There’s just something about the water--and the beach. From the endless views to the sounds of waves, waterfront camping on or overlooking a beach just can’t be beat. With thousands of miles of beaches along the Atlantic, the Gulf, the Pacific, and the Great Lakes, it’s easy to find world-class waterfront camping right in the United States!
The Northeast Atlantic
The Atlantic Ocean and the northeast coast is so different from beaches to the south, with rough and cold water, dramatic rocky outcroppings and beaches, and unique seafood all combining to make for great waterfront camping. The coast of Maine serves as a perfect example, with the town of Eastport a great place to start.
Eastport is known as “the easternmost city in the United States,” making nearby Seaview Campground & Cabins (www.eastportmaine.com) a great place to camp on the water, see a sunrise, and eat some “lahbstah” and other fresh seafood (see “Direct from the Sea”) right at the campground! With great water views from most sites, a small beach on the bay, and lots of water-oriented activities, Seaview is an ideal base along the northeast coast.
Easily reachable by bike or a short drive, the historic port town of Eastport enhances the water-based Seaview experience. There are additional seafood restaurants right on the water, a friendly seafood shop selling the ocean’s fresh catch for preparation back at the campground, and lots of little shops selling souvenirs that could only come from the Maine waterfront.
The Carolina Coast
The great states of North Carolina and South Carolina offer miles of peaceful beaches, with many located on outlying islands that also feature campgrounds (and seafood restaurants) that highlight the Atlantic Ocean above and below the surface. That’s certainly true up in the Outer Banks of North Carolina!
Reached only by ferry (RV size limitations sometimes apply), Ocracoke Island (www.ocracokeisland.com) features a National Park campground (www.nps.gov) adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean. The island’s Lifeguard Beach was named #1 by Stephen Leatherman (a.k.a. “Dr. Beach”) in his 2007 “America’s Best Beaches” survey. The tiny waterfront village is about three miles from the campground, where several seafood-focused restaurants serve up fresh North Carolina catch.
Down in South Carolina (featured in the last issue), oceanfront camping is easy to find at both commercial campgrounds and state parks. That’s especially true in and around Myrtle Beach.
Along with Myrtle Beach State Park and Huntington Beach State Park (www.southcarolinaparks.com), the Myrtle Beach area also has several award-winning campgrounds with an incredible number of repeat visitors who return to the beach (and nearby seafood restaurants) annually. Ocean Lakes Family Campground (www.oceanlakes.com) and Lakewood Camping Resort (www.lakewoodcampground.com) are just two of many possibilities right on the Atlantic.
The Gulf of Mexico
From the Sunshine State to the Lone Star State, the Gulf of Mexico features a wide array of waterfront campgrounds--and a menu-full range of restaurants featuring the bounty of the Gulf. From state parks in every state touching the Gulf to commercial campgrounds that have been welcoming water-lovers for decades, the Gulf of Mexico beckons RVers.
Situated right on Fort Myers Beach along Florida’s Gulf Coast, modern Red Coconut RV Resort (www.redcoconut.com) is a classic example of Gulf of Mexico possibilities. With some sites right on the sugar-white beaches, Red Coconut is a long-time Fort Myers Beach RVer favorite--and it doesn’t hurt that dining hotspots with seafood and more are on-property and right next door.
Heading around the “Great Bend” of the Gulf of Mexico, the Panhandle of Florida is renowned for several state parks (www.floridastateparks.org) right on the water (like St. George Island State Park). Further west, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana all have campgrounds right on the Gulf (and lots of restaurants focusing on seafood). Like Florida, Texas features many state parks (www.tpwd.state.tx.us), popular commercial waterfront campgrounds like South Padre KOA (www.koa.com) and Pioneer Beach Resort (www.pioneerresorts.com), and many seafood restaurants right on the water.
The Great Lakes
They call them the Great Lakes because they’re truly grand in scale. The ocean-like bodies of water make for “superior” beachfront camping throughout the region, including the great states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
Located on Lake Superior up in northern Wisconsin, the Bayfield area (www.bayfield.org) welcomes visiting RVers with varied waterfront camping options and lots of fresh fish right out of the lake (see “Direct from the Sea”). Known as the “Gateway to the Apostle Islands,” Bayfield was founded back in 1856 and boasts a full-time population of just 600 or so. Located right on the shores of Lake Superior, possible campgrounds include Dalrymple Park (one mile north of Bayfield), Buffalo Bay Campgrounds and Marina (three miles north of town), and Apostle Islands Area Campground (just a half-mile south of Bayfield proper).
