Best Places for Waterfront Camping in New England
National Parks, Trip Ideas & Guides
By Carley Eisley
The weather is heating up as Summer finally arrives across the country. Temperatures in New England can often reach above 90 degrees. (Don’t forget the humidity!) This can make finding the perfect New England waterfront camping and recreation spot a steamy prospect.
With hundreds of waterfront camping options, you can enjoy a lake or oceanfront camper van trip with plenty of options to cool off and relax. New England waterfront camping offers a great opportunity to wind down after a long day of hiking with the help of an ocean breeze or a dip in a refreshing lake. The options are almost overwhelming, so here are a few of our picks for the best waterfront camping in New England to get you on the road and into your (comfortable) campsite!
Waterfront Camping Options in Connecticut
Lake Waramaug State Park
A 2-hour drive from the New York camper van rental location in the town of New Preston, Lake Waramaug offers lakefront camping with picturesque Northwestern Connecticut views. Enjoy a swim or paddle on the lake or take a hike on the miles of nearby trails to start off your New England waterfront camping journey.
There are numerous state parks and forests nearby, and approximately 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail traverses this portion of the state. Some favorites include Kent Falls (beautiful waterfall!), Steep Rock Preserve, or one of the CT Blue Blaze Trails managed by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association.
Auto enthusiasts will love the historic Lime Rock Park. This park is home to auto races, vintage car festivals, and other events. Music lovers can enjoy a show at the Ridgefield Playhouse or Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk.
Hammonasset State Park
This beachfront campground along the Connecticut coast is home to a boardwalk along 2 miles of sandy beach. Relax with your toes in the sand, grab a lobster roll at Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale, and browse for antiques in local shops.
Looking to explore and stretch your legs? Hit the trails at Chatfield Hollow State Park, or take a hike and soak in the views from a castle (you heard that right, a Connecticut castle!) at Gillette Castle State Park. Explore another National Scenic Trail – the New England Trail’s southern terminus in the neighboring town of Guilford!
Burlingame State Park
Prefer freshwater ponds? Want ocean waves and salty air? At Burlingame State Park in Charlestown, Rhode Island you won’t have to choose! A 3 1/2-hour drive from the New York camper van rental site, the park offers wooded sites set along Watchaug Pond.
A few miles away are a multitude of ocean beaches (the closest are East Beach and Blue Shutters town beach). Enjoy hiking in the park’s trails and an adjacent Audubon wildlife sanctuary. There’s not a shortage of New England waterfront camping places at the park.
You can also have the opportunity to check out some other fun activities. Just up Route 1, Ninigret Park and wildlife refuge offers playgrounds, a disc golf course, trails, a dog park, festivals (don’t miss the popular Charlestown Seafood Festival), and concerts.
Fishermen’s Memorial State Park
This campground in Narragansett is the perfect home base for beach days and coastal exploring. Along the large Point Judith Pond, the campground is minutes from several large state beaches and a mile from the ferry to Block Island (sadly there is no camping on Block Island, but the quaint shops and cliffside beaches make a great day trip!). A 30-minute drive away is Newport – home to the famous Cliff Walk, Mansions, Fort Adams (an oceanfront fortress turned park), and the famed Jazz and Folk Festivals.
Best Camping in Massachusetts Near Water
Nickerson State Park
5 hours from our New York camper van rental hub site, Cape Cod is the quintessential summer vacation. Expansive beaches, quaint oceanside towns, miles of off-road bike paths, ice cream shops, and seafood galore – there is something for everyone. The popularity of the beaches and proximity to Boston means that many areas of the Cape can be quite crowded, especially at the height of summer. You may want to keep that in mind when planning your waterfront camping trip in Massachusetts.
Nickerson State Park in Brewster offers a serene setting to escape the crowds. Sites are wooded, many with excellent privacy. The park itself has 8 kettle ponds to explore, swim, paddle, and fish. There is a network of bike paths within the park and the Cape Cod Rail Trail that passes through the park entrance (and leads all the way to Wellfleet, a great way to explore towns and beaches without worrying about parking and traffic!). Oceanfront and Cape Cod Bay beaches are very close, and the unique and quirky vibe of Provincetown is only 40 minutes away.
