Best Camping in New EnglandPhoto Credit : Pixabay
While backyard camping never goes out of style, sometimes it’s fun to pack up the tent, lawn chairs, and cooler and head for the great outdoors. Or maybe you prefer your campsite with hard-earned mountain views? Family-friendly amenities? Check out some of our picks for best camping in New England and start planning your future nature-filled escape. Our list features winners from our annual “Best of New England” Editors’ Choice Awards, but represents just a fraction of the many wonderful campgrounds, both large and small, throughout New England.
NOTE: The campground’s rules about pets may change seasonally. Please check ahead if you are traveling with furry friends.
Best Campground with a Coaster| A day at Lake Compounce, America’s oldest amusement park, is doubly fun when you’re just a short tram ride away from marshmallow toasting and movie nights. Bring your own tent or RV, or rent a cabin or handcrafted tipi — with electricity.
Best Family Campground| Located on the Natchaug River, less than 40 miles from Hartford, Charlie Brown Campground offers the perfect family camping experience with 85 tent and RV sites, plus sports fields, nature trails, a playground, and recreation hall.
Best Primitive Camping | When you want to really escape, make a reservation, then grab a tent and canoe and head for this 400-acre preserve, with primitive sites dotting the shoreline and islands of Mooselookmeguntic Lake.
Best Campground | It’s surprising that with a depth of 316 feet and a surface area of more than 45 square miles, Sebago Lake doesn’t have its own mythical sea monster. What it does have, though, are resident populations of landlocked salmon and lake trout, more than 100 miles of shoreline, and this 1,400-acre campground, now in its ninth decade, revered by the families who return year after year to the 250 wooded sites set back from the water. Hiking trails crisscross the surrounding woods, but most campers come to swim and bask in the piney surroundings.
Best Unheralded State Park | A notable bargain, this 8,000-acre expanse has it all. Swimming, camping, picnicking, mountain biking, fishing, boating, hiking, ATV-riding, ranger-led day activities, and evening amphitheater programs are spread over two sections, separated by Webb Lake, in the shadow of 3,187-foot Mount Blue.
Best Seaside Campground | Part of the Wolfe’s Neck Farm foundation in Freeport, Maine, this eco-sensitive, low-key campground with three miles of tidal frontage on Casco Bay caters to tenters, although a few sites have hookups.
Best Campground | Sandy shore and tranquil forest — both sides of Cape Cod can be your playground all week for less than you’d pay for a single night at a family resort. So pack up your kids, the dog, and a tent (or reserve a yurt if you’re new to camping) and enjoy evenings by a campfire at your private site after days of hiking this 700-acre preserve or swimming in relatively warm bay waters. It’s a little-advertised perk that campers here enjoy free access to nearby Scusset Beach. And even more obscure that mushroom foragers love these woods.
Best Camping Area | Nature lovers may swarm to the Merrimack River every summer, but setting up a tent on its banks here all but guarantees you won’t feel cramped. With almost 500 sites, access to a 3.8-mile stretch of beach (complete with seal sightings), and conveniences like RV hookups and renovated bathrooms, campers here come away feeling as if they’ve spent their time communing with nature instead of just their neighbors. The campground doesn’t sit right on the water, but it’s within walking distance of Salisbury Beach, a four-mile strand of dunes and white sand beach, with plenty of room to spread out.
Best Island Camping | The dappled shade of the campsites on the island’s sole campground creates an air of summer idyll for tenters and RV drivers alike. For full immersion in the outdoor experience, bring a bike and pedal everywhere on beautiful Martha’s Vineyard. Also available: a few one- and two-bedroom cabins to rent.
Best Canalside Camping | Families have been coming to this woodsy enclave for idylls on the Cape Cod Canal in the shadow of the Bourne Bridge for more than 50 years. Two in-ground pools offer freshwater swimming, and saltwater beaches are only a short bike ride away. Catch dinner by fishing off the rocks.
Best Luxury RV Park | Even city slickers could become converts to camping at this RV resort with bike park, fitness center, fishing pond, 18-hole disc-golf course, sauna, Jacuzzi, four swimming pools, and wellness center with massage treatments. Bring your own RV (or even a tent). Sites range from most basic (no services) to premium (water, septic, cable, high-amperage electric).
