Sleeping by the Seashore: Where to Camp Along the Atlantic Ocean

Sunday, July 2, 2006

There's no shortage of waterfront campsites, but finding a site on the Atlantic is quite a trick. State tourism officials from Maine to Florida helped us sort through countless campgrounds to identify those that are actually oceanfront. The campsites listed here may be behind dunes, but we've been promised that in each case, you'll be within hearing range of the waves from your spot, and a short walk will take you within sight.

Fees range from $2 a night to up to $68 a night at one fancy private campground that includes cable TV hookups and a clubhouse with pools and hot tubs. But most sites are in the $20-a-night range.

New England

MAINE

* Libby's Ocean Camping. Unlimited views at the oceanfront sites on this campground at York Harbor. Open May 15 to mid-October. Info: 207-363-4171, http://libbysoceancamping.com./

* Searsport Shores. Some sites are in the woods; those on the ocean have unlimited views over miles of shoreline and a small sandy beach for lobster bakes. Open May 15-Columbus Day. Info: 207-548-6059, http://www.campocean.com/ .

* Hermit Island : This campground in Small Point has five miles of rocky coast and an area with sandy beach. Open May 15-Oct.15. Info: 207-443-2101, http://www.hermitisland.com/ .

MASSACHUSETTS

* Salisbury Beach State Reservation . Harbor seals sometimes visit this park with 3.8 miles of coast and 484 campsites behind the dunes. Open April 14-Oct. 15, and from Oct. 16-Nov. 26 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Info: 877-422-6762 or 978-462-4481, http://www.massvacation.com/ .

RHODE ISLAND

* East Beach/Ninigret Conservation Area. This state park in Charlestown has RV sites behind the dunes and two primitive camping areas linked to the beach by a sand trail. Open April 15 through October. Info: 401-322-0450, http://www.riparks.com/eastbeach.htm .

* Charlestown Breachway. State park has 75 sites for RV camping behind the dunes. Open April 15 through October. Info: 401-364-7000, http://www.riparks.com/charlesbreach.htm .

Mid-Atlantic

NEW YORK

* Heckscher State Park. Camp along the beach Memorial Day to Labor Day. Park has a pool, playground and sports fields. Info: 800-456-2267 or 631-581-2100, http://www.nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/info.asp?parkID=153 .

* Shinnecock East County Park . Only self-contained units with on-board toilets and four-wheel-drive can use this park in Southampton. Open year-round. Info: 631-852-8899, http://www.co.suffolk.ny.us/webtemp1.cfm?dept=10&id=887 .

* Smith Point County Park. This barrier island park, in Long Island's Suffolk County, has five miles of oceanfront and 246 campsites. Open year-round. Info: 631-244-7275, http://www.co.suffolk.ny.us/webtemp1.cfm?dept=10&id=879 .

* Hither Hills State Park. Dunes and woodlands, playgrounds and playing fields complement the ocean camping at this park in Montauk, on Long Island. Open April through November. Info: 800-456-2267 or 631-668-2554, http://www.nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/info.asp?parkID=48 .

DELAWARE

* Cape Henlopen State Park . Camp among pine-covered dunes within walking distance of the Atlantic and a five-mile stretch of beach in Lewes. Open March through November. Info: 877-987-2757, http://www.destateparks.com/ .

MARYLAND

* Assateague State Park. Eight miles from Ocean City, this state park has 350 campsites along two miles of ocean beach, behind the dunes and on Sinepuxent Bay. Open April 28-Oct. 31. Info: 888-432-2267 or 410-641-2918, http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/eastern/assateague.html .

* Assateague Island National Seashore. Offers 158 campsites along a gorgeous 20-mile stretch of ocean and along the bay. Open year-round. Info: 800-365-2267, http://www.nps.gov/asis .

South

NORTH CAROLINA

* Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Four campgrounds dot the 75 miles of coastline. Frisco, Ocracoke and Oregon Inlet are open for camping April 14-Oct. 9; Cape Point is open May 26-Sept. 4. All include sites for tents and RVs. Availability is first come, first served, except for Ocracoke. Info: 252-473-2111 or 800-365-2267, http://www.nps.gov/caha .

