Staying At Cape Lookout National Seashore
Camping on the beach at Cape Lookout provides ample opportunity to view brilliant sunsets, dramatic sunrises, and star-studded dark skies in between. If you want vacation memories, pitching a tent directly on the sands of this National Seashore is one sure-fire way to make them.
Camping is free, although youâll need a special permit if there are more than 25 overnight campers in your party.
Camping on Cape Lookout is strictly primitive. Because there are no designated campgrounds within the National Seashore, youâll have extremely limited access to supplies and modern facilities. Pack everything youâll need, including plenty of water, sunscreen, and bug spray.
Be aware of the tides and high tide line when choosing a beach campsite. If you arenât careful, your gear could end up underwater or wash out to sea.
Youâll also want to follow Leave No Trace principles. With few modern facilities and almost no trash receptacles, visitors need to pack out anything they pack in. If you plan to stay overnight, you should also bring a camp shovel. Youâll need to bury all human waste above the tide line.
The Long Point Cabin area was damaged during Hurricane Dorian in 2019. As of 2022, these cabins are not available for public reservation.
The Outer Banks Of North Carolina In A Camper Van In Winter: A Case Of Bad Timing
The Outer Banks are one of the biggest travel destinations in North Carolina. The Outer Banks are a narrow barrier island with water on either side on the east coast of North Carolina. White sandy beaches stretch into the distance. Colorful houses stand on skinny legs ready for flooding. And blissful buttery seafood abounds.
That said, there are some places that are just not conducive to traveling in a camper van. The Outer Banks in winter just might be one of those places.
The drive along Highway 12 in the Outer Banks is amazing because you are often driving on such a narrow strip of land that there is water just outside both doors.
We endured some pretty cold, wet weather in the Outer Banks, but we still saw a lot.
Donât get us wrong, the ocean is beautiful in winterâall the shades of gray and heavy clouds. But itâs hard to enjoy the white sandy beaches when itâs raining and cold. Plus we couldnât find any free camping spots! We checked out some beach spots, but they were totally eroded by the sea. We ended up sleeping in the parking lot of a visitor center/rest area where it was very unclear if we were allowed.
The other thing about the Outer Banks in winter is that almost everything is closed for the season. Restaurants, stores, coffee shops, visitor centers, museums, and parks! Youâll find a few places open, enduring the chilly weather, but they are few and far between.
Riding the totally free Ocracoke Ferry is a fun activity for winter in the Outer Banks.
Pisgah Ranger District Roadside Camping
The massive Pisgah National Forest is divided into three districts. The Pisgah Ranger District includes the Brevard area with places such as Looking Glass Rock, Sliding Rock and many waterfalls.
Within the Pisgah Ranger District there are disbursed roadside camping sites that are available on a first come first serve basis. These campsites are located alongside gravel roads throughout the district and include a parking area, tent pad, and fire ring. Toilet facilities and drinking water are not available.
Trash pick-up is not provided. Trash must be collected and disposed of properly. Failure to remove or properly dispose of trash is a crime and law enforcement officers will issue citations for littering if trash is strewn about or not properly disposed of.
The following regulations must be adhered to and are strictly enforced by Law Enforcement Officers.
Warning: Unattended property and equipment in these areas can be an easy target for criminal activity. Protect your property by locking valuables out of site. Access to these campsites is easy by any vehicle. If you see anyone stealing anything from a roadside campsite or parking area near a public trailhead, picnic, or recreation area please call 911 to report it or call USPS Law Enforcement at the Pisgah District Ranger Station at 828-877-3265.
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Take A Break From The Camp Stove
One of the joys of camping is throwing dinner on the grill. But when you’re ready for a breather, consider a pickup from the islands’ local seafood spots, barbecue joints, and country-style cafes. The SaltBox Cafe, High Cotton BBQ, and Outer Banks Boil Company in Kitty Hawk and neighboring Kill Devil Hills have all earned a devoted following. From the latter, you can get a big pot of juicy shrimp, spicy Louisiana sausage, fresh corn, and red-skin potatoes, and steam it at camp for a traditional seafood boil.
Camping In The Outer Banks
Well do a sort of top 5 here, but note that were skewing our preferences heavily toward camping in the national seashores that make up the majority of the experience in the Outer Banks that were interested in. Should you be more interested in RV camping with hookups, well touch on that as well, or you can always do some independent research on Campendium.
With the exception of Cape Lookouts listing below, these campgrounds are all on the Cape Hatteras portion of the Outer Banks.
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Potty Kit Or Wag Bags
Since most free camping areas dont have bathroom facilities, youll need to be prepared to properly dispose of your waste. Youll need a small trowel to dig a cathole, TP, and a trash bag to pack your TP out. In some sensitive and higher use areas, youll need to pack your waste out as well, usually by using a WAG bag. Check with the ranger or BLM office to find out about their specific policies.
