The Crystal Coast is a dream destination for campers, road warriors, and anyone who appreciates the great outdoors. Comprising of miles of desolate beaches, hopping waterfront communities, and everything in between, campers will soon discover that their getaway can be as laid-back or as action packed as they desire, with a myriad of camping options to choose from.

From RV parks and campgrounds that are stocked with amenities, to isolated rustic camping sites where the ocean serves as a constant background, there’s a lot to adore about the camping scene on the Crystal Coast.

Camping on the Shackleford Banks

Campgrounds and RV Parks along the Crystal Coast

Whether you crave a little time by the seashore or want to explore the wilder inland regions of the Crystal Coast, there are a number of campgrounds in the region that can cater to tent campers, RV campers, and / or all of the above.

Cedar Creek Campground and Marina, Sealevel
The Cedar Creek Campground and Marina is an expansive campground that can cater to both tent campers and RVs, and which features a scenic and wonderfully quiet locale in the small town of Sealevel on Cedar Island. Amenities at individual sites include hook-ups for RVs and available Wi-Fi, and the campground itself features a long list of community amenities including a boat launch, fish cleaning facilities, picnic tables, gas, boat slips and boat storage, and a bath house with hot showers. Grocery stores and a handful of shops and restaurants are located nearby, and cabin rentals are also available upon request.

Coastal Riverside Campground, Beaufort
The Coastal Riverside Campground is a quietly located campground that’s situated on the northern outskirts of Beaufort, and which is close to both the North River and the heart of the scenic downtown region. The campground has tent sites and RV sites, and amenities within the campground include a 320’ ft. long fishing pier, a boat ramp on the edge of Salt Water Creek, shaded camping sites, a bath house with showers, and a dump station. Pets are welcome at the campground, and a number of grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations are located in the vicinity.

Oyster Point Campground, Newport
Oyster Point Campground is located along the Intracoastal Waterway and is adjacent to the trailhead for the 21-mile Neusiok Trail, which makes it an ideal destination for avid hikers. The small campground features just 15 sites which in turn boast a picnic table, fire grill, parking spur, tent pad, and a lantern post. Drinking water and vault toilets are provided at the rustic sites, and pets are welcome at the campground. Oyster Point Campground is open year round, and reservations are not required.

Goose Creek Resort RV and Camping Resort, Newport
Goose Creek Resort RV and Camping Resort is an entertaining camping resort that’s located just minutes away from the Crystal Coast shoreline, as well as the popular destinations of Morehead City and Downtown Beaufort. The resort features full hook-ups with 30 or 50 amp electric service, as well as water and power accessible tent sites. Able to accommodate nightly, weekly, and even monthly or annual stays, visitors who stay at the resort will find a wealth of amenities and activities including a children’s playground, a waterslide, a swimming pool, a game room, and seasonal events including live music, bingo games, fishing tournaments, cook-outs, and much more.

Whispering Pines Campground, Newport
Whispering Pines Campground is an expansive campground in the scenic town of Newport which offers 190 full hook-up sites which all feature 30 amp electric service or higher, cable TV access, and access to free high speed wireless internet. The campground can accommodate daily, weekly, and even year round campers, and the extensive facilities include a swimming pool, clubhouse with pool table, a private bath house, a laundry room, a freshwater fishing pond, and a playground and dog park. The Bogue Sound is just minutes away via the on-site boat ramp and pier, and campers will be close to Morehead City, Beaufort and the Crystal Coast beaches.

Camp Ocean Forest Campground, Emerald Isle
Camp Ocean Forest Campground is a prime destination for visitors who want to be in the heart of the Emerald Isle shoreline. The campground, which is just a shell’s throw away from the beach, features water, electrical, and full sewage connections, individual picnic tables, and cable TV connections at its individual sites. Additional amenities within the campground include a dumping station, laundry facilities, clean restrooms with tile baths, and easy beach access. A host of restaurants, beach shops, and other Emerald Isle attractions are also just a quick walk or drive away.

