The worst thing about living in New York City is the lack of nature. This can be a problem for locals as well as tourists. Some people love the city but also love the country. Leaving the city is a hassle because hardly anybody has a car. Those that do have a car, rarely drive it outside of the five boroughs. Ask a native New Yorker how often they go camping. The answer will almost always be zero or at most one time per year. However, there is a little known secret….even to most native New Yorkers! Camping in New York City is legal in two parts of the city. That’s right, you can sleep under the stars while being close to the subway and civilization!
Not only is it legal, it’s also safe! I’ve never had a bad experience at either of the two legal campgrounds in New York City. We lit campfires, hung out with strangers and grilled veggie burgers.
Both of the legal campgrounds are part of The Gateway National Recreation Area. One of the campgrounds is in Brooklyn while the other is on Staten Island. Let’s start with camping at Brooklyn’s one and only Floyd Bennett Field.
Camping in New York City – Floyd Bennett Field
Before I tell you how amazing it is, let’s jump right into the cost (subject to change):
$30 per night
$210.00 per week (7 nights)
$15.00 a night with the Senior or Access Pass
$105.00 a week (7 nights) with the Senior or Access Pass.
The night that my family went camping was fantastic! All of our neighbors were very respectful and nobody played loud music.
Something about nature brings people together. Everyone that we met preferred to have a conversation as opposed to being there for a party atmosphere.
The fact that the NYPD and Park Rangers are always nearby helping bring a sense of security. The park has a cute little store where you can buy last minute camping essentials. However, bring your own tent. They do not rent or sell tents. I personally recommend taking a bike ride to Far Rockaway beach. It’s beautiful and not a far bike ride.
There is even an events calendar with fireside chats and more.
More info (Subject to change):
- Size limits: Up to six people may camp at a single site. Larger families and groups will need to reserve multiple campsites. Sites are large enough for one large tent or two small tents.
- What to bring: You must bring your own tent (required at check-in) and sleeping bags. A pad underneath your sleeping bag may cushion you better for a good night’s sleep. You should also bring sunscreen and insect repellant.
- What NOT to bring: Glass containers, alcoholic beverages, pets (tent sites) and charcoal grills are not allowed in the campgrounds.
- Amenities: Each campsite features a picnic table, charcoal grill, and a fire ring. Restrooms and showers are nearby. An on-site Camp Store offers camping essentials such as firewood, coffee, water, and snacks.
- RVs (Recreational Vehicles): Nine campsites, all located in the Amelia Earhart section of the campground, are large enough to accommodate recreational vehicles (RVs). They do not have water, sewer or electrical hookups. Tent camping is not allowed in RV sites.
- Showers: Campground showers are open daily May to October, 9 am – 2 pm.
- Access to Public Transportation: The Q35 bus takes you north to the train station for the 2 and 5 trains at Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues, a ride that takes about 15 minutes. From there, riders can transfer to other subways to get to other boroughs, such as Manhattan. The station is near a residential area. Street parking is available; read the signs for meter hours. Campers who return late must present their camping reservation confirmation from www.recreation.gov upon reentering Floyd Bennett Field.
Camping in New York City – Fort Wadsworth Campground in Staten Island
The next camping spot on the list is Fort Wadsworth Campground in Staten Island. I know people that have lived in Staten Island for 40 years and never knew there was a legal campground. The Statue of Liberty.
Imagine waking up to a view of The Statue of Liberty, The NYC Skyline and various Forts and Batteries in the New York Harbor region.
A sampling of the activities available includes Biking Boating: Kayaking, Fishing, Hiking, Horseback Riding and more.
Guided tours of the forts were my favorite part of the trip. History buffs will rejoice when they discover this place.
Nearby is a boardwalk, a ferry to the city and even a spot to BBQ. Each tent site also comes with a fire ring just like the Brooklyn camping site.
While in Staten Island, visit fresh kills park. What was once a 2,200 gross landfill is not the prettiest park in all 5 boroughs in my opinion. Some people go to NYC for the Broadway shows. Some go for the Museums. My family goes for nature.
Unlike the Brooklyn site, this campground has no RV hookups. This is tent camping at it’s finest. I’ve camped in tents in 23 states and this is one of my favorites. You can feel the history in the air in this part of Staten Island. It’s surreal, it truly doesn’t feel real.
There are spots where you can rent a kayak nearby. The same can be said for Floyd Bennett Park but I prefer the waters here due to the views. The views are simply stunning.
More info (Subject to change):
- Rates: $30 per day for a maximum of 14 days (check cancellation policy, rates subject to change).
- Size limits: Up to six people may camp at a single site. Sites are large enough for one large tent or two small tents.
- Restrictions: No pets, glass or alcohol are permitted- Quiet Hours: 10:00 PM- 8:00 AM. No picnicking allowed at the campground.
- What to bring: You must bring your own tent and sleeping bags. You should also bring sunscreen and insect repellent.
- Amenities: Campsites are primitive. Each has a picnic table, a fire ring with grill. Restrooms and showers are located at the facility.
- Access to Public Transportation: The S51 bus will leave you near the main entrance (camp office, 220 New York Avenue), while the S53 bus will leave you by the rear entrance (rear entrance closes at 7:00 pm).
- Check-in/Check-out: Check-in time is 12:00 pm and check-out time is 10:00 am at building 220 New York Avenue, located at the main entrance to Fort Wadsworth (Across from guard booth).
- After hours access: Camp office is open 7 days a week during the season, from 8:30- 8:00 PM, You must call the camp office prior to your arrival to make arrangements for after hour access.