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Our 12 Favorite Campgrounds of 2016

This year, we stayed in 80 different locations in our RV – and we’ve picked our 12 favorites to share with you.

To keep this post from just being a listing the spots we stayed at, we had to hold ourselves to some guidelines:

  • The spot couldn’t be a place that made a prior year’s list.  So some of our very favorite stays this year like Sunset Isles in Cedar KeyMcKinney Falls State Park in Austin and Sam’s Family Spa in Desert Hot Springs don’t qualify for this year.
  • They could not include any of our super awesome private hosts who so kindly invited us in to driveway surf with them. These are absolutely some of our fondest stays, but we can’t extend an open invite to the public to stop in too.

Chris and I each wrote a list of our most memorable stops this year, and conveniently enough – exactly 12 of them intersected. No arguing this year between us!

We spent most of our time out east exploring new territory to us. Which is definitely reflected in our top choices this year.

For those who prefer video, we filmed a recap of our top 12 favorites while taking a walk:

And.. here they are… listed in the order we stayed at them (not ranked in any other way):

1 – Saddle Mountain BLM – Tonopah, AZ

Saddle Mountain

We decided to try this spot out after an amazing Xscaper’s convergence in Quartzsite – we needed somewhere to decompress and focus on the 2016 rewrite of The Mobile Internet Handbook.

This location was absolutely stunning – surrounded by mountains, ample hiking, secluded and lots of amazing geocaching to explore! A perfect spot to stop for a couple weeks of stellar free boondocking.

Travelogue Posts:

Boondocking Nirvana at Saddle Mountain BLM – Tonopah, AZ (contains logistical info)

You Can Climb Mountains

Rates: Free (dry camping)


2. Santos Campground – Ocala, Florida

Santos Campground

Traveling with bicycles has encouraged us to seek out locations with ideal biking. We never expected to find mountain biking in Florida however. This little state park took us by surprise after a lengthy cross country trip from Arizona.

Not only were we able to snag a last minute reservation during prime Spring Break season for a few days, the park was great and offered ample riding trails through the lush Florida hammocks.

Travelogue Post: Finally… Florida!! Mountain Biking at Santos Trailhead & Campground

Rates: $22/night (electric/water)


3. Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area – Flagler Beach, FL

 

Gamble Rogers

We love a water view. We love the beach. As long as you’re not expecting huge spacious sites, the oceanside portion of this campground has it all. Difficult to snag a reservation at and tight maneuvering, but totally worth the effort for sweet ocean views and beach access.

The riverside portion of the campground is more typical of a Florida state park with more spacious sites.

Travelogue Post: A Day at the Beach: Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area – Flagler Beach, Florida

Rates: $28/night (electric/water)


4. Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel – Delmarva, VA

18-hour parking, confirmed!

We routed by the seat of our pants on our northward journey earlier this summer. On a last minute whim, we decided to head up the Delmarva Peninsula instead of dealing with the traffic of Washington, DC. A perfect choice!

We also discovered that both the South Trimble Island (one of the bay bridge tunnel transitions) and Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Welcome Center on the north end allowed overnight parking. We decided to try both out, creating two of our most memorable & unique overnight stops this year. In fact, we liked it so much that our buddies Nina & Paul joined us for an overnight stay heading back south at the visitor center in the fall.

Travelogue Posts:

Routing North Via the Delmarva Peninsula: Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel RV Overnight Parking

Wild Horses Couldn’t Keep Us Apart – A Rendezvous with Dear Friends at Assateague State Park

Rates:  “Free” (The CBBT is a toll bridge – we paid $31 to cross it. Dry Camping.)


5.  – US Coach, Vineland, NJ

Bus maintenance.

Since we were meandering around the northeast, it only made sense to tackle a few bus maintenance projects while we had access to one of the most renowned shops specializing in old buses like ours.

We spent 4 days on the way up and 4 days on the way down. Bill and Luke at US Coach are fabulous to work with, and Zephyr has received a greatly updated suspension systems and now rides like a dream! She also got new rear brakes, a pretty major task.

All and all, a pretty pricey year in maintenance. But, we should now be all set for replacing our tires next year.

Travelogue Posts:

US Coach in Vineland, New Jersey

Exiting the Northeast Just Like We Entered – More Bus Maintenance

Rates: $996/night (Buy 8 nights, get a free rebuilt suspension system!)


6. Black Bear Winery – Chenago Forks, NY

Black Bear Winery

We had opportunity to stay at a few Harvest Hosts locations this year (the membership gets you access to overnights at unique places like wineries, breweries, museums, farms, etc.). We had two stays this year that stood out to us. This one, and an enchanting night at Southwind Winery near Vineland.

