2017 Best Campgrounds & Stays Of The Year
Following my written year round-up, it’s time to dig into the best of the best campgrounds we stayed at this year.
As you already know we stayed exclusively on the East Coast this year and that meant we had a bit of a learning curve, as far as camping spots go. Camping out East is different than out West and we had to make significant adjustments both in how far ahead we planned as well as how much we budgeted for our stays.
We Had To Reserve Well Ahead
One of the first things we learned about NE camping is that the summer season is both SHORT and VERY popular, so the best sites book out super fast. Also campgrounds are generally smaller out here and many of the public campgrounds (e.g. State Parks, National Parks etc.) only have a limited number of sites that can accept “beastly-sized” rigs.
For these reasons we knew that if we wanted to snag the nicest sites in high season we had to reserve well ahead.
We booked around 6-8 months ahead on all our sites which was a total pain (planning-wise), but guaranteed that we got to visit all the places we wanted and stayed in exactly the sites we wanted, for as long as we wanted. We snagged some amazing sites and had zero worries (all summer) about where we’d stay. For us, it was worth it.
That said, not everyone is as picky (site-wise) as us and you can certainly “wing it” in the NE, even in a big rig, but you likely won’t get the *best* sites and you might have to jump around to find availability (a few days here, a few days there). It’s just a different way to travel.
We Spent More $$ On Camping
This was also our most expensive camping year since we started on the road. We planned ahead for this so it wasn’t a surprise, but it did make a dent into our usual RV budget.
Camping in the NE is simply more expensive than out West. In the most popular spots, Private Parks easily cost $50-$100/night while State Parks might run $30-$45/night. Plus we didn’t do any BLM boonocking (nothing out here) or take on any volunteering jobs this year, both of which typically cut out ~4-5 months of camping fees for us. We managed to save some costs along the way by using our Passport America membership, staying with friends, and stopping at a few Elks Lodges, but even with all of this our average nightly fee shot up to $40/night!
Now that we have a better feel for the East Coast I DO think we could bring this down by choosing cheaper camps (we discovered a few along the way), doing more low-cost or free stays (e.g. Elks Lodges, Harvest Hosts, volunteering) and choosing seasonal stays or joining a membership program (e.g. Thousand Trails). I’m not sure we could get our costs down to $10/night (which we easily hit out West), but I’m pretty sure we could easily cut them to $20-$25/night.
We Had To Plan A Tad More For Our Pets
Another unusual quirk in the NE is the idea of pet-friendly and non-pet loops, especially in State Parks. We found this especially prevalent in NY and meant we had to be extra careful to reserve a pet-friendly site where we could bring our furry family. Also, many NE parks require a valid Rabies Certificates and will ask for a paper copy of it upon arrival. Just be aware of this.
Best Public Parks
We stayed in some awesome Public Parks this year, some of which we liked so much we’ve been back twice!
Schoodic Woods. Acadia National Park, ME -> I have no qualms in declaring this our FAVORITE public campground of the entire year! Super large (ginormous!), beautifully private sites on the stunningly remote Schoodic Peninsula, also known as the “quiet side” of Acadia NP. We were SO relaxed here that we could easily have stayed the full 14-day limit and still have wanted more. If you’re up by Acadia NP don’t miss this. Love, love, LOVE! Rating: 4.6/5. Read my review HERE.
Skidaway State Park, Savannah, GA -> Beautiful, large, shaded sites in a peacefully quiet campground just ~15 miles from the historic Savannah. You’ve got miles of trails, oceans of space & a fabulous town nearby. What more could you want? We loved this park so much we’ve stayed here twice in the short time we’ve been traveling along the East Coast. We would go back again in a heartbeat! Rating: 4.6/5. Read my review HERE.
Crooked River State Park, St. Marys, GA -> So peaceful, so pretty, so relaxed. We snagged such a private site here that we barely moved the entire time we were here. A gem of a spot to just hang out and relax! Rating: 4.6/5. Read my review HERE.
James Island County Park, Charleston, SC -> A wonderfully large County Park with hiking trails, lakes and one of the largest dog-parks I’ve ever seen just ~7 miles from downtown Charleston. The park is lovely and the Christmas Light Celebration (starts ~mid-Nov) is considered one of the best in the country. Plus Charleston is such a cool town with so much to see and do. We’ve stayed here twice and have loved it each time. Rating: 4.75/5. Read my review HERE.
