Lovely wooded campground where you can swim, hike, kayak, bike, canoe, fish, boulder, geocache and explore to your heart's content. Generally large and level sites, many with water access, Make your reservation well in advance if you're planning to visit during peak season or if you want a prime waterfront site. Sites on Horse Island will cost you $5 more than those on Big Island, but many of the sites are directly on the water, making it easy to slip your boat into the lake from your site. There's a campers only boat launch on Horse Island. Much of the lake is better suited to paddle craft rather than motor boats due to it's shallow nature and rocks. The an expansive beach as well, a camp store and boat rentals.
I've had a weekend when my neighbors were playing loud music all afternoon and stumbled drunk through my campsite after dark and other weekends when it was hard to tell there was anyone around.
Driving around this past weekend I did notice that some of the sites had damp spots; site 71 was the worst with deep mud on the long approach. Site 73 is near the bath house, but it has a long approach that provides a little privacy and it's higher than the surrounding sites with water access. Sites in the 3-15 range are waterfront, but they're higher off the water. Site 43-45 are great. Those along the southern edge of Horse Island offer a more level entry. Roads are narrow and many of the site entrances are narrow with rock/tree obstructions in places that may make backing in more of a challenge to thsoe with trailers or RVs. No hookups.
The bath houses are tired, but they offer free showers. Would love to see them renovated and brightened up. Big Island also has cabins available. Phone coverage is poor (Verizon); can usually get texts out. If you want to geocache, download the info for offline use!
If you are used to camping with pets, you'll need to visit outside of peak season as they are not allowed in the campground Memorial Day to Columbus Day and never on the beach.
It has a longer season than many campgrounds in New Hampshire, running to the end of October, and you can generally get a site last minute if you're waiting on the weather and don't need/want a water site. Its proximity to Boston makes it great for a quick getaway.
Cool spot, lots of hiking, bouldering, canoeing.
Have been a handful of times, never crowded.
Facilities are very clean. The staff are great. We book a site every year. The tent sites are large and well maintained.
About an 1 1/2 hours north of Boston and 40 minutes west of Hampton Beach lies Pawtuckaway State Park. Many of the reviews I perused before my visit balked at how busy the park was, and it was generally busy, but it was beautiful and turned out to be one of my favorite parks.
After you register its about a 1.5 mile drive before you hit the camping areas. The park isn’t completely isolated, but you get that sense that you’re headed out into the wilderness. You’re passing wetlands, trailheads; there are three separate camping areas- Horse Island, Neal’s Cove and Big Island. Each seems to have their own vibe and feel. The park also has a visitor’s beach, playground, store, plenty of boat access and modern bathroom facilities.
I had site 35 on Horse Island. Gorgeous. It’s a longer “driveway” to the site, but it’s like you’re tucked away in this secret hideout. It was decently sized and shaded, with a fire pit and picnic table. It was also right on the water (Pawtuckaway Lake). There was a small sandy access-you’re not supposed to swim anywhere besides the beach-but I didn’t notice anyone enforcing this. For future notice bring water shoes, but the swimming was amazing. So many other campers had their paddle boards and kayaks out-just such a nice amenity. I really lucked out.
Truly, there really wasn’t a bad site in the park-some are better and more private than others, but this is one of the more solid parks I’ve come across. After some exploring, I compiled a list of some other A-list sites; and while it is by no means exhaustive (ran out of time to explore everything) it could come in handy! As far as Horse Island goes, sites 1, 4 and 48 really knocked it out of the park. 7, 16 and 17 are also some pretty stellar options. If you’re looking for secluded, waterfront- these are excellent sites! On Big Island, my go-to sites would be: 90, 93, 95 and 122. 90-95 aren’t waterfront, but they’re incredibly shaded, private and genuinely seemed to have that in-the-wilderness feel. (at least those are my favorite qualities in a good camping spot!) 111 and 112 are also strong contenders. I didn’t get to explore much of Neal’s Cove, so I will be saving that for my next visit.
I definitely recommend this park-yes there are many campers, seems to be a popular place. But it’s well taken care of, offers a host of amenities and has many beautiful sites to choose from!
Great place to bring the kids to make many memories.
I used to bring my kids and all their friends to this campground and we had so much fun. From the beach to renting a boat, fishin, swimmin, riding our bike’s at night with flashlights taped to the handlebars. Just a really great family campground. It’s a large campground so expect some activity going on.
Home is the place in the world where we can just be. For me, this is home. Maybe it's because I was born and raised not so far away, and I've visited the park for years, marking my growth by the granite boulders dispersed throughout the park. Yet, even as a child, I was always drawn to Pawtuckaway, the still waters, the quiet sunset, the loons calling across the ripples in the lake, and the soft pine needles below bare feet.
