If you have followed us for any amount of time, you’ll know we love to boondock. Dry camping for free in western states is quite easy to find, but as we traveled to Florida, we started wondering what options are available. We found that yes, it is possible to camp for free in Florida! However, unlike most Bureau of Land Management areas out west, there are a few important steps you need to take before you arrive.
South Florida Water Management District
Recreational opportunities abound on over 1 million acres stewarded by the South Florida Water Management District. This includes RV-friendly camping! There are great locations that allow you to experience all Florida has to offer.
We have stayed at several SFWMD camping spots throughout Florida with varying degrees of amenities on-site. You are required to make a reservation by applying for a Special-Use-License (SUL) before you go and all the information about each location will be annotated online.
Tip: We like to also look up the location on Campendium and see other camper’s feedback and photos of a location
How to make reservations
While not exactly as easy as making a reservation at a traditional RV park, the District has done a good job at providing detailed instructions with current links:
Once you know how to navigate their website it’s fairly straightforward but it is a bit convoluted, so we suggest using the information and links from the document above.
What to expect
Here is an example of one of our favorite South Florida Water Management District locations: DuPuis Management Area:
DuPuis Management Area
22500 SW Kanner Highway
Canal Point, FL 33438
The DuPuis Management Area is a 21,875-acre multi-use natural area located in northwestern Palm Beach and southwestern Martin counties. The property is interspersed with numerous ponds, wet prairies, cypress domes, pine flatwoods and remnant Everglades marsh. The area provides miles of hiking and horseback trails, an equestrian center, graded vehicle roads, backpack and group campsites and seasonal hunting. DuPuis is far from urban areas, and its dark night sky lends itself to excellent stargazing.https://www.sfwmd.gov/recreation-site/dupuis-management-area
- On-site Campground Host
- Locked gate 24/7
- Individual showers (note: lockable private rooms with hot water and great water pressure)
- Potable water stations
- Dump station
- Fire rings
- Picnic tables
- On equestrian side: 2 barns and pens for horses
- big-rig friendly
During our stay which was in mid-December, the campground was pretty full. That being said, everyone was spaced out and had plenty of privacy. Other campers kept to the quiet hours and we felt quite safe during our time there. The campground and its facilities are well maintained.
Other things to note:
- Bugs were not an issue
- Good Verizon and AT&T coverage with the ability to upload and download video with no issues
- Plenty of sunny areas to camp for those that need solar but also many shaded areas.
- OK to use generators
Staying at DuPuis
It is free to stay for up to 8 days per permit (30 days limit district-wide), Create an account at the South Florida Management District website and request a Special Use License for your stay. After you have completed the request, a link to your Special Use License will be displayed for you to view or print. In addition, you will receive emails with the gate combination (if available) and a link to view or print your Special Use License.
Keep in mind
There are actually five water management districts in Florida that offer free camping. Each one has its own registration system so it will take some time to register with each one. Check out this great article from Gone with the Wynns for more info: Florida’s five water management district campgrounds.
Other options for free stays
Florida has a growing list of Harvest Host locations! You do have to pay an annual fee to be a member and make a purchase at your host location, but the camping overnight is free and compared to what a typical night at an RV park in Florida runs, its definitely worth checking out! CLICK HERE for more information on Harvest Hosts and save 20% on an annual membership through December 30, 2020!