Canaveral National Seashore | CAMPING

Canaveral National Seashore Campsite Map (click to enlarge)

Canaveral National Seashore Campsite Map (click to enlarge)

NUMBER OF SITES

All camping at Canaveral National Seashore is done in the northern section of the park at fourteen campsites located on the islands of Mosquito Lagoon. A motorboat, canoe, or kayak is required to get to these campsites. Sites hold anywhere from six to sixty people, so there may be other groups camping on the island with you. You can camp in any clearing big enough to hold your tent, as there are no set camping spots.

Campsite Group Size

Campsite #1 (Orange Island): 6
Campsite #2 (Homestead Island): 8
Campsite #3 (Shipyard): 10
Campsite #4 (Headwinds): 10
Campsite #5 (Government Cut): 20
Campsite #6 (Jones Canal): 20
Campsite #7 (Brickhouse Cove): 60
Campsite #8 (Bissette Bay): 15
Campsite #9 (Middle Dredge): 25
Campsite #10 (South Middle Dredge): 25
Campsite #11 (Scout Island): 20
Campsite #12 (South Dredge): 40
Campsite #13 (East Winds): 20
Campsite #14 (County Line): 20

Beach camping has been discontinued. The only campsites now at Canaveral are those on the islands.

SEASONS AND HOURS

The campsites are open year-round. However, camping from May through September is going to be miserable due to heat, humidity, rain, and mosquitoes and other bugs.

TYPE OF CAMPING

Tent camping only.

GETTING THERE

Bissette Bay Campsite at Canaveral National Seashore

Bissette Bay Campsite at Canaveral National Seashore

Campsites are located within a maze of islands that all look alike. Some navigation skills would be nice, though a GPS or a compass and common sense will suffice. It is no problem to use a phone GPS, as you can get a cell signal anywhere in the lagoon. While a phone’s GPS does not use a cell signal per se, it does require a connection to download the maps from a source like Google.

The good thing about Mosquito Lagoon is that it is only a few miles across, so while you may have trouble finding your campsite, you can’t go too far east to west before hitting the opposite shore. When heading south, if you leave the islands behind and find yourself on a wide body of water, you have gone too far and are on your way to Playalinda Beach. Your only concern is heading too far north, as there is no natural boundary to let you know that you are leaving the park.

There are seven boat launches in the area, six within Canaveral National Seashore and one at River Breeze Park, a city park located on the west side of the lagoon. If paddling to the campsites, I suggest using Apollo Beach Boat Ramp #1 near the Apollo Beach Visitor Center for Campsites #1 through #5 and River Breeze Park for Campsites #6 through #10. For sites #11 through #14, it’s a toss up between River Breeze Park and Apollo Beach Boat Ramp #2 at Canaveral (there is a closer boat launch at Seminole Rest, but that is for day-use only). If you have a motorboat, it doesn’t make much difference which ramp you use. If you are at Canaveral National Seashore to begin with, the best ramp is Boat Ramp #1.

I camped at Campsite #8 and used the River Breeze Park boat ramp. At only a half mile from ramp to campsite, this is the shortest paddle any camper can make. I could see the island from the dock at River Breeze. In fact, if push came to shove, I could get in my kayak and paddle back to River Breeze and use the restroom there. It takes about twenty minutes to paddle one-way. I only camped one night and was able to “hold out” until the next day.

If you do not have a boat, but still want to camp, you can rent a canoe from the Apollo Beach Visitor Center, but only for Campsites #1 through #5. These are all at the most northern end of Mosquito Lagoon. Canoes hold two adults and gear. Canoe rentals and campsite reservations are two separate things, so you need to contact the Visitor Center to make sure canoes are available for days you might want to camp before making a reservation. Furthermore, the park entrance fee is not included in the camping fee. Call (321) 267-1110 for more information on island camping and canoe rentals.

Keep in mind that if it is a windy day, the National Park Service will not let you take one of its canoes…and wind can kick up at any time. That can leave a traveler in quite a dilemma, because if you were relying on the Park Service canoes, you won’t be able to get to your campsite. What you must do in this situation is rent a canoe from a nearby outfitter, which adds extra expense and extra hassle. And of course this doesn’t negate the chance of you capsizing on the way out and drowning.

AMENITIES

All sites are primitive, meaning no water or toilets. If you plan to camp multiple nights, you will need biodegradable toilet paper and trash bags—all garbage must be brought back with you. The National Park Service policy is that you can dig a hole away from the camping area and use this as your toilet—be sure to cover it up. If this is your plan, bring a shovel. However, a more ecologically-friendly alternative is to bring your poop back with you and dispose of it on the mainland. Portable toilets are available at any outdoor equipment store, or you can just use a plastic bag to pick it up just like you would dog poop in the park or your neighborhood.

There is only one picnic table and one fire ring / grill per island, so these must be shared among everyone camping. I was the only one at Campsite #8 and was able to pitch my tent next to the picnic table.

Bissette Bay Campsite #8 at Canaveral National Seashore

Bissette Bay Campsite #8 at Canaveral National Seashore

RESERVATIONS

Reservations are now required for all campsites and must be made online at Recreation.gov up to six months in advance. You cannot arrive at Canaveral National Seashore and get a site, not even if some are available. If you find yourself in this situation, you can use your phone to connect to Recreation.gov and make a reservation.

After making a reservation you can print your permit. You will need one copy to attach to your tent and another to place on the dashboard of your vehicle so that Rangers know your car is allowed to remain within the park after hours. If you cannot print your permit, stop by the Apollo Beach Visitor Center to obtain one. There is no need to check in at the Visitor Center if you are able to print your permit in advance.

FEES AND PAYMENTS

The current camping fees are listed on Recreation.gov. Payments must be made with a credit or debit card. No checks or cash are accepted. Camping fees do not include the entrance fee into the park. For the latest entrance fees, check Canaveral National Seashore’s Fees and Passes web page.

TERRAIN

Much of the islands are covered with mangroves and other vegetation, so most camping spots will be near the shore. The terrain is flat and covered with a thin layer of sand. There are plenty of small trees to provide shade.

I camped in early March and did not encounter too many mosquitoes. However, I’m sure the place wasn’t named Mosquito Lagoon for nothing, and I can imagine that it is quite miserable once the warmer weather arrives. Regardless of the time, bring long pants, a long sleeve shirt or light jacket, a wide brim hat with mosquito net, and thin gloves. Insect repellent will not keep all of the bugs off of you, and since there are no showers, unless you want to go to sleep covered in the stuff, use clothing for protection. DEET can melt plastic and synthetic fibers, so you won’t want any of that getting on your sleeping bag.

Typical shoreline of an island in Mosquito Lagoon

Typical shoreline of an island in Mosquito Lagoon

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Last updated on April 18, 2022
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