Camping under the Stars │ Best Camping in New England
Even attention-span-challenged teenagers admit to having a good time camping at these sites. Here are our picks for the best camping in New England.
Even attention-span-challenged teenagers admit to having a good time camping close by the historic sites of Lexington and Concord — plus, the campground is big enough that they can avoid the embarrassment of being seen with their folks. Route 2A is a busy road, but the campsites are wooded and spacious, the grounds are clean, and the services excellent. On weekends, especially, the schedule is packed with organized sports and games for all ages. Campers can plug in and tune out with video games, the free video library, and Internet access, or test their aim at a nearby mini-golf emporium. Did I mention the heated swimming pool?
264 Ayer Rd. (Rte. 2A). 978-772-0042.
The perfect recipe for a family vacation includes a few simple ingredients: a clean lake, sunny weather, and all-day access to ice cream. Three-mile-long Lake St. Catherine, with just 50 sites set near the water, a sandy swim beach, a snack bar, rental rowboats, and a launch for your own vessel, fills the bill. It’s a popular spot, so reserve early. Kids like fishing for bass and running wild on the campground’s Big Trees Nature Trail, while grown-ups may prefer to steal away to nearby Manchester for an afternoon of outlet shopping or touring Hildene, Robert Todd Lincoln’s summer home. The whole crew should pile into the car for the climb up Equinox Mountain Drive for expansive views of southern Vermont.
3034 Rte. 30S. 802-287-9158.
New Preston, Connecticut
These inexpensive campsites have views as pretty as those from the shoreline hotels (The Birches Inn and The Boulders) across the way. Launch your own or rent a canoe or kayak to explore the lake. Bring bikes and walking shoes, too, for the eight-mile loop around Waramaug’s perimeter. Treat the clan to a gourmet dinner at either inn or at Doc’s Trattoria & Pizzeria, an Italian eatery overlooking the lake (off Route 45, New Preston; 860-868-9415). Or grill your dinner over coals. Rainy days are an excuse to check out New Preston’s cool stores offering books, imported goods, and classy gifts.
30 Lake Waramaug Rd. 860-868-0220.
North Woodstock, New Hampshire
Sleep here and you’re a stone’s throw from all the attractions of the White Mountains: swimming, hiking, biking, the Flume, the Cog Railway, theaters, golf. But with two rivers (Lost River and Walker Brook; be sure to bring every family member his or her own inner tube) and thousands of acres of national forest just outside your tent flap, plan a few days to stay put. Whether you pitch a tent or park an RV here, you’ll be happy campers, but call early and reserve a brook-front site for the best views.
951 Lost River Rd. 603-745-8321.
If your brood wants its MTV, this spot is not for you. But if The Swiss Family Robinson graces your bedside table, look no further. What Macedonia Brook lacks in amenities, it makes up for with the wonders of nature: the Appalachian Trail passes right by the campground as it cuts across the northwestern corner of Connecticut. Some campsites are set along the campground’s brook. Views of the Catskill and Taconic Mountains are a vigorous hike away; the Blue Trail summits Cobble Mountain and other nearby peaks. Bring binoculars, a bird identification guide, plenty of bug repellent, and extra moleskin. Best leave the 35-foot-long land yacht at home and opt for a pop-up trailer or tent.
159 Macedonia Brook Rd. 860-927-3238.
Sprawling across more than 16,000 acres and encompassing mountains, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, October Mountain State Forest is the largest state-owned tract of land in the Bay State. Make it your playground for all sorts of woodland adventures (the extensive trail system is popular with ATV users and mountain bikers) or use it as a launching pad for cultural forays into the Berkshire hot spots of Lenox and Stockbridge, home to Tanglewood and the Norman Rockwell Museum. Set up camp on shady, grassy plots across the street from the Housatonic River — and know there will be a hot shower waiting for you in the morning.
Woodland Rd. 413-243-1778.
South Wellfleet, Massachusetts
To show your family a Cape Cod without traffic jams and body piercings, muscle through the gridlock all the way out to South Wellfleet and stay at Paine’s Campground. For more than 45 years, the Paine family has been offering guests the best of both worlds: tidy wooded sites within spitting distance of both freshwater kettle ponds and the salty beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The Paines know a thing or two about campers, so they’ve sectioned off their plots into distinct demographic areas: family campers, quiet couples, and young couples and singles. A few ultra-private hike-in sites are available for those who ask nicely.
180 Old County Rd. 508-349-3007.
Kennebunkport, Maine (CLOSED)
This very large (225 sites), full-service campground takes full advantage of one of southern Maine’s prettiest stretches of coastline. Families use this mostly as base camp for forays to nearby Goose Rocks Beach, a three-mile swath of white sand with a shallow grade and lack of surf that make it perfect for the sand-pail set. Its tidal pools keep budding naturalists entertained for hours.
277 Mills Rd. (Rte. 9). 207-967-2483.
East Orland, Maine
Fifty campsites hug the shoreline of Toddy Pond, a wild and undeveloped 10-mile-long lake only 30 miles from Acadia National Park. Explore Toddy by canoe (free of charge to campers) or stay cool on the campground’s swimming beach. The gradual, sandy grade makes it safe for children to swim and wallow. This is Thoreau’s unspoiled Maine woods, but, thankfully, it’s retrofitted with flush toilets, fireplaces, and horseshoe courts. If your family tires of wildlife (keep your eyes peeled for moose, loons, and deer), venture to nearby Bar Harbor for shopping, sightseeing, and a saltwater fix.
Rte. 1. 207-469-3443.