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florida keys

Kamping Key West – A Party at the end of the road

When we waited till the last minute to visit the Florida Keys in winter, in an RV, we didn’t have a lot of options, in fact it wasn’t likely we were going to find a spot to park it at all!  Somehow all the stars aligned and there was one 7 night span that opened up just days before we were planning to drive south towards the land of beautiful sunsets and historic mile marker “0” in Key West.

the Florida keys

RV the Florida keys

We scored the very last spot at the Sugarloaf Key / Key West KOA Holiday.  This resort is a short 15 miles north of Key West and only 3 hours south of Miami (assuming there’s no traffic).  If you plan on visiting the same resort you can request one of the few waterfront sites for only a few bucks more…but you gotta plan way in advance…unlike us.

There are plenty of snow birds here but we also found several Europeans, a large group of young tent campers, a couple of families, dogs and hogs (aka motorcycles) everywhere…the diversity at this resort is like no other place we’ve visited!

As for the snowbirds, well…they’re not your average birds.  I don’t know if its the infamous Keys Disease or what but we didn’t find even one boring, grumpy or nagging neighbor we sometimes find at other RV resorts, in fact it’s quite the opposite!  They’ve driven down this long road to paradise and they’re gonna soak up every minute of sunshine they can…and that’s why this place is party central!

With a beer in one hand and a dog leash in the other, it seems like everyone here has reverted back to college mode.  The onsite pub hosts live music multiple times a week…yes, I said the onsite pub!  There’s a heated pool and a hot tub that never close, that’s right it’s open 24hrs a day, something we’ve never seen at an RV park.  They’ve got breakfast specials, happy hours, coconut bowling, a small private beach complete with a floating trampoline, a full service marina, boat rentals, a fuel dock and even a private boat ramp.

We spent our days walking around the park, soaking up the sun, riding bikes and paddling all over the shoreline searching for birds, fish and iguanas.  It’s the marina that makes this RV park unique, very few parks in the keys have a place onsite to launch your boat and a safe marina to store it in.

Don’t get me wrong, this park isn’t perfect:

  • The Spaces are tight (but not “pass the Grey Poupon” tight).
  • People are here to relax and enjoy the island life, so don’t expect it to be quiet, there’s always a buzz of activity and excitement around here.
  • Grass can’t grow due to the island being made out of coral so the RV area kinda looks like a parking lot.
  • The sewer, power and cable connections are (mostly) located in the backside of the RV, so make sure you have extra hoses, sewer line, and a power cord extension…my 40 feet of sewer hose barely made the stretch.
  • It’s expensive, but so are all the other resorts.  The only affordable camping we found (but had no openings) was further away at the state park.

This short list of imperfections is made up for ten-fold with the number one rule in Real Estate:  Location, Location, Location!  You simply cannot complain when you wake up each day and you’re on a tropical island, basking in the sun, while all your friends up north are freezing their butts off and buried in snow.

If you’re wondering what a KOA “Holiday” park means you can find more information about it on the bottom of the webpage: What’s Behind the Sign.  Basically they’ve broken their RV parks into 3 segments:  “Resort” has all the amenities without having to leave the park; “Holiday” is geared more towards longer stays; “Journey” is more of a stopover kinda place.  I personally think this is genius as I dislike how the RV industry just tosses in the word “resort” after their name to try and class it up; with the way KOA is starting to do it now you somewhat know in advance what you’re getting into before you hit that book-it button.

Have you escaped winter in the Florida Keys?  Where did you park it?  Tell us all about it in the comments below!

Stay tuned for more on the keys and free camping in Florida!

Disclaimer – It’s true, after searching weeks for an RV site in the keys, one did open up at the KOA and we used a few free Kamping vouchers to book it.  We did not get paid to write this article and as always our views and opinions are still our own.

Famous for my "how-not-to" videos, and typically the man behind the camera, sometimes I’m forced to be here in the “spotlight”. When you see my face you’re probably reading something more technical than adventurous, but either way I do my best to tell it like it is and infuse my opinions into the commentary…after all this is a blog and not MSN.

Comments (47)

  • Chris

    Jason, where is the YouTube video for this post? I know I saw it and now cannot seem to find it again. It’s the one when you guys stay at the KOA! Can you give me a direct link? THANKS!!

