun City. The 30-site campground is fully equipped with water and electricity available at every site. Plus, the dense vegetation in the park provides plenty of privacy between campsites. The highlight of the park is the Little Manatee River, which winds for six miles through the park, providing gentle paddling for beginner canoers and kayakers.
The Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park is one of the more peaceful camping options near Tampa. Thirteen miles of hiking trails weave through the lush wetlands of the preserve. There is also a 7.5-mile paved bike trail, which connects to the 42-mile paved Suncoast Trail. The Suncoast Trail stretches serenely from Hillsborough County, all the way through Pasco. The 16-site rustic campground is best suited for tent camping, although there is one large cabin available for rent. Backcountry and equestrian camping is also available.
Tampa Bay RV Resorts
RV campers looking for Tampa, Florida campgrounds with all the amenities will want to check out the Bay Bayou RV Resort. Just minutes from downtown Tampa, Bay Bayou RV Resort offers 300 roomy sites each with a patio and picnic table, WiFi, and digital cable access. The spacious clubhouse offers exercise equipment, billiards, a lending library, and hosts numerous special events such as line dancing, bingo, and card game events. Special weekly and monthly rates are available.
The Caladesi RV Park is tucked into the heart of Palm Harbor within minutes of five Tampa Bay beaches and Honeymoon Island. RV sites are shaded and come with all the amenities including electric hookups, water, WiFi, and a heated pool. Several restaurants and shops are within walking distance of the park and the 28-mile paved Pinellas cycling and walking trail passes right by the park.