Camping and Glamping
The Great Outdoors Summon Those Seeking Bucolic Vacation Adventure
By Karen Gardner
While beach resorts and theme parks will remain popular vacation destinations this summer, many Americans will opt for the simple pleasures of the great outdoors, albeit with a dash of comfort thrown in.“Camping is crazy hot right now,” says Deb Carter, president of the Maryland Association of Campgrounds.
Camping, whether by tent, cabin or RV, came into its own in the 20th century when Americans took to the open road to accommodate outdoor living.
Camping surged after 9/11 when many felt the outdoors offered safety, Carter says. More than two decades later, people were again beckoned outdoors after the COVID-19 sheltering restrictions. “People felt trapped in their homes,” Carter says.
Campers who don’t want to venture too far from home can find a variety of campgrounds right here in Maryland. In less than a two-hour drive, you can find a campground on a beach, in a wooded setting or amid remote mountains. They range from tranquil and rustic to active and full of amenities. Some private campgrounds offer resort-style features like waterslides, miniature golf, pickleball courts, putting greens, gem mining, ropes courses and boat rentals.
But the outcome is often the same: “Seventy-five percent of campers say it reduces stress and contributes to their emotional wellbeing,” says Whitney Scott, chief marketing officer for Kampgrounds of America.
RUSTIC OR LUXURIOUS?
“Some people want it rustic, and other people would just as soon have room service,” she says. Carter is CEO of Buttonwood Beach RV Resort, located on the upper Eastern Shore along the Chesapeake Bay between Chestertown and Elkton. Buttonwood Beach is a gated property surrounded by water on three sides. Amenities range from bald eagle watching to jet ski rentals.
There are no tent sites at Buttonwood Beach, nor are there daily sites. Instead, Buttonwood Beach offers condo-style RV camping, where people rent a space for the summer for a flat fee and treat the site like it’s a vacation home at the beach. “In the last couple of years, it has been crazy,” Carter says.
“We have 537 sites, but it’s more like 537 hotel rooms,” she says. Many of the RVs have attached-screen porches, custom-designed decks, utility sheds and golf carts. Rentals are typically years-long leases and turnover is rare. Newcomers can get a taste by renting one of the sites, RV and all, for a short-term stay.
“It’s hot and popular,” Carter says of the condo-style camping. Then there is glamping, like that offered by Treehouse Camp at Maple Tree Campground in Rohrersville, where you can stay in a treehouse or a cabin, some with electricity and heat. You can also try glamping at luxury cabins closer to home at Ole Mink Farm near Thurmont.
Many private campgrounds in Maryland offer a mix of overnight sites available for weekday, weekend and weeklong stays and seasonal sites that are rented for a full season, usually from spring to fall.
Ramblin’ Pines Campground in Woodbine is one such destination. Just a half-hour drive from Frederick, Ramblin’ Pines offers drive-in overnight RV sites, tent camping, long-term seasonal camping and even some short-term cottage rentals.
“We have a lot of family things to do,” says manager Dan Bruce. Amenities include miniature golf, basketball, horseshoes, volleyball, shuffleboard, catch-and-release fishing and an arcade/game room.
The campground sits on 64 acres and has 197 camp/cabin sites, many of them shaded by tall trees. Hiking trails abound for those who want more nature-based fun. There are also several cabins, complete with electric, for those who aren’t quite ready to try camping but want to explore getting back to nature. While pets are welcome in the camping area, they are not allowed in the cabins.
And while campfires are not required, they are certainly encouraged. Marshmallow roasts are optional, of course.
While nearly all campgrounds have quiet hours at night, some have less hubbub than others. Bay Shore Campground, in Rock Hall, is located along the Chesapeake Bay and accommodates campers from those with small caravans to large motor home and fifth-wheel campers. Rather than a swimming pool and miniature golf, Bay Shore’s amenities include breathtaking sunsets and manicured gardens.
“We consider this a campground where country meets bay,” says Meagan Wick, who owns the campground with her husband, Fred. “You have sweeping views of the Chesapeake Bay and incredible sunsets, but I don’t do putt-putt golf,” she says. “My campground is tranquil.” Tall trees surround mulched flower beds.
“People come here to relax,” she says. “We tend to attract campers who are 45 and older, empty nesters, who are more about connecting back to nature and who want to be in a clean, beautiful space.” Nonetheless, there is a children’s playground.
The couple bought the campground 20 years ago, refurbished it and marketed it to RV owners looking for a destination campground surrounded by nature. Three miles away is the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, which features hiking trails and birding. Campers can go on fishing excursions in nearby Rock Hall. They can launch boats or sea kayaks from the campground boat ramp.
The campground offers overnight and seasonal camping spots, including some waterfront spots, although there is a waiting list for seasonals. Bay Shore is open year-round. There is a small beach and two ponds where you can practice catch-and-release fishing. All campsites come with campfire pits.
For those who want to go to the mountains, there are options, including the Double G RV Park near Deep Creek Lake and Ridge Rider Campground in Little Orleans. Just outside New Germany State Park in Grantsville is Sleepy Hollow Campground. Family-owned since the 1960s, Angie Shunk and her wife, Stacey, took over the campground from Angie’s grandparents in 2018.
Shunk, a career Air Force retiree, and her wife were avid campers and decided to renovate the campground and update the electricity at the RV spots. Currently, there are about 20 sites for tent and RV campers. “It’s people trying to get out of the city to enjoy the outdoors,” she says. Campers come from Hagerstown, Frederick, and the Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Pittsburgh metro areas.
There are also two A-frame cabins for folks wanting to try camping but are not ready to buy an RV. Air conditioning and heat are provided. “It’s a step up from a tent,” Shunk says. Some of the RV sites are pull-through and accommodate larger vehicles. Pets are permitted in the campground.
Surrounding the campground are miles of hiking trails. The campground opens at the end of March and remains open through December to accommodate hunters. Shunk says her goal is to eventually expand to 40 sites, 20 for RVs and 20 for tent campers. “I want people to experience this area,” she says.
Many Maryland state parks offer camping. Most state park campgrounds accommodate tent and RV campers. RV sites are equipped with electric, and all state park campgrounds have bathhouses with flush toilets, hot showers and electrical outlets. Most state park campgrounds allow pets in specific loops. Alcoholic beverages are only allowed inside RVs. They typically have campfire programs and other organized, family-friendly activities.
Carter, the campground association president, says her organization works with Maryland’s state parks to make sure that campers are happy with their surroundings, no matter what location they select, private or public.
“The state parks and private campgrounds have one of the best working relationships in the country,” she says.