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Old 06-07-2024, 08:11 AM   #1
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Eastern US beach camping

Not sure if this has been discussed before. I'm curious of places on the East coast or Gulf of Mexico where you can actually drive your rig on to the beach and camp? I was thinking Assateague Island Nat'l Seashore allowed overnight camping but not per website, just day use.

Can you do this on the Outer Banks or any other places I'm not thinking of?

I just found one and edited post, Cape Lookout Nat'l Seashore which is on the south end of OBX, directly east of Fayetteville.

I'd love to hear experiences on beach camping at any of these places.

To be clear, I mean boondocking and speciifcally 4x4 accessible only for peace and quiet. Not at all interested in 'beach campgrounds'. Not my thing, however there are some pretty cool ones on the keys.

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Old 06-07-2024, 09:18 AM   #2
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Eric - Many - many years ago I went out to Outer Banks and Ocracoke Island/Ferry. I'm sure MUCH has changed since - but wife and I are also seeking "boondocking" camping on east coast as driving west coast is so very long and hard on vehicles and our aged bodies.

Def gonna "subscribe" to your thread and will report back on info we discover. Thanks -
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Old 06-07-2024, 11:00 AM   #3
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Hey Scotty, OBX is a jewel! Campgrounds can get busy, especially now through August. It is an upper East coast getaway and prices quadruple for magnificent rental houses. We usually go February through March with a combination of rental house and campgrounds.
Our favorite campground there is Oregon Inlet. Showers, electric, and some sewer hookups are avail...It is in the 'middle' of the breaker island chain with easy drives to the North end past Duck sand/beach road only, exciting and limited not used by non4x4 vehicles. BTW, MUST air down bc of consistency of sand...BUT, the $65 (I think that's currant cost) ORV beach permit gets you beach access to the entire chain...there are mileposts beach entry locations up and down the chain...
Second favorite is Hatteras Island/Frisco. North end is right by lighthouse, South end is by Hatteras airport with great ORV access..Hatteras Historical lighthouse, south end of island, much less traffic. You will get a light shine in your vehicle every rotation (lol) from the lighthouse at night, cool. Make sure to get a sandwich from Pomlico sandwich of my life.
Okracoke is worth the Ferry ride (very south end of island)and a couple nights stay. Hard to get into (reservations/booked up)but worth it.
I would consider the Ferry from there back to mainland North Carolina, three hour ride, but for the experience alone. Go to King Chicken in Washington, NC (601 Carolina ave, lol) on your way back home! Ill input pics, maybe a couple sideways, lolol
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Old 06-07-2024, 12:56 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by 86Scotty View Post
To be clear, I mean boondocking and speciifcally 4x4 accessible only for peace and quiet.

I can speak more for the North East than anywhere else. It sounds like what you're looking for doesn't really exist here. Some places have beach camping for fisherman, and they will check equipment. But everyone has to camp in a fairly small camping zone, so it's not very quiet.

Places like OBX have more disbursed camping on the beaches, but it's also busy because it's one of the few places like it.

Other than that, most beach camping is at campgrounds or otherwise man made "sites".
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Old 06-07-2024, 07:19 PM   #5
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Eric - good advise from previous member posts, and I'll add a few of our favorites (not in any real order):

They do allow beach driving in select spots up and down the East Coast, but very few that actually allow 'camping' on the beach. There is a way to stay on the beach, but you have to work around the restriction: EX: Island Beach State Park in NJ (near Seaside Heights) you're allowed to drive the beach for surf fishing. You're allowed to be on the beach all day/night if you are actively fishing. So you'll need to bring two poles and leave the line in the water. Last I heard you are still allowed to have fires. Recommend you check the 'restriction' at any location to see if this are still in effect.

Seawall Campground in Acadia National Park (Mount Desert Island) is quite nice, especially since you hear the waves crashing on the rocks through the night .

Lamoine State Park is about 20-25min to Acadia, but you can have Lobster delivered to your camp site. It's on a Bay, and when low tide hits your entertainment is all the people that walk out on the exposed muddy bottom to clam. Really a good time watching them struggle to pull their feet out for the next step.

If you head through from Assateague Island up through Maryland Eastern shore to Rehoboth Beach you can take the Lewes Ferry to Cape May (cool little Town). From there you can head north towards Atlantic City.

National park campground on Ocracoke Island

OUR FAVORITE: Head to Hatteras Island if bad weather is immanent. We have a blast at Frisco Woods campground - they have RV sites are right on the edge of the beach. It's our favorite spot. If you are lucky, there will be a squall - that's when all the locals (and many storm chasers from all up and down the Eastern Seaboard) carrying sailboards & windsurfers plunder the's like watching a huge group of kamikaze daredevils. You're also able to make a lot of new friends if you bring extra adult beverages to share at the camp fire, The best camp sites are 51, 52, 53 and c21 thru 25 since that's where everyone deploys.

