Do you ever feel too cold where you live? My partner and I have been dreaming about warm winter road trips for months, settling on Florida car camping. We packed our car and started driving south along the east coast of the USA.
Last summer, the two of us spent two months living out of a rental van in California—camping, hiking, eating delicious food, hanging out in hot springs, and seeing some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the world. We haven’t been able to find a van rental at a similar greatly discounted price since, so we’ve been exploring how to go on warm winter road trips in our Honda Civic.
I’m excited to share our Florida car camping trip including some of the prep work. My upcoming posts will include a complete packing list and a review of how LGBTQ-friendly our travel turns out to be!
This post is all about Florida car camping and warm winter road trips!
Hi, I’m Rey, a nonbinary writer! Join my email list for more stories and resources for trans and nonbinary people and allies.
Florida Car Camping
Florida and the southeastern US have a lot of camping options. Many beautiful state parks and national forests have established campgrounds, often with hot showers. Compared with traveling through desert areas of the US, it is no trouble at all to find showers or potable water. In the national forest land, primitive camping or dispersed camping with no services is allowed in some areas for free.
The cell service (I have Verizon) has been solid so far. With almost no elevation change, there’s no hills and valleys to hide the cell towers. I do a variety of freelance work from writing to copywriting to creating marketing graphics, and I am able to easily communicate with clients and do my work from our campsites.
Asking park rangers continues to be one of the best ways to find (free) camping locations. We look for dispersed or primitive camping as we don’t mind a more wild location with no services.
Warm Winter Road Trips
After packing all our camping gear and necessities into our Honda Civic, we started driving in a light freezing rain. Finding places to stay along I-95, we headed south in 3 major legs of the drive (stopping for a few days between). We traveled from 33 degrees F to 45 to 55 to 70, in some pouring rain and some sun. And finally, we reached our destination of Florida and started learning about the place we had arrived in.
Native American History
The Seminole Tribe has been living in what is now Florida and neighboring states for thousands of years. Many were killed, captured, or displaced west by the U.S., the forced relocation called the Trail of Tears. Today, they are a sovereign government with people continuing their traditions on their land.
Ideas, Not Itinerary
We have more fun and find more interesting places by not trying to line up the whole specific itinerary in advance. The plan develops as we go. This allows us to take suggestions from locals and travel a bit more off the beaten path.
Here are some ideas for places we’re thinking of checking out in Florida. It’s certainly not a comprehensive list, just some inspiration for natural places to see!
Osceola National Forest
Osceola National Forest is a beautiful area with longleaf pines, saw palmettos, and live oaks.
The ponds and lakes in this area create gorgeous shorelines. Camping options are lovely and affordable, some with hot showers and other amenities.
Ocala National Forest
Ocala National Forest has live oaks, pines, cypress, and other trees. Air plants and ferns grow on the tree trunks in the humid environment. Birds such as herons and woodpeckers thrive here. We found some mushrooms here — puffballs! Hiking trails meander along rivers and cypress swamps.
Tampa has beaches, an intercoastal waterway great for kayaking, bird sanctuaries, vegan restaurants, and LGBTQ nightlife. The historic neighborhood Ybor City, populated in the late 1800’s by Cuban, Spanish, and Italian immigrants, today has a collective of 200+ LGBTQ-friendly businesses called GaYBOR.
The beaches of Tampa Bay are a great place to rest and recover from all that tent camping.
St. Augustine, on the east coast of Florida, continues to be one of the most-recommended locations to visit. Anastasia Island State Park is a wildlife sanctuary right on the water. The campground in the park is in high demand. The city of St. Augustine, founded in 1565, is the oldest city in the U.S. continually occupied by European and African-American people.
Blue Spring State Park
Florida has thousands of wild manatees living in the water. The best places to see manatees in the wild are in clear spring water. Manatees also hang out in muddy water, but you won’t be able to observe them there, except for the occasional flipper breaking the surface. Blue Spring State Park is an ideal place to see manatees during the winter months.
Apalachicola National Forest
Apalachicola National Forest, located in the Panhandle, is the largest state forest in Florida. Primitive camping is allowed, and there are also fee campgrounds with services. The forest has longleaf pine, cypress swamps, and unique plant and animal life. You might see an alligator or black bear (hopefully, at a safe distance).
Our trip is in progress and I will be sure to post more updates and discoveries! For now, I’m delighted to be getting some sun and enjoying the warmer weather. If you too are planning a road trip, where are you heading? Let me know in the comments!
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