2016 Best Campgrounds & Stays Of The Year
I’m finally getting to part II of my 2016 roundup which means I get to reveal our best campgrounds and stays of the year. I do this round-up every year and it’s always fun to see what spots make the “top list”.
Was It Expensive To Travel East?
Now the first question that all of you are probably dying to know is how much money did we spend on campgrounds this year?
As you all know we traveled East which meant that we couldn’t do as much boondocking as we usually do, plus we ended up staying in more expensive campgrounds overall. Private Parks are $$$ and even most State Parks cost more out East. In fact some of the places we stayed this year were our most expensive EVER (can you say $90/night for New York City??!).
But despite all this it’s actually not been as bad as you might think.
We moderated our $$ with lots of free stays (Free Overnight spots incl. some great Casinos, Harvest Hosts, a few generous friends and a volunteer job in June). Out of 58 total places we stayed in 2016, 20 were FREE, plus an additional 7 stays were Elks Lodges (which typically run $15-$20/night) so our spend actually averaged out to only $23/night, despite some major “splurges”. That’s a step up from our typical spend (last few years we’ve averaged $10-$15/night), but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be.
If I get myself motivated I’ll do a separate post with more extensive budget info sometime early next year. We’ve got 7 years under the wings now so we’ve got a bit of history to share, plus it’s been a while since I did my last post on the topic (Note/ our spend actually hasn’t changed much in 7 years).
Best FREE Stays
So, let’s start with our best FREE stays which is always a fun place to start. Several of these are fav repeats, which really just means we love them so much we keep going back.
Plomosa Road, Quartzite, AZ -> I know not everyone loves Quartzsite but we always have. It was the very first place we ever boondocked and we’ve been back every single year since. This year we tried a “new to us” boondocking area just north of the town along Plomosa Road and absolutely loved it. Easy access, great views and FREE. What more could you want? Rating = 4.5/5. Read my review HERE.
Ogilby Road, Yuma, AZ -> This is an old-time favorite of ours and makes the “top list” almost every year. It’s a rocky, crazy, barren place but we just love how relaxed and remote it feels. Plus it’s got easy access to Yuma and our annual dental appointments in Mexico. We come here when we want to escape the world for a few weeks. Rating = 4.6/5. Read my review HERE.
Rio Seco Winery (Harvest Hosts), Paso Robles CA -> This year we finally made use of our Harvest Hosts Membership and ended up staying at quite a few place (4 in total, in fact). Our absolute fav was Rio Seco Winery in Paso Robles, CA. A super chillaxed dog-friendly place run by a family who welcomed us in as their own. NO RATING, but you can read my blog about the stay HERE.
Special mentions go to 4e Winery in Mapelton, ND (another Harvest Hosts Stay -> can you say Blueberry wine & fresh veggies for the picking?), the Casino’s in the Upper Peninsula of MI (not necessarily scenic, but oh so convenient) and the CBBT Welcome Center in VA (thanks to Chris & Cherie for introducing us to this one!).
Best Public Campgrounds
We love our public campgrounds and stay there as often as we can, and although some of them can be a squeeze for the “the beast” we usually manage to find a decent selection that can fit us. This year several old-time favorites made our list, plus a few new ones got added in too.
Cape Blanco State Park, Sixes, OR – One of the most magical places I know. We’ve hosted at the lighthouse here, I’ve written poetry here and we’ve spent weeks just lounging in the raw, beautiful nature so far away from the things of man. When all else fades away and we look back on our many years on the road, this will remain one of our fav campgrounds EVER. Rating = 4.5/6. Read my review HERE.
Platte River Campground, Sleeping Bear Dunes, MI – Quite possibly the most relaxing National Park campground we’ve ever stayed at. It’s beautifully green, the sites are wonderfully private and you’re right next to the amazing dunes of MI. You’ve got to book well ahead to get in here, but oh my is it worth it. Rating = 4.5/5. Read my review HERE.
James Island County Park, Charleston, SC – This was one of our more expensive stays, but we absolutely fell in love with the park and location here. A beautiful, green, peaceful park just ~8 miles from downtown Charleston. We’d come back here in a heartbeat. Rating = 4.75/5. Read my review HERE.