Holiday Trav-L-Park Resort, Emerald Isle
Holiday Trav-L-Park Resort is an expansive park-style RV park and camping resort that features 325 sites with full hook-ups, and a stunning location that’s close to the beaches, shops, restaurants, and attractions of Emerald Isle. The resort is packed with amenities, including an outdoor swimming pool, recreational rental equipment for having fun in the water, a kids’ play area, a community dump station, a game room, and clean bathhouses with showers. In addition to the area amenities and attractions, the park also has a seasonal summertime activities program that will entertain patrons of all ages.

Cedar Point Campground, Cedar Point
Cedar Point Campground is a nicely rustic campground with a scenic location in Cedar Point, in the heart of the Croatan National Forest. The campground features a total of 40 sites, and community amenities include drinking water and a full bathhouse. Pets are welcome, and the campground is open year round for visitors. The campground is close to a network of hiking and paddling trails, and is just a few miles away from the sunny beaches of Emerald Isle.

The Landing RV Park, Sealevel
The Landing RV Park is a fine destination for a short or open ended stay on Cedar Island, as the park has a number of long-term or year-round sites for visitors who want to park their RVs and explore for a while. The park also has a full host of amenities, which includes free Wi-Fi, 30 and 50 amp electric service, and sewer / water and landscaping services provided. In addition, campers can enjoy the on-site shaded picnic areas, an on-site boat dock, a laundry room, and endless water views. (All sites are either on the water, or have vistas of the sound.)  Area amenities include a grocery store just two miles away, as well as a handful of local marinas in the vicinity.

Waters Edge Recreational Vehicle Park
Waters Edge Recreational Vehicle Park is located on a scenic stretch of NC Highway 24 in the town of Newport, which means that the park is just a few miles away from both the Crystal Coast beaches as well as the heart of Downtown Morehead City. The park features 77 full hook-up sites as well as 11 water / electric sites, and the extensive community features on-site or nearby access to fishing and boating, on-site restrooms and showers, a picnic and barbecue area, a playground, and a host of other nearby attractions. Pets are welcome, and both short-term and long-term renters can be accommodated.

Camping on the Cape Lookout National Seashore

One of the most unique “campgrounds” on the Crystal Coast is actually a 56-mile long string of barrier islands where the ocean and sounds are never very far away, and a camper’s only likely neighbors are the local seagulls and seashells.

This “campground” is the Cape Lookout National Seashore, which is located just off the coast of the mainland Crystal Coast area, and which is wide open to campers of all varieties.

One of the most enticing aspects of the Cape Lookout National Seashore is that with just a handful of exceptions, (like the interior of Portsmouth Village), camping is allowed throughout the majority of the shoreline. As a result, it’s an enticing destination for campers who love a beautiful ocean view, miles of deserted beaches, and not much else.

However, because the environment and camping “accommodations” within the Cape Lookout National Seashore are so different, there are a few facts and considerations that campers need to keep in mind before making a trek to this isolated destination.

  • The only way to access the Cape Lookout National Seashore is via a privately owned vessel or a ferry / water taxi. Vehicular ferries that can accommodate 4WD vehicles depart from the towns of Atlantic and Davis on Cedar Island, while passenger ferries depart from Harkers Island and Beaufort.
  • Beach driving is allowed throughout the majority of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, although visitors MUST have a 4WD vehicle of some sort. ATVs, trucks with campers, and trucks with trailers are all allowed within the seashore.
  • There is no cost to camp within the seashore, although overnight groups of 25 or more are required to obtain a Special Use Permit from the National Park Service, which manages the National Seashore.
  • Both tent and vehicle campers must be at least 100’ ft. away from shade shelters, docks, wells, or other structures. Camping is not allowed in Portsmouth Village on the North Core Banks, in the Cape Lookout Light Station complex, or in the Cape Village (including the Cape Lookout Coast Guard Station) on the South Core Banks.
  • Vehicle and tent campers should not park or stay on the top of the sand dunes along the beaches, as it disturbs the vegetation.
  • There are no camping stores within the Cape Lookout National Seashore, and very few amenities, including drinking water and restrooms. As a result, campers should bring all the fresh water and food they need for the duration of their stay.
  • There are no trash cans on the islands, so visitors will want to bring along trash bags and receptacles to dispose of any waste. Dump stations for are located in the Great Island and Long Point cabin areas on the Core Banks.
  • There are no RV hook-ups available within the National Seashore, as well as no roads. As a result of the conditions, where all driving takes place on soft sand, the park is generally not suitable for RVs.
  • Campfires are allowed within the National Seashore, but can only be built below the high tide line. Cooking devices which are enclosed at the sides and bottom, (i.e., portable grills), are allowed throughout the park except for at established sites like Portsmouth Village or the Cape Lookout Village Historic District.
  • Campers may stay at the Cape Lookout National Seashore for up to 14 consecutive days.
  • Pets are welcome on the Cape Lookout National Seashore, but must be kept on a leash at all times.

