off the radar: 9 global campsites you’ve never heard of
These sites may be off the radar, but adventurous campers will put them on their bucket list.
Note: Rates change according to season, accommodation and other variables. Unless otherwise indicated, pricing is mostly in USD. Contact site for details, including the parks’ months of operation.
1. Abbot Park Farm Campsite, Lake District National Park, Cumbria, UK
With fat sheep roaming the meadows, Abbot Park Farm epitomizes pastoral British countryside. Stay in a tent (at affordable prices) or reserve a charming barn (from £72/night, two-night minimum) with beds, kitchens and bathrooms. Yes, there’s a chance of rain. So keep calm and make s’mores. Find out if Abbot Park Farm Campsite is right for you, lords and ladies.
2. New Zealand
New Zealand’s “free camp” system means you’re welcome to camp on certain public lands at no cost. (Exceptions: privately owned land or ‘no camping zones.’) As long as you follow environmental rules, and check for clearance on Camping Our Way, the “land of the long white cloud” awaits. Get more info on camping in New Zealand, including the “Free Camp” System.
3. Berber Desert Camping, Sahara Desert, Morocco
Desert dreams? Tour company Wild Morocco delivers pinch-me Saharan packages, like a three-day guided tour for about $385/person: Crossing the Sahara by 4x4 and camel (yes, with the humps), you’ll see the High Atlas Mountains, Draa Valley and more. When you arrive at camp in the Erg Chigaga, or “sand sea,” you’ll sleep in Berber tents, with singing around a campfire. Look into tours with Wild Morocco.
4. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, U.S.
Cross Lake Superior to the remote Isle Royale ($4/person daily; children <11 free), one of the best-kept camping secrets in North America. Three-sided shelters are scattered across 36 designated campgrounds, whose only luxuries are pit toilets and picnic tables. Ideal for those who aren’t afraid of roughing it (or afraid of wolves), you can explore this rugged terrain by foot, scuba or kayak. See if you have what it takes to rough it in Isle Royale National Park.
5. Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, U.S.
Early Spanish explorers discovered and named Palo Duro (“hard stick”) to honor its abundant hardwood mesquite trees. Palo Duro Canyon ($5 entrance; children <12 free)―said to be second in size only to the Grand Canyon―is surrounded by scenic red rocks through which you can hike or bike. Stay in tents or historic “Cow Camp Cabins” built during the Great Depression. Read up on Palo Duro Canyon.
6. Miyajima Tsutsumigaura Camp-jo, Itsukushima Island, Japan
Campers do love a bargain, like the free entertainment (impish deer) and cheap shelter (tent rentals: ~$23/night) you’ll enjoy here. But the Itsukushima Shrine, dating to 593 AD, is quite the bonus. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its “floating” red torii gate, is 10 minutes away. And get this: You can have the Shinto shrine practically all to yourself at night, when less hearty tourists retire to their hotels. Learn about Miyajima Tsutsumigaura Camp-jo.
7. Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Africa
There are camping trips. And then there are camping trips of a lifetime. An African Safari? That would be the latter. Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve owes its name to the Maasai tribe that lives here, along with the “Big Six”: lions, leopards, buffalos, rhinos, elephants and whales. Oh, to get a glimpse! MaasaiMara.com lists packages from budget to luxury.
8. Garden Key Campground, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, U.S.
Accessible by boat or seaplane, these seven coral reef islands boast bring-your-binoculars wildlife, including 300 bird species. Just as diverse are the activities: snorkeling, boating, diving, fishing and more. The star attraction is Fort Jefferson, a castle-like coastal fortress built between 1845 and 1876, complete with moat. No-frills camping is near the fort, so you’ll dream of pirate plunder. Entrance: $10/person/week (<16 free); camping: $15/person/night. Find out what Garden Key Campground is all about.
9. Chéticamp Campground, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia, Canada
This woodsy spot near the Chéticamp River offers endless activities: night hikes, golf, the global treasure hunt known as geocaching and whale watching. Pitch your tent on a site with electricity and water, or without (~$39 or ~$26/night). Or try an oTENTik (~$100/night). An oTENT-what? An oTENTik―a tent and cabin in one―is more comfortable than your typical camping shelter. Plus, it’s more fun to say. Take a look at Chéticamp Campground in Cape Breton Highlands.