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The 24 hour campground park ranger stays on the first site of the right side entrance. There is a oyster fishery nearby. You can gather your own wood as there are nearby paths to gather large and small wood. The cost is $10 per site and one site has a double pad for $20 a night. It is quiet and enjoyable. The nearby beach is Atlantic beach as 20 minutes and your at the beach. The campsiye is on the Pamlico sound Pamlico river. The driveway is a small dirt road and can be easily missed so slow down when entering. We used a 6 person tent that had adequate space even with a dodge caravan to park in our space.
This site is conveniently close to many beach attractions. To compare it to the local RV sites it so great in the aspect you are not on top of each other. The site itself for it being on “national park/forest land,” is “ok.” But in comparison to other national parks or federal land, it is barely a 3 star. It struggle in cleanliness and upkeep. The facilities are at best an “ehhh it’s food enough.” There are nice people here though that are making an honest effort, and who can argue with this places excellent location?
We stayed at site 14, which is on the other side of the island and is only accessible on a boat. We kayaked from the park office and boat launch. The route was difficult for me, the tide was coming in plus a strong wind, it took us about an hour to get to the island. The site itself was perfect, much better than the rest as much as we could see as we looked around. It's located in the woods with a nice shady clearing, its own very private little beach. We kayaked to the beach and walked around to see the ferry dock.
Make sure you know the tide schedule. The water levels are changing pretty dramatically during the day.
We also experienced a lot of mosquitoes during the night on the island, but it probably depends on the weather.
The fires are not allowed on the island, which requires some thoughts around cooking and reheating food.
Overall I would say it was a very unique experience.
There are several different camping locations available throughout the base, all of which are free but must be reserved ahead of time. Base access required! They are all on the water, very peaceful. Many if the ponds are stocked for fishing. No hookups, but some sites do have a bathroom. No”hiking” trails around the campsites but lots of areas to walk and explore!
Camping on Portsmouth Island is about as off-the-grid as I’ve ever been! We went in early October and had the beach to ourself, as far as the eye could see. The (abandoned) Village of Portsmouth is a must see! Bring lots of bug spray… the mosquitos are relentless!
There are a few nice convenient trails around the Recreation area. The water views are peaceful and beautiful! A fair chunk of the trail is still closed from hurricane Florence damage, as is the beach access. It’s all currently closed now due to COVID-19… hopefully that will change soon!