Alafia River State Park, Lithia, FL – We first discovered this park in 2010 and loved it just as much when we came back to re-visit in 2016. Lovely, large, green sites with over 20 miles of hiking trails and some of the raddest mountain biking trails in the entire State of FL. This is another place we come just to get away from it all. Rating = 4.4/5. Read my review HERE.
Special mentions go to Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, OR (always a wonderful experience, everytime we go), Bullards Beach State Park, Bandon, OR (another old-time fav spot for us), North Beach Campground, Pismo, CA (a new stay for us this year and we loved it) and Assateague Island State Park, MD (can you say wild ponies and rocket launches?).
Best Private Parks
We stayed at more private parks than ever this year, many of which were chosen for location more than anything else. So, even though some of these score pretty low on my rating scale their location made them some of our best stays of the year. This is a mixed bag, so here you go:
Mill Creek Campground, Mackinaw, MI – This spot was a total surprise for us and ended up being our highest-rated private park of the year. It’s by far one of the largest campgrounds we’ve ever stayed at (over 600 sites!) and yet it has acres of hiking trails, a lovely beach and views of Mackinaw Bridge. Plus it’s easy biking distance to town. You’ve got to pick your site carefully here, but if you get the right site you’ll love the stay. Rating = 4.2/5. Read my review HERE.
Escapees Co-Op, Benson, AZ – We’ve stayed here multiple times and love it every time. It’s quiet, the sites are great, the park is super welcoming and there’s plenty of open land to walk doggie around the park. You need to be a SKP Member to stay, but if you are it’s one of our fav Escapees parks. Rating = 4.2/5. Read my review HERE.
Mission Bay RV Park, San Diego, CA – This is really nothing but an asphalt parking lot pure and simple, but the location is SO GOOD that it makes our top list despite its mediocre rating. It’s right in the smack middle of Mission Bay, next to the water, only 5 mins from the best off-leash doggie ISLAND in the entire country and biking distance to more breweries and beaches than you’ll ever need. Their nightly rates are $$$, but the winter monthly rate is pretty decent. We stay here every time we come to San Diego. Rating = 3.4/5. Read my review HERE.
Liberty Harbor RV Park, Jersey City, NJ/NY – This park will raise some eyebrows, but it’s all about location, location, location. This is the most expensive parking lot we’ve ever stayed at and the park itself not interesting at all, but it’s RIGHT NEXT to New York City!! For the week we stayed here we ditched the car and just took the ~15 min ferry ride into downtown. We had the most amazing NYC experience, and never had to worry about traffic even once. Plus the area was amazingly dog-friendly. If you want to immerse yourself completely into the Big Apple in your RV, this is the place. Rating = 3.4/5. Read my review HERE.
Special mentions go to Columbia River RV Park, Portland OR (it’s a basic park in a great location to explore Portland) and quirky Sportsmans RV Park, Fort Bragg, CA (it’s a teeny little park in an awesome town).
Best Water-Front Camping
This catagory actually only gets two campgrounds this year, but I had to mention it simply because we love the water, especially if paws get to go in too 🙂
Rincon Parkway, Ventura, CA – This is a super tight parking area and it’s RIGHT next to a busy highway aaaand a railway, but if you can find a way to squeeze in you’ll be closer to the ocean than any other place we’ve ever stayed. Plus you don’t need to drive onto sand to do it. Bonus? Beach is dog-friendly and town is biking distance from the parking spots. It’s worth it just for the experience of hearing the waves crash and watching the sunset from you RV. Rating = 3/5. Read my review HERE.
South Higgins Lake State Park, MI – You may (or may not) get an actual water view from your site, but you’ll be next to the crystal clearest, aqua-blue lake in all of Michigan. I honestly haven’t experienced water this nice since…ever? Plus the beach & lake both have pooch-friendly areas. We just loved our stay here. Rating = 4/5. Read my review HERE.
That completes my roundup of our top campgrounds and stays for the year. Hope you enjoyed it and can’t wait to see what sweet spots we discover next year 🙂
Related Blog Posts:
- Free Overnight RV Parking = Finding “Freebies”
- RV Camping Club Memberships – Are They Worth It?
- All About Volunteering
- All about Boondocking
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