Best Beach Camping in Florida's Panhandle

Finding just the right beach in Florida for a camping vacation could give you a headache; not because there are so few options, but because there are so many. Thank heaven, then, for Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach. Leatherman is a professor of environmental studies at Florida International University in Miami, and the author of “America’s Best Beaches.” Since 1991, Leatherman has been compiling annual lists of the ten best beaches, in ranked order, all across the United States. Criteria includes sand quality, water temperature, presence of litter, and takes into account opinions of naturalists, scientists, and park rangers across the United States.

Florida Beach Camping Is at the Top

Of the four Florida beaches that are currently among the Top Ten Beaches in the country, only one has camping facilities. Fort DeSoto Park, located in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area, has been awarded #2 beach in the country, two years in a row. In many ways, being #2 is actually better than making it all the way to #1, as winners of the top honor are excluded from all future lists.

Four Florida beaches have been honored as America’s Best Beach, and all four of them feature campsites. 2002’s winner, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, is located in Northwest Florida. This park has a 10-mile white-sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico, a boat ramp, a marina, nature trails, and some of the highest sand dunes in the state. 1995’s winner is St. Andrews State Park. Also located in Northwest Florida (in Panama Beach), this beautiful spot is famous for her white sandy beach and beautiful emerald green water. The park features fishing piers, a boat ramp, and nature trails.

1994’s Top Beach in the country is Grayton Beach State Park, yet another Northwestern Florida beach. In addition to white sands and emerald green water, the park also features an amphitheater, a boat ramp, nature trails, and, of course, campgrounds. Finally, 1992’s winner is Bahia Honda State Park. The only park on Dr. Beach’s list from the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda features two-and-a-half miles of palm fringed, white sand beaches. Bahia Honda offers a marina, boat ramp, snorkeling classes, a nature center, tour guides and more, all located about 30 miles from Key West.

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