Our friend Kristen of Bearfoot Theory wrote a great post about doing your business outdoors, which you can check out here.
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Mainland Currituck And Dare County Camping
Campers who love the Outer Banks but who want to truly get out into the wild should head west, to the mainland portions of Dare and Currituck Counties. On the Dare County Mainland, small campgrounds allow campers to stay adjacent to the huge Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. This large stretch of land, which covers the majority of mainland Dare County, encompasses miles of forest, marshes, estuaries, and as a result, is one of the best spots on the Banks to check out the local wildlife. Just watch out for those alligators.
In Currituck County, campers can stay in a handful of campgrounds and RV parks that are located throughout the mainland towns, or they can stay waterfront, adjacent to the Coinjock Bay. Two campgrounds in this area, Bell’s Island Campground and Hampton Lodge Campground, are located on the tips of waterfront Currituck and offer exceptional views of both Coinjock Bay and the Currituck Sound. The campgrounds can accommodate tents, trailers or RVs, and offer varying amenities including bathrooms and showers, electric hook-ups, and even small waterfront playgrounds.
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Free North Carolina Boondocking Spots Wilson Creek Area
Management: Public Forest Service
The road in is Gravel. You may stay 14 nights at Wilson Creek Area. Primitive dispersed car camping in pullouts along a Pisgah National Forest Road. Nothing but land is provided. Bring anything that youll need and take it all with you when you leave.
Camping For Free In The Obx
Does anybody know if it’s possible to get away with camping on the beach in the obx without paying the campground fees?
“CAMPING REGULATIONS – No person shall engage in
the act of open air camping in the Town of Nags Head
unless that person owns or leases improved real property
or is the owner’s immediate family and
company. Such persons may camp on the property
provided that sanitary facilities including a bathroom with
running water are available. The total number of persons
9. Overnight camping of any type is prohibited on the Currituck Outer Banks.
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Can I Drive On Cape Lookout
4WD vehicles with an ORV Beach Driving Permit are only allowed on two of the Seashoreâs islands – North Core Banks and South Core Banks. Youâll need to take one of the vehicle ferries that depart from Davis and Atlantic, NC to get there.
Cape Lookout does not have modern paved roads. All the driving is done on good old-fashioned sand.
Vehicles may drive on the open oceanside beach. However, wild off-roading could get you thrown off the island.
Due to the relative fragility of the natural dunes, local wildlife, and the location of endangered sea turtle nests, driving on or over the dunes is strictly prohibited. Driving also isnât allowed on the sound side of the islands. Instead, keep to the trail behind the dunes and designated ârampsâ from the back road to the beach.
The Best Free Camping In The Usa
We love camping across this amazing country. And, we really love it when its free. Heres our list of the 20 Best Free Campsites in the USA.
If you havent tried free camping before, also known as boondocking, take a look at our beginners guide to boondocking filled with everything you need to know to get started.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! Simply enter your email below.
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Sands Of Time Campground
The perfect combination of old-fashioned serenity and modern convenience exists at Sands of Time Campground, which can be found in the fishing village of Avon . All their large RV sites offer full hookups, shower and laundry facilities, and a fish cleaning station.
You can do as much as you want while enjoying the Outer Banks. When you stay at this campground, everything is just a few minutes away. You can walk to the fishing pier, various restaurants, beaches, and quaint little shops, and you are less than three miles from Canadian Hole, a spot popular with wind and kite surfers.
Free Camping In Western North Carolina
Much of the free camping to be found within the broad sweep of western North Carolina can be found in the Nantahala National Forest areaa sprawling, stunning woodland encompassing more than 500,000 acres, making it the largest of North Carolinas four national forests! Within this landmark locations gorgeous acreage, youll find many dispersed campgrounds in particular, which are primitive set in designated locationsand best of all, most of them are free!
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Jones Lake State Park
Geology lovers will find Jones Lake State Park in Elizabethtown a fascinating place to explore. Jones Lake is a prime example of a geological phenomenon scientists call Carolina bays elliptical depressions in the earth that span the Atlantic Seaboard. These bays arent connected to the sea or to rivers, and only a few hold water. In addition to being a geological mystery, the park is a favorite spot for hiking, swimming, fishing and camping. The 20 family campsites here include a picnic table and grill, with drinking water, restrooms and showers nearby.
