Driving with Donna: East Coast Camping Trips You Should Take with Your RV
Posted: December 19, 2023
Categories: Travel & Lifestyle
Driving with Donna: East Coast Camping Trips You Should Take with Your RV
This past summer, we took an East Coast camping trip to explore New England. The summer flew by, and gathering notes for this article made me realize how much we experienced and saw! People always want to know how we decide where to go. For this trip, we dropped a virtual pin in Acadia, Maine, for our 4th anniversary and built the route around that. It was a fantastic summer, and we didn’t leave anything undone that we hoped to do. Here are a few highlights of our east coast camping trip.
1. Near Washington, DC
Our first stop was Woodbine, Maryland, where we celebrated Vic’s birthday and Father’s Day with his daughter. We’ve both spent many years in Washington, DC, so we didn’t need to be right in the thick of things, but Ramblin’ Pines Campground in Woodbine is near enough to the city that you can easily make it your base camp while exploring the area.
We enjoyed a few motorcycle rides around the small farming communities, and when we got tired of lounging by the pool, we broke in our new pickleball paddles or played miniature golf. Using the nearest Metro rail stop, we ventured into the city to visit Planet Word. If you use words in any way, you will love this museum! We laughed, cried, pondered and were inspired all in two hours. We enjoyed a nice hike in Rachel Carson Conservation Park, near the town of Sunshine. And of course, no trip to Maryland is complete without enjoying crab cakes!
2. Finger Lakes Region
After a brief stop in Bechtelsville, PA, where we had the most amazing dark chocolate at Reppert’s Candy, a Harvest Hosts location, we drove into the Finger Lakes region of New York. We crisscrossed this area twice in our travels and spent about a month at three different stops in the area.
The first stop, at Sned-Acres Family Campground in Ovid, NY, was perfectly located to explore the towns of Geneva, Watkins Glen, Seneca Falls and Ithaca. Wineries with summer music series, the Women’s Rights Museum, and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge were just a few highlights we enjoyed in July.
On our return trip in September, we stayed at Ontario County Park in Naples, NY, with panoramic views of the early fall colors. From here, we enjoyed motorcycle rides to Mt. Morris Dam and Letchworth State Park and enjoyed more than one lunch at the Old School Café. Since fall in New York means apples, we found a pick-your-own place and had fun watching other families pick apples in the orchard while we sampled adult ciders.
Our last stay near the region was at Ives Run Campground, a Corps of Engineers park in northern Pennsylvania. Pro tip: do not plan for your stay at a federally managed campground to begin on October 1st. Fortunately, the government didn’t shut down, and we were able to check in as planned!
In addition to bicycling and kayaking in the park, we took a few day trips back into New York to do some hiking at Watkins Glen State Park and to visit the Corning Museum of Glass. Do yourself a favor and set aside two full days for this museum because the collections and details are astounding! Another Harvest Host in the region is the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, where you’ll want to spend several hours exploring the history of flight. When we visited, they had a special exhibit featuring the evolution of the motorcycle. Who knew the two were so closely related?!
3. Cheese, Creemees & Maple Syrup (AKA Lake Champlain) Area
In the Adirondacks, we stayed at the Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department. In ordinary circumstances, this would be a practical place to stay to check out the region, as you would likely not be around the campground very much. But this was an exceptionally wet summer, and with no amenities or common areas, OTA TV or cell service, sitting inside watching the rain made for some dreary days.
But on the clearer days, we enjoyed the busy summer season activities in the town of Lake Placid. There was a weekly music series as well as a walking path and kayaking on Mirror Lake, and a small sandy beach and pickleball courts that were open to the public. And, if you are interested in that sort of thing, the Olympic complexes and museums offer quite a few ways to spend your money. The town of Cornwall, Ontario, was a nice motorcycle day trip on one of the sunnier days.
We watched with sympathy as so many of the communities in Vermont were devastated by flooding from the heavy rains. None of our campgrounds were adversely affected, but many of the little towns along the scenic Route 100 were busy cleaning up, and some services were closed.
Still, there was no shortage of places to sample cheese, creemees and maple syrup! And if you’ve never had a maple creemee, you are in for a treat! With all the rain, most hiking trails were closed, so we drove to Burlington for some lakeside walks at Waterfront Park and the unique Island Line Trail. The causeway is a walking/bicycling path that juts about 2.5 miles out into Lake Champlain. Other rainy-day activities in the area were the New England Maple Museum and the Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor, Vermont.
On our return trip, we stayed a little further south in the Green Mountains at Pine Hollow Campground, a real gem of a place! We were able to complete some of the Vermont Route 100 Scenic Drive we’d skipped earlier in the summer, took a few other motorcycle rides into the Berkshires and along the Hudson River, and generally just enjoyed the campsite, which was backed up to a small fishing pond with a water fountain.
4. White Mountains, New Hampshire
Dolly Copp Campground, another Corps of Engineer’s park, sits beneath Mt. Washington in the White Mountains. It was a delightful dry-camping stay with quick access to the Kancamagus Highway, a fun summer-only motorcycle ride. The nearby town of Gorham was the trailhead for the Presidential Rail Trail bicycle path, home to some fantastic BBQ, and had a great library for WiFi.
