10 Awesome stops for an East Coast road trip

Whoever said the West Coast is the best coast never hit up these adventures 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 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 places this summer. You won't be disappointed. Check out KOA for lodging options along the way!

1. 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. Bar Harbor is an ideal location for easy access to some of the best Acadia National Park hikes. A bus route that runs throughout Acadia, making it especially convenient for getting to all the major spots you want to hit up. 

Closest big city airport

Bar Harbor is about a 1 hour and 20 minute drive from Bangor International Airport in Maine.

2. Dunes Edge in Provincetown

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.

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

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

3. Fire Island

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. 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.

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. 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.

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. 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. This is an idyllic spot to listen to the waves lapping against the shore. There are miles of beach where you can enjoy fishing, kayaking, beach walking, or hiking along the miles of trails at the nature preserve.

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. 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 life on this beautiful stretch of sand. Carolina Beach, North Carolina is an old beach town along a sandy coast. If you have an oversand vehicle you want to drive on the beach, you’ll 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.

Closest big city airport

Carolina Beach, North Carolina is an approximately 30 minute drive from Wilmington International Airport in North Carolina.

7. 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 Capers Island, South Carolina, 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 30 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

Find awesome lodgings across America with KOA!

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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