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  • Great post and some awesome info in your series of Key West posts. We’re full time as well, and planning to spend December in the Keys. Have you stayed at RV parks on any other islands closer to mainland? Key West certainly has most of the action, but curious if you’ve tried any others. Thanks!

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  • Ileana Almira

    You guys are great. I’ve gotten so much info from you. I’m planning to buy my first rv soon and go full-timing down in the keys. The rv parks/resorts are very expensive, and I’ve been researching boondocking there, which should be easy as i’m getting a class b motorhome. thx for all your info, i’ll keep following you! have a fabulous day!

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  • Dennis

    I know from your videos that you seem to have a policy against making reservations, but if you ever decide to break that policy, there is a state park called Bahia Honda that is absolutely fantastic that is just before you get to Key West. I think its only like $25/night and usually includes full hookups in the RV section. There is also an unofficial boondocking spot around the corner.

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      • Dennis

        I did some checking and may have spoken too soon. The unofficial boondocking spot is not RV friendly and the mosquitoes and noseeums are not people friendly. One camper reported being chased out at gunpoint by the coast guard but numerous people camp there all the time. Here are the GPS coordinates: 24.630657, -81.515484
        A youtube video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ul1vSYd4oFc
        You can see why its not RV friendly.

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    • Ileana Almira

      Hey, Dennis, tell me more about the unofficial boondocking spot. i’m planning to start my retirement by buying my first rv and go full-time and wind up in the keys. thx for the info.

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  • Russell

    noticed your sentence about sewer hookups and have to ask. Did you get rid of the composting toilet? was there an issue with it, did it not work? please let me know as I am wanting to boondock and if there was an issue that might limit my stay off the grid. I love the new site and have faith in your reviews. Have fun and enjoy the trip north.

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    • No, we love our composting toilet and have not had any issues but we do still have grey water that needs the sewer hose and hook up.

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      • Russell

        Good to hear, I was hoping that was the case.

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  • This review is helpful, thank you for posting it!

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  • Jeff Hodges

    We have stayed at Boyd’s campground for the last few years between Christmas and New Years. Also went for a week this February at Fiesta Key. We love Boyd’s for its tropical feel even inside the campground and close proximity to Key West. If you get back to Key West you may want to try Black Fin which is right on Duval St and has some of the best food that we have had in the area. And for your sweet tooth, Better Than Sex is an awesome desert place! Can’t wait to go back!

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  • Stayed at Sugar Loaf for a week last year on motorcycles. Had a blast. Thanks for the write up.

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  • We stayed at Bluewater Key Luxury RV Resort at mile marker 14. Amazing! Huge landscaped waterfront sites are the bomb, with your own dock and outdoor tiki-covered living areas. We are booked for a month in Oct -Nov. 2015 — our longest stay anywhere in 1.5 years. It’s expensive but worth it. However, your review makes us think twice — the onsite pub and music and activity is more our speed. Bluewater Key is quiet.

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  • Mike

    Sorry we missed you. I think we stayed across the street from you at the Orlando/Kissimmee KOA last weekend. Great post. Would have been cool to meet, maybe next time. Happy travels.

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  • sue

    What ever happened to FeistaKey KOA at mm70 ? That was a beautiful place

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  • Cindie Brandt

    Hope you are enjoying our wonderful (finally) weather in FL. I was hoping to catch you as you passed through Central Florida, on the coast. I follow your travels and saw your story on House Hunters and would love to meet you in person! Enjoy your travels~

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  • Susan

    I was in Key west in 1996 in a 20 ft Winnebago. I managed to boondock from late November till late April. Probably could not do that now. Had to go to stay at the state park once a week tho because there was no place to use a dump station in key west . The r.v park would not even let you if you paid them. I bought a gym pass for cheap to cut down on water use, using the gym to shower. I also moved my r.v in the daytime to the park across from that one big beach (using a bike to get around) , then at night to my secret parking spot which was a big dirt lot near the marina. One day towards the end of my stay the lot was all closed off with signs saying no overnight parking.It seems over the months more and more vans and small r.vs started using it. Kind of ended a good run of boondocking on key west. I did manage to find another place to park at night for a few more weeks. I didnt allways stay in Key west either. Was selling stuff at the flea market (forget what key it was on ) and I could park a couple nights there as well. I loved key west !!! What a party town !!! How about the sunset celebration? Do you go to that? Every night on the main dock downtown key west… Is the guy with the trained cats still there??? I also worked a couple days a week at the Hogs breath saloon. So, would just park my RV at the park and ride my bike to work. What a fun time I had there !!! You are so right about it being unlike anyplace else and the people there being different then anyplace else. I often felt I wasn’t in the U.S.A . anymore.