Best Urban Camping | Turkic nomads from the Central Asian steppes probably never pitched camp on the Boston Harbor Islands, but their signature structure–the yurt–is available on Peddocks Island, which has potable water (but no showers) and ruins of Fort Andrews.
Best Lake Recreation | Formed by a flood-control dam, 200-acre Tully Lake and the surrounding woodlands have become a recreational gem for the North Quabbin region. Even non-campers can access hiking and mountain-biking trails, rent canoes and kayaks, and join the free ranger programs. If you haven’t tried disc golf, this is a good place to start.
Best Hiker’s Campground | Vehicle and tent campers may choose between open orchard locations and private wooded spots at this state forest in the Berkshires. Trails range from an easy hike to Bog Pond, with its abundant wildlife and carnivorous plants, to a 3.5-mile round-trip hike to the 50-foot drop of Tannery Falls.
Best Campground | Named after backwoods folk hero Dolly Copp and partly situated on the farmstead that she ran with her husband, Hayes, in the mid-to-late-1800s, this hallowed 177-site campground — the largest in the White Mountain National Forest — puts visitors at the doorstep of the Presidential and Carter-Moriah ranges, while the nearby Daniel Webster Scout Trail leads hikers straight to the northeast base of Mount Washington. For first-time visitors to the Whites, there’s no better outdoor stay.
Best Wilderness Camping | Take a long, deep breath, check your 9-to-5 routine, and jump off the map. The wild beauty of Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge is yours for the paddling, with Northern Waters Outfitters offering canoe camping at several wilderness sites, including near its base camp and school. Canoe the refuge by day; sleep under the stars at night. Or sign up for instruction in kayak touring and whitewater rafting, plus pontoon-boat wildlife tours.
Best Campground Swimming | New Hampshire has plenty of reasons to thank the glaciers, but White Lake ranks high, with some of the best swimming in the White Mountains, a wide and sandy beach, big playgrounds, and a family campground. Our Yankee lake critic says, “I’m a total lake snob. I can’t swim in most lakes. This one I could.”
Best Campground | Just 10 miles inland from ocean beaches, yet with so much on-site fun you might not leave once you park, Ashaway is the newest member of Zeman Homes’ RV resort collection. That doesn’t mean changes are afoot, though. Oh sure, there’ll be some new campfire entertainers on Saturday nights. But this eye-pleasing property’s distinctive amenities — including a mini golf course, radio-control car track, kiddie train, and pool—are exactly what appealed to its new owner. Rent a cottage if you’re RV-less and want in on the fun.
Best Off-the-Grid Escape | This no-frills, never-crowded campground sprawls over 100 wooded acres (part of the 4,000-acre George Washington Management Area) and features a lake for swimming and kayaking, a walking trail, and plenty of peace and quiet.
Best State Park | Straddling a sharply ascending corkscrew of a road sentineled by 1,000-foot cliffs, one of Vermont’s most popular parks draws hikers, campers, and those who simply want to navigate the notch by car, narrowly squeezing through towering boulders. The Long Trail crosses the road at one point, and even those who are hiking-averse may be tempted to stroll the quarter-mile path to spectacular Bingham Falls. The steep, mile-long Sterling Pond Trail, which begins at the crest of the notch, summits at the eponymous jewel of a pond, one of the state’s highest bodies of water.
Best Campground | Deep in the craggy Northeast Kingdom, scrub oak and native blueberry bushes hem in the edges of Brighton State Park’s Spectacle Pond. On the pond’s western shore, 54 tent sites, 23 lean-tos, and five rental cabins play host to overnight visitors. Seeking extra serenity or easy lakefront access? Hit the high-numbered sites in the park’s northern loop, where the peace and quiet are interrupted only by the loon’s trill.
Best Refuge by a Refuge | Canoeing and kayaking are popular pastimes at this Lake Champlain complex bordering a 7,500-acre wildlife refuge, but fishing reigns supreme. The lakefront cottages offer basic but comfortable accommodations; boat rentals are available.
Best Urban Camping | Although sites are small, this campground in bustling Burlington, Vermont, overlooking Lake Champlain is just a short hop to town via the adjacent bike path.
This post was first published in 2012 and has been updated.
What are your picks for the best camping in New England?