Pawtuckaway is a great spot to set up camp in New England. It is a preserve for loons and dotted with islands where they nest. It is close enough to the White Mountains of NH and all they have to offer (Lost River, Flume Gorge, etc.), NH's seacoast and colonial Portsmouth, the seacoast of Southern Maine with its widow's walks and seafaring charm, and Boston with all of its heritage, history, and great food.
The campground and park offer several amenities, including a swimming beach, boat rentals, snack bar, playground, showers, and a small campstore where firewood and ice are sold. There is a grocery store, a laundromat, and a Dunkin' Donuts only a few minutes from the park. If you are not from New England, you may not understand the Dunkin' Donuts reference, but trust me, it's relevant. There are several shower houses, although hot water may be an issue--or maybe it was just getting in after a woman decided to stand under the shower for 40 minutes while others were waiting?
The camping is divided into three main areas: Horse Island, Big Island, and Neal's Cove. All offer lakefront campsites, and there is at least one remote, hike-in site on Big Island. The lakefront sites easily accommodate kayaks and canoes for instant access to the water. The campsites are all very spacious and fairly private.
When visiting, site selection is everything (as we discovered). We first ended up with an interior site. A handful of the sites on Big Island, and even in Neal's Cove may be lying next to a wet, muddy and wooded area--and # 97 was one of those. In the evening so many mosquitos swarmed our site that we couldn't stand outside long enough to cook (we didn't even dare to open our mouths). That was a Saturday night. On Sunday, campsites opened up that were otherwise available for the rest of our stay. We swapped our reservation to site number 6 on Horse Island. Our family picked up the still-pitched tent and marched it down the road with air mattresses hanging out of the back of our van. Site 6 was absolutely amazing (and there wasn't a single mosquito). The breeze from the lake and lack of standing water makes these sites ideal (not to mention, they are lakefront). Lesson learned: be weary of interior sites! Some of the interior sites are on high ground and quite fabulous, offering few mosquitos, but a few them are an absolute disaster.
Pawtuckaway State Park campground ranks extremely high on our list of favorite campgrounds. There are 192 sites in wooded areas; many have direct access to Pawtuckaway Lake. No hookups are available and there is not a dump station. There are old bathroom facilities with paid showers (paying mechanism is broken - donations are accepted).
The park includes a lake beach, fishing and boating opportunities, hiking trails, a marsh with wildlife sighting possibilities, and unique boulder fields containing glacial erratics (large boulders that were deposited when glacial ice melted).
After staying one night on the way to Maine we made a point to book another night on our return journey. It’s super beautiful and tranquil. However, the campground is very popular in high season and it is reported that the beach will fill to capacity early in the morning.
TIP: Stay in site 43 or 44 on Horse Head Island. They are both large private sites with direct lake access.
Great level campsites with lots of room. Picnic tables and fire pits at each site. There is a camp store with lots of goodies. It sells firewood, too. But there’s plenty to pick up in autumn.
Camped on the water at the height of leaf season. Each day was beautiful and peaceful. A great, relaxing getaway.
Showers and bathrooms are nice.
We spent a weekend in October camping here. We stayed in site 78 on Horse Island. We were caught off guard by how far we had to drive from the entrance into the park to reach out campsite, but that was great - far away from the road. The check in was easy and the desk staff very helpful. I wish we were given a little bit more information like a hiking map or information on things to do in the park. Horse Island was really nice. Some of the sites were right on the lake. Most were very generous in size. There are no hook ups. We didn't ask about a dump station and didn't see any signs for one. We knew there was a potable water spigot near our site so we filled our tank there before parking our pop up. Our site was quite large. The only draw back to it was that there wasn't much foliage between us and the site behind us. So it felt like we were constantly looking at them. But again, the site was large so it wasn't like we were on top of them. The restrooms were clean, but the one shower in each restroom was old and not well kept. We rode our bikes to the store and the beach and checked out some of the little islands connected by foot bridges. We also brought our kayak and took it out through the boat launch. You can also rent canoes and kayaks through the store. The store had coffee, drinks, gadgets, some food and snacks. It was pretty well stocked for being at the end of the season. There are ranger programs (it was the last weekend of the season for them while were there). We did ask for a hiking map, but unfortunately it didn't list distances on the hikes. But it appears that here are quite a few interesting hikes. It was a beautiful weekend and we really enjoyed camping at the park. I can only imagine its crazy busy during the summer, but I think we'll try to go back.
I camped here last year. The sites are level and roomy. The bathroom was clean. The walk to the beach was along a public parking lot. The beach was clean. The small store is well stocked. You can rent kayaks here. Lots of small people powered boats on the lake.