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  • John & Jane Timmons

    We’ve been big fans for a long time now. What luck to discover you were in the Key West area at the same time as us. So, while driving from Key Largo to Key West for the day, we stopped in to the Sugarloaf KOA. You must have already moved on as we couldn’t find your rig. Would have loved to have had the opportunity to say hello. Best of luck, and keep up the good work.

    John & Jane Timmons
    St. Charles, Missouri

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  • Terri Montaldo

    I am a native Floridian who loves your blogs and videos. I’ve camped in the Keys and around Florida all my life. My first visit to the Keys was back in 1977 with my parents with a slide in camper on the back of a pickup truck. We stayed at a campground called Knight’s Key, on the south side of A1A just before the Seven Mile Bridge. We could only used the a/c at night because we would throw the breakers to the park during the day. There was a saltwater swimming pool dynamited out of the coral to make a swimming pool. The pool hall/rec room/bar was not air conditioned and with all the windows open, Margaritaville played on the jukebox 24/7. I am a Parrothead but highly dislike that iconic Jimmy Buffett hit to this day. Fast forward to marriage, daughters and a Class C, in June of 1999 we camped at Boyd’s Campground in Key West. We had a site on the water. I taught the girls to fish for Pinfish with bits of hotdog and a cane pole as a barracuda hung just off to the side, as if watching the show to pick his own dinner out. The no-seeums and mosquitoes carried you away at night and those skeeters were so big they got clearance from Key West Airport to land. The pool was so hot you felt like you were swimming in a bathtub, even at ten o’clock at night. At both campgrounds I would not have traded the experience for the world and cannot wait to make that one of our extended trips after hubby’s retirement. God Bless and safe travels!

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    • Oh man, you just reminded me why this place is so fantastic in the winter! I do hope you make it back and bring the bug spray because those no-seeums are intense!

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  • Great pictures…Glad you two found a parking spot. There is always someone needing to leave early for many reasons. A lot of snowbird and winter Texas RVers like to leave early to get back up north for tax season. Is the KOA the most pricy place you have stayed?

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  • Tom Tyson (ARHPG)

    The opening image, “historic mile marker “0” in Key West.,” is excellent. It captures the tropical warmth, yet clear-blue sky of Key West in the late winter. It has a “you are there” feel to it, and it is also a great image of the Wynns! Tell us about the camera used (assume it is a tripod-mounted 5D-MKIII) and how it was set up for this shot. Thanks!

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  • Chuck and Lucie

    Wow, we took pictures at the 0 mile post just this last January 2015, had a great time in Florida and will go back for winter 2016. You need to make reservations early. Question, is it a good idea to use a diesel additives? I have a 370 cum. With 61,000 miles. Runs great no problems so far.

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  • Kay

    We love the “Westies” (Westfalia folks) of Key West. Their days are spent at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park – a beautiful combination of trees/beach, nice facilities and even beer at the concession stand. It’s an easy bike ride to anywhere in the Conch Republic. Did you know that you can avoid daily entrance fees by purchasing an annual pass ($60) to all of Floridas 160 state parks? Since overnite RV parking is not allowed in Key West, I believe Westies spend the night moving around the island. Hope you can find out more about free camping in the Keys. After renting houses for the past four winters on Cudjoe Key, just over the bridge from Sugarloaf KOA, we got the new adventures itch. Very excited to be picking up our first travel trailer in four days!

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  • We spent a week in the Keys last winter. We took my parents with us and my dad is retired DOD so we were able to stay at Sigbee Park which is part of Navel Air Station Key West. It was dry camping, but for $15 a night it was hard to beat! They have a nice shower house, fresh water, and dump. If you can qualify I recommend it….the campground is minutes from downtown!

