The Best Camping Near Tampa, Florida

The Best Camping Near Tampa, Florida

For fans of sunny weather and waterfront views, it’s hard to top campgrounds near Tampa, where the bay waves, rushing rivers, and thrilling amusement parks all make for one big adventure. From zip lining and riding roller coasters to hiking and wildlife viewing, you’ll never run out of things to do in The Big Guava.

Tampa, Florida
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About Camping Near Tampa

Popular among retirees and with many 55+ RV resorts to show for it, campgrounds near Tampa cater to both a laid-back vacation lifestyle and an adventure-hungry one. State parks like Hillsborough River and Alafia River offer peaceful settings for equestrians, fishermen, and bikers, while downtown Tampa bursts with theme parks and art centers. Camping near Tampa is never the same experience twice – there’s always something new to explore!

Top Campgrounds Near Tampa, Florida

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Tampa Camping FAQs

Known to locals as “The Big Guava,” Tampa is a vibrant, dynamic city with all the amenities of a swelling metropolis while still being close to Florida’s pristine wilderness areas. Tampa enjoys over 200 days of sun a year, making it a fun and exciting camping destination. Whether you’re looking to pitch your tent on a secluded island under a quilt of stars, or next to a serene natural spring inhabited by mythical manatees, camping near Tampa, FL is one of the best ways to spend a night in nature.

What’s the best time of year to go camping in Tampa?

Tampa has two seasons a year, the wet season in summer which is humid and has frequent rains, and the dry season in winter when weather is typically warm and clear. The best time to camp in Tampa is in the dry season, from October to March when temperatures hover between 50° and 75° and rainfall is minimal.

While rare, it seems like every Floridian winter experiences a cold snap where temperatures can plummet into the 40s or even 30s. The rainy season in Tampa ramps up in June, July, and August, and thunderstorms frequently appear in the afternoons but usually pass quickly. Almost eight inches of rain typically fall during the month of August.

What should I pack for camping near Tampa?

As with any camping destination, what you bring on an overnight camping trip near Tampa will depend on the season. Summer will undeniably bring rainy weather but the winter months are usually precipitation-free, sunny, and warm. Mosquitoes and ticks are a typical annoyance and something to be considered. Here is a list of the essentials with a few things to keep in mind.

  • Bug spray
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunshirts
  • Hat
  • Headlamps or flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Compass
  • First aid kit

Creepy Crawlies

Insects love Florida’s humid climate and perhaps none more than mosquitoes and ticks. Keep the creepy crawlies from biting by bringing DEET bug spray, permethrin-treated hiking gear and tents, and even a netted canopy to ensure you have a relaxing retreat away from pests.


The nearest beach is only a 15-minute drive from downtown Tampa. The UV index is high in this city, so remember sun protection. Be sure to bring along beach equipment like quick-drying towels and sturdy sandals to take full advantage of the Florida coast.

Rainy Days

Rain is a common occurrence in Florida’s subtropical climate zone, so prepare accordingly on a camping trip to the Sunshine State. Bring along your rain fly if you’re tent camping, as well as rain jackets and ponchos to be extra prepared. You never know when the Floridian skies will open up!

What are the top outdoor activities near Tampa?

Tampa’s location on one of the largest natural bays in America and proximity to some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida make it a nature lover’s dreamscape. Here are a few incredible outdoor activities near Tampa.

See Manatees

Tampa is well-known for its proclivity to manatees who love to swim in Tampa Bay’s warm waters in winter. The Tampa Electric Co’s (TECO) Big Bend power plant attracts these gentle giants in droves. Check out the free viewing platform the TECO built for curious visitors in the winter months to see hundreds of manatees bobbing about.


Empower Adventures, located just northwest of downtown Tampa, is a great place to tackle your fears and experience something new. They boast five zip lines and a 200-foot suspension bridge to get your adrenaline going.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding might not be the first activity that comes to mind when dreaming up experiences on Florida’s coast, but that’s what makes it so unexpected. Take the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gallop on the white sand beaches with Florida Beach Horses.

Kayaking or Paddle Boarding

Tampa’s plentiful waterways and quick access to the coast make it one of the premier kayak and paddle boarding hubs in Florida. Head to Tampa Bay to rent paddle boards or kayaks, and take in the unique mixture of bustling city and nature.

What major sights should I see in Tampa?

From the historic Latin Quarter that drips with Cuban influence, to hair-raising roller coasters and NFL stadiums, Tampa is a whirlwind of amazing experiences. These are some of the best things to do in the Big Guava.

The Florida Aquarium

This 250,000-square-foot facility houses a wide variety of marine and terrestrial life that is both indigenous to Florida and from the far reaches of the globe. One of the Florida Aquarium’s missions is to rebuild Florida reefs and conserve the state’s natural areas.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Perhaps one of the best places in Tampa for an exhilarating day out, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay boasts over a dozen scream-inducing roller coasters and the Serengeti Express, a train ride through animal sanctuaries where you’ll see giraffes and other animals.

