Who says you can't find Florida boondocking places? We found 14 spots to primitive camp at Eglin Air Force Base!
And what's amazing about this is that these spots are in beautiful wilderness areas but just a few minutes away from some of the most popular tourist spots and beaches along the Emerald Coast of Florida's panhandle, places where most RV parks are booked up as long as a year in advance.
Yet when we stayed at one of the Eglin primitive campgrounds not long ago – during prime spring break season no less – we were the only RVers there!
And you can't beat the cost, for Florida boondocking on the Eglin Air Force Base is just $5 per night.
Here's a video we just released on our YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel about our camping experience there:
Boondocking on a Bombing Range
The thing you need to know, though, is that the 14 different campgrounds scattered across the huge Eglin Air Force Base reservation are all surrounded by bombing ranges, places where the public is not allowed to go.
In fact, to get permission to camp here, you need to take a video course on what to do if you come upon unexploded bombs, hand grenades, land mines, and the various other ordinances the Air Force uses for training and practice on the bombing range.
When you get permission to visit and camp there, you will get a color-coded map showing what areas are open and what is closed.
You will hear a lot of aircraft and at times, you will hear munitions going off on the various bombing and active training ranges.
You need a permit to camp at Eglin Air Force Base
Actually, you need two things:
- An Outdoor Recreation Pass for Eglin Air Force Base – You do not need to be active or retired military for this pass. It is available for the public. It costs $20 a year (half price for seniors) and is available online through the Eglin Air Force Base natural resources headquarters – called Jackson Guard – at https://eglin.isportsman.net/
- A camping pass – Good for a 14-day maximum stay at any of the 14 campgrounds for $5 per night. You have to get this permit in person at the Jackson Guard headquarters near Niceville, FL.
The visit to the Jackson Guard office is also very educational.
Take time to learn about Eglin Air Force Base when getting your permit
They have displays set up explaining the uniqueness of the area, including taxidermy of the various wildlife that is abundant on the areas open to the public, including black bear, bobcat, otter, and other species like a timber rattlesnake which, like alligators and water moccasins – are also occasionally encountered there.
Why Eglin Air Force Base is so good for Florida Boondocking
To appreciate how unique it is to camp at Eglin Air Force Base, you need to understand just how big the place is.
The base itself started 8 years before the U.S. entered World War II. It occupies a huge swath of land just inland from the Florida Gulf Coast and connected bays that stretch roughly from Pensacola on the West to past Destin on the East and almost up to I-10 on the north.
In all, the base itself encompasses more than 800,000 acres. The vast majority of that land is wilderness. In fact, Eglin is the largest forested military reservation in the world. And almost 255,000 acres of that land are open to the public for recreational purposes, like hunting, fishing, and camping.
Things to Know about Florida Boondocking when your camp at Eglin Air Force Base
When we visited, we stopped at Jackson Guard (the base's natural resource center) and got the lay of the land. The personnel there showed us on a map where all the different campgrounds were located and gave us an idea on what road conditions were like.
Some of the access roads are pretty rough and, after rains, can be cratered with mudholes. Some are not appropriate for large RVs or Fifth Wheels.
The camping area we chose was Anderson Pond, located about four miles from Jackson Guard and right off US-85.
A paved road took us off the highway for about a half-mile and then a well-maintained red dirt road led into the primitive camping area where we found about several designated campsites in a mostly open clearing. Each site had a picnic table and a fire circle.
There are no electric hookups, no running water, no pit toilets, and no dumping stations.
The three-acre Anderson pond has a boardwalk along one end and a wide grassy area on the opposite shore. It's rumored to have some nice-sized largemouth bass, though I didn't have time to do any fishing. There are numerous trails for hiking and the Florida Trail, a cross-state 1,500-mile hiking trail, runs right next to the campground.
More rules for when you camp at Eglin Air Force Base
Here are some other rules about camping here:
- Time limits – The maximum amount of time you can camp here is 14 consecutive days, after which you must vacate and then wait 14 more days before reapplying for a new camping permit
- Designated campsites – You must camp in a site marked off and so designated for camping. No dispersed camping is allowed.
- Fires – All fires must be limited to a stove, grill, or fire ring
- Waste – Dumping or draining of refuge from campers, RVs, trailers or any other type of vehicle is strictly prohibited. Tenters can set up portable latrines but must dispose of human waste properly (check with Jackson Guard before setting up).
- Pets – Pets are allowed in most public camping areas, but not all. You must have proof of your pet's current rabies vaccination and the animal must have a collar with an identification tag containing the owner's name and address. Pets are not allowed to roam free and must always be under their owner's control.
- Bear Country Precautions – Keep a neat campsite and do not store food in the open. This is bear country.
- Check the Public Access Map to be sure you know where you are allowed to go. Unscheduled closures may occur, in which case you should pay attention to any signs, road closures, and personnel in the field.
Check this side trip when you camp at Eglin Air Force Base
We highly recommend a side trip to the nearby Air Force Armament Museum just off Eglin Parkway not far from Fort Walton Beach.
While camping at Eglin Air Force Base, this free museum is only a few minute's drive and well worth a visit. It contains over 30 different aircraft including an AC-130, B-17, B-25, B-52, P-51, A-10, F-15, F-16, F-100, F-101, and many other aircraft from the WWII era to the present.
It is a fascinating place to explore. On the grounds and inside the museum itself you will find several hundred pieces of armament including a gun collection, bombs, bomblets, and missiles such as the Sparrow, Sidewinder, cluster bombs, Bunker Buster, and the MOAB – a huge 21,500-pound explosive device nicknamed the Mother Of All Bombs that was developed at Eglin and first used in 2017 during the conflict in Afghanistan.
Want more ideas about RV Travel in Florida?
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See our new Boondocker camping shirts and hoodies!
The Boondocker shirt and hoodie you saw Mike and Jennifer wearing in the video are part of our new merch designs for camping. Our design team really knocked it out of the park this year with some great new clothing! See all the new designs by going to https://rvlifestyle.com/goshopping.