2018 was a big year for us! In seven months we’ve stayed in 25 U.S. states and have also ventured into Canada and Mexico. When you move as often as we do–on average about every 4 days–you end up setting up camp in a LOT of different places. We’ve stayed in National Parks, state parks, regional parks, privately-owned campgrounds and RV parks. We’ve boondocked and dry-camped from the middle of nowhere overlooking the Grand Tetons to vineyards/breweries; from a goat farm to a field next to a herd of bison. Here’s our list of our favorite destinations based on where we’ve been thus far in 2018:
Coastal Maine/Acadia National Park
We nearly had an epic fail when we got delayed in Florida and had to cancel our original reservations at Seawall Campground in Acadia National Park. If you’re hoping to camp in one of the three campgrounds in Acadia (especially during peak season) book well in advance! Also, prepare to not have any cell service or hook-ups. Acadia National Park is easily a place you could spend weeks exploring; in part because the same place you saw at high tide can look completely different at low tide.
The beaches of coastal Maine were everything we could have hoped for and more. Hours were spent hiking, climbing on rocks and playing in tide pools. Park Loop Road is a great day trip with stunning views. Research the best time of day to get to Thunder Hole (prepare to leave not being dry) and definitely make time for sunrise or sunset atop Cadillac Mountain. You can’t leave without spending an afternoon in Bar Harbor and eating a lobster–or at least a lobster roll (always with butter!) Our suggestion is grabbing one to-go from Downtown Deli and enjoying it with a view of the town pier and Frenchman Bay from Agamont Park.
Mountains + beaches + a really cool little downtown made the Burlington, Vermont area a surprise favorite on our list. If you’re down for some dry camping, we highly recommend Grand Isle State Park, about 30 minutes from downtown Burlington. We spent a couple of afternoons lounging at Sand Bar State Park; which has an awesome beach with a sandbar that seems like it goes on forever along with canoe/kayak rentals and a playground within easy walking distance of the water.
Downtown Burlington was like the Asheville, NC of the northeast. Take a stroll through Church Street Marketplace and you’ll find tons of cool shops and restaurants. Magic Hat Brewing Company and the original Ben & Jerry’s call Burlington home. While we didn’t visit, we also hear they have a pretty fantastic aquarium and science center.
Badlands National Park/Custer State Park/Black Hills, South Dakota
Badlands National Park was another place that took us by surprise. We made the assumption that everything would be rocky, barren and harsh. That definitely exists, but then you turn a corner and are met with miles of green or something full of color, mellow and soft. We found the Badlands absolutely fascinating. Also, if you visit during the summer, we highly recommend going to the Night Sky program that the park service puts on.
If you’re able, tack on a few extra days to explore Custer State Park and Black Hills. Aside from Yellowstone, some of our best wildlife experiences of this adventure were from Badlands and Custer. Take the drive on Needles Highway in the Black Hills–but double check your vehicle dimensions first! We were good with our F-350 but it was tight and a little scary! Also, if you love cheesy (but cool) tourist attractions, a trip to this area wouldn’t be complete with visiting Wall Drug.
Western Slope of Colorado
If we could move anywhere in the country, it would be to the western slope of Colorado. Granted, we didn’t visit in the winter–but we loved it so much that we would consider braving the cold. The views of the Rockies basically everywhere you go in this region are spectacular. We arrived just as the leaves were changing colors in the fall and I think we just walked around everywhere with our mouths wide open in complete awe.
If you’re fans of small mountain towns oozing with character, this region is chock full of them. Things are definitely slower paced out here than on the other side of the slope. Ridgway, Ouray, Telluride, Silverton–I’m sure there are more that we didn’t even discover. Take a ride on the Telluride Gondola and plan an afternoon to spend in this awesome ski town. Black Canyon of the Gunnison was a very cool National Park and perfect for just a day trip; the Painted Wall will blow your mind!
Zion National Park & Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
We visited all five National Parks in Utah and it took us a long time to decide on which ones were our favorites. Each one is so different and unique. In the end though, we decided that if we could only choose two to visit again, it would have to be Zion and Bryce Canyon. These two parks are also close enough that you could camp at an in-between spot and break up your days between the two without much of a hassle.
Depending on the time of year, Zion has a shuttle to help cut down on traffic in the park. We initially turned up our nose but it was actually pretty cool and helped us learn a ton of interesting history on our drive through the park. Bring your water shoes and walking sticks for The Narrows hike and check in advance for trail closures. (The famous Angel’s Landing hike had been closed for a while when we went.) Bryce Canyon must-sees include hiking the Amphitheater and getting down into the hoodoos (“hoodoo” became our new favorite word for weeks.)
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Outer Banks is hands-down our favorite beach destination in the US and this is why: it still feels untouched. Nothing is overly touristy; everything feels slow and laid back, like the perfect beach town should be and what you would expect being in the Carolinas. (We’ve been South Carolinians for the past decade and it’s part of what we love about living there.)
OBX is known for it’s watersports; so if you’re into kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing, parasailing, windsurfing or fishing you’ll never find yourself wondering what to do. You’ve got the soundside and the seaside of island; the soundside being calmer, more shallow water and where we ended up the majority of the time. OBX is long (about 130 miles) so when you’re deciding where to stay, do your research in advance to make sure you’re close to where you want to be and the things you want to see.
We suggest getting to the Northern Beaches to try and catch a glimpse of the wild horses, getting a kite from Kitty Hawk Kites, visiting at least one of the 4 historic lighthouses and renting a paddleboard or kayak and taking it to Canadian Hole for the afternoon.
City travel in a RV can be tough sometimes. Often times we’ve found that we can only find places to stay within our budget that are 45-60 minutes outside of the city (and that’s with good traffic). Austin touts a couple of RV parks that are RIGHT in the city. One of these is Pecan Grove RV Park; it’s a little pricey and can be really hard to get into (case in point, we waited too long to book and didn’t get in) but you’re within walking distance to so much that the city has to offer! We ended up at McKinney Falls State Park, which is also a highly popular spot with a tendency to be booked up pretty far in advance on weekends. We loved this place and were just 10 miles from downtown Austin.
If you are sans young kids or can snag a sitter during your time in Austin, ride the scooters! They are everywhere and we had a blast scooting around the city! If you’re a foodie, don’t miss Rainey Street. And if you find yourself needing something to do on a gloomy day, check out the Austin Central Library. It’s quite possible that you’ve never seen a library quite this cool before. There’s so much to see and do in Austin that I could go on forever–definitely don’t plan for a short stay here.