Camping at Cape Cod National Seashore sounds enticing to people familiar with the beauty of the popular Massachusetts vacation destination. But is it actually possible to camp within the National Seashore?
The short answer is… yes, but only if you’re very dedicated and willing to sleep in your vehicle in July or August.
Beach vehicle camping at Cape Cod
Cape Cod National Seashore does not contain any traditional tent campgrounds, although there are a few located nearby (scroll down for more.) But if you’re dead set on camping within the National Seashore boundary, there is a way.
As noted on the seashore’s official National Park Service page, visitors can drive off-road vehicles along the beach in designated areas. And if you’re very ambitious, you can apply for a permit to camp overnight – in your vehicle – along the shore.
You’ll have to jump through some hoops. Get your off-road permit for the seashore by presenting a driver’s license and registration, viewing an orientation film, and paying a fee. Fill out the registration PDF here.
The off-road vehicle corridor is open to vehicles from April 15 to November 15, but beach vehicle camping is only available from July 1 to Labor Day, so you’ll have a narrow window in which to do your camping. Also note, tents and camping trailers are prohibited – you must have a standard vehicle and sleep inside it.
Campgrounds near Cape Cod National Seashore
If all of that sounds like too much of a hassle, don’t worry. You can still go camping at Cape Cod, just not within the National Seashore area. Here’s a quick list of places in Cape Cod in which you can drive up, pitch a tent, and spend the night.
Nickerson State Park – One good camping option around Cape Cod is Nickerson State Park, which boasts more than 400 sites. Basic price (starting at $22) does not include the vehicle fee of $10 ($8 if you’re from Massachusetts.) The downsides? Most of the camping is primitive, and it can get crowded, so make your booking well in advance.
Scusset Beach State Reservation – This state-run beach at the east end of Cape Cod Canal will reopen on July 1, 2015 following a series of upgrades. Expect to pay at least $34 per site, and the daily parking fee is $14. Both tent and RV sites are available.
Paine’s Campground – This private campground has designated areas for families with kids and for couples who want a private camping experience, plus trailer sites and hike-in tent sites. Water and electric hookups are available at some sites. During peak season (after June 26), the nightly rate is $45 for up to two people.
North of Highland Camping Area – If you want to camp near the tip of Cape Cod, this one in North Truro is surrounded by the National Seashore. It’s also very close to the beach. As of summer 2015, the nightly camping rate is $40 for one or two people in one vehicle.
Shady Knoll – This one in Brewster is a little further south than the others, but the tradeoff comes in the form of comfort, with free wifi, hot showers, and a laundry area. They even advertise the fact that there’s a liquor store right across from the campground. Rates range from $27 to $57 depending on time of year and amenities required.