When you think “National Park,” you might think of trails, picnics, and lots of land to hike. As with many things in life, Florida goes against the grain and offers National Parks like you’ve never seen them before. All three parks offer fishing, boating, ranger-led activities, and great places to camp. If you’re not quite ready for primitive camping then luckily you’re just a short drive to civilization.
Biscayne National Park – 1 Day / 1 Night
With 95% made up of water, this park must be enjoyed by boat. If you’re starting your south Florida journey from Miami, you’ll only need to drive about an hour south to get to Convoy Point, where you’ll find a visitor’s center to join a boat tour. If you’ve brought your own boat, the adjacent Bayfront Park is where you’ll launch. Bring your tent and set sail to Elliott Key, where you can camp, kayak, snorkel and SCUBA. Wake up early and cross to the eastern side of the island to catch the sunrise over the Atlantic before heading back to dry land.
Campsites available first-come, first serve on Elliott Key and Boca Chita Key for $15 or $20 with marina use.
Alternative: Return to the mainland and get a great price on a Homestead hotel.
Everglades National Park – 1 Day / 1 Night
Okay, we were being generous when we said you were going back to dry land. From Convoy Point, it’s just 20 miles to the Ernest Coe Visitor Center, just across the border into the Everglades. Not far from here are .2-.4 trails to see some of the ecosystem. You can also keep driving to find other stops, or go to the end of the highway. After about an hour from Ernest Coe, you’ll get to the Flamingo Visitor Center, where you can rent canoes and kayaks, look for wildlife, and camp for the night.
Reserve a campsite from December – March by calling 800-365-CAMP; otherwise, first-come, first-serve for $16 per night.
Alternative: Leave the Everglades and start your journey to the keys. Drive 1½ hour to stay in Key Largo, or even continue an additional hour to Marathon.
Dry Tortugas National Park – 1 Day / 1 Night
70 miles west of Key West, this park is only accessible by boat or seaplane, providing campers with an absolute escape. The surrounding coral reefs provide ample snorkeling opportunities, and you’re bound to see a wide variety of sea life, tropical birds and exotic fauna. After touring Fort Jefferson, relax on the beach and watch an incredible sunset from the westernmost point of the Keys.
Only 8 campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis for $3 per night.
Alternative: If you’re a fan of running water and electricity, catch a boat and spend the night in Key West.
Return to Miami – 1 Day
When visiting these remote sites, it may feel like you’re a world away. However, from Key West, you can get actually drive to Miami in less than 4 hours. Check out our Quick Guide to the Florida Keys to find where to eat and what sites to see.