Camping and Glamping in Miami's National Parks

Camping Tent at Flamingo

Camping and Glamping in Miami's National Parks

Camping RV at Flamingo

Camping and Glamping in Miami's National Parks

Houseboat at Flamingo

Rent a pontoon boat at Flamingo

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By: Angela Caraway-Carlton

Stay and play outdoors at these camping (and glamping) spots

There’s no better place to experience the outdoors than in Miami, and we don’t just mean our beautiful beaches. Our fantastic weather, unique nature and wildlife, and endless activities at Miami’s national parks– like Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, and Big Cypress National Preserve – are a perfect fit for any outdoor enthusiast. If you picture yourself sleeping under the stars, there are plenty of camping and even glamping (fancy camping) options for those who want to spend a night or more soaking up the great outdoors. No matter how you choose to stay, we promise these overnight options will make you crave more adventure!

Big Cypress National Preserve

Camping at Big Cypress
Camping at Big Cypress

Located in Miami’s backyard, about 40 miles west, you’ll discover a camping dream with 729,000 acres of wilderness filled with mangroves, hardwood hammocks and many different types of wildlife species and plants. “If you like nature and animals, this is your place,” says Corey Campbell, a naturalist and program coordinator for Big Cypress Institute. “Beyond the thousands of birds that we get every winter, and reptiles that you’ll see every day, you never know what you’ll see here.” Big Cypress offers nine campgrounds with RV hookups, but many of these campsites don’t have electrical hookups. Campbell emphasizes that you’ll want to be self-sufficient, which means bringing everything you’ll need from water to food and be sure to check weather conditions before you go. To really commune with nature, go off the beaten path into the backcountry (you’ll need a free backcountry permit), where you’ll bring your own gear to camp out on a trail. Prices range from $10 - $30 a night.

Once you’re there, the options for getting up-close-and-personal with nature are endless. There are wide vistas for epic photos, hiking trails, paddling trails for canoeing and kayaking, and off-road vehicle trails for an untouched experience. Expect to peep wading birds, plenty of gators, and you might even spot a Big Cypress fox squirrel, endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, Florida panther or a python. If you’re itching for more adventure, embark on a hike on the Florida National Scenic Trail that runs nearly 1,200 miles to the Florida Panhandle. At night, all eyes should be on the sky: Big Cypress is an International Dark Sky Preserve, which means light-free surroundings and a sky show that you don’t want to miss. (During the winter months, join a monthly star party.) “Camping out here, you get a solitude that you don’t feel in other places,” says Campbell. “From the sun dramatically creeping over the horizon at dawn to the Milky Way spilling into the night sky, you’re sure to fall in love with the park like I have.”

Everglades National Park

Camping Chickee at Everglades National Park
Pontoon boat tour at Flamingo

Located an hour’s drive from Homestead, you’ll find this unforgettable destination packed with various ecosystems, including the flowing “river of grass.” Adventure runs high, birders flock here for the varieties of land and sea birds, and it’s the only place in North America to see both the American crocodile and alligator in the same place. Campers can choose from two different campgrounds: Long Pine Key Campground, situated on a beautiful wooded forest which is strictly for camping, and Flamingo, which is perched along the Florida Bay and offers numerous activities for visitors. At Flamingo, reserve ahead for tent and RV spots, and even “glamping” options. In the Flamingo guest area, the biggest draw is a backcountry boat tour that goes into the mangrove swamp for major wildlife peeping. You can rent a pontoon boat, kayak or canoe (or bring your own) or embark on a sport fishing charter to snag snook or tarpon. At night, simply enjoy the peace and quiet. “The biggest draw here is the serenity,” says Brett Freeman, Florida business development manager for Flamingo Adventures at Everglades National Park. “You’re away from everything, the stars are incredible, and it offers that feeling like you’re out in the wilderness.”

One of the newest ways to stay at Flamingo is an eco-tent, a safari-style tent on a raised platform that comes fully furnished with a dresser, linens and towels, and electric for charging phones and hair dryers. All you need to bring is cooking equipment to be used in a common area. The 20 eco-tents offer two layouts for up to four people. “It’s basically introducing the joys and adventure of camping to those who were afraid to try camping because they didn’t want to be uncomfortable,” says Freeman of the waterfront tents that are situated on Florida Bay. For a true luxury camping experience, reserve one of the four, 40-foot houseboats fitted with air conditioning, restrooms and cooking equipment. “Think of this as a floating hotel with all the conveniences that you need,” says Freeman. Guests can even take the boats into the Florida backcountry.

Chickee at Everglades National Park
Chickee camping at Everglades National Park

For those really seeking an adventurous bucket-list experience in the backcountry, they can bed down in a “chickee,” – an elevated platform above the water that can be reached by canoe, kayak or motorboat. A stay there could mean spotting sharks, manatee and dolphins. You will need a backcountry permit, but it’s sure to be an experience you’ll never forget.

Biscayne National Park

Snorkeling at Biscayne National Park
Snorkeling at Biscayne National Park

Want to explore vibrant coral reefs, reel in a big fish or just gaze at some of the most beautiful waterfront scenery around? Visiting Biscayne National Park might be your fantasy camping trip. If you have a boat, or have access to one, you can discover this national park and stay at campgrounds on the islands of Elliott Key and Boca Chita Key. If you’re looking for eye-popping waterfront views, grassy camping areas and picnic tables and grills, Boca Chita is the park’s most popular island. Here, you can peep the historic lighthouse built by Mark Honeywell in the late 1930s, and if park employees are around, they may even open the observation deck which offers stunning views of the bay, ocean and Miami skyline. Keep in mind, this is rustic camping and there aren’t any showers or drinking water, so arrive prepared. The largest island is Elliott Key, and it’s not as rustic as Boca Chita. The Elliott Key campground is fitted with restrooms, cold-water showers, picnic tables and grills. Spend your days searching for wildlife, fishing, swimming and hiking on the island. Quick backstory: the island used to be inhabited with pioneers who focused on pineapple farming, sponging and wrecking. Fees are $25 per night.

The new Sails and Trails: Camp, Paddle, Sail, and Hike Island Trails experience is a two-day, overnight guided excursion. You can explore and learn about Biscayne National Park’s history and ecology as you set sail across the bay, kayak through mangrove forests and spend the night on Adams Key.

Whether you’re adventurous or like all the creature comforts, Miami has a national park campground worth parking it for a night or two. Don’t sleep on this incredible experience!

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