Of course, the rest of the Great Lakes region has many other waterfront campgrounds. Michigan’s state parks (www.michigan.gov.dnr) and public campgrounds on Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and even a bit of Lake Erie are particularly recommended.
The Mighty Pacific
The Pacific Ocean coastline along California, Oregon, and Washington is dotted with an array of commercial campgrounds and stunning state parks. Many RVers choose to cruise all or most of the coast in search of that perfect oceanfront campground. Among many options, Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina (www.newportdunes.com) just may be the quintessential Pacific coast RV resort.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2009, Newport Dunes is a 100-acre resort featuring 386 RV sites, cottages, a bustling marina, a waveless beach, and much more. Plus, the resort’s Back Bay Bistro overlooks Upper Newport Bay!
The California coast also features many waterfront state parks (www.parks.ca.gov), with varied Sonoma Coast State Park a perennial favorite. Further north, the oceanfront state parks of Oregon (www.oregonstateparks.org; Newport’s South Beach State Park is one in a long list of options) and Washington (www.parks.wa.gov; their “Pacific Coast Region” has many great options) are equally appealing. Those with time may even want to check out the unique waterfront camping options up in Alaska (www.travelalaska.com), where Oceanside RV Park in Haines, Miller’s Landing in Seward, Homer Spit Campground, and many more all await on the water.
Thus, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, it’s easy to find campgrounds right on the beach. Consult your campground directory or visit any coastal state’s website for more seaside camping options. Then grab your swimsuit and go meet a beach!
Direct from the Sea: A Convenient Selection of Tasty Waterfront Seafood Restaurants
*Eastport, Maine: Seaview Campground & Cabins has a popular on-site bar and restaurant that offers lobster dinners with all the fixings (served in the dining room or delivered to your campsite!). They also feature regular “steamer” nights and fish fries outside, with local steamed clams, fresh fish, corn-on-the-cob, and lots of camper camaraderie. In Eastport proper, local seafood restaurants like Eastport Lobster & Fish House and sister company Eastport Lobster & Fish Company seafood shop feature fresh fish and lobster (in-season, of course).
*Ocracoke Island, North Carolina: Located about three miles from the National Park campground, the village of Ocracoke features several excellent seafood-oriented restaurants--Café Atlantic and Jolly Roger Pub & Marina are two local favorites.
*Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: RVers staying at Ocean Lakes, Lakewood, or one of the other oceanfront campgrounds in the area, will want to head down the beach to Surfside Beach’s Nibil’s at Surfside Pier. It’s about two miles from the most popular public campgrounds, but the fresh seafood and ocean views make it well worth the beach walk or short drive (walking or biking not recommended on busy US 17). Across the street, Bubba’s Fish Shack is another local favorite, as are nearby Latitude 22 and River City Café. Murrells Inlet is well worth the drive from commercial campgrounds or the state parks, thanks to a waterfront lined with seafood-focused restaurants (many RVers swear by Divine Fish House, Creek Ratz, and Nance’s Creekfront Restaurant, among many tasty options).
*Fort Myers Beach, Florida: Located right on the Gulf and next to Red Coconut RV Resort, restaurants like Anthony’s on the Gulf and the more casual Junkanoo on the Beach are great places to go for fresh Gulf seafood (and Italian-leaning Anthony’s has great veal for those who just have to have meat).
*Bayfield, Wisconsin: Easily reached from nearby campgrounds, Bayfield’s restaurant scene revolves around Lake Superior. Traditional menu offerings include fresh lake trout and whitefish, as well as whitefish livers (a local delicacy). A traditional Wisconsin “fish boil” features whitefish steaks that are typically boiled over an open fire and served with red potatoes, small white onions, coleslaw, fresh-baked breads, and seasonal desserts.
*Newport Beach, California: Back Bay Bistro at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina overlooks Upper Newport Bay and features lots of great fresh fish on the menu (try the halibut or any of the creative pasta dishes topped with seafood). The popular restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch to visiting RVers and lots of locals.