Read Part I: Our Favorite Places to Camp in the West
Read Part II: Our Favorite Midwest Places to Camp
Favorite RV Sites: Part III
As I recover from a sleepless night in a Passport America campground set a little too close to I-5 in San Diego, the time is right to wrap up my three-part series about our favorite places to camp around the U.S. This time we’ll cover the Eastern states.
I’ll be honest; the East Coast is NOT our favorite place to camp. As native westerners we are spoiled with wide open, free camping on public lands, which doesn’t exist seem to east of the Mississippi.
But there are upsides to traveling throughout the East Coast. In addition to experiencing some fascinating historic sites, the region did reveal some surprising gems to us, which made up for the stressful driving and crowded conditions. Our Passport America membership also helped ease the sting of the East Coast’s high RV park rates. Here are a few of our favorite places to go camping from Maine to Florida.
Lily Bay State Park
Not only will you probably see Maine’s legendary moose hanging out in the waters of Maine’s biggest lake, but it’s one of the most rugged, scenic and sparsely populated areas of the Northeast.
Bring your toughest bug repellent since you’ll be in Maine’s deepest woods and be prepared to get outside and off your phones and computers. The tree canopy in the campground obscures any satellite or cell signals. This is one place you can really get away from it all!
We’d heard a lot about how Burlington is a cool, progressive town and wanted to see if it would make our short list of potential places to settle down someday. We picked a spot at Burlington’s North Beach Campground, which is the best place to stay if you want to experience this fabulous college town up close.
This city-run campground is set on Lake Champlain within easy biking distance of downtown Burlington’s best attractions, like the weekly farmers market, food co-op and shopping.
Maybe we loved Burlington because it shares a strong resemblance to hippie dippie Humboldt County, our last permanent residence. With a greenie flair and a strong commitment to keeping things local, it’s a great town if you lean left and think different.
Bring your bike and bring your dog since Burlington is welcoming to both, but just remember if you decide to stay, in order to fit in properly you’ll need to grow a beard and drive a Subaru with a kayak permanently mounted to the roof.
Virginia is a beautiful state with tons of private campgrounds and some scenic but incredibly expensive state parks (nearly $40 a night for electric only sites!). Last fall we stayed at Lake Anna State Park in Northern Virginia and previously we camped at Claytor Lake State Park in the New River Valley near the southwest corner of the state.
Both parks had the usual state park amenities and were nice enough to stay at, but Claytor Lake is our choice because of its proximity to the fine college town of Blacksburg as well as one of our favorite attractions in Virginia, the Floyd Country Store.
Set along Virginia’s Crooked Road music heritage trail, Floyd is home to the Floyd Country Store, ground zero for local old timey, bluegrass and gospel music. Visit on a Friday night and for less than $5 you get to experience Appalachia’s best bands and musicians along with some of the finest clog dancing in America.
Get there early though, as this place gets packed! Saturdays and Sunday also showcase live music acts and inbetween you can peruse America’s largest selection of old timey music CDs and paraphernalia, ever. If you can’t make it, a live radio show during summer can bring Floyd to you.
Georgia is the last stop on this “best of” journey because I can’t find anything too significant about any other parts of the east or southeast. If you go to Georgia, here are our two favorite stops:
Savannah wins as my favorite city on the east coast. It’s a city and it’s busy but the lush trees and dense foliage give you a sense of inner peace that’s rare in congested places.
The food is fabulous, Savannah’s genteel and diverse people are kind and the best part is there’s a nearby state park that puts you within about 20 minutes of everything. While lots of folks stay at Tybee Island, we took a gander at Skidaway Island State Park and decided to stay for a spell.
Set on the Intercoastal Waterway, this state park had tons of paths and places to explore and even had laundry facilities. This park was a world away from the buzz of Savannah but close enough to make it a worthwhile base camp to explore one of America’s greatest cities.
The Okefenokee Swamp
When we were cruising through Georgia, I told Jim we were near a funny little place called Okefenokee Swamp. He gets excited and says “Pogo!” I say “Who?” Then he proceeded to enlighten me on Walt Kellyâ€™s Pogo, featured in the the long running daily comic strip featuring Pogo along with a rather political possum, and his cohorts deep in the Georgia swamps.
Jim practically swerved off the road to make turnoff to Okefenokee Swamp, which turned out to be our most memorable experience in the swamplands of the East Coast.
You have to really want to see Okefenokee Swamp, as it’s hours from any city, set in the middle of nowhere at the end of a dead-end highway with no facilities nearby.
Once you’ve arrived, the campground at Stephen C. Foster State Park is within walking distance of canoe rentals, which are the only feasible way to explore the swampy, buggy and fascinating plants and animals of Okefenokee Swamp — one of the buggiest, creepiest and coolest places in America.
I’m sure that in our haste to escape the madness of the frantic East Coast highways and jam-packed campgrounds, we missed out on a lot. Our prejudices about what camping means to us also probably also got in the way of a lot of cool things to check out.
If you have favorite places to RV and camp back east, do tell! We’ll be sure to put them on our map of places to see in future tours of the east.
Read my other two segments on our Favorite Places to Camp all around the country!