Cape Lookout National Seashore has primitive camping beachfront, and will need 4-wheel drive to get around.

Camping is available only in the Maryland side of Assateague Island, and you can purchase a permit (good for a year) to take your 4x4 van on the beach to the 'bullpen'...only fully self-contained 4x4's are allowed to camp there. Only problem is the soft sand. I've tried twice and wasn't able to make it because of the van weight (sank to the axels both times, but did manages to maintain composure by getting myself out). The main Campground is fun with the wild horses which leisurely walk right into your camp (they roam free - just secure your food!).

Since you'll be close (somewhere in your 'plans') I'd encourage you to organize a slight detour to Mount Washington NH and ride the Cog Railway to the top. It's the 2nd steepest railway in the world & truly an experience! Believe the Weather Observation station at the top also holds several temperature records in the US for the highest wind (if I recall it was over 230mph), and coldest wind chill (over -100 degrees). Many fun hikes at the top with outstanding scenery. There is also a very cool road that takes you to the top, but they will not allow your Van to make this trip.

Either on you way up, or your way back you try driving Skyline Drive in Virginia. Great scenic turn off's all over - hiking trails everywhere. Several nice Campground along the road as well.

You may want to PM ctb since he's the beach bum on this Coast, and probably not divulging all his 'favorite' spots to protect them. But I think he would agree, OBX has some of the nicest beaches. I personally prefer the Acadia area up in Maine...I just prefer the cliff's, crashing waves on the rocks, etc.

If you're close to Annapolis in your travels you've an open invitation to our driveway, with water taxi 1/2 block away to take you into Historic Annapolis - Great Seafood & Bars! Tour the Naval Academy, and you'll only be 20-25 minutes from DC if you're interested in visiting some of the sites there.
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Old 06-08-2024, 11:26 AM   #6
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All good stuff Felix, and every one else. Thanks! I've been to lots of the places you spoke of but hopefully this will help others in the future too.

What I'm mostly after is truly quiet and remote ON the beach camping which pretty much leaves me with Cape Lookout NS. I researched it yesterday and actually found a lot of these other places mentioned as well.

I'll definitely drop in next time we're near DC/Annapolis. Speaking of, for anyone who likes to camp as they travel and wants to hit DC (which I recommend doing over and over for all the Nat'l mall museums, etc.) There is a GIANT full service RV park right at the Beltway called Cherry Hill Park on the north side of DC. We camped there and caught the free shuttle to the subway to downtown. Great trip with the kids. It was after this that we found Assateague, another big recommend but no true "drive on to the beach" camping as Felix stated.

I'm still interested in hearing more from folks.

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Old 06-09-2024, 11:11 AM   #7
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I honestly can't think of any "camp ON the beach" options from Maine to Florida, apart from the "bullpen" area on Assateaque that TwoXentrix mentioned (I've backpack-camped on the beach there but haven't driven there). There are plenty of "beach adjacent" places, though.

Edit: Cape Cod National Seashore has it, but you have to have permanently installed black tanks, cassette toilets/porta potties don't count :-(
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Old 06-09-2024, 11:17 AM   #8
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Up in Nova Scotia, Rissers Beach Provincial Park has several nice sites right on the water. Not remote camping, but go off season and it feels like it (we were there in mid-June some years back and it was great).
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Old 06-09-2024, 05:17 PM   #9
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It might be a bit hot, but East and West of Galveston there are areas where they allow camping on the beach. I don't have the number but there is a Ranger Station about 7 miles West of Galveston. They will be able to tell you where you can camp on the beach between Galveston and the Mexican border. If you drive all the way to the end of the islands you can watch launches from a new launch site. We spent the fall driving down the outer banks. There are Federal and County campgrounds and parking on the beach during the day from NC to Georga. I did not see anyone on the beach at night but the way it is set up I don't think anyone would care if you stayed a night or three. Go to They will have maps of the areas you are looking at and descriptions of the campgrounds. In addition to the Federal and locally administered campgrounds, they also list sites that are free and those that are on the beach.
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Old 06-13-2024, 12:34 PM   #10
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There are two campsites on Cape Cod in Massachusetts that allow beachfront camping one is in the town of Barnstable on Sandy neck beach and the other is Nauset Beach in the town of Orleans. In both cases you have to get a nonresident pass which you can acquire online.
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