Best Parks for Boat Camping
Set course for boat-friendly camping in state parks.
Here are a half-dozen state parks around our coastlines, with a variety of activities and overnight facilities for weekend visitors. For more information on the following state parks, visit www.floridastateparks.org.
On the Atlantic Coast
Sebastian Inlet provides great saltwater fishing, championship surfing and treasure hunting at the site where a Spanish galleon fleet sank 300 years ago. Only 30 miles south of Cape Canaveral: 321/984-4852.
PARK INFO: Boat ramps are located on both sides of Sebastian Inlet State Park. Boaters have access to the brackish waters of the Indian River Lagoon, the Intracoastal Waterway, the freshwater of the Sebastian River and to the salty water of the Atlantic Ocean. The Gulf Stream is located about 25 to 30 miles east of Sebastian Inlet. For powerboat and pontoon boat rentals, contact the Inlet Marina at 1-800-952-1126. The Inlet Marina has boat dockage available for a monthly or an overnight stay.
John Pennekamp Park in the upper Keys is the first underwater park in the U.S. with canoeing and kayaking on the surface plus an aquarium and hiking in the uplands: 305/451-1202
PARK INFO: Boat slips and moorings are available at the marina for overnight rental. Slips are located in the marina and include water and electric hookups with bathroom and shower facilities nearby. Mooring buoys are located in Largo Sound with dinghy dockage at the marina. Both include full use of park facilities, trash disposal and pump-out. Reservations are recommended. For more information, contact the marina at 305/451-6322 or on VHF Channel 16.
Bahia Honda is just short of Key West and offers fine beaches, fishing and snorkeling as well as great bird watching: 305/872-2353
PARK INFO: The park has two modern boat ramps in the main marina. The controlling depth in the marina is 3½ feet. Nineteen boat slips are available for overnight rental and include water, electricity (30 amp) and full use of the park facilities (bathhouse, hot showers, trash disposal and sewage pump-out). Reservations are recommended. Call 305/872-3210 or VHF Channel 16. The boat ramp fee is $10.
On the Gulf
Cayo Costa south of Sarasota is accessible only by boat and has long beaches, nature trails and bird watching on land and ample chances to see manatees and dolphins in the water: 941/964-0375
PARK INFO: Bayside docks offer 10 boat slips where boaters can camp onboard their boats with use of bayside restroom facilities.
Caladesi Island north of Clearwater is reached by boat only. Once you get there, you’ll find white sand beaches with miles of hiking and kayaking trails, through the mangroves: 727/469-5918
PARK INFO: Anchor offshore or dock at the 108-slip bayside marina. Overnight docking with electric and water hookups is permitted in the bayside marina, but boaters must register before sundown, $20 per night.
St. Joseph, south of Panama City, has fine sugar sand beaches and high dunes and a long coastline for fishing, swimming beach combing and coasting: 850/227-1327.
PARK INFO: St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is equipped with a boat ramp and a small marina that can accommodate 15 to 18 small boats at a time. A loading area is adjacent to the accessible outdoor shower and a fish cleaning station. Cost for boat launching is $3 plus tax over daily entrance fee. Overnight guests have free use of the boat ramp and may leave their boats moored at the marina, space permitting. Other boaters must remove their boats by sunset.
No Boat, No Beach, No Problem
Even inland landlubbers can take to the water by renting boats for the waterways that run through the center of the state. Here are a few of our favorites.
› Rafting and tubing on the Ichetucknee: Ichetucknee Springs State Park and private liveries in High Springs
› Houseboating on the St. Johns River: Various marinas in DeLand and Palatka
--Photos courtesy of the State of Florida