Shenandoah River State Park, Bentonville, VA -> This was our top-rated park of the year hitting pretty much every review point we ever look for in a State Park. Super large, private, flat sites with absolutely beautiful “sitting areas”, excellent facilities, miles of surrounding hiking trails, and totally pet-friendly. On top of that it’s in a great location just 30 mins from the stunning Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. It was awesome! Rating: 4.9/5. Read my review HERE.
Special mentions go to Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Jupiter,FL (Rating 4.4/5, review HERE), and Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield, VA (Rating 4.4/5, review HERE), both wonderful state parks which we enjoyed tremendously.
Best Waterfront Sites
A recurring theme for us this year was waterfront sites. We LOVE these, and we planned (= booked way ahead) specifically to get some of them. We snagged some real gems:
Narrows Too Campground, Acadia NP, ME -> This was one of our biggest “splurges” of the year, but it was so worth it. For an entire month we stayed in one of their 10 premium oceanfront sites, and enjoyed some of the best views we had all year. Plus, we were only ~15 mins drive from Acadia National Park. We had to book 8 months ahead to get this, but we absolutely loved it! Note/ you can stay WAY cheaper at this camp if you have a TT membership, but you won’t get an ocean view site. Rating: 3.9/5. Read my review HERE.
Sunset Point RV Park, Lubec, ME -> The teeny town of Lubec at the very tip of the Maine Coast totally won our hearts, and this tiny RV park did the same. It wasn’t fancy or even spacious, but the hosts were some of the friendliest we’d ever met and wow…those views!! Full frontal water views with some of the most spectacular sunsets we saw all summer. Rating: 3.8/5. Read my review HERE.
Shore Hills Campground, Boothbay, ME -> We loved the town of Boothbay. Boothbay Brewery was arguably the best brewery we went to this year, and the surrounding area had some amazing gardens and lighthouses. Thanks to blogger friends we knew to book way ahead to get one of the few riverfront sites here, and it was well worth it! Rating: 3.6/5. Read my review HERE.
Best Private Campgrounds
We stayed at more Private Parks this year than ever before. Some of them we chose for the waterfront sites (already listed above). Others rated really well (= were very fancy or had all the bells & whistles), but weren’t our favorites either because of where they were located or what the “feel” was while we were staying there. The following were our favs for all the right reasons:
Jolly Roger RV Park, Grassy Key, FL -> I can’t exactly explain why, but we just loved our stay here. We had a really nice site so that was definitely a bonus, but there was something else. Perhaps it was the tropical Keys atmosphere (sunset every evening, sounded with a Conch), being right by the water, the dog-friendliness and how nice everyone was in the park? Or perhaps it was just the Middle Keys location (our fav part of the FL Keys). Either way, everything just “clicked” for us here! We had such a nice, relaxing time at Jolly Roger that we would go back in a heartbeat. Rating: 4/5. Read my review HERE
Atlantic Oaks Campground, Eastham, MA -> Located just minutes from the wild & beautiful Cape Cod National Seashore, we just loved how quiet and peaceful this place was. Super forested sites, right next to the lovely 26 mile Cape Cod Rail Bike trail in a great location to explore all of Cape Cod. We had a wonderful time here. Rating: 4.1/5. Read my review HERE.
Liberty Harbor RV Park, New York, NY -> This is the second year this place makes our “top list” and it’s not because of the park itself. Honestly this is nothing more than a glorified (and expensive I might add) parking lot. But what it’s got is something you’d pay millions for if you were living here. It’s ~10 mins from downtown New York City! Yup, literally 10 mins and you’re in the Big Apple, one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world. Plus it’s right next to a Marina, walking distance to a big State Park and just minutes from the New Jersey Waterfront Trail. Location, location, location!! We have a blast every single time we stay here, and would come back again over and over. Rating: 3.4/5. Read my review HERE.
Special mentions go to Gettysburg RV Park, Gettysburg, PA (Rating 4/5, read my review HERE) a great park to explore the historic Gettysburg area, and Seasons In The Sun RV Resort, Mims, FL (Rating 4.1/5, read my review HERE), a nice little full-service Passport America Park that’s in a great spot to explore the Space Coast of Florida.
That wraps up my reviews for the year and just in time for New Years Eve too! Hope you all have a wonderful end of year, and I look forward to seeing you in 2018!