Most people are surprised to learn that you can go camping in NYC. Yes, I’m talking the real deal – pitching a tent, going on natures walks or hikes and roasting s’mores over an open campfire.
Perhaps you are on a mission to visit the best waterfalls in New York AND explore the city on a budget so you’re keen on saving money on a hotel room.
Or maybe the idea of camping in the middle of a belching, seething and busy metropolis is an item on your bucket list.
Whatever drives you to getting in touch with nature and not having to shower for a couple days; the good news is that you can sleep, safely and legally, under the stars in New York City.
And you will not have to occupy any part of Wall Street while doing it!
So pull up a chair and grab your favorite cup of joe. We’ve rounded up some of the best places for camping in NYC for you.
Free Camping in NYC Parks
Occasionally, the New York City Parks Department holds overnights in local green places like Prospect Park and Central Park.
The best news is that the campouts are free, and they include ranger-led night hikes with a dinner at the end.
Unfortunately, with only 30 tent sites available, they are awarded via a lottery so you’ll have to be pretty lucky to win.
Good news for beginner campers though, the rangers bring just about everything you require for a night al fresco, including a tent!
This annual program starts around Memorial Day, but you need to register early.
Camping at Gateway
One of the things you should definitely do for your NYC camping adventure is reserve one of the tent sites at Gateway National Recreation Area.
Just minutes from New York City, this park has everything you need for your next camping trip.
The area is a 26,000-acre paradise with waterways and parks spreading across Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn and Monmouth County, New Jersey.
Camping at the Gateway is an exhilarating experience with each of the 3 different locations offering you its own assets.
There are so many things that you could do with your family while when camping with kids. Explore the park’s beautiful trails or go fishing in Jamaica Bay.
If you value your privacy, you will love staying at Sandy Hook.
Sandy Hook is a peninsula of northern New Jersey, located on the coast. While it’s technically in New Jersey (but still part Gateway National Recreation Center), the 20 secluded sites are all within a short distance from the area’s most-loved beaches.
There is even a clothing-optional beach, Gunnison – if you’re into something like that!
It has been home to military bases and weapons testing facilities throughout its history.
Sandy Hook offers visitors several recreational opportunities including swimming, biking and kayaking as well as historical tours with living demonstrations that tell stories from Fort Hancock’s past during World War II and the Cold War.
The area also offers fishing, bird watching and scenic views of New York City across the Hudson River.
The Sandy Hook lighthouse has been in service since 1764 when it was built before America won its independence from Britain! This make it the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States.
If you’d like to camp out with a view of Brooklyn and Coney Island, you have a choice of three campsites right at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island.
It is an old military complex that also happens to have showers – but, beware, they’re really cold!
The fort is also close to an overlook under Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which offers you fantastic views of Manhattan and the New York Harbor.
Floyd Bennett Field
Brooklyn borough has something to offer you, also part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
Floyd Bennett Field belongs to the U.S National Park Service and is one of the federally protected campgrounds in the Big Apple.
Sometimes called Camp Gateway, this park is home to 32 tent sites, a retired airfield and 9 RV parking sites. A vintage Boeing C97 from the 1950s peacefully rests not far from the camp store.
Floyd Bennett Field is probably the cheapest accommodation you can find in New York and is a great place to start exploring some of NYC’s iconic sites, including the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center Memorial and the Statue of Liberty.
Swim and kayak in the morning at the Riis Beach, catch a bus and head into Manhattan and finally, settle down to roasted marshmallows over a campfire!
While Floyd Bennett is not a lush campground surrounded by vast wilderness, the tents are grouped around open green space closed off by trees.
Take a walk on a Saturday afternoon, and you’ll likely catch the smell of kebabs smoking on woodfire grills as kids toss Frisbees.
You will not see many stars in the night sky, but you’ll hear the sound of planes since the busy JFK International Airport is just 11 miles away.