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10 Awesome camping spots for an East Coast road trip

Whoever said the West Coast is the best coast never hit up these campsites on an East Coast road trip.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

What says summertime more than camping near the beach? How about a road trip from Maine to Florida stopping at some of the best campsites along the Atlantic Coast? Well, that's even better. If you're feeling an urge to hit the road and need camping plans, we've got a lineup that will do the trick. 

Start from the north and work your way down in one go or make the most of your weekends and hit up any one of these amazing campsites this summer. You won't be disappointed. 

1. Camp at Backwoods Campground in Bar Harbor

Wooden stairs leading down through a forest of trees to the water at Backwoods Campground in Bar Harbor.
Photo: Chris Mongeau

Nothing screams dreamy East Coast summer more than a camping trip in Maine. The Blackwoods Campground in Bar Harbor is an ideal location for easy access to some of the best Acadia National Park hikes. It’s also one of the two campgrounds within the park. A bus route that runs throughout Acadia picks up and drops off at the campground, making it especially convenient for getting to all the major spots you want to hit up. 

Tent and RV sites are available here. Spots fill up fast, especially in the summer months, so reserve your site months ahead of your visit. Each well-spaced site includes a fire ring and picnic table. You’ll also have access to toilets and showers. If you forget or run out of any essentials, there’s a general store that sells basic camping supplies and firewood minutes from the entrance.

Closest big city airport

The Blackwoods Campground in Bar Harbor is about a 1 hour and 23 minute drive from Bangor International Airport in Maine.

2. Camp in Provincetown at Dunes Edge Campground

White row boat on the sand with boats floating on calm, glassy blue water in the background of Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Photo: Chris Mongeau

If being by the serene seaside in the summer months is your vibe, you’ll definitely want to check out this camping spot by the dunes of Cape Cod in Provincetown, Massachusetts. This family-friendly campground caters to everyone with rustic bungalows and places for your RV/trailer, van, or tent in a wooded area. There are water and electric hookups available along with other amenities like hot showers, laundry, a dumping station, and a camp store. 

Spend the day swimming at the nearby beaches (Herring Cove and Race Point), exploring the dunes, biking/walking on the recreational path, or wandering through the nature trails. Apply for a permit to make fires on the beach along with an oversand vehicle permit to have fun driving by the dunes.

Closest big city airport

The Dunes’ Edge Campground in Provincetown, Massachusetts is roughly a 2 hour and 12 minute drive from Boston Logan International Airport in Massachusetts.

3. Camp at Fire Island’s Watch Hill

Sandy beach with beach grass and a tent in the distance on Watch Hill, Fire Island.
Oliver Jevremov

Make your way to Fire Island for your next East Coast road trip destination and camp at Watch Hill in Patchogue, New York. If you don’t have a car, it’s a relatively inexpensive and quick trip from New York City via train. It’s the perfect escape from the city in the hot summer months. 

Once you arrive at Patchogue, you’ll need to head over to the Davis Park Ferry Terminal and purchase a round trip ticket (cash only). The ferry will bring you to Watch Hill– a lovely ride across the Long Island Sound. At the marina where you'll arrive, there’s a snack bar, outdoor bar, and restaurant if you decide you don’t want to rough it for your entire stay. Watch Hill is also equipped with amenities including bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, water spigots, and a supply store. 

The Fire Island Wilderness area is divided into the Western and Eastern Zones. When reserving your overnight permit, you’ll need to choose your desired zone and site type. Do not disturb the vegetation, dunes, or nesting shorebirds when choosing where you'll stake your tent here. Fires are prohibited, so come prepared with a camping stove or use the grill provided at each site.

Closest big city airport

The Davis Park Ferry Terminal in Patchogue, NY is roughly a 17 minute drive from Long Island MacArthur Airport and a 55 minute drive from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

4. Camp at Assateague

Car with two kayaks on its roof parked on the sand with a marshy background during sunset at Assateague Island.
Spenser Reid

A trip to Assateague Island in Maryland is possibly one of the most unique East Coast road trip spots. The island encompasses roughly 37 miles of stunning beaches along the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Engage in the usual beach activities (swimming, sunbathing, surfing, fishing, paddle-boarding, and kayaking through secluded coves), all while seeing gorgeous wild horses (Chincoteague ponies) roaming the island. Keep food in your vehicle and out of your tent to avoid enticing horses to snoop around your campsite. 

You can camp at the Assateague State Park or the Assateague Island National Seashore campgrounds. Though on the same island, there are a few differences to consider. The state park offers warm showers, some electric sites, and fresh water at the bathhouses. Open fires are not allowed. 

The National Seashore offers cold showers, chemical toilets, and fresh water at the bathhouses. Apply for a campsite, backcountry camping permit, or over sand vehicle permit before your trip. Tent, trailer/RV, and recreational vehicle camping is allowed on this island. Picnic tables and fire rings are available at certain spots.

Closest big city airport

It’s approximately a 2 hour and 32 minute drive from Ocean City, Maryland and a 2 hour and 56 minute drive from Chincoteague, Virginia to the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Maryland.

5. Camp on Ocracoke Island, NC

The camera is near ground-level on a beach as a frothy wave rolls in. The sun is setting in the distance and the sky is a dark blue fading into purple, pink, orange, and yellow.
Photo: Jon Mattrisch

Let this epic summer road trip take you to the stunning coast of Ocracoke Island in North Carolina next. To arrive on this island, take the ferry from Cape Hatteras which is free and runs regularly. The Ocracoke Campground is another idyllic spot to camp in a tent or an RV near the beach and listen to the waves lapping against the shore as it lulls you to sleep. 

