Florida’s Paradise Coast is prized for its luxury resorts, but this corner of the Sunshine State also offers plenty of options for campers. From hooking up an RV and relaxing to tent camping under the stars, here’s an overview of camping adventures on the Paradise Coast.
BIG, SMALL, COMFORTABLE & PRIMITIVE
Big Cypress National Preserve
A vast wilderness area in the western section of the world-famous Everglades, Big Cypress offers an array of rustic camping choices. The preserve features eight designated campgrounds, the largest being Bear Island, with 40 tent/RV sites (but no electric hookups). Midway (26 RV, 10 tent sites) is the only one with electric hookups and is also the only one open year-round. The rest are seasonal.
If you really want to walk on the wild side, Big Cypress offers backcountry camping, where you can explore its 729,000 acres with whatever you can carry on your back or pack into an off-road vehicle. You intrepid souls who go for backcountry camping will need a permit.
Whatever mode of camping you choose here, you’ll be right in the midst of one of the most fascinating wetlands on the planet.
Collier-Seminole State Park
This outdoor wonderland is just 17 miles southeast of downtown Naples on the western edge of the Everglades. Carved out of a vast expanse of mangroves, the 7,200-acres Collier-Seminole State Park covers offer RV and tent camping, as well as basic cabins for those seeking a smidge more comfort. The campsites include electricity, water, a grill, and a picnic table.
You’ll be minutes away from hiking, cycling, kayaking, and boating. The park includes several trails and offers showers, a laundry facility, and a dumping station for RVers. From December to March, park rangers present programs on native plants, animals, and history. Amid the mangroves, you’ll see majestic stands of royal palms, an unusual sight in the Everglades. One of the bonuses of staying here is that it’s less than a half-hour ride to the restaurants and shops in downtown Naples.
Grocery Place Campground
Here’s a spot for those who want to do some truly primitive camping. How primitive? Grocery Place is only accessible via the water! It’s best reached by launching from the small town of Goodland and paddling or boating northeast past Hell’s Gate and through Palm Bay (formerly known as Grocery Bay), then upstream on Royal Palm Hammock Creek. A State Park sign will let you know you’ve arrived. There’s not a lot here but a landing area and a clearing on high ground surrounded by mangroves and scrub.
Interesting fact: Grocery Place was actually once a small settlement inhabited by Florida pioneers. (A.T. Stephens, his wife Annie, and their five children moved their wood house here by barge in 1902.) The cisterns that held freshwater are still situated on the site but are not operational. Nearby is an old Native American campground. From Grocery Place, you can embark on remote paddling or boating adventures through the western part of Ten Thousand Islands. Campers must register at the Ranger Station. Call (239) 394-3397. Accommodates up to eight people.
Everglades Adventure Tours
You and your family can arrive at Trail Lake Campgrounds, 40 miles southeast of downtown Naples, with no camping gear at all, and Everglades Adventure Tours will set you right up with a memorable “glamping” experience. Roomy tents are decked out with beds (and bedding), patterned rugs (a nice touch), and other necessities. You can also stay in a rustic Chickee Hut – a small, screened-in wooden structure with a thatched roof that’s modeled after the ones used by Native Americans centuries ago.
You’ll have your very own basecamp from which you can explore the area. Everglades Adventure Tours offers an array of eco-tours that take you deep into these famous wetlands. The most unique is a guided tour on a wooden pole boat, an updated version of the transportation used by the original natives. (You’re all but guaranteed to see gators.) The outfitter also offers kayak, canoe, and hiking tours that take you through the renowned swamp’s different ecosystems.
RV PARKS AND RESORTS
Naples RV Resort
Located 10 miles southeast of downtown Naples, this large community has a plethora of RV sites that can accommodate vehicles up to 40 feet. Site amenities at Naples RV Resort include full hookups, wifi, and picnic tables. The pet-friendly community has a clubhouse and swimming pool, as well as shuffleboard, horseshoes, and more. It’s an easy drive to the beaches, attractions, and other fun stuff available on Florida’s Paradise Coast.
Crystal Lake RV Resort
RV sites form a rim around lovely Crystal Lake. The community has a screen-covered pool, exercise center, shuffleboard, bocce ball, and tennis/pickleball courts; full hookups and wifi, too. Crystal Lake is 16 miles northeast of downtown Naples.
Pelican Lake Motorcoach Resort
Here’s an upscale RV facility that features 289 sites surrounding a body of water. On the southern side of the 102-acre complex, you’ll find a clubhouse, tiki bar, pool, spa, and pickleball courts. Pelican Lake is about halfway between downtown Naples and Marco Island. The facility only accepts Class A coaches, a minimum of 33 feet and 10 years old or newer.
Located in Everglades City, the largest town in the Everglades (pop. 400), Everglades Isle is a Class A RV park with a plethora of amenities: clubhouse, boat rentals, boat and kayak launches, pool, a dog run, and more. Every 38×60-foot site is topped with brick pavers. Full hookups, of course. You’ll be within walking distance of several cafes and the Museum of the Everglades. We highly recommend you take a hair-raising airboat ride – there are several operators close by.
The Paradise Coast features several more RV parks, among them Club Naples RV Resort, The Waves RV Resort, Endless Summer RV Park, Northtide Naples, Neapolitan Cove RV Resort, Marco Naples RV Resort, and Naples/Marco Island KOA Holiday.