Cape Hatteras Koa Resort
Nestled between the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, this pet-friendly campground in Rodanthe comes closer to a resort experience than most OBX camping spots. The resort’s most attractive amenities include a year-round pool, a dog park, and, most importantly, beach access. A fleet of bike, kayak, paddleboard, and golf cart rentals stand at the ready for island exploration. From the campground, it’s a short drive or bike ride to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a protected bird habitat.
Wi-Fi-equipped lodging options range from grassy tent sites to elevated cabins that sleep up to eight and include full baths, kitchens, and cable TV. The property even has a large modern beach house separated into apartment-like rental suites, each with a kitchen and balcony.
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Campgrounds Near Me: Davidson River Campground
Nestled just inside the Pisgah National Forest and only a few miles away from the beautiful town of Brevard, Davidson River Campground is an excellent spot for a quiet getaway for the whole family. Set along the banks of the Davidson River, the campground features 144 shady campsites for both tents and RVs with water, electricity and sewerage hookups, picnic tables, tent pads, fire rings and lantern poles, and modern restrooms with hot showers and flush toilets. Several campground loops offer river access, and recreational activities include swimming, fishing, hiking, tubing, mountain biking, and wildlife watching, and firewood and ice are available on-site, as well as a dump station.
1 Davidson River Cir, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768, Phone: 828-785-5337
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Merchants Millpond State Park
Not far from the states northern border in Gatesville, Merchants Millpond State Park is a camping destination with water as its centerpiece. Here, coastal pond and southern swamp forest mingle, creating one of North Carolina’s rarest ecological communities. Canoeing and fishing are popular activities here, and campsites range from drive-up family campsites to backpack primitive sites to canoe-up sites.
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Beaches in the Outer Banks: If you are camping in the Outer Banks, its likely that the beach is a big consideration. To familiarize yourself with beaches and amenities nearby, have a look through our article on the Best Beaches in North Carolina.
Fishing in North Carolina: People visiting the Outer Banks are often drawn here for the fishing. For a look at some of the fishing options in the state, see our articles on the Best Rivers for Trout Fishing in North Carolina, or our piece on Deep Sea Fishing in North Carolina.
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Blue Valley Dispersed Area
Last up for free camping in Western North Carolina is Blue Valley! This stunning slice of Nantahala National Forest is particularly popular with campers, many of whom consider it one of the top best spots for free camping in North Carolina! There are approximately 22 total dispersed sites available throughout the Blue Valley area, offering fire rings and picnic tables, as well as a communal pit toilet. These pack-in and pack-out sites are located near Wilson Lake, allowing campers to enjoy fishing, swimming, trail hiking, and wildlife viewing and birding in this stunning stretch of the North Carolina wilderness!
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North Section Of Pisgah National Forest Free Camping
In the Big Ivy area Coleman Boundary, there is free primitive camping off of FS 74. This narrow dirt road is not suited for pull campers or bigger. There are several roadside camp spots.
Neals Creek rd FS 2074 has great riverside primitive camping. This road is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, making it easy and beautiful to get to.
Curtis Creek North dispersed camping is on Curtis Creek rd FS 482. This road is between Old Fort and Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a paved part of the way but gravel the rest. There are dispersed camping sites all along the road, but you can also find a small, very cheap campground located on this road. Some of the dispersed spots are close to the campground so that you can use the bathrooms at the campground.
Always pack out what you pack in. Leave the site better than how you found it. Please bury bathroom waste and also toilet paper. We all enjoy these locations for their natural beauty and hate to get to a trashy site. Rangers have in the past closed roadside camping for all due to people trashing the area.
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Free North Carolina Boondocking Spots Curtis Creek North Dispersed Campsite
Management: Public Forest Service
The road in is Gravel and 1 miles from a paved road. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. You may stay 14 nights at Sugar Cove Pisgah. There are two dispersed campsites on the east side of the gated section of Sugar Cove Road in the Grandfather District of North Carolinas Pisgah National Forest. Both are situated along a nice sized creek that looks like it should support trout.
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Carolina Beach State Park
If you want to check out a section of North Carolinas coastline, Carolina Beach State Park is an excellent spot to camp. Although its relatively small at only 761 acres, every inch of this state park is packed with fun activities. Carolina Beach is a great option for anyone wanting to do a spot of fishing on their camping trip, as this state park includes a marina and fuel dock. The Fort Fisher State Recreation Area offers even more fishing opportunities nearby.
Amenities in Carolina Beach State Park include a bathhouse, a marina store, and a rental shop for paddleboards, kayaks, and bikes. A range of camping accommodation is offered at this state park, the family campground is located in a wooded area. This part is open to tents and RVs, where 10 out of 80 campsites offer full hookups. Camping cabins are also available, but the best tent camping in this NC state park is found at the secluded sites. More adventurous campers can head out to the more primitive camping spots for a night under the towering hardwoods.
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