Weekend Getaway

Boat Camping on the Atlantic Seaboard


Boat camping bestows intimate immersion in the great outdoors and access to camping spots unreachable by car, elevating the experience and circumventing crowds. State and national parks are favored locales for this growing trend, where many boaters are sleeping under the stars each summer.

This adventuresome combination of surf and turf is a gratifying (and economical) way to get some quality R&R during the warm months. After waking up to a crisp sunrise and devouring your campfire-cooked breakfast, you’ll be glad you left civilization behind for a while. Here are seven East Coast destinations to cruise in and camp out.

Duck Harbor, Acadia National Park


Just six nautical miles off the coast of Stonington, ME, lies the rugged beauty of Isle au Haut. On its west side sits Duck Harbor, a small anchorage with no services and often no other boats. It’s the most remote part of Acadia National Park and is ideal for solitude, stunning ocean views and serene forest strolls.

Hike the Duck Harbor Trail to get a bird’s-eye view of your boat from the peak of Duck Harbor Mountain, and on a clear day you’ll see the outer islands. Farther along the trail, Long Pond is perfect for an invigorating freshwater plunge or a vantage point to watch floatplane air traffic to and from the airport. Nearby campsites offer limited amenities, so pack everything you need.

Boston Harbor sloops sailing near islands | Credit Fletcher6 on Wikimedia Commons

Boston Harbor Islands


A perfect provincial escape from the city, the Boston Harbor Islands offer exceptional cruising among diverse islands, inlets, bays and peninsulas. New England’s rocky coast is spotted with secluded sandy beaches, allowing visitors to decide between relaxation and privacy or adventure and exploration. First colonized in the 1800s, the 34 Boston Harbor Islands were later abandoned as people moved to Boston proper. More than 100 old structures remain, including lighthouses, wood-framed cottages, stone walls, forts, bunkers and other military buildings — a testament to the region’s enduring history and character.

Public mooring sites are located on the Islands of Spectacle, Peddocks, Georges, and Gallops, and Spectacle Island has a marina with available slips. Peddocks Island offers campsites for tent camping, or you can simply pack a bag and rent a wood-framed yurt that accommodates up to six people, complete with bunk beds and electricity.

Fire Island National Seashore

New York

A favorite summer stop for boating New Yorkers, Fire Island National Seashore welcomes motorboats, sailboats, kayaks and canoes. Far from the buzz of the city, this 26-mile-long barrier island comprises high dunes, centuries-old maritime forests and unspoiled beaches. Summer activities at Fire Island include sightseeing, hiking, wildlife-peeping and fishing. Two lifeguarded beaches at Sailors Haven and Watch Hill make prime destinations for camping by boat, because both have marinas with overnight stays available.

Sailors Haven Marina offers 45 public slips with electricity and water, and Watch Hill is a 175-slip facility with water, electric and pump-out service available. For those who enjoy paddling, free ranger-guided canoe tours from Watch Hill lead participants through Fire Island’s extensive salt marsh. No hard-surfaced road connects Fire Island’s communities, and most are accessible only by ferry or private boat, helping to retain their charm and personality.

Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes, Delaware | Credit Art Anderson on Wikimedia Commons

Cape Henlopen State Park


Where Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean sits Cape Henlopen State Park and its more than six miles of coastline. Barrier dunes, coastal beaches, and maritime forests host abundant animal and plant life, and visitors to the Seaside Nature Center can learn about the park’s diverse ecology. Watersports include ocean swimming, boating, fishing, clamming, kayaking, paddle boarding and windsurfing. On land, borrow a bike for free and discover the park’s trail system.

Cape Henlopen’s pier, a relic from Fort Miles’ World War II operations, offers 24-hour access to fishing in Delaware Bay. Several observation towers from WWII also remain within the park, and climbing to the top of Tower 7 provides stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, Fort Miles and the surrounding dunes and woodlands. The campground is set among a sandy sparse pine forest and includes 20 tent sites adjacent to the Walking Dunes Trail.

Assateague Island National Seashore


The barrier island of Assateague is best known for its picturesque long-running beach and famous wild horses roaming herds throughout the island. Canoeing and kayaking are popular watersports here, particularly on the island’s bayside. The Bayside Rental Stand, part of Assateague Outfitters, offers kayak tours, bike rentals, camping provisions and souvenirs.

The island is shared between Maryland and Virginia, but camping is only allowed on the Maryland side of the state line where bayside and oceanside campsites welcome visitors all year long. Beachgoers on Assateague can be found fishing, digging for crabs or wading among the gentle waves. A selection of family-friendly programs led by park rangers encourages visitors of all ages to discover Assateague’s ecosystem. Stop by the visitor center for a Junior Ranger book.

Waterfront camp site | Credit Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels

Cape Lookout National Seashore

North Carolina

Along the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, Cape Lookout National Seashore encompasses 56 miles of undeveloped barrier islands split into three sections: the North Core Banks, South Core Banks and Shackleford Banks. Nearly all stretches of shoreline here can be accessed by ferries and personal watercraft. Cape Lookout visitors enjoy surf fishing, swimming, hiking, birdwatching, windsurfing, kayaking and beachcombing for shells — perfect for a long boat- camping weekend.

These three undeveloped barrier island groups offer natural and historical features that make getaways here memorable. Expansive beaches provide a pristine habitat for wild horses and shorebirds, and the iconic diamond-patterned Cape Lookout Lighthouse has watched over the seashore for over a century. Once a thriving port town, Portsmouth Village now lies deserted and invites the archaeologically inclined to explore the former fishing and livestock town’s historic remnants.

Huntington Beach State Park

South Carolina

At the southern end of South Carolina’s sweeping Grand Strand beach sits Huntington Beach State Park, where visitors revel in beach camping and some of the state’s premier birdwatching and surf fishing. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate experiential programming at the park, such as viewing loggerhead turtles and other endangered animal and plant species. Huntington’s freshwater lake is home to alligators and minks.

Cultural landmarks include Atalaya Castle, a gorgeous Moorish-style residence and the former winter home of philanthropist Archer Huntington and his sculptor wife Anna Hyatt. Art lovers flock here for the renowned Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival, held in September. Each campsite offers Wi-Fi, water and electrical hookups, with hot showers and restrooms nearby. For even more remoteness and privacy, a designated walk-in tent site area provides tent pads and central water.

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