FREE campgrounds from AZ to FL in our motorhome.
We all know there are many ways of camping, from campgrounds, RV resorts, to dry-camping aka (boondocking). I want to share our challenge of dry camping all the way from central Arizona to South West of Florida.
When we were leaving Arizona to wanted to challenge ourselves by finding campgrounds that would cost us $0 and were safe. We had little over a month to get to Florida for our family reunion.
We didn't do much planning ahead (as usual) all we knew was that we wanted to get to the beach as soon as possible and drive along the coast until we reach our destination. There were shorter routs but we were not in any rush and of course we wanted to see as much as possible along the road. You don't see much if you take the highway, I think we can all agree on that.
We only use one app which is called Compendium, it is a free app but when it comes to information and access I find it is the most reliable. What I like the most about it is peoples reviews about the places you are interested in staying, there is nothing like real peoples opinions and photos. 99% of the time we rely on that and thus far we have not been disappointed. There was many dirt roads that we took that lead us to a spot to spend a night or more. Some were more secluded than others where there was peace and quiet, we always look for easy accessible roads not too far off the highway especially if we are spending one night. You cant expect to always find them, sometimes you better of sleeping at a rest stop or Walmart if you don't want to get off track too much.
Lots of little towns allow overnight camping at their city park which sometimes even offers amenities such as dump or fresh water.
here is a list of all the places we stayed for Free from Arizona to Florida:
1. Indian Bread Rocks Bowie, AZ
Easy accessible by dirt road, can be kind of bumpy after some rain. Great climbing, picnic tables, and benches. You might come across some big horn cows. We spent there only one night, as we really wanted to get out of the desert.
2. Baylor Pass West Trailhead in Las Cruces, NM
Was located very conveniently to the highway and only under an hour away from amazing White Sands National park! Pretty small lot with local hikers and other campers, but we were told there is another lot little further down the road. It didn't involve a dirt road to get there.
3. Iraan City Park Overflow Iraan, TX
this was a tiny park, and it was one of those city parks that I spoke about above. When we pulled in it was getting dark, there was a tiny playground so Luna was able to run around and also there was plenty room for our dog to run after most of the day on the road, No one else was there, which always makes me feel a little weird but nothing happened no one came knocking.
4. Schreiner City Park Junction, TX
This park was awesome, yet another city park, just on the outskirts of the cute town with really great burger spot called "Burger Company" this park had other RVs and vans (which made me feel better) you park right on the river. What surprised us the most was that they had a light show in the park as it was December, so after coming back from dinner we came to a park full of beautiful colorful Christmas lights! This was a park that we needed to register online for, they just want to keep track who is staying in their park and for how long.
5. Port Aransas Permit beach Port Aransas, TX
This spot! Ahh where do I start?! So first of all we got there at the best time because it was between end of the year and new year. Normally you have to obtain a parking pass which is $12 for the whole year, but you can only spend 3 nights camping along the beach, then you have to move to another spot on the beach.
But since we were there late December there were between the passes they didn't have any more passes for 2019 and they haven't gotten the new ones for 2020. So we were told we don't need to obtain any passes. We stayed there total of almost 3 weeks! We were parked right on the beach and there was A LOT of other campers coming and going all the time.
The beach is very clean, the water not the warmest but it was still such a breath of fresh air to be by the water again!
There were high tides that we had to keep an eyes on, especially when there were high winds and tides in these conditions can be unpredictable, and one of the first nights we were there we had to move the bus because water came way above the tide line. Another day we got so much rain that the water couldn't keep up with absorbing into the ground and in the morning we found ourselves surrounded by big puddle. Good thing is we stayed on the very packed sand so we didn't really sink into the ground. Another great thing about it was that about 15 min away is a state park called Mustang Beach Park that has dump station, normally you pay $5 but if you go after 5pm when there is no one there its free! The island itself is pretty dead as it was winter and most businesses are closed for the season but It was great in a way because it was quiet and not crowded. It was so incredible to spend Christmas on the beach with are friends who came to visit from Wisconsin.
6. Bonnet Carre Spillway Campground Norco, LA
Another park that requires registration but its very conveniently located to New Orleans only 30 min away. Town itself is nothing special at all, Norco is filled with power plants and other industries. But the park where we stayed at was very close to the highway yet far enough where you didn't hear the noise, there were other campers, also there is a lake with a lot of fisherman coming and going. We only spend one night there, as it was enough for us to see the spots we wanted to see in New Orleans. If you do go there be sure to get there during the day some spots can be pretty swampy if it rained in the previous days.
7. Bayou Campground Navarre, FL
This was a cute campground, very secluded in the middle of the jungle, the one right next to it is even better because its right on the water but it was full (Bayside Campground) both of these require registration and reservation. Honestly the dirt road is about 4-5 mile long and it was pretty bumpy I wouldn't come back here just for one night, unless I was able to book the Bayside right on the beach. Those 4-5 miles took good 20 min going 10-15 mph.
8. Lake Panasoffkee WIldwood, FL
This campground was our last campground before reaching my fathers house. It was big open field very easy access you simply pull in on the grass wherever you want. There was at least a dozen other campers.
We achieved our goal of spending $0 on accommodations. Most of the spots had pretty good internet, where I was able to work.This is another great feature of the app Compendium because people also rate the internet connection at the given spots. I guess the hardest part in this experiment was the fresh water. Because dump stations are everywhere, so many gas stations have them but usually they don't have fresh water. What we found most convenient is finding Camping world store along the way. With Good Sams card you have free dump and fresh water, guaranteed its safe to put in your fresh water tank.
Although we don't drink the water from our fresh tank we still want to make sure its safe enough as we do our dishes and shower in it. Another tip, still give them a call prior going to the store because we found one that didn't have dump and water station so just right there we waisted good 20 min by not calling ahead.
The more miles you do, the longer you do this life style the more tips and tricks you learn like in life, right?