For many families, camping is a summer or fall ritual. For others, it’s an interesting (but maybe daunting) possibility. Truth is, camping is a wonderful way to explore the outdoors while spending serious quality time with your family—and you can do it all for much less money than you'd spend at a hotel or rental home. While Massachusetts is home to many great, simple campgrounds, some offer little extras that delight kids. Here’s a list of some of Massachusetts’ best campsites, each with a little something or two that's special.
Canoeing is just one activity while camping at the Ipswich River Sanctuary. Photo by the author
To the north, the Ipswich River Sanctuary in Topsfield is an absolute gem. The sanctuary's special camping opportunities for Audubon members are covered in our tent camping post, but it's worth another mention here because it's such a great experience for first-timers. Camping experiences include s'mores and treks into the natural surroundings of the sanctuary, either on the river or into the woods.
There's a playground, lawn games, and even frisbee golf—along with water fun—at Tully Lake. Photo courtesy of recreation.gov
Tent-only Tully Lake Campground is only 90 minutes from Boston, on a 200-acre lake formed by a dam in Royalston. Campers can rent canoes and kayaks for the lake and Tully River, or try their hand at mountain biking and hiking on the campground’s woodland trails. Tully Lake also offers numerous family activities, including horseshoes, volleyball, cornhole, and even disc (frisbee) golf. And a big boon for families wanting to bring their pets: Dogs are welcome. Be aware—this campground fills up very quickly, so make your reservations early.
The jumpy pillow is a hit at the Boston Cape Cod KOA. Photo courtesy of the campground
For families who don’t care to rough it, there’s the Boston/Cape Cod KOA in Middleboro. The Boston KOA offers tents and RV camping with new deluxe cabins that include a private queen bedroom, a bunk bed room, refrigerator, microwave, and private bath. Young campers will enjoy the campground’s pool, along with mini-golf, a jumping pillow, arts and crafts, an outdoor cinema, and all kinds of seasonal recreational activities. Kids don't complain about the sundae bar, either.
Bonfire on the beach at Peddock's Island. Photo by insaneydelaney via Instagram
For a really adventurous experience, try the Boston Harbor Islands. What's cooler than camping on an island you can get to on public transportation and ferry? Peddocks Island offers tent sites complete with picnic tables and grills (although be aware that it's a carry in, carry out park), and if you reserve early enough, you might be able to score one of the yurts, which sleep a family in style.
A gorgeous North Shore beach is right outside your tent at Salisbury Beach State Reservation. Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Office of Tourism
You want to camp at the beach, you say? Salisbury Beach State Reservation has nearly 500 campsites in more than 500 acres along a 3.8-mile stretch of beach. Salisbury offers concerts, boardwalk, carousel, and an arcade if the beach itself isn’t enough entertainment. While it’s not shady and secluded like many campgrounds, it is right on the beach. Between April and mid-September, pets are welcome at the campground but not on the beach.
Camp in comfort in a yurt at Pinewood Lodge. Photo courtesy of the lodge
Plymouth’s Pinewood Lodge is hidden beneath 200 shady acres of pine forest. With a 50-acre freshwater lake, the Lodge’s water activities abound: swimming, bass fishing, kayaking and canoeing are all available. With 300 sites at the campground, visitors can camp in a tent, RV, yurt, cabin or even a house. Pinewood Lodge also provides a store, on-site laundry, and even—wait for it—a cocktail lounge. And for families interested in some history with their camping, Plimoth Plantation is just 20 minutes away.
Top photo: Families congregate by the lake and playground at Pinewood Lodge. Photo courtesy of the lodge