Easily one of the most unique places to camp in North Carolina, Merchants Millpond State Park has often been described as an “enchanted forest.” Although technically a swampland, the combination of aquatic plants and gnarled trees makes this much more magical than spooky. Fall asleep to the sound of frogs and keep your eyes peeled for the 200 species of birds that call this millpond park home. Canoe camping sites make for an extra special experience.
Lake James has a way of making you feel like the whole lake is yours in certain corners. Yet, the park has a rental kiosk for kayaks and canoes, plus two boat ramps and nearby marinas to play on the water. Camp right on the shoreline for walk-in sites, head to the Paddy’s Creek area for drive-in sites, or paddle to 30 sites on the Long Arm Peninsula section of Lake James.
Lake James State Park, 6883 NC-126, Nebo, NC, USA +1 828 584 7728
Another lake camping option, but with water and electrical hookups, Jones Lake has 20 private campsites surrounded by woods. Go here to view one of the geological wonders of the world, the Carolina Bays. These indents in the Earth have perplexed many geologists, like one who said they were “without doubt one of the most remarkable geomorphic features on the surface of the earth.”
Only four campsites exist on this wild stretch of the Outer Banks, so a camping trip here feels like stepping back to the beginning of time. You can avoid seeing another soul in this remote location. Renting jeeps is the most popular activity to explore the 70 miles of pristine coastline. Plus, the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – the second tallest in the world of its kind – and cars allowed on the beach make everything about this location extra special.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Nags Head, NC, USA +1 252 473 2111
Like Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout is one of only 10 protection historic seashores in America. These remote beaches have zero amenities, so be prepared to bring everything you need for your stay, including water. Fires must be kept below the water line, but the extra effort is worth the serenity. Plus, water temperatures here can get especially warm, up to 80 degrees in the summer, making this quite a magical place to swim even when the sun goes down.
Go here for great fishing and to see the unique Venus flytrap as you camp underneath huge trees in this 761-acre park. Six miles of sandy hiking trails lead to 83 camping sites, while on-site hot showers and drinking water make this an easy adventure. Plus, Wilmington is only 13 miles away, with plenty of breweries, restaurants and activities if you need a break from tent life.