Black Bear Winery offered us a beautiful panoramic view from their parking lot with a field that light up with fireflies at night. We also had an amazing evening of live music.

Travelogue Post: Entering Upstate New York: Chenango Forks & Herkimer

Rates: “Free” (dry camping, Harvest Host membership required and purchases suggested)


7. Schodack Landing State Park, Schodack Landing, NY

Schodack Island State Park

An island in the middle of the Hudson River just south of Albany – this is a brand new campground that opened earlier this year.  While the campground itself doesn’t have any water views, there are a couple overlooks where you can watch ships move up and down the river.

There are several trails within the park that are well maintained, offering plenty for us to do locally.  Each of the sites are spacious and offer ample privacy.

Travelogue Post: Exploring More of New York – Schodack Island State Park & Hearthstone Point Campground

Rates: $30/night (electric)


8. Scaroon Manor – Schroon Lake, NY

Scaroon Manor

We fully intended to explore multiple locations in the Adirondacks. But as soon as we pulled into Scaroon Manor our hearts were wisped away. If we had to pick one singular favorite this year, this one would likely be it for the uniqueness alone.

The former site of an exclusive retreat center, it’s now a newer state park with nicely spaced out sites – located right on the grounds of the former golf course. With lake swimming and old ruins to explore – there’s plenty to do and so much beauty to take in.

Travelogue Post: Stepping Back In Time at Scaroon Manor: Schroon Lake, N. Y.

Rates: $30/night (dry camping)


9.  Ames Brook Campground – Ashland, NH

Using our Passport America 50% off discount, we intended to just stay here two nights to dump the tanks and get caught up on laundry. However, we were so charmed by this commercial campground that when a site became available over the weekend we decided to take it for a few more nights.

The owners of the campground have taken a lot of care to design each site for size and privacy, and many parts of it feel more like a state park with very natural surroundings.

Travelogue Post: Taking Care of Chores in Ashland, NH – Ames Brook Campground

Rates: $37-43/night, $610-735/month (full hook-ups)


10. Schoodic Woods – Winter Harbor, ME

Schoodic Woods Campground

We scored by being able to reserve a site in this brand new campground within Acadia National Park over Labor Day weekend. It’s located on the northern ‘quiet’ peninsula of the park, with abundant hike & bike trails accessible right from the campground. Amazing views all around.

The campground itself was developed privately by an anonymous donor and then given to the park system. It features huge private feeling sites with water and electric.

(Anyone else notice that 3 of our top campground this year started with ‘Sc’ and they were all newer?)

Travelogue Post: Amazing Acadia National Park – Schoodic Woods Campground

Rates: $40/night (electric/water)


11. Elks Lodge – Groton, CT

Elk’s Lodge Parking

My family has strong roots in Groton, CT, and we were excited to finally be in the area with our RV to stop in for a visit. It also turns out we’d be able to utilize our Elks Lodge membership to score a fabulous parking spot just a quick walk from my uncle’s house. It also didn’t hurt that this was the very lodge my grandfather had been a member of in the 50s.

The location proved to be perfect also for exploring the area – from the sub base, lighthouses, Eastern Point Beach, Mystic and more.

Even after the family convergence broke up, we opted to stay here a few more nights to get caught up before continuing our journey south.

Travelogue Post: There’s Nothing Rotten About Groton

Rates: $10/night (dry camping, suggested donation, Elks Lodge membership required)


12. Flanners Beach Campground – New Bern, NC

Flanners Beach Campground

This fall, we started our boat shopping for our upcoming adventure exploring the Great Loop. Our research would take us to a boat rendezvous in New Bern, NC where we opted to grab a spot at Flanners Beach Campground within the Neuses River Recreation Area (National Forest).

The campground was lovely – huge wooded private feeling sites and the campground along the banks of the river. Lots of great hiking trails kept us active while we enjoyed a truly relaxing and productive stay.

 

Travelogue Posts: Marine Trawler Rendezvous & Chilling in New Bern, North Carolina

Rates: $17/night (electric)

Honorable Mentions

This year we hit 80 different locations in our travels, and the above 12 locations definitely all won our hearts. However, there were a few other locations that we wanted to make mention of that also had just a bit of extra magic for us:

Recap: RVing in the Northeast – Lessons Learned & Summer Recap


 How’d Our RVing Numbers Stack Up This Year?

We consider our campground fees and fuel costs combined to represent our previous stationary rent/mortgage payments… so here’s the daily & monthly totals:

  • Campground Average: $17/day or $510/month
  • Fuel Average: $7/day or $187/month
  • Our monthly ‘rent’ for 2016: $697

Compared to our last two years, our nightly campground average went up by $4/day.