Not far from the campground was the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. The Appalachian Trail passes through the White Mountains here, and the visitor center was a stopover for many through hikers. We learned, a little too late, not to ask a young 20-something working at the visitor center for recommendations on an easy-moderate two-to-three-mile hike. We were well into the thick of a difficult trail when we realized our definition of moderate was very different from theirs!
5. Coastal Maine
This was the anchor to our entire summer route. We met four years ago in Acadia National Park. While it’s a special place to us, and we did manage a quick road trip to revisit the park, we opted to set up basecamp just outside of Portland. There are plenty of places you can camp in and around Acadia, but for us, the amazing food scene in Portland was the bigger draw. While some of the locals we encountered seemed to think we could do better, we enjoyed our stay at Wassamki Springs Campground. The lakeside camping sites can be close and crowded in the summer months, but we were fortunate to be booked into a vacant seasonal site for our month-long stay.
I absolutely love Portland! The food, the people, harbor park, the food, the farmer’s markets, the Old Port, the food and the scenic drives along Maine’s coast are just the highlights. Aside from the special trip to Acadia, I think we both agree that the best day trip from Portland was our ride to Boothbay Harbor, where we were able to take the last Puffin-watch excursion of the season. If you’ve never seen puffins, look them up and find a way to see them in person. Odd little birds!
The luxury of a full month in Portland was that we could spread out our fancy, pretty-plate foodie dinner reservations over several weeks. We are rarely in one place long enough to enjoy all the places we hope to, much less repeat visits to our favorites, but we certainly enjoyed more than one brown butter lobster roll at Eventide, and after our first experiences at Fore Street Restaurant and their sister Scales, we immediately rebooked Scales for our last dinner in town. Pro tip: If you are short on time and can’t find online reservations, call Scales and ask for reserved seats at the bar. That’s the only way you can get dinner at the bar, and you can’t reserve them online! Otherwise, just drop in and have a mocktail and some appetizers in the lounge. You won’t regret it!
We were also in a great place to take day trips to Old Orchard Beach and Ogunquit. From the public parking lot in Ogunquit, it’s fun to walk along Marginal Way, where you can enjoy cool refreshments with scenic views before walking back to Ogunquit for dinner. We enjoyed The Front Porch, a classic piano bar with daily live entertainment and decent food.
No matter which direction we took from Portland, we made sure to stop at Fielder’s Choice Ice Cream Stand. There are a few of them around the area, and sadly, nowhere else in the country. As much as I enjoyed Vermont’s maple creemees, I would drive a full day to get Fielder’s Choice Ice Cream. I think it’s what I’ll miss the most about our time in Portland.
Things to consider when you take your RV East Coast camping:
- New England is full of low overpasses. If your route takes you along anything other than an interstate or major state highway and you are concerned about height limits, you will definitely want to check out a trucker GPS or RV Life. Even then, you may want to second-guess the results if your route crosses under a railroad track. Every campground we used offered “RV-friendly” routes on their website.
- Vermont has A LOT of unpaved roads. Most of them were avoidable by using the “avoid unpaved roads” feature in RV Life, but when we were out on the motorcycle for day trips, Google Maps didn’t care.
- The scarcity of Corps of Engineers parks, the size limitations of state parks, and the remoteness of National Forest campgrounds drove us to stay mostly in “family campgrounds.” Each had its own character and charm, and no two were alike. But almost all offered some sort of common-area recreation, summer games and entertainment, and discounts for weekly stays and veterans. But you need to book early! During the summer, these places were packed, and even into August and September, the weekends were typically fully booked.
- Give yourself longer than you think you’ll need to enjoy all that each area has to offer, especially if you are like us and don’t live near the area and likely won’t be back for a while.
A Wonderful Summer on the Coast
Four months and 1,500 miles after we arrived in Woodbine, MD, we started making our way back south through Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. We had a great summer, and the photos and memories will bring us joy for years to come. Sadly, we just finished off the last of the chocolate, and the cheese never made it out of the state, but we do still have some yummy Vermont maple syrup to garnish our pancakes.
Would we do the whole trip again? Probably not, as we feel like we’ve “been there and done it,” but if we did find ourselves with an unplanned fall travel season, we would without hesitation return to Ives Run and the Finger Lakes, and even northern Ohio. In the meantime, we are happily wintering in Gulfport, Mississippi, and making plans for another West Coast summer, which will definitely include our other favorite Portland!
Lippert Scouts Donna Weathers and Vic Mulieri are retired veterans who have been traveling the U.S. full-time for the past two years. They alternate their time between months-long volunteer gigs at state and national parks and road tripping in between those opportunities. Unencumbered by deadlines, pets or kids, they often have no idea what day it is and have forgotten how to set alarms. Their home on wheels is a 5th wheel toy hauler, and they love exploring the outdoors, historic places and great restaurants wherever they visit. To follow Donna and Vic’s RV adventures, be sure to subscribe to Donna’s blog at wheretonowus.travel.blog.