Categories: CampingDestinations

7 Wild East Coast Beaches for Campers Who Hate Crowds

When you think of east coast beaches, do you have visions of high-rise resorts, throngs of screaming children, and colorful beach umbrellas as far as the eye can see? The Atlantic Coast is packed with people, and just about everyone heads to shore when the temperatures rise. If the mere thought of sharing a beach with ten thousand people has you running the other way, we need to talk! What if I told you that you can beat the crowds at a few wild beaches of the Atlantic Coast?

The reason that so many east coast beaches are jam-packed is because people like it that way. This means that no matter what hidden gems the internet divulges, these secret Atlantic Ocean beaches will probably stay that way, and I’ve got no guilt sharing these sweet spots with you. If you’re looking for a quiet beach to relax — a place to hike, swim, surf, or explore wildlife, these are the beaches for you — rugged, east coast beaches for adventurers who hate crowds.

1. Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine, Florida

If you happen to be visiting the oldest city in the United States and need a break from touring gorgeous Spanish Colonial buildings and drinking divine cocktails, you’ve got a few choices. St. Augustine is home to a plethora of sandy beaches, but none as gorgeous or secluded as the coastal waters in Anastasia State Park. Here you can hike for hours without meeting another soul. You can swim and play along four miles of pristine shore, and you can fall asleep to the sound of surf and wake to the serenade of songbirds. Beach bums may be happy to relax the day away by the shore, but adventure lovers will appreciate the ability to rent SUPs, canoes, kayaks, sailboats, and bicycles for even more fun in the sun.

You’ve got 139 campsites to choose from, offering secluded tenting and RV options in a gorgeous maritime hammock surrounded by ancient sand dunes.

2. Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

Welcome to the Grand Strand! This wild seashore may not be a secret, but with three miles of sand and surf, you’ve got plenty of room to spread out. Huntington Beach is home to more than 300 species of birds, making it one of best bird watching beaches on the east coast. Vast salt marshes make up the majority of the park’s 2,500 acres, one of the world’s most interesting ecosystems. Loggerhead sea turtles nest on these shores, and a freshwater lake hosts a variety of scary reptiles to keep things interesting.

107 forested campsites are available for tents and RVs, and while you can’t actually see the ocean from your tent, the salty air and distant surf are way better than a lullabye. If you’re looking for a dog-friendly vacation, this might be the best beach on the list — the south end of Huntington Beach is one of the few public beaches where dogs are allowed year-round.

3. Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro, North Carolina

If you really want to leave the modern world behind, you’ve got to ditch the car. Hammocks Beach State Park is a primitive barrier island, and you can only get there via passenger ferry or private boat. Lack of modern conveniences keep this park pristines and wild for rugged adventures like you! The park’s mainland rents kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards, and there are lots of marshy waterways to get lost in, along with three well-marked paddling trails. Hiking trails are non existent on the island, but you will find beautiful maritime forests, secret tide pools, and and endless mudflats. With just 14 primitive campsites nestled between the shore and massive dunes, privacy is a given at Hammocks Beach State Park. Isn’t it time to leave the city in the dust and set your watch to island time?

4. Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes, Delaware

So, Delaware. Who knew it had such a wild side? We’re talking 5,193 acres of coastal beach, wild forests, and gorgeous marshland with more than 150 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Cape Henlopen definitely gets busy, but because the park is huge, all you have to do is meander away from the bath house and concession area to find your little piece of paradise. Roll out your towel and enjoy watching dolphins frolicking in the surf, horseshoe crabs chillin’ in the bayside waters, and hundreds of shorebirds diving for dinner. As you meander away from the crowds, you’ll discover a special surfing beach, a beach just for anglers, and even a lovely bayside beach for families with littles.

There is so much to explore here, that it’s pretty much mandatory that you stay for at least a few days. The campground is spacious, the bathrooms are clean, and the showers are hot. If the summer bugs threaten to drive you into the surf, consider renting a camping cottage, which is available year-round.

5. Hither Hills State Park, Montauk, New York

Forget Jones Beach — if you’re trying to get out of Manhattan for a little R&R, Hither Hills is where you want to be! You will find crowds at Hither Hills on the weekend, especially if you don’t want to walk far from the parking lot. If you don’t mind exploring, which is what it’s all about, you’ll hit the jackpot — beautiful trails, endless sandy shores, and gorgeous woodlands. One of the coolest parts of the park are the incredible “walking dunes” of Napeague Harbor, some more than 30 feet high. The 190-site campground is right off the beach, and most sites offer a premium water view to go with your morning coffee. Hither Hills State Park isn’t exactly a hidden gem, but it’s a good reminder that you can rent a bit of waterfront property on Long Island for less than the cost of dinner in the city.

6. Boston Harbor Islands, Boston, Massachusetts

Steeped in history, surrounded by beauty, and just begging to be explored, the Boston Harbor Islands offer a ticket out of the city and into the wild. Hop the ferry out of Boston at Long Wharf North and prepare yourself for a magical adventure you won’t soon forget. Many of these 34 incredible islands were colonized in the 1800s and then abandoned as people moved into the city. Relics of the past still pay homage to these early settlers, and there are lots of buildings, foundations, stone walls, and batteries to explore.

Sandy beaches along with a more rugged New England coast provide relaxation, privacy, or adventure,depending on which island you choose to inhabit. Protected waters around the islands are managed by the National Park Service, offering up serious adventurous opportunities for experienced paddlers.You can pitch your tent on four of the islands, or you can simply pack a bag and check into one of the wood-framed yurts available on Peddock Island. No matter how often you visit, there’s always more to explore in the Boston Harbor Islands, so ditch the crowds and prepare for adventure.

7. Duck Harbor, Acadia National Park, Isle Au Haut, Maine

Few will argue that Acadia National Park is one of the most wild stretches of coastline in the whole United States, but just because it’s wild, doesn’t mean you can avoid the traffic jams. If you really want to leave the crowds behind, you have to either visit in winter, or hop a mailboat to Duck Harbor and be prepared to rough it. With just five primitive sites available for campers, you definitely have to reserve your spot ahead of time — but you’ll be so glad you did!

With 15 miles of roads for biking, and 18 miles of hiking trails, not to mention an endless, rocky coastline, you definitely won’t be twiddling your thumbs on Isle Au Haut. Campsites are primitive and secluded, making you feel like you’re the only person on this gem of an island. And actually, that’s not too far from the truth!

Tara is a freelance writer, photographer, and adventurer, dedicated to raising outdoor kids while exploring the world. You can read more about her outdoor adventures at

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