If a last-minute vacation plan is what you’re after, it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, a spontaneous family adventure can be as easy as reserving a campsite near Boston at one of our favorite spots. Each has reservations available in the coming weeks, and each is less than two hours from the city. So roll up your sleeping bags and put some extra tent stakes in your pack, there’s still time to take the kids camping this summer.

Shawme-Crowell State Forest | Sandwich, MA

Camping at a popular spot, especially this one on Cape Cod, is a great choice for first-timers or families with toddlers in tow. With over 280 wooded camping sites, a nature center and an on-site playground, kids can explore nature without leaving too many of their city faves behind. Hiking trails abound on the property and the nearby Heritage Museum & Gardens is worth a trip. Although the famous Looff carousel remains closed, Hidden Hollow is always is hit.

Cost: $17/night; $45/night, small yurts; $55/night, large yurt. All prices for Massachusetts residents.

42 Main St.
Sandwich, MA
Online: mass.gov/locations/shawme-crowell-state-forest

Wolfe’s Neck Oceanfront Camping | Freeport, ME

Hit the forest, farm and sea trifecta when you make a reservation to camp at this popular Maine destination. Set on 626 acres of oceanfront farmland, with over 130 campsites, it's easy to leave the city far behind here. The demonstration farm is a big draw for visitors. It's a chance for kids to interact with farmyard animals, harvest eggs and view the milking parlor. And farmyard storytime is a summer staple on the activity schedule. But beyond the barnyard basics, families can also rent bikes and kayaks, explore tidepools, hike and fish. Plus, the onsite Farm Cafe, cooking food sourced straight from the fields, means you don't have to do all the cooking on your trip.

134 Burnett Rd.
Freeport, ME
Online: freeportcamping.com

Horseneck Beach State Reservation | Westport, MA

Head south to Buzzards Bay to take advantage of this campsite that puts water play at the center of your summer activities. With two miles of sandy beach, sandcastle building, swimming and beach lounging is what this camping trip is all about. But it's also a great spot to watch birds, bike and play on the playground if you need a change of pace. The camping season runs through Columbus Day in early October. 

Cost: $22/night, residents; $70/night, non-residents; $13/day for parking

5 John Reed Rd.
Westport, MA
Online: mass.gov/locations/horseneck-beach-state-reservation

Townshend State Park | Townshend, VT

Nestled at the foot of Bald Mountain, this rustic campsite is ideal for families who want to unplug. On the smaller side, the campground has 30 tent sites and a a few lean-tos, for families looking to try something new this summer. Hiking the 3.4 mile trail to the top of Bald Mountain during your stay. It leads to spectacular views and heart-felt high-fives for kids who make it to the top. And feel free to bring your pooches to this wilderness outpost. They can stay for an extra dollar per night. 

Cost: $19/night; add $2/night for non-residents

2755 State Forest Rd.
Townshend, VT
Online: vtstateparks.com/townshend

Harold Parker State Forest | Andover, MA

If driving isn't your thing, but camping is, Harold Parker State Forest is a great choice. About an hour north of the city, this quintessential camping spot has something for everyone, including 35 miles of trails and 11 ponds. Pack your hiking boots, fishing poles and bikes when you head out. Then spend time swimming, fishing and biking around the property. Look for family-friendly programs that run all summer long and try your hand at any number of easy trails that take you around the campsite.

Good to know: The 34th annual family fishing festival on Sudden Pond is scheduled for Sept 11, 2021.

Cost: $17/night; $5/day for parking through Nov. Pricing is for Massachusetts residents.

133 Jenkins Rd.
Andover, MA
Online: mass.gov/locations/harold-parker-state-forest

Wells State Park | Sturbridge, MA

Not too far outside Worcester is Wells State Park, home of the cliffs of Carpenter Rocks. It's an ideal summer spot to pitch a tent or reserve a yurt if glamping is more your style. Mountain biking and swimming at Walker Pond (for campers only!) are big reasons to visit in the summer, so be sure to pack bikes and swimsuits alongside your sleeping bags. Because this is a popular park, families can expect ranger programming through September. Parking is $5 per day for residents.

159 Walker Pond Rd.
Sturbridge, MA
Reservations: 877-422-6762
Online: mass.gov/locations/wells-state-park

photo: iStock

Devil’s Hopyard State Park | East Haddam, CT

Reserve a spot at this oddly named campsite and your kids will have stories to tell when they head back to school. Whether it's about the fish they catch in the stream that runs through the campsite, or their thoughts on touring nearby Gilette Castle, this is one unforgettable camping spot. Nearby waterfalls set the perfect backdrop to sound sleep at night and although swimming isn't allowed, hiking and biking are. 

Good to know: Plan to bring your own water to this campsite.

Cost: $14/night, Connecticut residents; $24/night, non-Connecticut residents; no parking fees

366 Hopyard Rd.
East Haddam, CT
Online: portal.ct.gov/DEEP/State-Parks/Parks/Devils-Hopyard-State-Park

Pinewood Lodge | Plymouth, MA

Less than an hour from Boston, this campsite, set among 200 acres of white pine forest, brings a little glamp to your camp, even if you're pitching a tent. There are only seven tent sites to snag (most are RV spots), but if you can get one, it's well worth having the comforts of home nearby. The game room, snack shack, playground and lake (boat rentals available!) mean you don't have to go too far to find things to do. But if you do choose to venture out beyond the campgrounds, it's easy to enjoy all the sights and activities of nearby historical Plymouth

190 Pinewood Rd.
Plymouth, MA
Online: pinewoodlodge.com

photo: iStock

October Mountain State Forest | Lee, MA

Consider this your passport to the Birkshires this summer. October Mountain State Forest is the largest in Massachusetts, and beyond the hiking, canoeing and kayaking that make this a summer hot spot, it's also close to Tanglewood. Plan to check out a Boston Symphony Orchestra performance when you visit this summer. There are 46 campsites to choose from here, and everyone will enjoy hiking the Gorge Trail that leads past the Shermerhorn Gorge.

Cost: $17/night; $45/night, small yurts; $55/night, large yurt. $8/day, parking. All prices for Massachusetts residents.

317 Woodland Rd.
Lee, MA
Online: mass.gov/locations/october-mountain-state-forest

—Allison Sutcliffe


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