5 Family-Friendly N.C. State Parks & Campgrounds

Clne Canoes

Did you know North Carolina is home to 34 state parks?

Beat the heat this summer and cool off at a family campsite near a body of water.

Whether you like boating, paddling, surfing, swimming, fishing, or simply a great campsite view, mixing some H2O into your family’s next weekend excursion is easy with such a large variety of N.C. State Parks.


5 N.C. Campgrounds Near Bodies of Water to Explore This Summer

From the coast to the mountains, here are five favorite N.C. State Parks for waterfront fun.

Note: Exploring North Carolina State Parks is exhilarating, but it can also be dangerous. Safety is just as important as having fun, so make sure to check out these water safety tips before packing up for the weekend.


1. Falls Lake State Recreation Area

Wake Forest, N.C.

Falls Lake Raleigh

Have you been to this gem in Durham and Wake Counties? Rent kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards to enjoy Falls Lake, or simply go swimming.

There are more than 300 campsites at Falls Lake State Recreation Area and land-based activities, too: have young adventurers try the Kids TRACK Trail, an easy 1.2-mile roundtrip hike along the Beaverdam Lake.

This state park would make a great quick trip for newbie campers.


2. Carolina Beach State Park

Carolina Beach, N.C.

Carolina Beach Stat Epark

Only two-and-a-half hours from Raleigh and 10 miles south of Wilmington, Carolina Beach State Park offers a unique beach camping vacation your kids will remember forever.

With 83 camping sites, not only does this park offer plenty of space, but you can also swim in your choice of saltwater or freshwater. Hike, fish, or simply enjoy the coastal nature here.


3. Cliffs of the Neuse State Park

Seven Springs, N.C.

Clne Canoes

Love an overlook? Camp 90 feet above the Neuse River on colorful bluffs made of sand, clay, seashells, shale, and gravel.

Cliffs of the Neuse State Park—located about an hour and a half from the Triangle—has a 32-site family campground.

The neighboring 11-acre lake offers recreational fun on the water plus a grass-covered lawn and sandy beach and diving platform. There are a bathhouse and rental boats available and expansive picnic grounds nearby as well.


4. Lake James State Park

Nebo, N.C.

Lake James

Located in Western N.C. about 35 miles from Asheville, Lake James State Park boasts some of the best camping in the state.

With 25 miles of trails (including the kid-friendly Holly Discovery Trail) plenty of camping space, and a 6,812-acre lake, Lake James State Park has it all for a fun family weekend.

Go fishing, swimming, and boating—you’ll always be able to cool off at Lake James!

5. Merchants Millpond State Park

Gatesville, N.C.

Merchants Millpond

Don’t like to swim but could go canoeing or kayaking? The scenic and adventurous Merchants Millpond State Park is the place for you!

Located just 10 minutes from the North Carolina-Virginia border in Gates County, N.C., this park is in North Carolina’s coastal plain, covering 3,520 acres around a 200-year-old, 700-acre millpond and swamp.

One of the most unique places in the state, Merchants Millpond has an “enchanted forest” feel with Spanish moss on old Cypress. There are plenty of family campsites here that are dog-friendly, too.


There are so many more beautiful parks to explore in North Carolina—these are just a few handpicked campsites that will help you beat the summer heat with some H2O!


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