Cayo Costa Camping in Florida with Kids

During the pandemic my family has been challenging my notions that sleeping on the ground is never worth it. My concession to them has been, if the place is amazing, and I can’t be there any other way, then I will sleep on the ground. That’s how we ended up camping at Cayo Costa, and I can honestly say, it was worth it.

Cayo Costa is a great place to go camping in Florida with kids. Cayo Costa is an island off of the Gulf coast of Florida that can only be reached by boat. The Tropic Star Cayo Costa ferry departs from Pine Island once a day and drops and picks up campers. Camping is primitive, with running water and restrooms available but no electricity. . The showers were not private, and were more usable to hose off from the beach. There is a small store on the island that provides firewood and ice. There are several cabins available, but we elected to tent camp. We booked our site two months ahead through Reserve America. Some of the sites are beautiful and right on the gulf. We were more inland but only a short walk from the beach, and we had plenty of privacy.

The moment we boarded the ferry to Cayo Costa and passed through a huge flock of birds wading off of the coast of Pine Island, we were able to leave the digital world behind. The boys searched the horizon for dolphins, while my husband and I cracked open some wine and beer (which the captain said with enthusiasm was highly encouraged). The trip was about an hour and we passed multiple small islands before arriving at Cayo Costa.

When arriving, we had the opportunity to get supplies at the store and then a tram was waiting to take us out to the camp sites which were about a mile from the dock. We set up camp and then rushed to the beach to catch a truly epic gulf coast sunset.

Cayo Costa shelling was unlike anything we had seen before. We brought shell bags and throughout our trip, the boys and I spent hours picking through the piles of treasures to find the best specimens. My six year old used a shell guide to try to hunt for the rarest most valuable species he could find.

Cayo Costa weather was surprisingly mild. Our trip to Cayo Costa was in January. While I was fearful it would be chilly, in the break of the day it was actually quite hot, and the boys dipped into the Gulf several times to cool off. On our second day, we hiked up the beach and took the Scrub Trail inland to Cemetery Trail. It was about a mile total to hike down to the pioneer cemetery on the island, which was very doable for the boys. We were HOT by the middle, and wished we had brought more water. Just the difference in temperature from the coast to the hammock was substantial. Nonetheless, the boys enjoyed the hike, and the cemetery was a nice reward.

There was something magical about camping on Cayo Costa. Perhaps it was the trees ornamented with shells, carefully selected by other families that had explored before us – perhaps it was the fact that for 2 days all we had to bother us was the rising of the sun in the morning, and admittedly some ant nibbles on our ankles. No phones, no tablets, and no worldly concerns – just time with family in a beautiful setting. I would highly recommend Cayo Costa for anyone looking for a real adventure and a get away camping in Florida with their family.

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