Mohawk Trail State Forest
4 hours north of the New York camper van rental location, Mohawk Trail State Forest is a secluded hidden gem in the Berkshires. Wooded campsites are set along a river in a 6,000-acre state forest. There are hundreds of miles of trails nearby, with other large state forests in proximity.
If you are looking for something adventurous to do on your New England waterfront camping trip, be sure to check out Mount Greylock. This mountain happens to be the highest peak in Massachusetts and is nearby. Other closeby mountains include the Green Mountains in Vermont and the Taconic mountain range in eastern New York.
Stillwater State Park
Vermont’s Groton State Forest is home to seven state parks, a nature center, and eight lakes and ponds. Stillwater state park, located on Lake Groton, offers 59 campsites near hiking and biking trails and the nature center, as well as a lakefront beach. You will have access to all the other parks within the state forest as well to enjoy during a New England waterfront camping trip.
The popular towns of Stowe and Burlington are less than 2 hours away and offer hikes of popular peaks such as Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump. Additionally, there are restaurants and craft breweries galore. Don’t forget a cone at Ben and Jerry’s Factory after a long day of hiking!
Woodford State Park
Woodford State Park in southern Vermont offers quiet wooded sites along the Adams Reservoir. Set at 2400 feet, it is the highest elevation campground in Vermont. Canoes and kayaks are available to rent to enjoy the quiet waters.
The larger Harriman Reservoir is nearby as well for more swimming and boating opportunities. The area is surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest, with a multitude of hiking and biking trails. The towns of Bennington and Manchester are nearby.
Pawtuckaway State Park
5 hours from the New York camper van rental location, Southern New Hampshire’s Pawtuckaway State Park offers lakefront camping and a network of trails to hike and bike. The lake has a beachfront area and kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards to rent.
The park is close to the seaside towns of Portsmouth, NH and Kittery, Maine for shopping, dining, and sightseeing. Pawtuckaway offers a quiet home base to explore the lakes region and famous White Mountains to the north.
White Lake State Park
White Lake State Park in Tamworth, New Hampshire is the perfect lakefront setting for exploring the White Mountains. Quiet wooded campsites are set among a stand of pitch pines with views of the lake. Swim and canoe the lake and then head a short drive north to hike and sightsee in the mountains. You can also visit the towns of North Conway or Lincoln for dining and shopping.
Wolf’s Neck Campground
Maine has so many ocean and lake-front camping areas, it will be difficult to choose! Wolf’s Neck oceanfront campground in Freeport is a great starting point for exploring southern coastal Maine. Check out the L.L. Bean Flagship store for all of your outdoor gear needs; rental boats and bikes are available there as well.
Hike the trails and birdwatch around Wolf Neck State Park, or mountain bike and hike near Brandbury Mountain. Portland (home of a bustling waterfront, shops and restaurants, and numerous craft breweries) is 30 minutes away. There are many small oceanfront fishing and lobster villages to explore – don’t forget to try some fresh seafood!
Sebago Lake State Park
Set on the shore of Maine’s second largest (and deepest) lake, Sebago Lake offers lakefront camping in Southern Maine. This is just a short drive to both the shore and the mountains – a perfect home base for diverse recreation opportunities. A 40-minute drive East will bring you to the ocean, and 40 minutes west puts you at the foothills of the White Mountains. There is no need to choose here, you will get the best of everything Maine has to offer for New England waterfront camping and more.
Acadia National Park
The Blackwoods and Seawall campgrounds within Acadia National Park offer oceanside camping with easy access to the trails and carriage roads throughout the park. Sites are small and well suited to camper van travel. There are trails for all abilities and breathtaking coastal scenery to enjoy. Check out this guide to see some can’t miss stops within Acadia.
Take a Camper van Waterfront Camping in New England
With hundreds of campgrounds to choose from, you’re spoiled for choice if you’re looking for waterfront camping in New England. We hope the list above has the perfect place for you or at least gives you a place to start. Feel free to check out our other blog posts about dispersed camping on the east coast and our favorite road trip activities.
If you want to take your New England waterfront camping trip to the next level, rent one of our camper vans! They come equipped with things like a stove and a bed so all you need to worry about is finding the right spot. Make a reservation online today and pickup your camper van from our New York hub, you won’t regret it!