Tents on the Shackleford Banks

Visitors who want to enjoy the natural atmosphere via rustic accommodations, or who crave a resort-quality experience where their RV serves as their home away from home, will find everything they’re looking for and then some in the Beaufort area.

This charming coastal town is close to a collection of islands, scenic waterways, and wild nature reserves or refuges, which means that finding a pretty camping setting where the pristine environment shines is an easy venture.

From create-your-own campsites in the heart of a barrier island, to fantastic RV parks that are close to all the hoping attractions, embarking on a camping or RV adventure in and around Beaufort is always a breeze.

Campgrounds and RV Parks in and around Beaufort

Visitors in Beaufort will find a number of local campgrounds and RV parks that are within the town limits, or which are close enough to enjoy the sites of Beaufort with a simple 10-25 minute drive.

Visitors who want to stay at an established and privately owned campground or RV park will want to start their exploration by checking out these campgrounds where great views and good times come complimentary with every stay.

Harkers Island RV Resort

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This cool resort that’s found just 20 minutes or so east of Beaufort has a refreshing island setting that comes with roughly 3,000 square feet lots that are situated in the shade or next to the waterfront. The resort features a stunning white sandy beach along the Back Sound, a pier and community swimming pool, a bath house, and boat slips as well as a boat ramp for visitors who are bringing their seaworthy vessel along. With stunning sound views and plenty of natural ways to have fun, (including fishing, swimming, kayaking and more), this is a fine destination for coastal loving RV travelers. Month to month and overnight lots are both available, year round.

Coastal Riverside Campground

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The Coastal Riverside Campground is located just a few minutes’ drive from the heart of Downtown Beaufort in a quiet inland region that’s close to the water, as well as Beaufort and Morehead City attractions. The campground features sites for tent campers as well as RVs, and the extensive facilities have a wealth of amenities including a 320’ ft. long fishing pier, a bath house with hot showers, a dump station, and shaded camping sites close to the water. Tent camping is available from April 1 until October 31st, and pets are welcome at the campground (provided they are leashed.)

Oyster Point Campground

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The Oyster Point Campground is a more rustic campground that is located on the edge of the Croatan National Forest, and which is roughly a 25 minute drive away from the heart of Beaufort. The campsites are next to the trailhead of the famed, 21-mile long Neusiok Trail, and the sparse 15 sites for campers create a quiet, and naturally wild atmosphere. Both tents and RVs are welcome, and the individual sites each feature a fire grill, a picnic table, a tent pad, and a lantern post. Vault toilets and drinking water are both available at the facilities, and the campground is open year round on a traditionally first come, first serve basis.

Cedar Creek Campground and Marina

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Explore a quieter section of the Southern Outer Banks that’s located just a scenic 25 mile drive away from Beaufort with a visit to the Cedar Creek Campground and Marina. Located in the quiet small town of Sealevel, this campground features both RV and tent sites, as well as an enticing list of community amenities which includes a boat ramp and a 320’ ft. long fishing pier that’s on the edge of Salt Water Creek. The campground also features a bath house with hot showers, a dump station, and available shaded camping sites, and a small collection of local grocery stores, gas stations, and even mom and pop eateries are found in the surrounding area.

The Landing RV Park

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Enjoy a charming coastal atmosphere that’s an easy 25 mile drive away from the heart of Downtown Beaufort by staying at the accommodating Landing RV Park. Able to accommodate all kinds of travelers – including monthly and year-round guests – this park features individual sites with free wireless internet access, 30 or 50 amp electricity, sewer and water hook-ups, and complimentary landscaping services for long-term tenants. The community amenities for RV guests includes a boat dock that connects with the Core Sound, shaded picnic areas, laundry facilities, and brilliant water views, thanks to sites that are either directly along the soundfront, or which boast immediate water vistas. A small handful of grocery stores and amenities are just a couple miles away, and the campground is close to the ferries to Cape Lookout, as well as the Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Goose Creek Resort RV and Camping Resort

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Visitors can enjoy a rustic and wooded experience while still being just 20 miles away from Downtown Beaufort with a visit to the town of Newport, and the Goose Creek Resort RV and Camping Resort. This extensive campground on the edge of the Bogue Sound as well as the Croatan National Forest features full hook-ups for RVs which includes 30 or 50 amp electric service, power and water hook-ups for tent campers, and a suite of amenities which includes a seasonal swimming pool and waterslide, a playground, a game room, and a summertime program of family-friendly events, like fishing tournaments, community cook-outs, bingo nights, and more.