Ybor City

This historic area of Tampa is known primarily for its cigar-rolling history and Cuban heritage. Settled by a mix of Cuban, Italian, and Spanish immigrants, it was one of the only areas of the United States completely owned by foreign nationals. Ybor City boasts delicious coffee, expertly rolled cigars, and a distinctive past that’s just waiting to be explored!

USF Botanical Gardens

15 acres of the University of Florida’s campus are dedicated to the study of botany in the form of the USF Botanical Gardens. They pride themselves on educating the community about our natural environments and host beekeeping, yoga, and farming classes.

Henry B. Plant Museum

A whimsical hallmark of Tampa Bay, the Henry B. Plant Museum celebrates the vestiges of Florida’s railroad history. The museum itself is inside the Tampa Bay Hotel, built in 1891. This National Historic Landmark still holds the original furniture.

Tampa Theatre

The Tampa Theatre is a landmark and still shows movies today. Founded in 1926, it is a movie palace, defined as being a “large, elaborately decorated movie theater.”

Raymond James Stadium

Home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Raymond James Stadium is perfect for the sports lover. Games are held here in the fall and winter months.

Are there any national parks or state parks near Tampa?

The Sunshine State has no shortage of impressive natural wonders to behold and Tampa happens to be in the center of them all! Here are a few of the national and state parks near the city.

Hillsborough River State Park

(30 minutes)

Hosting Tampa’s only whitewater river, Hillsborough River State Park offers class 2 rapids and paddling adventures the whole family will enjoy. Come for the hiking and horsebacking riding but stay for the campfire circle programs held on Saturday evenings.

Honeymoon Island State Park

(43 minutes)

Home to four miles of sprawling beach, Honeymoon Island State Park is an isolated key connected to the mainland only by a 2.5 mile long causeway. Named after a honeymoon sweepstakes, the state park might feel remote but the island boasts myriad amenities like free parking, clean bathrooms, and a snack stand. Honeymoon Island is actually the jumping off point for yet another dazzlingly beautiful state park, Caladesi Island. Hop on the ferry to be whisked away to paradise.

Caladesi Island State Park

(47 minutes)

Famed for its untouched beaches, Caladesi Island State Park offers a rare glimpse of Florida’s undeveloped coast. One of only a few barrier islands in the Florida Gulf, Caladesi feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city beaches. If you’re still not convinced, it was rated the #2 Best Beach in America in 2022 by Dr. Beach.

Rainbow Springs State Park

(1 hour, 37 minutes)

A historic spring situated north of Tampa, Rainbow Springs gets its name from the lush, emerald waters at the headwaters of the Rainbow River. This is the fourth-largest spring in the state and attracts thousands of visitors each spring in search of the magnificent azalea bloom and water recreation.

Manatee Springs State Park

(2 hours, 10 minutes)

One of the best places to see manatees in Florida, Manatee Springs is your best shot of seeing these lumbering giants in the winter months. The spring itself is what’s known as a first-magnitude spring and gushes over 100 million gallons of water a day! Walk along the 800-foot boardwalk and gaze into the crystalline waters. In winter you might just see a manatee.

Everglades National Park

(3 hours)

As one of the nation’s ecological masterpieces and the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, the Everglades are an incredible example of Florida’s vast biodiversity. With rare species like the Florida panther, crocodiles, and manatees finding refuge in its 1.5 million acres of protected land, the Everglades are an ecological wonderland that can’t be missed!

Biscayne National Park

(4 hours, 15 minutes)

Located at the very northern tip of the Florida Keys, 20 miles south of Miami, is Biscayne National Park. Over 95% of the national park is actually underwater and snorkeling is one of the favorite activities of visitors. Enjoy unprecedented tropical vibes and stunning sand to melt away your worries.

Dry Tortugas National Park

(6+ hours)

Located on an island at the very tip of the Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas National Park is an incredible destination for camping and snorkeling. Hop aboard the ferry and bring your camping gear to get unprecedented sunset views and the historic fort virtually all to yourself.

Where are the best places to eat near Tampa?

Tampa’s cuisine is a tantalizing mix of Cuban, Spanish, and Native American influences. From traditional Seminole dishes to oysters fresh from the Gulf, here are some of the best things to eat in Tampa.


Located on Tampa’s scenic Riverwalk, Ulele is a beautiful culinary representation of Florida’s Indigenous people and locally harvested ingredients. Dishes like the Three Sister Salad and Native Chili are just a few of their delicious, Native-inspired offerings.


