Historically stretching from what is now Orlando to the southern tip of Florida, the Everglades are a massive, slow-moving river, a unique ecosystem in the United States, and one of the most amazing places for camping, kayaking and birdwatching an RVer can explore.
Even the seemingly endless cityscape stretching from Miami to West Palm Beach was formerly part of this wetland that plays home to alligators, crocodiles and–as John James Audubon described it–so many birds they once blocked out the sun for some time. While the progress of man may have reduced the size of the Everglades, and diminished some aspects of the wildlife still found in the region, the Everglades are still abundant with opportunities for the modern outdoorsman.
RV Camping in Everglades National Park
While they don’t comprise the entirety of the Everglades, the National Park is more synonymous with the region than in name alone. With the protection that a national park affords, it’s provided plenty of opportunity for soaring bald eagles, fishing herons, wading crocodiles and a not-so-small army of mosquitos to thrive.
Though many an Everglades camper will never cross paths with an alligator or crocodile and find nothing but beauty in the flapping wings of some 350 species of birds that inhabit the area…it’s the mosquitos that will perhaps leave the most memories (sometimes as physical souvenirs dotting every inch of exposed skin). Thus, it’s more than essential to be prepared with long clothing, repellent, a well-sealed rig and the proper frame of mind.
If you can brave those little biting buggers, though, Everglades National Park has two proper campgrounds fit for RVs of nearly all sizes. Long Pine Key is a first-come, first-served campground nearer the park’s entrance, while Flamingo Campground is certainly the more frequented, and requires a beautiful trek through the park itself to arrive within.
RV Camping in Big Cypress National Preserve
If the National Park is the sibling who got all of the status and prestige, Big Cypress National Preserve got the good looks. More easily accessible (and less out of the way) than Everglades National Park, Big Cypress plays home to wilderness expanses, hiking and kayaking opportunities, and even a little civilization mixed in for good measure.
US Route 41 crosses through the preserve, lined all the way by a manmade waterway that’s been reclaimed by the alligators, the turtles and all of those magnificent flying fowl. The bald cypress–for which the preserve is named–tower above casting their shade down over the marshy expanses even as their “knees” bend tall above the water. Official NPS campgrounds like Burns Lake and Monument Lake provide primitive camping experiences, or head to Trail Lakes Campground, a full hookups RV park just off of US 41 that still allows you to camp beneath the palms and amongst the fauna of the region, but with a little more comfort.
Just keep an eye out for the Skunk Ape…
RV Camping Near Miami and Homestead, Florida
Maybe you want to catch some of the big city fashion and dining that Miami offers, or maybe you just want a fair shot at not becoming mosquito bait…either way, there are ample opportunities to get your full hookup on within a reasonable driving distance to Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.
Public RV parks like Larry and Penny Thompson County Park and Florida City Campsite & RV Park provide a basecamp within 15 – 30 minutes of the National Park’s entrance (not to mention nearby Biscayne National Park, a similar distance in the opposite direction). There’s even free casino parking lot camping at Miccosukee Resort & Gaming!
RV Camping Near Naples, Florida
On the Gulf side of the equation, Naples is a bit more laid back, a little less trafficky than its sister cities to the east, and affords yet again plenty of places to back her on in, hook her up, and live the comfortable life while still being close enough to explore Big Cypress and the surrounding Everglades.
For more of the small-town vibe, head southeast into Everglades City and Chokoloskee where you can bike around to seafood restaurants or catch an airboat tour through the mangroves.
Collier-Seminole State Park also promises a healthy balance of nature and access to amenities, located only 15 minutes from Marco Island and plays the role of greeter as explorers make their way from the state’s western cities into Big Cypress.
Despite a mosquito population that dwarfs humanity and the superficial danger that a land riddled with alligators and even the elusive panther, many an RVer seeking t-shirts and sunshine all winter long has grown wise to the notion that the Everglades, and particularly the Big Cypress region, are the preferred respite in a state that all too often earns a reputation for expensive private parks and difficult-to-reserve state parks. Invest in a good pair of binoculars, strap the kayak onto your tow rig, and be prepared for big epic sunsets and endless scenic drives; if you can manage that, chances are you won’t be disappointed.