Whispering Pines Campground

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Situated in Newport, which is located about 20 miles west of Beaufort, this extensive campground features 190 RV sites with full hook-ups, which includes at least 30 amp electricity, cable TV access, and free high speed internet access. Community amenities are just as enticing, and include a fun clubhouse with pool table and room to lounge, a seasonal swimming pool, a bath house with hot showers, laundry facilities, a playground and a dog park, a freshwater fishing pond, and even an on-site boat ramp and fishing pier with access to the Bogue Sound. All varieties of visitors can be accommodated, including daily, weekly, and monthly guests, and even pets.

Waters Edge Recreational Vehicle Park

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Located in Newport – a hopping destination for campers that is just a 20 mile drive away from Beaufort – this extensive RV park features a nice array of amenities that begins with 77 full hook-up sites as well as an additional 11 sites with water and electricity available. Community highlights for visitors include neighborhood access to fishing and boating, a bath house with hot showers, a community picnic and barbecue area, and a playground for young vacationers. Pets are welcome, and both short-term and long-term RV guests are welcome to relax and stay at the park. 

Camping on the Cape Lookout National Seashore

In addition to the area’s established and privately owned campgrounds, visitors also have the option to camp along the Cape Lookout National Seashore - a 56-mile long sting of barrier islands that are found offshore of Beaufort and Cedar Island. This seashore is renowned for its exceptional shelling, fishing, and beautiful undeveloped beaches, although campers should note that staying within the National Seashore is an undeniably rustic experience.

Campers who want to stay at the Cape Lookout National Seashore will want to keep the following facts and guidelines in mind before planning their trip.

  • Passenger ferries to Cape Lookout and the Shackleford Banks depart daily during the warm weather months from Downtown Beaufort, and an additional passenger ferry to Cape Lookout launches regularly from nearby Harkers Island.
  • Vehicular ferries that can accommodate 4WD vehicles, (like ATVs and trucks), depart from the towns of Atlantic and Davis on Cedar Island – roughly a 30-40 minute drive away for Beaufort vacationers.
  • Visitors can camp anywhere on the Cape Lookout National Seashore, but must be at least 100’ ft. away from shade shelters, wells, boat docks, historic landmarks, and any other structures. In addition, campers may not camp in the dunes, as the vegetation is fragile and needs to remain intact to protect the island from ocean over-wash.
  • It is free to camp along he Cape Lookout National Seashore, however, campers may only stay for a maximum of 14 consecutive days, and groups of 25 people or more may need to obtain a Special Use Permit from the National Park Service.
  • Vehicles are allowed on the National Seashore, but because there are no paved or established roads – just sandy tracks found along the beach or behind the dune line – only 4WD vehicles are allowed.
  • There are no trash cans on the islands, and no trash pick-up services, so campers will want to bring along extra trash bags to take out whatever they take in.
  • There are no stores or businesses of any kinds on the Cape Lookout National Seashore, and very limited facilities which includes water and public restrooms near the two established campgrounds on the South Core Banks and North Core Banks. As a result, campers will want to come prepared with ALL the supplies they’ll need for their trip – including water, food, paper products, and other supplies. (Bottled water may be available for sale seasonally at the Cape Lookout Visitors Station near the lighthouse.)
  • Campfires are allowed provided they are made on the open shoreline below the high tide line, (aka, not in the dunes, or in the wooded soundside areas.) Only dead driftwood may be used for firewood, and visitors may not cut down any standing trees. Free-standing and contained grills are allowed throughout the seashore.
  • Pets are welcome at the Cape Lookout National Seashore, but must be on a leash at all times.