Perhaps the most scenic outdoor dining space in the city, Oystercatchers is one of the premier places in Tampa to taste locally caught seafood. Don’t miss their charred octopus or raw bar, with a glass of crisp white wine.

Oak & Ola

Oak & Ola is known for their contemporary American classics, refined cocktail menu, and amazing service. Climb up to their rooftop terrace for stunning views out over the city skyline.

The Columbia Restaurant

The Columbia is Florida’s oldest restaurant and said to be one of the best places to sample a Cuban sandwich, Tampa’s claim to culinary fame. Housed in a historic building in Ybor City, you can’t come to the Big Guava without stopping in.

Noble Crust

Noble Crust prides themselves on being at the crossroads of Italian and Southern cuisine, two of the world’s most notable comfort food cuisines. Their patio is an incredible spot to lounge outside, year-round. Order up ricotta gnocchi or a bianco pizza and be transported to the old country.

Gigglewaters Social Club

Named for the early 1900s nickname for a cocktail, Gigglewaters Social Club is a movie-theater-meets-delicious-eats extravaganza. Grab an order of disco fries and a local beer and enjoy a classic movie in their screening room.

What are the best beaches in Tampa?

While Tampa is located at the confluence of the Hillsborough River and Gulf of Mexico, its beaches aren’t far from the city center. Here are some of the best beaches to visit on a trip to Tampa.

Ben T. Davis Beach

This is the closest beach to downtown Tampa at only a 15 minute drive. Ben T. Davis Beach offers serene water, soft sand, and swaying palm trees on Tampa Bay’s idyllic coast.

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach is the nearest oceanfront beach to Tampa, and a gorgeous one at that. It’s well worth the 40-minute drive for powdered sugar sand, cerulean water, and floating in the Gulf of Mexico. A number of beach activities are on offer like parasailing, jet skiing, and surfing.

Honeymoon Island State Park Beach

Stunning blue waters, sugar soft sand, and abundant wildlife. Named after a newlywed contest where the couples won a trip to this beach, you’ll soon see why beachgoers and sun worshippers alike fall in love on its shores.

Caladesi Island State Park Beach

One of the most pristine beaches near Tampa, Caladesi Island State Park Beach is worth the ferry ride and hassle to sunbathe on this tranquil stretch of sand. Once rated America’s Best Beach, Caladesi Island is a testament to Florida’s beaches of old.

What are some camping mistakes to avoid when camping near Tampa?

Florida holds her own as a tricky destination for campers who aren’t prepared. Here are a few things to consider before going camping in the Sunshine State!

Not Being Cautious Around Bodies of Water

The alligators in Florida are no joke and have been known to maim and kill humans. Be extra cautious with small children around bodies of water, as alligators are often laying in wait just beyond the shore.

Not Bringing Protection Against the Bugs

It’s joked that the state bird of Florida is the mosquito. You won’t be able to escape the thick clouds of mosquitoes in some areas of the Sunshine State. Be sure you bring along DEET bug spray, permethrin treated camping gear, and a thermacell isn’t a bad idea for areas with standing water.

Bringing Firewood From Other Areas

Bringing your own firewood from areas outside the parks you’re camping in can have detrimental effects on the natural environment. The emerald ash borer has wreaked havoc on trees in Florida and caused habitat loss for many species due to campers bringing in their own firewood.

Forgetting Sun Protection

The sun is intense in Tampa. You’ll need sun protection, even in winter! Be prepared by bringing a wide-brimmed sun hat and sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF rating. Lip balm that contains SPF and sunglasses are also important.

Not Preparing for Rain

Florida’s sunny days are plentiful but frequently punctuated by precipitation. Tampa has an average of 105 days a year that are rainy. Summer storms can unexpectedly shower your campsite if you’re not careful. Rain jackets, ponchos, and sturdy footwear are all good items to bring along on a camping trip.

Being Unaware of Hurricane Season

The hurricane season in Florida is legendary. From June to November, weather forecasters are on high alert looking for potential storms. Think ahead if you’re wanting to go camping in this season and check the weather at least a week beforehand to be sure.

What wild animals might I encounter while camping in Tampa?

Florida is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Tampa locals include dolphins, manatees, sharks, pelicans, egrets, seagulls, bald eagles, osprey, and even otters. The usual metropolitan critters are at large here too, including opossums, raccoons, foxes, turtles, and chipmunks.

There are several areas near Tampa to see manatees in all their majestic, roly-poly glory. From observation decks just outside the city to cerulean springs in the north, you’re bound to see sea cows come the winter months.

A few dangerous creatures call Tampa and the surrounding areas home as well, including the Florida alligator who loves to frequent lakes, streams, and rivers. Venomous snakes and spiders are also common in the low lying areas of Florida’s wetlands. Be aware of the potential for sharks when swimming off Tampa’s beautiful coastal areas.

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