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  1. Default Heading to the southeast beaches in November

    I have camped and driven all over this country and other countries, but I have never explored the coastal southeast. I am leaving Massachusetts around Halloween to explore maybe N. and S. Carolina and then Georgia, before I head to Louisiana for the winter. I want to camp on some beaches for a few weeks before I go inland. First, what is a good route to drive? I don't want to go all interstate, but I don't want to meander through small towns the whole way either. Maybe a bit of both? Next, I'm not having the best luck finding beach camping online or through the Lonely Planet... I camp in my old 4Runner, and don't need a whole lot. Always looking to save $ and be a bit off the beaten track. Any camping in the Carolinas or Georgia to suggest? I see a few state parks that are on islands, but I'm sure, with a ferry, they must be expensive. Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Welcome!

    Welcome to the RoadTrip America Forum!

    One of the parks in Georgia, Cumberland Island National Seashore, shows a camping fee of $4.00 per night. I'm not sure about the ferry cost, but if you were planning on staying a few days, that sounds like a very affordable stay.

    For your route to the South - are you looking to stick to the coast the entire way down, or is going inland an option? Sticking to the coast, US-13 and US-17 will get you there, once you're past Wilmington, DE.

    What part of MA are you starting from?

  3. #3

    Default VA and NC beaches/beach areas

    Hello Wandergirl,

    While I'm no longer a regular camper nor a beach camper, I think I know part of your area well enough to provide food for thought.

    If you were to stay on the I-95 corridor through NYC, thence down the Jersey Shore to Cape May, the land on the opposite side of the Delaware River, crossed by the Cape May Ferry, is the Delmarva Peninsula. Be aware of the generally strongly-recommended reservations for the Cape May Ferry, and since it lands at Lewes, DE, be aware of the annual "Punkin' Chunkin" festival held there in early November each year. It brings many tens of thousands of visitors and one must assume campground space is difficult to find then, and it's likely the ferry would be booked heavily in the days beforehand. If that seems too much, you can always cross the Delaware at the regular crossing along the I-95/I-295(?) main crossing northeast of Philly and travel down the southwest shore to get back on the Delmarva.

    Once there, there is camping at conventional sites in and around the Assateague National Seashore in MD and it's possible some of the commercial sites at Chincoteague, VA will still be open. Traveling south along US 13 you'd then reach the southern tip of the Delmarva near Kiptopeake, where Virginia has a nice state park with a nice campground overlooking the Chesapeake Bay (Kiptopeake SP). Crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel brings you to and through the heavily urbanized Tidewater region of Virginia, where First Landings State Park sits on the Bay on Cape Henry, some 3-4 miles east of the first exit after the CBBT along Shore Drive. At the far south end of the Virginia Beach oceanfront lie Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park. Walk-in camping is allowed by permit at False Cape and it may be allowed at Back Bay. I understand there is routine cycle-in camping access at one or the other, or both, as well, where some trails are hard-packed enough to traverse via fat-tire bicycle.

    Down in my home state of North Carolina, entered from Tidewater via VA and NC 168 to US 158, you encounter the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS)and the Cape Lookout National Seashore (CLNS). While beach driving is generally allowed at each, overnight camping on the beach is generally not allowed at CHNS. November is the height of the surf-fishing season and you will be among literally thousands of beach buggies fishing and running the beach 24/7. The rangers also patrol 24/7 and issue citations to anyone on the beach at night who is not "actively fishing". That said, there are innumerable short trails along the sound side of the barrier island of Hatteras, generally between the south end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and the town of Buxton. It may be that camping is allowed there--you'd have to check with CHNS people to see.

    There are Park Service campgrounds near the beach within CHNS but I will bet they're closed by November. Ditto commercial campgrounds, but some telephone or email homework could prove either assumption to be incorrect.

    At the far end of Hatteras Island is Hatteras Village were a 45 minute free ferry takes you to Ocracoke Island. I'm pretty sure overnight camping on the beach is prohibited, but there is a large Park Service campground which may stay open until November. At the south end of Ocracoke is Ocracoke Village and the Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry, a 2.5 hour run for which reservations are strongly advised. The ferry landing there is but a few miles from Atlantic, NC, where a private ferry service will take you to Portsmouth Island, just across the narrow Core Sound from Atlantic. The last time I checked, on-the-beach camping is allowed on Portsmouth and its sister island to the south, called Core Banks or Davis Island, and accessed by private ferry from Davis, NC. The ferry rides are probably in the $100 round-trip range by now, and there again, you'd need to book ahead of time during surf-fishing season.

    There's Fort Macon State Park at Atlantic Beach, NC and I faintly recall a small campground being there. Farther down, near Swansboro, is Brown's Island (Brown's Beach?) State Park. There one takes a passenger ferry or kayaks over to a small barrier island where I believe camping is allowed.

    Just below Wilmington is Carolina Beach State Park, located along the lowermost Cape Fear River and within a couple of miles of the ocean. It has a large campground and they nowadays take reservations.

    The coastal plain interior of NC is dotted with state parks and National Forest land, with many campgrounds scattered among them. Many are along tidal rivers or sounds or natural lakes. While it's not the beach, there are some pretty nice and isolated settings to be found within the NC coastal plain.

    I'm not very familiar with the SC and GA coasts, but generally I'd bet the state parks and commercial campgrounds in upper SC, from about Georgetown up to the NC line, will be described as heavily developed beach communities with much tourist kitsch within rock-throwing distance, if not immediately adjacent to the sites.

    Lower SC and Georgia each have state and/or Federal reserves on barrier islands where vehicles aren't allowed but where backpack or cycle-borne camping is undertaken.

    Have a great time planning and taking your RoadTrip!


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