Online sources help campers connect with the best place to stay

Children ride their bicycles at the Timberland Acres RV Park in Trenton on a warm summer’s day.
Children ride their bicycles at the Timberland Acres RV Park in Trenton on a warm summer’s day. Buy Photo
Posted March 31, 2012, at 10:03 a.m.

Have tent, trailer, or RV, will travel.

But where to?

From York County to Aroostook County, a few hundred campgrounds dot Maine’s magnificent landscape and offer campers every potential camping experience in the great Pine Tree State:

• Want to awaken to a gorgeous ocean sunrise? Somewhere between Kittery and Eastport, a seaside campground offers the “perfect” eastward facing site.

• Want to participate in a nose-to-nose discussion with a bull moose? Somewhere between Gilead and Calais, somewhere between Rangeley and Greenville and Millinocket and St. Agatha lies a campground through which moose, deer, the occasional black bear, and other furred and feathered critters often travel.

• Want to camp near the big city lights? Just minutes from Portland and Lewiston and Bangor exists a campground that blends camping amenities with proximity to shopping, cultural events, concerts, and other metropolitan attractions.

• Want to experience solitude far from the maddening crowd? Scattered across Maine — and particularly concentrated in Maine Public Reserve Lands — are primitive “back to nature” campsites.

So many campgrounds and so many potential camping experiences: How does a camper combine the desired camping experience with the appropriate campground?

The one-stop Maine camping resource

First, connect with the Maine Campground Owners Association (207-782-5874), the one-stop Maine camping resource.

Headquartered in Lewiston, MECOA represents 225 campgrounds located across Maine. The association publishes the annual Maine Camping Guide (available at January and February camping shows in Maine) and maintains an informative Web site at www.campmaine.com. Both sources provide campers with all the pertinent information about MECOA campgrounds:

• Using the eight county-based regions (South Coast, Downeast & Acadia, Katahdin & Moosehead & Highlands, etc.) developed by the Maine Office of Tourism, MECOA breaks down its campground listings by region.

• For each region, the Maine Camping Guide provides a full-color map marked with colored and numbered squares that correspond to campground listings printed in a detailed chart on the opposite page. Listing each campground’s name, municipality, and phone number, the chart also indicates the available amenities and services, from “store” and “laundry” and “swimming pool” to maximum site amperage and RV length to total campground sites and inclusive seasonal dates.

• The MECOA Web site offers an “Interactive Guidebook” link and an interactive “Find A Campground” map that lets a camper click on a map or information link for each region. The “info” link provides three more links: a regional map, a campground list, and an attractions list. Using the campground list, a camper can click on either a campground’s Web site or a “View Listing” link that offers basic campground information. Not all MECOA campgrounds offer a link to www.campmaine.com.

The Maine Camping Guide and MECOA Web site also provide detailed information about regional attractions, including museums, festivals, historic sites, state fairs, and amusements.

Campground contacts

Second, connect with specific campgrounds. After using the MECOA resources to determine which campgrounds to contact, check out each facility’s Maine Camping Guide or online ad and each campground’s Web site.

These sources all provide pertinent information, with many ads or Web sites also incorporating color photos. Such images convincingly convey key details that confirm the printed word; for example, if a campground boasts a sand beach, a color photo can corroborate that assertion.

By phone or email, contact individual campgrounds. Ask questions about sites, facilities, and programs. Sometimes a phone conversation or email Q & A reveals information not found in an ad or online.

Personal contacts

Third, ask other campers — almost every Mainer knows someone who camps — about which campgrounds they prefer — and why.

Some (not all) campgrounds appeal to specific market segments: families, RVers, pet owners, water lovers, etc. Experienced campers probably know which campgrounds are family friendly, enforce quiet times, or offer full water amenities (i.e., rental boats and canoes, fishing gear, and delineated swimming areas).

To draw hard-earned knowledge from experienced campers, get ’em talking and listen well. They’re happy to pass along useful tips.

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