Beach Bums: 10 Beach Camping Hotspots
Make sure your swimsuits, surfboard, kayak and fishing rods are packed in the RV before revving that engine. We found 10 great places to make beaching it part of your outdoor summer adventure to find sun, sand, surf and all the fun you can handle.
Texas is known for its real cowboys and Longhorn cattle, but it also boasts 367 miles of sparkling coastline fronting the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The coastal region averages more than 250 days of sunshine each year and offers a variety of seaside destinations, restaurants and experiences for travelers – especially those who enjoy RV camping.
One the best destinations is Mustang Island State Park, which covers almost 4,000 acres with 5 miles of beach on the Gulf of Mexico. Camping is offered to tents and RVs alike with 48 sites at the campgrounds to choose from, including electrical and water hookups, picnic tables and barbecue grills. Fishing, building sand castles and beachcombing for shells are popular pastimes at this park, along with outdoor summertime classic activities like surfing, birdwatching and kayaking.
Another destination is Galveston Island State Park, which is experiencing a rebirth after extensive damage from Hurricane Ike. This park covers more than 2,000 acres and offers camping, birdwatching, nature study, hiking, mountain biking, fishing and unsupervised beach swimming. The park includes 33 campsites that face the Gulf beach and have 30- and 50-amp services available and water. Each site has a shade shelter, ground fire ring and picnic table. The bay side of this park has 20 RV campsites that are close together and have communal facilities.
Florida offers a multitude of beachside opportunities for camping and outdoor fun. The real challenge is trying to figure out which one adventure and location to pursue. One adventurous place to start is Paradise Coast – which is comprised of the Naples, Marco Island and western portion of the Everglades. Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau, notes:
“More than 80 percent of the land area in Florida’s Paradise Coast is dedicated to parks and nature preserves which provide a beautiful backdrop for camping and the opportunity for outdoor exploration. Combine this with more than 30 miles of soft, white sand beaches and you have a destination that is a nature-lover’s dream.”
Area campgrounds catering to RVs include Chokoloskee Island Park, the Naples/Marco Island KOA and Big Cypress National Preserve.
Sandwiched between the mighty Mississippi and the Great Lakes, with thousands of lakes and rivers to choose from, Wisconsin is another top choice for RVers with convenient access to the water. Peninsula State Park is a camping hotspot, and one of the state’s most popular outdoor destinations.
For recreation, campers will find a summer theater, 18-hole golf course, sand beach, biking, hiking and cross-country ski trails, 150-foot bluffs, lighthouse and eight miles of Door County shoreline in the park. For any type of camping, reservations are strongly recommended, and can be made 48 hours to 11 months before the date of arrival. Peninsula’s five campgrounds have a total of 468 family sites — 101 have electric. Gravel driveways on most sites are generally 12 feet wide by 50 feet long. Motorized units are restricted to the gravel driveway portion of the campsite. All sites are back-in (no pull-through sites). Peninsula’s sites are not designed to accommodate very large RVs.
Coastal Alabama also offers Gulf Coast travelers a beach-friendly camping destination. One particular recommended site is Gulf State Park, located in the city of Gulf Shores and offering more than 6,000 acres with two miles of white sand beaches, cottages, trails and fishing, as well as tennis, group pavilions, 18-hole golf course, 900-acre lake for fishing, swimming, and water skiing, nature programs and picnic areas.
“With 32 miles of sugar-white sand beaches and turquoise water, our family-oriented beach destination is a welcomed escape for nearly 5 million Southeast and Midwest residents annually. Individuals wishing to camp in the Gulf Shores or Orange Beach area can select from a number of RV parks. A few of these locations are even waterside with views overlooking lakes, bays and waterways,” says Kim Chapman, public relations manager at Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism.
Gulf State Park offers a 496-site improved campground with 11 modern bathhouses. The campground is approximately one-and-a-half miles from the Gulf beaches. All pads are paved with larger lots for RVs with slideouts. And, all sites have water, sewer and electric service. Other RV campgrounds in Gulf Shores include Fort Morgan RV Park, Doc’s RV Park, Bay Breeze RV Park on the Bay, Beech Campers, Wales West RV Resort, Southport Campground, Lazy Lake R.V. Park, Luxury R. V. Resort, Island Retreat RV Park, Gulf Breeze RV Resort and Gulf Coast RV Park.
The coast of North Carolina is home to picturesque Atlantic Ocean beaches, and in Carolina Beach where vehicle access is allowed, you can camp out right by the water. This recently renovated seaside town offers family-friendly fun all year long where visitors can experience a classic boardwalk, interesting festivals and colorful characters.
“Campsites at Carolina Beach are much sought after by people planning camping trips to North Carolina’s beaches and for good reason. It’s an affordable family alternative that offers campers the opportunity to learn about the area’s history and natural resources. There’s an attractive combination of vacation amenities and natural beauty here,” says Charlie Peek, public information officer for North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.
RVers will find a home away from home in Winner’s RV Park, and one with an ocean view at that. The only dedicated RV Park on the island, it offers full hookups and is located in the heart of Carolina Beach, within walking distance of the beach, fishing fleet, dining and nightlife.