In addition to the “rustic” campsites which can basically entail any free spot along the shoreline, the Cape Lookout National Seashore is also home to two campgrounds that are seasonally open from early March through the end of November.

The Great Island Cabins are the closest cabins for Beaufort visitors, and are located in the South Core Banks near the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Thee cabins are available on a nightly basis, and include 25 cabins that can accommodate 4-12 people, and which range in size from 288’ to 988’ square feet. There is NO ELECTRICTY at these cabins, however guests are free to bring their own generator. Individual cabin amenities include bunk beds, a table and chairs, a private bathroom with a shower, a private screened porch, a hot water heater, a propane oven and stove, and a charcoal grill. Guests will want to bring along their own linens, pillows and blankets, cooking supplies and food, and generator.

The Long Point Cabins are located in the North Core Banks, on the southern edge of Portsmouth Island. This collection of 20 cabins includes duplex-style units that feature 6 bunk beds per cabin, and a shared unscreened porch. Additional amenities at each unit include a hot water heater, a kitchen with a propane oven & stove, a table and chairs, sets of bunk beds, a bathroom with shower, and a charcoal grill. Electricity IS PROVIDED in these cabins, and visitors will want to bring along their own linens and pillows, cookware and cooking supplies, and food.

Seasonal Information and Temperatures

The weather is typically warm enough in Beaufort and the surrounding areas to accommodate both tent and RV campers all year long. Winter temps are generally in the 40-50 degree range, (although can occasionally drop down to the 30s), while summertime temperatures are typically in the 70-80 degree range. As a result, it’s generally comfortable enough to camp all year long, however tent campers may want to bring along portable heating units in the months of December, January and February.

Late summer and fall visitors will also want to pay attention to local weather forecasts for any approaching hurricanes or tropical storms. Though rare, a hurricane or storm in the area can bring along high winds and heavy rainfall, as well as potential soundside flooding. Caution is recommended for visitors who are staying close to the sound or waterfront, as hurricane conditions tend to be the worst close to the water. Hurricane season is from July 1st to November 1st, with the majority of storms landing in the North Carolina region in August and September.

Campground rates are typically the highest during the peak summer months, (Memorial Day through Labor Day), and nightly rates may drop in the “shoulder seasons” of spring or fall. Some campgrounds – and particularly those at the Cape Lookout National Seashore – are only seasonally open, and close for the wintertime. Campers who are planning an off-season trip will want to check ahead to confirm availability, as well as any resort amenities that are only available during the warmer months (such as on-site events and resort programs, or swimming pools.)

Tips for Camping on the Crystal Coast

  • Bug spray is a must in the spring and summer months, especially in isolated regions like the Cape Lookout National Seashore or the Croatan National Forest. Mosquito netting is also recommended for tent campers to avoid bug bites in the night.
  • Keep in mind that campgrounds within the Cape Lookout National Seashore as well as the Croatan National Forest are extremely limited, with few amenities or grocery stores in the immediate area. As such, it’s best to arrive well-prepared.
  • Several campgrounds – especially the cabins in the National Seashore – can fill up weeks or even months in advance, and especially on popular travel weekends like Memorial Day or 4th of July weekends. Be sure and reserve your site well in advance to make sure your spot is secured.
  • RV sites and campgrounds are also available along the Crystal Coast shoreline beaches, and particularly in the town of Emerald Isle. These campgrounds are about a 40 minute drive from Beaufort, but offer incredible beach access as well as a host of amenities.
  • When reserving your Cape Lookout camping accommodations, be sure and reserve your ferry reservations as well. Passengers can catch a ferry or water taxi ride directly to the National Seashore from Downtown Beaufort, and vehicular ferries are available in the towns of Davis and Atlantic on Cedar Island.

Visitors who want to explore Beaufort to the fullest while staying in a natural and rustic environment will find ample options in virtually every direction. From the amenity-packed RV resorts of Newport to the west, to the rustic campsites of Cape Lookout National Seashore, all campground roads lead to and from Beaufort, making it an easy venture to enjoy both this charming small town, as well as an unforgettable camping experience.

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