Camping in Gulf County, Florida. Variety, Accessibility and Low-Rise Atmosphere

Options include beachfront or lakeview, state park or private marina

Photo Credit: Gulf County Tourist Development Council
Photo Credit: Gulf County Tourist Development Council

It’s known as a laid-back destination with a low-rise vibe. Gulf County, Florida, has built a reputation as a place where unplugging and recharging go together. It’s a place to get away and to reconnect. And that combination is no more treasured than on a beachside camping trip. Just two hours southwest of Tallahassee and an hour east of Panama City Beach, Gulf County is a haven on the central Gulf Coast for nature lovers and those looking for opportunities to reconnect with each other and recharge on the water.

From spots on the white sands of protected lands to water’s edge views from a full-service RV park and marina, the options offer variety and flexibility and Gulf County’s location makes a camping trip easy and enjoyable any time of year. A variety of locations coupled with recent updates and additions to facilities give visitors even more options to enjoy camping their way in Gulf County.

At T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park (8899 Cape San Blas Road, Port St. Joe Florida 32456; 850-227-1327, Reservations: 800-326-3521), 20 miles of pristine beaches, dunes and marshes stretch between the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to one side and St. Joseph Bay to the other. This is the prime location for those who love to get immersed in a natural setting and enjoy hiking, paddling, fishing and more. Shady Pines campground features 36 standard campsites and 10 tent-only sites. All sites have electricity and water, a picnic table, an in-ground grill and a fire ring. Site options include paved surfaces and accessible picnic tables and grills, screened platforms with power and a ceiling fan. Pets are not allowed on these two sites. Two new bathhouses provide showers and restrooms. There are also 14 primitive sites in the park’s Wilderness Preserve, which can be reached by hiking trail or kayak.

William J. “Billy Joe” Rish Recreation Area (6773 Cape San Blas Road, Port St Joe, Florida 32456; 850-227-1876), known locally as Rish Park, has recently added two family-style cabins which are designed to be easily accessible for people with disabilities, their families and their caregivers. The two-bedroom cabins sleep up to five people and feature a living room and dining area and kitchen. Two accessible restrooms have zero-entry showers. The cabin is surrounded by a boardwalk.

Beautiful white-sand beaches and blue Gulf waters are the centerpiece of this 100-acre park. An accessible recreation area includes a day use park, boardwalk and an Olympic-size pool with chair lift and wheelchair ramp. Beach wheelchairs, motorized beach wheelchairs, boardwalk scooters and water wheelchairs are also available for park guests.

One of the area’s best known camping locations is Presnell’s Bayside Marina & RV Resort (2115 County Road 30A; Port Saint Joe, Florida 32456; 850-848-4914), a premier spot for enjoying sunsets on the bay. Located on the calm waters of St. Joseph Bay, Presnell’s offers paddleboard, kayak and boat rentals. There is also a swimming pool, clubhouse, ship’s store, boat ramp and marina onsite. This iconic Gulf County campground now has 110 sites, including 64 new full-service sites with 30- and 50-amp service, full sewer hookups and Wi-Fi. For those without an RV, cottage and park model rentals are also available on site. 

Indian Pass Campground (2817 Indian Pass Road, Port Saint Joe, Florida 32456; 850-227-7203) sits near the western end of Apalachicola Bay and has a character all its own. Sites shaded by native trees, waterfront sites with amazing views and remote tent sites are all a part of the mix here. There are restrooms, showers, laundry and a general store onsite. There is local beach access to a pet-friendly beach and a nearby county boat ramp.

Just a short drive inland, at Dead Lakes RV Campground (482 Gary Rowell Road, Wewahitchka, Florida 32465; 850-639-1008) visitors can experience a different yet equally inviting aspect of Gulf County. The Dead Lakes area encompasses 6,700 acres of unspoiled beauty amid the waters of the Chipola River, ancient cypress trees and stands of fertile Tupelo trees. Access to fishing, kayaking and hiking make this a favorite spot for some, while others just want to bask in the calm of the remote location. There are full-hookup sites with picnic tables and a designated tent area for groups. The property includes a family and pet-friendly playground with picnic pavilions, and general store with WIFI, showers and restrooms and boat ramp. There are also nearby kayak rentals and eco tours.

For those who are looking for a truly primitive waterfront experience, overnight camping is also allowed on Gulf County’s public beaches, with some restrictions. Be sure to check out the area’s Leave No Trace information for regulations and best practices.

From its accessible camping options to its pet-friendly beaches and restaurants, this is a welcoming coastal destination for all, filled with a whole host of opportunities to recharge and engage with family, friends and travel companions. The sustainable practices it upholds, like the Leave No Trace ordinance on all beaches, are aimed at maintaining the resources and the character of this special Gulf Coast destination.

If You Go…

Happy Ours Kayak & Bike Outpost (775 Cape San Blas Road, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456; 478-442-8810) offers rentals and guided eco tours making it easy to get out and paddle the bay waters or explore area bike trails.

About Fun Charters (521 5th Street, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456; 850-340-1035) gives visitors a chance to get out on the water and learn more about the species and ecosystems of the area from Captain Charlene, who is a marine biologist in addition to being a boat captain.

Off the Map Expeditions (482 Gary Rowell Road, Wewahitchka, Florida 32465; 850-819-3053) offers fishing, paddling, birding and eco tours on the Dead Lakes.

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