It is widely known that Newport Beach, Calif., offers tremendous luxury resorts and hotel accommodations, but visitors can also find luxurious RV digs camping at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort. This 110-acre resort is located in Newport Beach at the entrance to the Back Bay Nature Preserve and the Newport Bay Conservancy. This park offers families a mile of bay-front beach with swimming and a playground on the beach for the kids.
Andrew Theodorou, vice president & general manager, Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina, notes “viitors find themselves completely spellbound by the natural beauty of the area and the sheer abundance of activities from the challenging mountain biking and hiking trails of Crystal Cove, to more relaxing sports such as bird watching in the Upper Back Bay. It’s a coastal playground for every age.”
With more than 700 miles of coastline, California is a beach camping paradise. Heading to the southern most part of the state, one particularly fun and functional find is Campland on the Bay. Part of Mission Bay Park, Campland on the Bay is also in convenient proximity to other fun regional tourist sites like Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and the city’s Gaslamp Quarter. The beachfront property includes: swimming pools and accompanying hot tubs, immaculate bathrooms and showers, a marina with 124 slips, watercraft and bicycle rentals, game room, restaurant, market, laundry facilities, Wi-Fi, camp sites ranging from primitive to full hookup, and a super site – complete with a private patio and hot tub, grill, and a spectacular view of the marshland and bird sanctuary. Campland on the Bay also overlooks the Kendall Frost Wildlife Preserve – home to egrets, black-crowned night herons, least terns, and the endangered clapper rail, and offers plenty of fun activities for kids and adults.
Virginia Beach, one of the last great salt marsh habitats on the East Coast, is home to wildlife, ecological treasures and recreation suited for outdoor adventurers. One Virginia Beach state park of interest for beach campers is First Landing. The most visited state park in Virginia, it is situated along the Chesapeake Bay and offers boating, swimming, nature programs, hiking and biking. Its nearly 200 campsites accommodate RVs ranging in size from 20 to 45 feet, and are available with and without water and electrical hookups, and come equipped with a picnic table and fire grill. All sites are located just steps from the Chesapeake Bay, so campers have close access to water.
First Landing State Park contains 2,700 acres of protected salt marsh habitat, bay and dune maritime forests and freshwater ponds. Interactive programs and outdoor adventures such as crabbing, junior rangers, beach walks, nature hikes and structured environmental education programs are offered, and are perfect for family travelers.
Other RV campgrounds in and around Virginia Beach include Indian Cove Resort, Virginia Beach KOA campground, North Landing Beach Campground & Resort, and Holiday Trav-L-Park.
Traveling to the Pacific Northwest, the Olympic Peninsula – the large arm of land in western Washington state lying across Puget Sound from Seattle – affords the beachside camping enthusiast a unique experience. The area’s mild temperatures allow for year round beach camping.
Mary Brelsford, a spokesperson for the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau offers her view on the beauty of the area, “There’s nothing like waking up and walking on Second Beach in the morning with all the previous day’s footprints washed away by the overnight tide. You are just steps from the ocean and sea stacks, and as close to feeling totally alone on the planet as you have ever felt. The peaceful solitude of the backcountry is different. Maybe it has something to do with the never-resting waves on the beach.”
One of the peninsula’s more established campgrounds is Kalaloch, offering 170 nonelectric sites, which are pet-friendly. The closest Oceanside campsites for RVs to Second Beach are at Quileute Oceanside Resort in La Push, Wash. Sites offer expansive views of the coast, cliffs and sea stacks.
While New England is known by travelers far and wide as the first destination on an autumn leaf-peeping tour, it’s also home to summertime camping fun for its miles of coastline and many islands. New England’s seashore campgrounds are known for their beauty and serenity, and fierce competition with the Pacific Coast beaches causes many RVers to head to the northeastern tip of the country for their summer beach camping adventures.
One site for avid campers looking for such summer getaways is Hampton Beach State Park, the only RV park directly located on the coast of New Hampshire. Visitors can bring their RV right up to the mouth of the Hampton River and spend a day enjoying fun and relaxing activities such as fishing, swimming and picnicking. The park includes 28 sites for RVs, a park store and two bathing huts.
Other New Hampshire locations that offer RV camping near the water include Exeter Elms Campground in Exeter, which stretches across a mile of the Exeter River; Goose Hollow Camp & RV Park in Thornton, located on a river front in the White Mountains of the Granite State; and Franconia Notch State Park, which extends from the Flume Gorge at the south to Echo Lake at the north.
Maine also affords the visitor searching for shoreline many opportunities, such as Bar Harbor Camping Resorts-Mt. Desert Narrows, where you can park your RV right on the water or back up a bit to enjoy a panoramic view. Staying in the resort affords plenty of fun with playgrounds, horseshoes, volleyball and basketball courts, video arcades and live in-season entertainment. Or, for adventures near by – exploration of sites like the historic Bar Harbor or famous Arcadia National Park.