Campgrounds on the Cape Lookout National Seashore

In addition to the make-shift campsites that can comprise of any stretch of the shoreline, visitors will also find two campgrounds within the Cape Lookout National Seashore that are seasonally open to visitors.

The Great Island Cabins are located on the South Core Banks, near the Point and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. These cabins are accessed via the ferry that departs from Davis NC, and range in size from 288’ to 988’ square feet. There are a total of 25 cabins, and amenities include 4-12 bunks per cabin, a private screened porch, a hot water heater, a private bathroom with shower, table and chairs, a kitchen with propane oven/stove (with propane included), bunk beds with mattresses, and a charcoal grill. The cabins are wired for electricity, but visitors must supply their own generators.

The Long Point Cabins are located in the North Core Banks, on the southern edge of Portsmouth Island, and are accessible from the ferry that departs from Atlantic, NC. There are 20 cabins that are about 500’ square feet each, and which feature 6 bunk beds per cabin. Amenities within each individual cabin include an unscreened porch shared by two connected duplex-style cabins, electricity provided, a hot water heater, table and chairs, a bathroom with shower, a kitchen with propane oven / stove (with propane provided), bunk beds with mattresses, and a charcoal grill.

Both campgrounds DO NOT provide bedding or linens, cookware, or a refrigerator, so visitors will want to come prepared. Gasoline and ice may be able to be purchased at the cabin office. Community bathhouses and / or dump stations are also available nearby.

Seasonal Information and Temperatures

Because the Crystal Coast experiences a generally warm climate, campers will find that the temperatures tend to be moderate enough to visit and camp year-round.

The average temperatures in the winter months hover around 40-50 degrees, while in the summertime, the temperatures are generally in the high 70s to the high 80s range. As a result, while heating devices may come in handy in the winter months, (particularly from late December through February), campers can expect to be reasonably comfortable all year long.

With that being said, a number of campgrounds are seasonally operational, and are only open from late March / early April through November. These sites include the National Park Service operated campgrounds within the Cape Lookout National Seashore, but generally not the campgrounds within the Croatan National Forest.

Camping rates are typically at their peak during the prime summer months, or Memorial Day through Labor Day, and tend to fall slightly in the “shoulder season” spring and fall months. Many amenities at resort-style campgrounds, like swimming pools, kids’ activities, or special events, are also seasonal and typically only held during the summer months. Contact your individual accommodations provider for seasonal activities and information.

Tips for Camping on the Crystal Coast

  • Campers staying within the Croatan National Forest or the Cape Lookout National Seashore will find the amenities limited, with no on-site grocery stores. As such, campers in these regions will want to bring along plenty of supplies.
  • Many campgrounds – especially the cabins within the Cape Lookout National Seashore – can fill up months in advance. As such, campers should reserve a spot as early as possible.
  • Bug spray and mosquito netting for tent campers are a must, especially in the spring, summer and fall months. Mosquitos can be thick throughout he Crystal Coast, and especially in isolated campgrounds.
  • Year-round RV sites may be available at a number of privately owned campgrounds throughout the Crystal Coast. Ask ahead if you want to stay for an extended vacation.
  • Several campgrounds, and most notably the ones within the Croatan National Forest, do not allow advanced reservations. As such, campers will want to arrive as early as possible to secure a spot.

Camping is a fantastic way to discover the Crystal Coast, as the wild landscape is perfect for visitors who adore spending time in the great outdoors. From oceanside resorts that boast all the bells and whistles, to rustic “campgrounds” that comprise of more than 50 miles of desolate island shoreline, every style of camper can be accommodated is this unique coastal destination.

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