We love camping by the water any time of year, but it sure is extra nice when the temperatures are soaring outside. Nothing beats the breeze coming off a lake or ocean to cool you down. We are so fortunate that there are so many waterfront campgrounds across the country including those on rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and the ocean. Below are a few of our favorites divided into categories by cost: free, budget, and luxury options for RV camping by the water.
Free Waterfront Campgrounds
Boondocking or dry camping is a great way to enjoy free camping on the water. Thanks to the Bureau of Land Management, there are many opportunities around the U.S. Just search “free camping by the water” on the internet or your favorite trip planning app and you’ll find that there are numerous options, particularly out west. A popular option due to its proximity to Las Vegas is Lake Meade National Recreation Area. There are several different areas where you can camp off grid at Lake Meade — one even has bathrooms. Just note that while boondocking is free there, you will need to pay an entrance fee if you don’t have an annual parks pass.
If you’d like to save money, but also have some water and power, consider camping at one of the amazing Corps of Engineer Campgrounds across the U.S. These waterfront campgrounds are situated along rivers, dams, and reservoirs that are maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers (COE). If you have the Senior or Access National Parks Pass, you can even get 50 percent off your stay.
Budget Waterfront Campgrounds
There are three basic options that we’ve found for moderate or budget waterfront campgrounds: state parks, Corps of Engineer locations, military campgrounds, and mom & pop no-frills campgrounds.
Three of our all-time favorite state parks are located on rivers. Most of these state parks are reasonably priced and they often offer additional discounts for seniors or state residents.
It’s hard to pick just one favorite, so we’ll share two. The first is Rainbow Springs State Park in Florida. It is located on a crystal clear, freshwater spring-fed river. Seriously. The water is so clear it looks like a swimming pool. Another great thing about this state park is that the campground is separate from the main attraction area so you can enjoy a quiet day looking over the river.
Shenandoah River State Park in northern Virginia has 5 miles of waterfront access along the Shenandoah River. Another great thing about this campground is that it is only a 10-minute drive to Shenandoah National Park. That makes it a great place to stay as an alternative to the national park.
Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds offer some of the best waterfront camping in the country. They are managed by the Army Corps of Engineers and available to the public. Even better, as a federally managed campground you can get a 50% discount if you have the senior or access (disability) national parks passes. We’ve loved every single one we’ve stayed at, but here’s just one example, Gunter Hill COE Campground.
If you can access military bases, there are some phenomenal waterfront campgrounds to enjoy. Read our Guide to Military Campgrounds. We have several that we’ve gone back to more than once. One of our absolute favorites was Sigsbee Campground in Key West, Florida.
A second runner-up was Patrick Air Force Base. It is located on the Banana River and the ocean is just across the street from the main base. I had a lot of fun trying to learn how to do stand-up paddleboard there.
Don’t forget about the small, locally-owned campgrounds. Sometimes they are located in the most magical spots. We stayed at the Wagon Circle campground along the Red River in Heber Springs, Arkansas for only $26 a night.
Luxury Waterfront Campgrounds
Luxury and waterfront often go hand-in-hand. We’ve stayed at some top notch resorts along our RV travels. Here are just a few of the best.
The first is Catherine’s Landing, an absolutely gorgeous RV resort with a mile of water frontage on Lake Catherine. It is only about a 20-minute drive to Hot Springs National Park. The resort is packed with amenities and plenty of activities like boat & kayak rentals, zip lining, disc golf, and a huge pool.
We love beachfront RV resorts and two of the best (Gulf Waters Beachfront RV Resort in Port Aransas, Texas, and Bluewater Key RV Resort in the Florida Keys) have privately owned lots with cabanas. They offer different levels (pricing) of sites depending on what amenities you want.
As you can see, the options for camping along the water are abundant across the United States.
Do you have a favorite waterfront campground? Please tell us in the comments below.
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