* Cape Lookout National Seashore. Primitive camping only on these three undeveloped barrier islands, which together are 55 miles long. Open year-round. Info: 252-728-2250 or 800-365-2267, http://www.nps.gov/calo .

Hammocks Beach State Park. Assessible only by passenger ferry or private boat, this barren island with 3 1/2 miles of pristine beach has primitive backpacking camping only; no fires allowed. Open year-round. Info: 910-326-4881, http://www.ncsparks.net/ .

* Camp Hatteras. A privately owned Outer Banks campground with upscale amenities, including a clubhouse with pool, hot tubs, game room, tennis and miniature golf, in the historic town of Rodanthe. Open year-round. Info: 252-987-2777, http://www.camphatteras.com/ .

SOUTH CAROLINA

* Huntington Beach State Park. Park features 135 campsites nestled behind the dunes along three miles of beach near Murrells Inlet. Open year-round. Info: 866-345-7275 or 843-237-4440, http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/ .

* Edisto Beach State Park. One section of camping sits directly behind dunes, while another section is in a maritime forest a half-mile from the ocean, linked to the beach by a bike path. Open year-round. Info: 866- 345-7275 or 843-869-2156, http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/ .

* Myrtle Beach State Park. The 277 campsites, plus cabins, sit behind dunes a few hundred yards from a mile-long beach. Many sites sit beneath massive pine trees. Open year-round. Info: 866-345-7275 or 843- 238-5325, http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/ .

* Hunting Island State Park. Near Beaufort, this park features 193 sites behind the dunes on a one-mile stretch of beach. Open year-round. Info: 866-345-7275 or 843-838-2011, http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/ .

* Capers Island Heritage Preserve. This island near Charleston is accessible only by boat and is for campers who don't mind going primitive. Campsites are along 214 acres of beachfront. At Boneyard on Capers, old trees have been washed by the ocean to resemble dinosaur and whale bones. Barrier Island Eco-Tours (843-886-5000, http://www.nature-tours.com/ ) operates boat trips between Isle of Palms and Capers Island. Open year-round, but order a camping permit from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Box 12559, Charleston, S.C. 29412; 843-953-9300.

GEORGIA

* Cumberland Island National Seashore. No cars allowed, so you'll need to take a ferry from St. Marys and walk around this 17 1/2 -mile-long island, site of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s wedding. Open year-round. Info: 912-882- 4336, Ext. 254, http://www.nps.gov/cuis/index.htm .

FLORIDA

* Fort Clinch State Park. Camp along the ocean or a river at this former fort north of Jacksonville that was a garrison during the Civil and the Spanish-American wars. Open year-round. Info: 800-326-3521 or 904-277-7274, http://www.floridastateparks.org/fortclinch/default.cfm .

* Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area. A boardwalk joins camping sites and the beach at this park nestled between the Atlantic and the Intracoastal Waterway. Open year-round. Info: 800- 326-3521 or 386-517-2086, http://www.floridastateparks.org/gamblerogers/default.cfm .

* Long Key State Park : All campsites are within steps of the ocean on this island in the Keys. Open year-round. Info: 800-326-3521 or 305-664-4815, http://www.floridastateparks.org/longkey/default.cfm .

* Bahia Honda State Park : Some of the tent sites on one of America's southernmost campgrounds, near Key West, are steps from the beach. Open year-round. Info: 800-326- 3521 or 305-872-2353, http://www.floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda/default.cfm .

* Canaveral National Seashore: Primitive camping, meaning you carry everything, including your own garbage when you're through, is available by permit Nov. 1- April 15, after the loggerhead, green and leatherback turtles are done nesting on the beach. The park near Titusville closes when shuttles are launching. Info: 386-428-3384, Ext. 10, http://www.nps.gov/cana.

-- Cindy Loose

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