Be it waterside or mountainside, it’s a great place to pitch a tent
Whether you crave mountains or lakes, the ocean or rivers, the variety of the region’s terrain is best appreciated when you can slow down, spend a night in its sweet embrace, and wake up to the sounds of loons echoing across a lake. At night, after the s’mores have been devoured, stare at the clear sky and shimmering stars. Without the distraction of a television or computer, you’ll get to know your children again. Here are 10 of my favorite places to camp for a night in New England:
Lake Waramaug State Park, New Preston, Conn. For those of you who think the beauty of Connecticut is only on the shores of Long Island Sound or on the banks of the
Charlestown Breachway, Rhode Island This is a Little Rhody gem I’m not too happy to give away. The long strip of sand is not yet covered with beach towels, and ocean temperatures touched by the Gulf Stream can reach a downright balmy 70 degrees. But the real reason I love Charlestown is that you can also swim and paddle at the state’s largest coastal pond, Ninigret, a short walk away. Other activities include surfcasting for stripers, windsurfing on the pond, and walking on the trails of Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. The 75 camping sites are on the east side of the Breachway. $14 for state residents, $20 for nonresidents. From Charlestown, head south on Charlestown Beach Road. www.riparks.com/charlesbreach.htm, 877-742-2675
Mount Greylock State Reservation, Adams It’s hard to top these 15 sites near the summit of Massachusetts’ tallest peak. Look up and you see scenic Stony Ledge, where the rocky cliffs offer magnificent views of Greylock’s summit. Even more mesmerizing is the V-shaped wedge of trees that form a valley between the peaks known as The Hopper. You’ll have to earn these primitive campsites, since they’re hike-in only. The easiest way to the campground is to take the more gradual 1.3-mile trek from the parking area on Rockwell Road. Hardcore hikers can try the 2.4-mile uphill climb from Williamstown. Once you’ve set up the tent, trails branch off in every direction to keep you occupied during the day. $8-$10 for a single site, $25 for a group site. www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/mtGreylock/camping.htm, 877-422-6762
Nickerson State Park, Brewster Located near the elbow of Cape Cod, the 420 well-spaced camping sites at Nickerson State Park are in extremely high demand in summer. If you’re fortunate enough to snag one, explore the hiking and biking trails that snake along the ponds and through the woods, including the 25-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail. Nickerson also features three of the Cape’s 300-plus kettle ponds, so you can rent a canoe and paddle the serene waters of Cliff, Little Cliff, and Flax ponds. $15 per night for state residents, $17 for nonresidents. Route 6A, www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/southeast/nick.htm, 877-422-6762
Boston Harbor Islands The first stop for most visitors to these islands is Georges Island, after a 45-minute ferry ride from Long Wharf. Georges is the home of Fort Warren, built in 1833 and used during the Civil War as a training ground for Union troops and prison camp for more than 2,000 Confederate soldiers, including the vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens. From Georges, you can board a smaller ferry toward Grape Island. This is an ideal spot for walking on grassy paths past fields of wild roses, collecting blackberries and raspberries, and spending a night or two at the small campground. Overnight camping is also available on neighboring Lovell (popular for its outer beach) and Bumpkin islands. Each island holds 10 to 12 sites (starting at $8 a night) and Lovell has supervised swimming. www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/metroboston/harbor.htm, 877-422-6762
Button Bay State Park, Addison, Vt. Bike through Addison, and you’re smack dab in the middle of sublime pastoral scenery. Head north on Button Bay Road and to your right may be glimpses of stacked hay, lounging cows, rows of corn, tall silos, and the spine of the Green Mountains. On your left are the waters of Lake Champlain, with the Adirondack Mountains rising on the opposite shore. This is the setting for Button Bay State Park. Located on a bluff along the lake’s southern shores, all of the 72 sites here have exceptional views of the Adirondacks. Swim, canoe, bike, or talk to the resident naturalist at the nature center. $16-$27 a night. www.vtstateparks.com/htm/buttonbay.cfm, 888-409-7579
Lafayette Campground, Franconia Notch State Park, N.H. Grab one of the 97 sites spaced evenly in the woods and along a creek, and you’ll be at one of the finest starting points for outdoor activity in the White Mountains. You can swim in nearby Echo Lake, bike on trails to Cannon Mountain, or take some of the best hikes in New England to Lonesome Lake, Basin-Cascades, or to the ridge walk atop Mount Lafayette. $19-$25. http://newhampshirestateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping, 877-647-2757
Hermit Island Campground, Phippsburg, Maine There are numerous campsites found along the Atlantic shoreline, but to actually reserve a campsite with an ocean view is a rarity. Yet, some of the 275 sites at Hermit Island can stake this claim, overlooking the waters of Casco Bay. The island is a 255-acre peninsula in Small Point at the southern tip of Phippsburg. You can choose a site along the sandy beach, atop the rocky cliffs, near the tidal pools, or in the forest. The campground also owns a 50-foot deep-sea fishing boat that sails daily for cod and tuna. $33-$57 a night. www.hermitisland.com, 207-443-2101
Blackwoods and Seawall Campgrounds, Acadia National Park, Maine Situated in a forest of spruce and shrubs, the 306 sites at Blackwoods are conveniently located on the east side of Mount Desert Island. Near the crowded Park Loop, the sites tend to fill up faster than Seawall, located on the island’s quieter west side. Seawall’s 214 campsites are nestled in the woods, near self-guided nature trails and a short walk to the tidal pools that hug the Atlantic shoreline. At either campground, you’re close to mountain biking on the 43 miles of carriage path trails, canoeing on Long Pond, and climbing Cadillac, Champlain, and Acadia mountains. $10-$20. www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm, 877-444-6777 Baxter State Park, Millinocket, Maine The 246 campsites at Baxter, set in the Maine North Woods, are spread out over 10 campgrounds. Some are accessible by road, others are hike-in backcountry sites. Russell and Chimney ponds, near the base of Katahdin, are extremely popular. Not surprisingly, these sites fill up well in advance, so you’ll have to make reservations months before you arrive. Kidney and Daicey ponds offer rustic cabins with beds, gas lanterns, table, chairs, and firewood. Outside of climbing Katahdin, there are 178 miles of trails (including the last 10 miles of the Appalachian Trail), more than 200 miles of streams, and numerous fishing holes. Reservations from May 15 to Oct. 15 can be sent by mail four months prior to your trip. Send to Baxter State Park, 64 Balsam Drive, Millinocket, ME 04462. You can also try calling 14 days in advance, 207-723-5140. $11 for a bunkhouse berth, $130 for a six-person cabin. www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/camping/index.html.
Steve Jermanok can be reached at www .ActiveTravels.com.