Top Ten Tent Camping in the Carolinas

Frisco Campground: Frisco, NC

Frisco Campground offers some phenomenal oceanside scenery. Located in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the campground is overlain on a series of dunes so hilly you might think you were in the mountains of North Carolina instead of the beach. OK, that is an exaggeration. However, oceanside topography doesn't get much more vertical than this in the Tar Heel State. Beach activities such as surf fishing, beachcombing, kayaking, and visiting lighthouses are on the agenda. Or maybe the agenda is to just sit by the Atlantic Ocean and listen to the waves roll in.

But make no mistake about it; this oceanside environment is harsh and unforgiving. That is what delivers the stark beauty that is the Outer Banks—a relentless ocean pounding against the sand, rolling dunes where sea oats cling to life, wind sculpted trees growing in dune swales, a strong sun beating down on the very openness that are the banks. The campground reflects this stark beauty. The sites themselves are appealing, but they are exposed to wind, sun, and mosquitoes.

The campground is laid out in a big loop with six roads crossing the loop. The loop is overlain a series of dunes, ever increasing in height as you head away from the ocean. The ocean runs parallel to the campground and is about 150 yards distant. Scattered cedars, oaks, and pines mostly grow brushy, looking nothing like you would see on the mainland. The wind keeps these trees from growing straight and tall. The trees are most stunted, if they can grow there at all, on the tops of dunes. In the swales, where the wind is less, the trees more resemble their inland cousins. But trees that grow over a person's head are few. Nevertheless, campsites with even a modicum of shade will be snapped up. Most sites are completely in the open, cutting campsite privacy to a minimum.

As the main loop curves around, pass some pine trees in the low area between the campground and the beach, which is accessed by two boardwalks. The road rises remarkably high, maybe a couple of hundred feet. These sites on the back of the loop begin to overlook the ocean, and offer stunning panoramas. Just like any site here, it has its pluses and minuses. The open sites will have the wind, which cuts down on mosquitoes, but if the wind is cold, then the openness is a negative. If the sun is blaring down, as it often is, then the lack of shade can be wearing. Bringing a screen shelter can eliminate both the sun and bug problems. Many sites are small, so you will have to be flexible in setting up your site. I stayed in site P 56 and enjoyed the afternoon shade, but the mosquitoes were a bit troublesome.

Campers usually end up finding a site to suit them. Do some driving around in the campground once you get here. No matter your location in this large campground, a bathhouse and water spigot are close by. Frisco will fill on major holidays and a few other assorted perfect weather weekends in summer. Otherwise, you should be able to get a campsite.

Four-wheel-drive vehicles can access the beach at many areas of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. These access points are referred to as "ramps," and one of these ramps is located adjacent to the campground. Most campers just use the boardwalks to reach the beach by foot. In either case, you have miles of shoreline to enjoy, whether you are surf casting or surfing with a board. A fishing pier is just west of the campground, as is a designated swim beach with a bathhouse.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is just a short drive away. It made the news some years ago when it was moved to keep it from falling into the shifting sea. You can climb this lighthouse and get a grand view, or walk the nearby Buxton Woods Trail, which is operated in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy. Supplies can be had in the village of Frisco, which is conveniently just a mile from the campground. And after staying a night or two, a mile may be all you will want to get away from here.

Key Information

Address: Frisco Campground, Route 1, Box 675, Manteo, NC 27954; (252) 473-2111;

Open: Friday of Easter weekend through mid-October

Sites: 127

Assignment: First come, first served; no reservations

Fee: $18 per night

Elevation: 50 feet


Pets: On leash only

Fires: In upright grills only, below high tide line on beach

Alcohol: At campsites only

Vehicles: Two per site

Other: All vehicles must be on paved parking surface

Getting There

From the intersection of US 64/264 and US 158 just south of Nags Head, drive south on NC 12 for 60 miles to the hamlet of Frisco. Turn left on Billy Mitchell Road and follow it for 1 mile to reach the campground.


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