Actually, this is our highest year on record since we hit the road for campground fees – due largely to choosing to focus on the east coast this year. Campgrounds in general just cost more, and there are less free options like boondocking on public lands. We also splurged a bit, especially in November, as we opted for more expensive locations with a week long stay at James Island and a 4-night stay in Cedar Key (we topped out just over a grand for the month – our highest on record…ever).

Our 2016 Monthly RV Related Expenses.  Fixed includes: Health & vehicle insurance, internet & mail forwarding. (Note: does not include all of our costs like food, tech, entertainment, business expenses).  For a full description and our thoughts on RVing costs: View our Cost Log.

Our fuel costs went down from $271/month which helped compensate for the increased camping fees. This is attributed to lower fuel prices and just covering less miles per month  (we averaged about 618/mo this year, as compared to 795 last year).

Overall however, we consider our monthly costs to be incredibly affordable for the sheer awesomeness of the experiences we enjoy. There’s very few places in our country where we could pay under $700/month in ‘rent’ and enjoy such awesome views & locations.

And once we’re paying marina fees and fuel to move our future boat in the spring & summers, we know we’ll cherish our winter cheap months spent RVing no matter the cost.

 

You can view our monthly travel cost log anytime you like, we’ve kept it updated for years, and it includes lots more info on the costs of full time RVing.

Some other interesting numbers I put together in review of 2016:

  • # of different campsites stayed: 80
  •  # of Private RV Parks: 16  (Passport America used: 6)
  • # of Public Parks (state, federal, county, BLM): 35
  • # of Dry Camping Locations: 28
  • # of ‘Free’ camping at a host (driveway surfing, casinos, Harvest Hosts, etc.): 19
  • # of stays in RV-related shops: 2
  • # of RV Convergences/Rallies: 3
  • # of locations returned to from previous years: 14

Our 2016 Travel Route & Year in Review is also out:

Some other posts related to this topic you might enjoy:

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19 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. Hi folks! I have been following your videos for a while, enjoying, especially, your wonderful relationship! I have learned much from you as I geared up to become a recreational RV-er, especially Chris’ mantra to buy the best quality used RV you can . Just purchased a 2009 Winnebago View with a Mercedes Diesel . It seems perfect! Currently on my third breakin cruise at Wekiva State park in Florida. I just watched your April Fools video and noted you will be in Florida for the next 6 months. Do youever post your locale? I would enjoy meeting you folks in person some time. I am a Massachusetts transplant now in The Villages in Florida. I bought the RV to escape to New England in the Summer and to get out of the artifice that is the Villages.Keep up your great blogs and be safe and enjoy your latest boating adventure! Dennis Martin, celticsoul@aol.com

  2. Always enjoy reading your posts and am constantly amazed how you manage to keep expenses, equipment tests & results, daily life, the blog, the videos and everything going on so organized. You must have an amazing set of spreadsheets!
    I picked this blog to read as we were in Quartzsite for the past five days and it was our first real boondocking. Now I want to read about more of some older posts about your fav’s out west.

  3. Love all your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, and Facts!!!! Can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for you! We are following our own path now and learning as we roll along; thanks to you and other bloggers like you, the path is not as bumpy as if we were blazing new trails!

  4. Thank you for the precise directions to boondocking at Saddle Mountain! We are ecstatic to be here! Last year when I was in the Oregon rain reading your blog or maybe Becky’s or probably both, I was so jealous! In my nightshirt I got a photo of the sunrise! Now I’m out for a day of fabulous hiking and geocaching! Thank you!

  5. Love your posts. I’m about to buy a used Class B RV and hit the road for the rest of my life (turned 80 last October 🙂 and am using your info to start off right. Choosing a domicile and dealing with Medicare were big issues – really appreciate the help you provided.

  6. Glad Crooked River State Park was on your honorable mention’s list. It’s one of our favorites. Have you tried Skidaway Island State Park out of Savannah, GA. Great place for spring camping?

  7. Thanks for all your time and effort to post this information, very helpful.

    I met Chris in Yellowstone NP in July 2015. I was parked next to your campsite in my pop truck camper. I have followed your blog ever since. Thanks again & Happy New Year.

  8. Thanks for all of this great info! I know it takes you loads of time to put together and we all appreciate you sharing it with us!

    • Thank you for commenting.. posts like these do take a lot of time to put together. Knowing they’re appreciated and helping folks discover new places makes the effort worth the while.

  9. Loved the article and love a good “Top-List” I’m near a couple of those places and hope to check them out in 2017! Much love to you both and have a happy and safe 2017!

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