The north Florida coast is known for its vast and diverse natural resources, and the city of Jacksonville is only a few miles away from thousands of acres of pristine wetlands, lush hammock forests and untouched beaches. For tent campers, there are a lot of options to choose from. Camping options in the region range from oceanside getaways to primitive backwoods retreats, some of them within the Jacksonville city limits.
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Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
Situated on the coast, just north of Jacksonville Beach, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is home to 20 miles of hiking trails, a 60-acre inland lake and more than a mile of beach. This city park also includes roughly 300 campsites. Most sites are open to both tents and RVs and include water and electric hookups, but a handful of primitive tent-only sites are also available. The shady, secluded tent campsites all include campfire rings and picnic tables, along with easy access to restrooms, showers and drinking water. Other park features include playgrounds, picnic areas, a camp store and splash park for kids. Reservations are available through the Jacksonville Department of Parks and Recreation website.
Jennings State Forest
For intrepid campers with no need for modern conveniences, Jennings State Forest is the ideal place to get away from it all. The forest spans more than 20,000 acres and includes more than 20 miles of rugged hiking trails. Primitive backcountry campsites are located along Old Jennings and Dunns Farm trails. There are no showers, restrooms, hookups or even potable drinking water at the sites. Campers are responsible for carrying in all necessary supplies and leaving no trace of their presence when they leave. Camping is free of charge, but you must contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to obtain a permit.
Osceola National Forest
Osceola National Forest sits about an hour west of Jacksonville and includes nearly a dozen campgrounds and backcountry camping areas, all of which are open to tent camping. The most modern accommodations are available at the Ocean Pond Campground, which consists of 67 campsites, some of which include electric and water hookups. The nearby Hog Pen Landing campground is more primitive, with no water or electricity; several of its campsites sit directly on the shore of Ocean Pond. The sites at both campgrounds are shady and private, with picnic tables and campfire rings. Backcountry camping areas like the Wiggins Hunt Camp are tent-only and accessible only by foot. Osceola National Forest encompasses nearly 200,000 acres, with numerous opportunities for hiking, fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding. All campsites in the forest are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Anastasia State Park
Just shy of an hour south of Jacksonville, Anastasia State Park provides access to miles of pristine beach, shaded by coastal hammock forest. More than 100 campsites, most of them within walking distance of the water, are open to tents and RVs alike. Water and electric hookups are available at every site, along with picnic tables and campfire rings. Mature trees provide ample shade and privacy, and modern restrooms and showers are available. Spend your time at the park swimming, hiking or fishing on the coast -- with a current Florida fishing license -- or canoe through the Salt Run marsh. Reservations are available by phone or through the Florida State Parks website.