Where to Pitch a Tent on Cape Cod & the Islands
by Lisa Cavanaugh
For more than fifty years, Bay View Campground has been offering families a full spectrum of recreational fun. This pet-friendly resort and campground has a slew of amenities to keep everyone occupied, and it accommodates vacationing campers with both tents and recreational vehicles of all sizes and types. Boasting the most entertainment available at any area campground, Bayview has video game arcades, sports fields, tennis, basketball, pickleball and volleyball courts, three pools, a variety of organized activities for all ages, as well as special events, such as live music performances and screenings of newly released movies. There are opportunities to pick up groceries and souvenirs, do some laundry, and grab an ice cream cone or two.
In addition to the campground’s own offerings, Bay View’s wooded location is close to the Cape Cod Canal and Bourne beaches. The season runs from May 1 until October 15.
“AutoCamp has reimagined the way people experience the outdoors,” says Gemma Kane of AutoCamp Cape Cod. The airstream and luxury tent camping company has properties on the East and West Coasts, and offers its guests the opportunity to relax in style and comfort in some of America’s most beautiful locations. The newest is AutoCamp Cape Cod in Falmouth, which opened in April and is just a few minutes from both downtown Falmouth and Woods Hole.
“The property is in close proximity to Cape Cod’s acclaimed beaches and incredible natural beauty, featuring 108 airstreams, luxury tents, and suites with both indoor and outdoor fire pits,” says Kane. AutoCamp takes everything that is great about sleeping in the wild and dresses it in an iconic design. Accommodations include a queen-sized Tempur-Pedic bed, spacious spa-inspired bathroom with Ursa Major bath products, a sofa that converts into a second bed, flat-screen television with cable, heat and A/C, a microwave, a mini-fridge, Barebones Living cookware, barbecue accessories, and a private dining area immediately adjacent to the suite.
With options ranging from spots perfect for romantic getaways, sites with great views, to group and dog-friendly accommodations, AutoCamp Cape Cod is ready to provide everyone with a stunning combination of comfort and adventure.
It might be hard to envision the coastal sweep of sand and sea when you are deep in the heart of Nickerson State Park, but it’s not far away. Set within nearly 2,000 acres of fragrant pine and oak forest, this treasured locale is also home to eight kettle ponds—deep sandy-bottomed bodies of fresh water formed by retreating glaciers over 10,000 years ago.
With over 400 campsites, Nickerson is a popular destination that provides unlimited chances for hiking, swimming, canoeing, fishing, paddle boarding, bird watching, and more. In addition, an eight-mile bike path connects to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 26-mile paved route that meanders through seven Cape Cod towns and the National Seashore.
The park’s campsites for tents and RVs do not have electric or water hook-ups, but each has its own picnic table and fire ring. There are comfort stations throughout the campground offering hot showers and flush toilets, and there is a dumping station available for the convenience of RV and trailer campers. Visitors can also choose to stay in yurts, which can accommodate up to six people, and while they are not heated, they do offer bunk beds, chairs, and tables, and access to water and electricity.
Covid-19 regulations that were enacted by the Commonwealth last year will remain in place for 2021, says Olivia Dorrance of the Department of Conservation and Recreation. “Group camping will not be offered, however, yurt and cabin camping will be available on a limited basis and reservations must be made online through www.ReserveAmerica.com, as there will be no walk-up camping available,” she says. All Covid protocols, which can be found on the DCR website, (https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-state-parks-covid-19-update) must be adhered to while visiting and staying in the park.
“We are only a ten or fifteen minute walk to Commercial Street, but we are a very peaceful and quiet park,” says Anna Kuzia, manager at Coastal Acres Campground in Provincetown. Started in 1967 by a local fishing captain and his wife, Coastal Acres is a perfect choice for anyone who wants an ideal mix of natural beauty and P’Town excitement. “Campers can easily go to the beach and then go have fun in town,” says Kuzia, who with her husband lives on-site during the open season from April 15 through November 1.
When the couple took over operations of Coastal Acres in 2016, they did some renovations and in doing so, uncovered some unique vintage items. “We found some really interesting stuff,” says Kuzia. “There was a cool mixture of fishing gear, old moorings and camping equipment that the previous management used to operate the park.” While the site has been refurbished, adding more modern amenities, including high-speed internet from OpenCape, Kuzia says they kept one particular artifact. “They used to do dune tours, and they had a sweet jeep they used to drive. We still have that old jeep!”
Coastal Acres had to make some changes to respond to the Covid-19 crisis for the 2020 season, including limiting camping to only self-contained RVs. “Last year, a core group of employees really pulled together to make the season a success,” says Kuzia. “Guests were able to come here to enjoy the outdoors, work remotely, spend time at the beach and get great takeout food in town to bring back to the campground,” she says. The 2021 season will continue with the same protocols, but guests can expect the welcoming vibe Coastal Acres has provided for decades. “You are welcome to just be yourself at Coastal Acres,” says Kuzia. “We just want a park full of happy campers.”
As the only campground on Martha’s Vineyard, this family owned and operated business has been welcoming campers to their wooded location for close to 50 years. In 1972, Charles and Jeanne Feeney opened up their family campsite, which was originally carved out among the scrub oak trees and wild blueberry bushes of Vineyard Haven. Today, the campground is managed by a third generation of Feeneys, whose mission is to provide a quality camping experience for families visiting their beloved island.
With a selection of spacious tent sites and RV sites, as well as rustic one- and two-room cabins, Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground has found a perfect blend of charm and convenience. Available amenities include a camp store, coin laundry, a playground, bike rentals, indoor restrooms with hot showers, and plenty of recreation areas. Activities for all ages will be available this season, aligning with ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, so visitors should check the Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground website for the updated activity calendar.
The Feeneys are proud to make all the island has to offer both reachable and affordable to their campers, and their location on Edgartown Road in the town of Vineyard Haven, means the campground has easy access to Martha’s Vineyard famous bike paths, as well as a bus stop for the Vineyard Transit Authority.
Along with the joys and discoveries that outdoor vacationing offers, there are challenges too. Cape Cod and the Islands have some specific hazards that should be understood before setting out with your tent or trailer.
A handy list of how to plan a safe visit to the natural sites of Cape Cod can be found at the Cape Cod National Seashore website, but some of the more general tips include:
• Make reservations ahead of time for popular campgrounds and let family or friends know where you will be, especially if you plan to camp in more remote areas without cell service.
• Get a trail guide before heading out for a hike, and stick to marked paths.
• Wear comfortable footwear and sunscreen, and dress in layers. This is New England so the weather can change unpredictably!
• Pack in your own water and food. Dispose of your trash in proper receptacles and don’t drink water from natural sources.
• Become aware of local hunting seasons, wear bright orange clothing and make your presence known.
• Wear long sleeves, long pants, and bug repellant when you are walking in the woods or through marshlands. Deer ticks, which can cause Lyme Disease, remain an ongoing concern on Cape Cod, and mosquitoes, in addition to being annoying, can transmit serious illnesses to humans. Poison Ivy is also widespread on Cape Cod, so keep a keen eye out for its distinctive three leaflets.
• Don’t directly interact with wildlife on Cape Cod or the islands except for observing from afar the scores of amazing birds, mammals, and marine life that share our peninsula.
For more information about recreation in Massachusetts, please visit www.mass.gov/topics/parks-recreation.