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  • Why not Boyd’s on Key West itself? It’s a lovely park, water front, and you can bike all over the island and enjoy Duvall Street. I spent Christmas week there this year and plan on going back.

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  • Gin Blische

    Hi Jason,
    So excited to hear you were both in my neck of the woods. I love your blog. Florida is a beautiful state, especially South at Mile 0. Glad you enjoyed a sunset. Happy trails!

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  • Liza

    We just left the Keys a week ago and miss it so much already. The kids didn’t want to leave and my husband wants to live there full time! We stayed at the Fiesta Key Resort which is an Encore property. We have a Ready, Camp, Go card so we only paid $26/night which I felt was a steal. We are members of Thousand Trails and when I joined I got the card as an extra bonus. It’s been very handy for getting Encore properties for much cheaper.

    We truly felt like we were on vacation from our journey while we were there. We watched the sunset every night from sunset point and hung out at the tiki bar every night. Jason and Nicki were right – people down there can party and everyone was so friendly. We absolutely loved it!

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  • No mention of the roosters? Don’t tell me those sunrise alarm clocks are gone!

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  • Robert

    The keys are great a lot of fun for us its just four hours so when we can were there have a great time
    Bob & Jean

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  • Hugh

    Enjoyed the article, and photos are great too. Keep on keeping us inspired…..oh and btw its been a year now, boys are home for spring break, and our cool friends are not?

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  • Steve

    What the hell is a grey poupon?

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  • Merry

    We spent 7 days last Christmas in Key West at Boyd’s. It was a very memorable week but a bit overcrowded for us. All the same, there was a great vibe just like you describe. Overall, I wish Florida was more pet friendly where beaches are concerned. We didn’t get nearly enough beach time. Next time we will try to get into Bahia Honda or John Pennycamp.

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  • We spent Christmas week in the Keys a few years ago and it was wonderful. We got lucky in that one of the state parks was being renovated and was not taking reservations. It was first-come-first-serve on December 26th. We had to move spaces once but we spent 8 days with the rear window of the RV only 20 yards from the high tide line.

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  • Joy Travis

    When you said tight spot you really meant it! Love you guys can’t wait to see your posts. Am hoping to visit the Keys soon & thanks you for the heads up on that “tight spot”. Looks kinda scary getting in there. The photos are beautiful as always.

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  • sooooo jealous. All the times I’ve been to Miami I’ve never been to the Keys. Great write up of the park and area!
    Nina

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  • Hi from the Escaped Rally in Tucson, AZ. We look forward to following your travels from mile 0 to Alaska! Enjoy the spring weather along the way.

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  • Gary C.

    We phoned an RV resort called “Boyds”, just east of Key West, a few days before our arrival back in January, to get a reservation. All they had was a tent site we could use, which was perfect for us. We have a 19′ Escape fibreglass trailer that just fit in that site. We didn’t have site services, but don’t need them as we have solar. There were bushes between some of the tent sites that offered the imprssion of privacy. Right behind us was a harbour. If going to Boyds, I highly reccommend the tent loop. The rest of the “park” was large motorhomes, trailers, and 5th-wheels, as close to each other as possible. I watched a park employee help a guy for an hour to get the guys 5th-wheel into a site. And, their daily rate was what you would expect based on being in a tourist destination.
    Gary C.
    PS: If you’re in the Chicago area and have time for a bike tour of the lakefront (as long as you like), let me know. Maybe we can make that happen. Just write back to my email.

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  • Randy McCoy

    Jason,
    Just a thank you for sharing info on all levels..Still a sticks and bricks guy and we are currently seasonal in the warm state up north of Ohio…we are looking forward to opening of the season here come April.
    Safe Travels to you both…you keep me motivated and inspired!

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  • Chris Jensen

    Yea, glad you made it to the Keys! Is there scuba in the upcoming days?

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  • We absolutely love you two! We’ve been all over the Keys and considered buying there, just didn’t want to get locked into anything. We’re getting ready to pack up and follow your lead. Just a heads up, I’m the one who tried to get you to visit Nova Scotia. If you’re planning on visiting, I have plenty of contacts for the best free camping you can imagine. Email us for more details an/or photos. Thanks for being you, Scott & Jeanne McLeod

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