Some are hidden in plain sight in the heart of cities, others are tucked into the woods, while still others are right at the beach. What are they? Beautiful campgrounds, right here on the North Shore, which prove that you don’t have to travel far to experience camping this summer.
Camping Near the City
Camp Nihan Saugus
It’s hard to believe that a stone’s throw from car-clogged Route 1 in Saugus there’s the 65-acre Camp Nihan, an idyllic expanse of woods and marshland where campers and hikers escape the city. “Once the foliage grows in, you can hardly tell you’re less than a mile from Route 1. It’s pretty amazing,” says Tom Walsh, North Region director for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. Camp Nihan is also home to Peckham Pond, where nature lovers can spot beaver dams, osprey, heron, cormorants, and other wildlife. “There’s a lot of activity going on in that park in terms of the different natural elements,” Walsh says. “The birding over there, depending on the time of year, can be exceptional.” The campground is also contiguous to Breakheart Reservation—a favorite for hiking, swimming, and other outdoor activities—and a trail connects the reservation to the campground. Camp Nihan has only a handful of tent campsites, but thanks to its group cabins, with bunkbeds, tables, refrigerators, and pellet stoves, it’s a great spot for fall and winter camping, too, Walsh says.
Winter Island Park Salem
Get up close and personal with Salem’s maritime and military history at Winter Island Park, where RV and tent camp sites dot a small piece of land that juts out into Salem Harbor, just a few miles away from busy downtown Salem. Not only is there a camp store, enclosed picnic space, playground, and public boat ramp, but Winter Island Park is also home to the 17th-century Fort Pickering (complete with ammunition bunkers), Fort Pickering Light, and the small, sandy Waikiki Beach. Roast marshmallows, fall asleep to the sound of waves, and enjoy beautiful sunsets and sunrises.
1. Respect park rules when it comes to trash. Although dumpsters and barrels are often available, many campgrounds are “carry in, carry out” parks, meaning that anything you bring into the campground you should take with you when you leave.
2. Don’t bring outside firewood. Instead, get it at the campgrounds themselves to prevent the transfer of invasive insects, such as the Asian longhorn beetle, says Walsh.
3. Only build campfires in designated areas and adhere to all fire warnings in the summer. Walsh says there are certain times when you shouldn’t have a fire during summertime dry spells.
4. The term “dumping station” refers to facilities for dumping human waste from trailers and RVs.
In the Woods
Lorraine Park Campground Andover
Within the more than 3,000 acres of Harold Parker State Forest there’s Lorraine Park Campground in Andover, a family-friendly campground with more than 80 campsites. “For a lot of people, it’s close to home, so it’s a good first-time place to camp,” Walsh says. It has two separate waterfront areas for swimming—Berry Pond and Frye Pond—and is popular for hiking and mountain biking on the 35 miles of trails within the larger state forest. There’s also fishing and boating on the ponds within the forest. “It’s all connected. The campground is contiguous with the park, so you can access trails straight from the campground into the park,” Walsh says. Showers and bathrooms, electricity at some of the campsites, and trailer/RV dumping are a few of the available amenities.
By the Sea
Situated on 90 wooded acres just one mile from Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester, the family-owned Cape Ann Camp Site is a convenient home base for exploring Cape Ann and is especially popular with European and Canadian travelers, says Robert Matz, who co-owns the campground with his wife Eileen. “People come with their bikes and kayaks and off they go,” he says. The picturesque Jones Creek is right across the street, and everyone from big rig RVers to tent campers can find a great spot among the more than 200 campsites, each of which has a fireplace and picnic table. There’s also Wi-Fi, toilet and shower buildings,
and a small camp store.
Black Bear Campground Salisbury
Pines Camping Area Salisbury
Salisbury Beach State Reservation Salisbury
With miles of white sand, Salisbury Beach is a local favorite for beachgoers. While there are plenty of nearby hotels and motels to choose from, beach camping is also a beloved pastime, thanks to the sprawling 484-site Salisbury Beach State Reservation campground. “They have camping but there’s a beach experience along with it,” Walsh says. “We welcome traditional camping with tents, but also a lot of motor homes and campers.” Boardwalk beach access and boat ramps make it perfect for swimming, fishing, and boating, and a brand-new bathroom facility and store are scheduled to open in time for the summer season. Just a few miles away, Salisbury is also home to two other campgrounds: Pines Camping Area and Black Bear Campground, which each have amenities like swimming pools, playgrounds, and outdoor sports facilities.