Cold showers and flush toilets are available. In addition to primitive camping, there are miles of beach where you can enjoy fishing, kayaking, beach walking, or hiking along the miles of trails at the nature preserve across the road from the campground.

Closest big city airport

Cape Hatteras, North Carolina is about a 4 hour and 11 minute drive from Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina.

6. Camp at Freeman Park (Carolina Beach)

Sandy beach, ocean, and a pier in the distance during an orange sunset at Freeman Park on Carolina Beach.
Robbie O’Donnell

Fully lean into summer beach camping life by setting up your tent on this beautiful stretch of sand in Freeman Park on Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Carolina Beach is an old beach town along a stretch of sandy coast where camping is permitted in designated areas. Make your camping reservation in advance and if you have an oversand vehicle you want to drive on the beach, you’ll also need to obtain a daily access or season pass. There are trash cans and porta potties located along the beach. Be sure to properly and respectfully dispose of your waste to keep this beautiful area pristine. Kick back and enjoy the sun sinking beneath the ocean horizon from the coziness of your tent setup.

Closest big city airport

Freeman Park in Carolina Beach, North Carolina is an approximately 34 minute drive from Wilmington International Airport in North Carolina.

7. Kayak Camp on Capers Island

Sandy stretch of beach with glassy water reflecting a purple sky on Capers Island.
Jason Erdman

Head further south on your east coast summer road trip to South Carolina for a secluded overnight beach stay on Capers Island, just minutes from the charming and full of life city of Charleston, South Carolina. Kayak across the Copahee Sound to Capers Island, which is right next to Dewees Island. Start from Gadsdenville Public Boat Landing where you’ll kayak into a narrow channel. It’s about a 4 mile paddle from the landing to the island. Be sure to launch during high tide or you’ll run the risk of dragging your kayak through mud. Camping here requires a permit and is only allowed in designated areas on the southern and northern tips of the island. There are no extra amenities, so come prepared with all that you’ll need like food and water for your stay. Aside from paddling, you can spend the day hiking around the island, exploring the palmetto trees on the east side or weaving through one of the forest trails more inland.

Closest big city airport

The Gadsdenville Public Boat Landing is about a 3 hour and 24 minute drive from Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.

8. Camp at Hunting Island State Park

Large tree branch lying on the sand with a flat ocean in the background under a dark purple and peach colored sky at Hunting Island State Park.
Blake Rouse

Hunting Island State Park on Saint Helena Island, South Carolina was once a hunting reserve. Now, this roughly 5,000 acre park which features miles of beach, maritime forest, a salt water lagoon, and an old lighthouse is a place where visitors can freely explore and spend the night. The park has both tent and RV camping sites available, but you’ll want to make a reservation ahead of time to secure your spot. There are two campgrounds located at the park’s northern end by the water– one of them provides individual water and electrical hookups. A designated walk-in tent camping area includes tent pads, fire rings, picnic tables, but no power or centralized water. Restrooms and hot showers can be accessed by both campgrounds. There are plenty of nature trails in addition to miles of shoreline to walk along. The summer is the perfect time to enjoy activities like fishing, boating, kayaking, and mountain biking here too. A 1,200 feet fishing pier at the nearby Fripp Inlet is known for its shark fishing– so if that interests you, definitely bring a rod! Learn more about native animals and their habitats at the Nature Center and bring your camera for a stroll along the Marsh Boardwalk to snap some gorgeous photos.

Closest big city airport

Hunting Island State Park is a roughly 1 hour and 54 minute drive from the Charleston International Airport in South Carolina.

9. Camp at Stafford Beach in Cumberland Island

Green tent under a canopy of long tree branches with green leaves on Cumberland Island.
Emily Lester

This is the perfect fairytale-like beach hideaway that’s a must-stop on your east coast summer camping road trip. To arrive at Stafford Beach on Cumberland Island, you’ll need to take a ferry from St. Mary’s, Georgia. After you arrive on island, the adventure continues as you’ll have to proceed on the Parallel Trail followed by Pratts Trail until you eventually reach the campground. It’ll all be worth it once you set up camp and perhaps a hammock under the lush canopy of trees. All sites are walk-to, tent sites with fire rings. Carts or coolers with wheels cannot be used to haul gear. Supposedly, the best spot to camp is at the end of the site closest to the beach since there’s a greater chance you’ll see wild horses! Flush toilets, cold showers, and spigots with potable water are available. Aside from swimming at the beach, take time to watch the sunrise, hike some of the nearby trails, and check out the Plum Orchard Mansion.

Closest big city airport

St. Mary’s, Georgia is about a 29 minute drive from Jacksonville International Airport in Florida.

10. Camp on Amelia Island

Sandy beach with some sea grass and a car with a tent setup on its roof at night. Ocean and cloudy dark sky in the background on Amelia Island.
Brooke Van Poppelen

To complete this ultimate summer beach camping road trip, head to Amelia Island near Fernandina Beach, Florida. Beach camping here is free (which I know we all love)! If you want to drive your car onto the beach, however, there is a permit fee during peak summer season. Set up camp near Pete’s Point for access to toilets, showers, and picnic areas, but note that it may be a more noisy spot with people driving past. Gather a group of friends to simply chill in the sand for the weekend or go full water sport mode by enjoying activities like swimming, surf fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and windsurfing. Even after a full day of activity, set a goal to wake up early for sunrise– you won’t be mad you did!

Closest big city airport

Amelia Island, Florida is about a 33 minute drive from Jacksonville International Airport in Florida.

Did we miss any worthwhile spots along this east coast summer beach camping road trip? Let us know or add your adventure photos/insights on the Outbound app

Happy camping!

Cover photo: Blake Rouse

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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