Summer is almost here and thus camping season has begun. I grew up thinking of camping as either hiking on trails or car camping. But since moving to Boston I've learned that there is also bike camping, ferry camping and train camping. Though I haven't made the time to go on all of the camping trips I've wanted, I have found the time to compile a list of camping destinations near Boston.
Boston Harbor Islands (DCR & NPS)
The closest and most iconic Boston camping destination, and possibly even the easiest. There are three different islands you could camp on, ranging from old forts to secluded wilderness. Peddocks Island will soon be offering tent and yurt camping too. The islands are beautiful, with unique views of Boston, and often a lot of rabbits. For being so close to the city, they are also very remote, no water or electricity, and you can only get there by ferry, water taxi or private boat.
To go, pack light or pack in a rolling device and take the T to the Aquarium stop. The ferry dock is adjacent to the Christopher Columbus Park (not next to the aquarium). The ferry goes to George's Island (no camping) where you catch a second ferry to your particular island. You will need to be able to carry all your stuff in one trip to get on and off the ferries. Of particular note due to its remote nature, campers have to bring your own water, and carry of all of their trash.
Wompatuck State Park is on the South Shore and I don't know much about it, however it is large and I understand it has many good bike trails & roads. There is also the adjacent Weir River Farm and Whitney Thayer Woods, not to mention the nearby Worlds End Reservation; all are places I've been wanting to visit and haven't. It might be a great bike camp destination by taking the ferry from the Acquarium dock to Hingham and cycling the six miles to the campground, or take the train from South Station to Nantasket Junction for a four mile ride.
Ponkapoag Camp (AMC)
The AMC is well known for their White Mountain lodges and camps, but they are based in Boston and have a camp in our own backyard Blue Hills. It is very much geared to families. Reservations are focused towards week long stays, though I believe you can reserve a weekend. They have both tent areas and cabins. And for the parent that can't take the full week off, it is close enough to the city where you could still commute. It probably isn't best to cycle there, but a combination of the red line and Bus #240, and three mile walk on trails through the Blue Hills.
Camp Acton (Town of Acton)
Off of Acton's Pope Rd across from a few farms is a dirt road that ascends to a trail leading to a dozen distantly separated campsite in a small forest of large pine trees. This is a secluded place to legally camp that few know about. It is a great destination for bike camping, it is only 20 miles from the city, much of which is on the Minuteman Bikeway and the Reformatory Branch Trail. The trail is also wide enough to easily bring your loaded bike into the campsite. It is also right on the Bay Circuit Trail and one could easily walk with a pack the four miles from the Concord train station
Harold Parker State Forest (DCR)
On the border of Andover and North Reading is this large state forest with a campground. It has mostly wooded with many lakes and walking trails. It is also 20 miles from the city, however the route is on busier streets. It is also on the Bay Circuit Trail and can be reached by foot from either the Ballardvale or Andover train stations with a 6 mile walk.
Winter Island (City of Salem)
A city beach and campground on the northeast tip of Salem. I know next to nothing about this destination, though Salem is a fun city to visit, with many museums, a nice downtown and a set of bike paths that go to the nearby quaint village and New Englang sailing mecca, Marblehead. Winter Island is also 20 miles from the city, though the roads in this direction are particularly unfriendly to cyclists (at least while the Northern Strand is not yet complete). Taking the Salem Ferry LINK or the train to the Salem station would be a good alternative with or without a bike.
Maine, and further, including Salisbury Beach, shown above. The following map collects many, and hopefully more as I learn them.
View Bike Camping Nearby in a larger map