There's something in the climate that charms
December 22, 2011 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Beach tent camping in Florida for two weeks in January. What should I expect? Any advice?

My husband and I are going to be car-camping for two weeks in various campgrounds around the Florida coast. We're taking a tent with two rooms (large enough to stand up in). I'm anticipating daytime temps of 65-75 degrees and nighttime temps of around 50 and am planning to dress as I do to go hiking in the Rockies in the summertime (layers, thermals, long pants, etc., rain gear, and extra blankets. Does this sound about right? Too much, or too little?)

What about bugs? We'll be spending four nights in Flamingo Campground in the Everglades. I'll bring deet, but I'd still like to know in admvance how bad the problem is in the winter time.

Any other tips or caveats are most welcome. What about gators? Will I wake up one morning and find one staring at me through the mesh window? (If I did, I wouldn't know whether to panic or be trhilled.)
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oooh, fun. What a great trip. Yeah, your expectations sound about in line with reality. It may very well not be that cool at night, but literally anything can happen. (Last two Dec-Jan had real cold stretches.) Ya never know.

My only caveat is.. I mean there's lots of amazing things about the bottom of the Everglades, and it's a great base... but... I don't find the Flamingo campground the most gorgeous spot. It's just sort of... eh. It's like, parking lot and a scrabbly little beach. That's sort of unfair, because, HOLY CRAP, YOU'RE AT THE MOST AWESOME PLACE ON EARTH. And it's a great home base to go all around.

But I will push you towards the Keys as well. :) ALSO, speaking of, and SO NEAR to the Everglades entrance, if you want to spend any time in the water, PENNEKAMP, off Key Largo, is a must-go. It was America's first undersea park! I mean.... Plus, that way you can worry both about gators and sharks in one day.

Anyway, back on land, the bug situation is super hit or miss? Because you're coming in the middle of the dry season, it could be totally bug-free!

Annnnd yeah. Alligators. Oh man. Well there's a lot of them.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 3:36 PM on December 22, 2011

Expect 100% humidity. That's the norm for Florida. You may have that terribile combination of wet and cold, and heat (and drying) will be your friends. Gators are more rare the more north you go, (except for the Keys). If you can, I'd camp in/near Homosassa/Crystal River and see the manatees. Also the Mermaids at Weeki Watchee.

Bugs will be low for FL, but in the 'Glades, anything goes. Gators are likely. Remember, they can't zig-zag well, and they get sluggish in the winter.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:55 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

For in-depth reviews of the campgrounds, we've had really, really good success with the "Best of Tent Camping" series by Johnny Molloy. We've used the books to find good spots here in TN and have also picked up the GA and FL editions as well. I highly recommend them. He even recommends the prime locations within the campgrounds if you're looking for quiet/seclusion, scenery, proximity to the bath facilities, etc.
posted by jquinby at 4:46 PM on December 22, 2011

My advice is to get one of those awning-only tents (or if your current tent has a rain fly that can stand on its own, that might work) and use it as sort of foyer. You want a place with a chair where you can get the sand off before you go inside your tent, because otherwise it's going to end up full of sand and you'll be miserable. Basically set this up at your main tent's door and use a tarp or something to give the half closest to your tent a floor.

I also recommend having some sort of elevated sleeping platform, but that's more of a personal taste thing. I find it really difficult to sleep through the night when I'm on sand. It's fine for napping, but I prefer a cot. This can also help guard against flash flooding if you get one of those freak came-out-of-nowhere Florida storms.

I wouldn't worry too much about rain, but definitely be prepared. As long as you're layering, you'll be fine on that front as well. I wouldn't stress too much about bugs, but come prepared just in case. I lived in Ft Myers, north of there, and don't recall there being any bugs in the winter and I am sensitive to that, but obviously a city is going to be way different.

I nth the suggestions to check out the Keys. Also, Sanibel/Captiva if you happen to be out that way.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:48 PM on December 22, 2011

Also, National Geographic makes an excellent map of the Everglades National Park. If that's the sort of thing that you might need, get one. They're well made using waterproof paper and are super durable. That amazon one is out of stock but you can find them at all kinds of places like REI and even book stores, especially once you get into the area.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:52 PM on December 22, 2011

I used to camp for a month every year in Florida (cave diving in Northern Florida) but one year we added camping at Bahia Honda key.WELL worth checking out Bahia Honda is you interested.

A couple things were odd-waking up to tons of anole lizards sunning on the tent and HUGE palmetto bugs aka woods cockroach catching rays as well.Neither bothered us really nor did they get into anything.Mostly just disconcerting waking up to the sun worshipers the first time LOL

Don't be surprised to see a cat run by with a small lizard in it's mouth either-a WTF moment for me when I was trying to figure out what it had...normal for the area I suppose.

Skeeters were a pain and I was glad I had treated our clothes with permethrin as I found DEET useless.I retrospect I could have probably warded off the tent visitors with permethrin as well.

I will leave it to you to find info on safety and use of that compound but here is a good thread I recently read

via Cave Chat

Have fun!! Florida is filled with so much variety in camping areas / themes for next to nothing compared to most areas I have ever been. FLA USA website has a lot of camping info too
posted by plumberonkarst at 5:04 AM on December 23, 2011

BTW I normally went from Boxing day to late January or mid January to Mid February.The weather was always decent enough (except one freak year where it was 32 F there) and -50 + in Canuskistan
posted by plumberonkarst at 5:07 AM on December 23, 2011

(OMG, just coming back in to second Bahia Honda!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:26 AM on December 23, 2011

We're just unpacking from our FL camping trip so I can offer some advice. We went to the Keys (there weren't any campsites available so we 'boteled'), through the Everglades (stayed at Big Cypress), to Cayo Costa (barrier island near Ft. Myers) and Myaka River (near Sarasota).

First and foremost, bugs - the mosquitos weren't bad when we were there but the no-see-ums (at Cayo Costa) were bad at dusk and dawn. The Everglades were fine but we weren't there at bad mosquito times.

Weather - we camped for the last two years at this time of year and this year was definitely warmer, around 80F during the day. I brought lots of layers but honestly, I didn't bring enough light clothing. I only packed my flipflops as a last minute addition and didn't bring shorts or a bathing suit (it was below freezing other years!). Make sure you bring warm weather clothes for daytime wear. A lot of the 'hikes' that we went on were either gravel paths or boardwalks (Anhinga Trail which is great if you like tame wading birds (which I do)), so were completely fine in flipflops or sandals.

Alligators - we drove by a lot going through the Everglades but never saw any near the campgrounds. They don't seem to wander very much or very fast.

Other - I have to admit we bailed a night early this year because the people were so crappy. All of the campgrounds were amazing - clean, scenic, and with helpful employees/volunteers - but our fellow campers were the biggest batch of assholes I have ever had to deal with (drugs, partying until 3 am, screaming at 2 am (different campground), bad drivers, dirty, selfish, etc.). I think by the time you come to Florida the schools will be back in session so that should reduce the problem somewhat.
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:49 AM on December 23, 2011

« Older Please help me pick a mobile phone plan in British...   |   Is Traverse City right for me? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.