Updated: Jan 14, 2021
photo by Nick Dunlap
The luxury of 10-day forecasts and the ample knowledge we have at the touch of our fingertips now means that planning a surf trip can be as simple as heading out with our gear and trying to find the perfect spot to stay. While the allure of camping may not appeal to all, there’s no better way to budget money and experience being in nature; whether by pitching a tent in the sand dunes or “glamping” in an RV. The Southeast coast of the U.S. offers a wide variety of places to camp, and the reality of all-day sessions of exceptional surf. Here are five of the best surf campgrounds in the Southeast that produce good waves, good times and an unforgettable surfing experience.
photo by @steffenvollert
Part of North Carolina's Outer Banks, Cape Hatteras has the waves, wildlife, and welcoming vibe that make up your next great camping trip. The CHNS park has four campgrounds within it, spread out around a 75-mile radius: Oregon Inlet, Cape Point, Frisco, and Ocracoke, each one not too far from the beach. While they may not offer the most up-to-date facilities around, you can’t beat the price for a consistent, and often pumping waves on a getaway surf trip. All the sites offer tent, trailer, and RV sites, so pick your poison and call or go online to make a reservation. Be warned that only Oregon Inlet campground offers electricity and water at its' 27 sites; as for the rest, well, you’re roughing it. Cape Point is located in Buxton, where the jetties from the lighthouse still stand and make up surf breaks that the Eastern Surfing Association uses every year for competitions. While you're there, make sure not to overlook the slopey beaches of Ocracoke, and the deteriorating pier that represents a great break in Frisco. Both of these locations tend to have consistent waves thanks to the sandbars of Cape Hatteras that break even during the low points of summer.
Guide Spotlight: Looking for some local knowledge? Hit up James Jenkins through the AIO app and let him show you around the OBX!
photo by @redknots
Located in Charleston, South Carolina, this campground is located inside a 643-acre park with marsh views and plenty to do if the waves aren’t exceptional. You can find a tent, RV, and camper sites that all have water and electricity. If you wanna' go old school, JICP has primitive sites for low rates. Once you’re settled, check out the miles of paved trails all throughout the park for walking, biking, and skating. Folly Beach gets the best and most consistent surf in South Carolina and being that this park is only a little over 7 miles from the beach, it’s hard to beat. Take a quick 15-minute ride and you’ll find yourself a small yet rideable wave at the Folly Beach Pier, or continue down the east side of the island and discover "The Washout." All beach accesses to the left of the pier offer a small longboard wave most days, and if your timing is right then you could find yourself with a sweet little offshore wind swell and shortboard style waves. If the outgoing tide has you feeling down and out about the surf, don’t fear; take a walk down center street Folly for live music and smells of fried seafood to draw you in to the many quaint restaurants. When you make your way back to the park hit up the climbing wall, fish in the freshwater lakes or the saltwater creek, and enjoy an afternoon picnic in one of the many picnic areas. There’s something for the whole family available at this campground.
RV Spotlight: The perfect tow behind sleeper for a couple or a sweet surfing family, this camper sleeps up to 5 and is conveniently available for pickup on James Island. https://www.outdoorsy.com/rv-rental/charleston_sc/2016_shasta_airflyte_128117-listing
Hanna State Park is a step into the lush coastal forest of the Jacksonville area that truly makes for a unique camping experience. Pitch a tent, bring an RV, or go plush and stay in a cozy cabin - whatever your choice the park and its' beach are ideal for a quick surf escape. Once you’re inside the campground it’s only a quick bike ride to the 1.5 miles of beach that offers surfing for beginners to those more advanced. Home to the infamous spot “The Poles”, this wave breaks best at low tide and showcases the impressive talent found in Jax Beach. During the week the scene is low-key and relaxed when it’s just an average day, but come weekend time be prepared for large crowds and the first peak being packed. There’s plenty to experience whether it’s on the beach, fishing out of the 60-acre lake, or exploring 20 miles of trails; make sure to put this campsite on your bucket list!
RV Spotlight: A perfect little tow behind camper for the family of 4 or just yourself and a few boards, this Winnebago Minnie Winnie is pet friendly AND includes an outdoor kitchen set up! https://www.outdoorsy.com/rv-rental/jacksonville_fl/2018_winnebago_minnie-winnie_105616-listing
This park is only a short bike ride or walk from the beach and is nestled across a peninsula in St. Augustine, Florida. Anastasia is a 1,600-acre state park with bountiful wildlife and a thriving ecosystem that you’re sure to discover on a nature trail or along the beach. With 139 sites spread out across the park, there’s plenty to choose from whether you prefer tenting or an RV site; all sites include water and electricity along with a picnic table and grill. The beach offers a 4-mile long sandy-bottom surf break and produces some of the better surf along the east coast of Florida. You’ll find the locals north of Blowhole for a good low tide spot, and long lefts that bowl up on a N/NE swell. They offer restrooms and showers for your beach-going convenience, so at $8 a vehicle to get in the park for the day it’s well worth it. Say the surf is lacking and you want to kill some time, comb the beach for shells or try the ancient dunes nature trail that loops through a shaded maritime hammock.
Guide Spotlight: If you need a break from surfing, Captain Cullen Traverso is a lifelong St. Augustinian that can take you and your crew out for a day (or even an overnight camping sesh) of inshore fishing for redfish, flounder, sea trout and more!
photo via surfer.com
Known for the waves where Kelly Slater once trained, this park is home to breaks that exemplify some of the finest surf to be found along the East Coast. To the north side of the jetty, you’ll find three to four peaks that boast quite large crowds on any given good day. The shallow sandbars and a low, incoming tide cause the peaks to stand up and create stellar rights for both locals and those visiting for the surf. If you’ve come for the waves then Sebastian Inlet State Park is the place to set up camp. The park encloses 51 campsites that all have water and electricity along with a fire ring and picnic table; bring your RVs, tents, and campers for a true "Sebas" experience. Just a short walk from the beach there is more than enough to keep everyone busy; enjoy a day of fishing off one of the two jetties that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean, or perhaps scuba dive or snorkel in the clear blue waters of the state park.
RV Spotlight: Say you’re not looking to go too overboard on a camper or RV, but still would like to have some comforts of home, this lightweight pop up camper is small yet versatile and can be pulled by nearly any vehicle with a trailer hitch. Perfect for the surfers not aiming to go overboard on a budget. https://www.outdoorsy.com/rv-rental/sebastian_fl/2007_forest-river_rockwood-freedom_155241-listing
Guide Spotlight: Get in touch with your mind, body, and spirit while practicing yoga and surfing with local guide Molli Miller Mead. Reach out to her here in the app to stat planning your surf mission.