Listen to this story
By Kevin Carlin
My good fortune was to be born and raised close to New York City. We all have a “first ever” memory in our lives. Mine was Mom and me at the back window of our third-floor Jersey City walkup with her running the clothes on the line.
In the not-to-distant distance stood that Lady in the Harbor — the Statue of Liberty — facing out to the incoming vessels as she has for more than 130 years, greeting ships’ passengers, those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free. The then-abandoned (now restored) Ellis Island immigration reception facility lay nearby.
Traveling by bus and underground train to New York for ball games and to bookstores was common for me as a high schooler and it wasn’t long before I knew New York well.
But uncommon to me was where an RV might camp to visit the City. THAT required some research.
RVs are sized larger than most vehicles and driving in New York City can be an adventure for your tow vehicle (or any vehicle), so you will want to consider RV park location and access to the Big Apple via public transportation along with the usual concerns of an RVer.
Careful planning of your driving route is critical since RVs are not permitted in New York tunnels and on the parkways, limiting your means of ingress and egress to and from the City. Downloading an NYC truck route map will help.
However, once you arrive in the New York City area, here are three great places for you to camp.
Liberty Harbor RV Park and Marina
Liberty Harbor RV Park and Marina in Jersey City, N.J., is just across the river with a sweet view of the downtown New York financial district.
It certainly offers the only location within sight of the Manhattan skyline, and possibly the best location for your RV vacation near New York.
You Tube vlogger Robert Morales, of Traveling Robert exclaimed,“If you stand on the roof of your RV, you can even see the Statue of Liberty.”
Located just five blocks from the PATH train station (known to locals as “The Tubes”), the train operates nearly 24/7/365 and gives you fast access to both the midtown Times Square area with its TV and theatre districts. It is also close to the area of the World Trade Center’s 9/11 attack as well as the rest of the history and culture that New York offers.
The commuter ferry terminal to Wall Street is right there at the RV park, too, but runs only Monday to Friday.
This facility offers nothing more than security, dump station, showers, water and electric. However, the location trade-off makes it well worth it for most.
If you remember you are there for convenience, you won’t mind as much the pricey $100 per night charge and the absence of amenities. It is close to the biggest city in the world and won’t offer trees and picnic tables. Your animal is welcome, but you will have trouble finding grass for dogs there!
The nearby Surf City bar and restaurant on the grounds gets good reviews on TripAdvisor.
For more information about Liberty Harbor, visit www.libertyharborrv.com.
Camp Gateway, the national park at Floyd Bennett Field, is in Brooklyn, N.Y., and location is this park’s main attraction.
It is part of the greater New York congregation of locations known as the Gateway National Recreation Area — a three-unit network of parks and beaches in both New Jersey and New York.
Found within one of the five boroughs of New York, this “RV park” is simply boondocking on an abandoned Navy airfield where Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes, Wrong Way Corrigan and Medal of Honor recipient Jimmy Doolittle, of ‘Doolittle Raiders’ fame, once flew.
It is very close to Manhattan and the sites offer little more than a space to park your RV.
Generators are permitted and the noise of your neighbors’ may not be an issue since occupancy may permit large spaces between sites.
But, that concern might pale in comparison to the noise that can come your way from the New York Police Department helicopter squadron training facility on the grounds. Kayaking is available nearby.
This is not Yosemite, and not a place to spend your day hanging at the RV. But, it is a nearby landing point for your New York visit.
Site cost is just $30 without a national parks annual pass. A bus from the main office takes you to subway stops and permits you to reach famous sightseeing locations in about an hour.
It’s about a 15-minute drive to Coney Island. Don’t forget to check out Lunar Park and the home of the American hot dog.
For more information, visit www.recreation.gov.
Cheesequake State Park
Cheesequake State Park in Matawan, N.J. is just 40 miles from New York, which will require one hour and 20 minutes of travel time. It is also 35 miles (1 hour) from the ocean at New Jersey State Park Beach at Sandy Hook, where — since his 1699 arrest in Boston — the treasure of Captain Kidd is rumored to be buried.
Unlike the RV campgrounds closer to or within New York, this one provides an experience more akin to what a camper expects.
It boasts a lake beach and swimming, boating, trails and fishing.
Its 53 sites run only $25 nightly and the online reviews are overwhelmingly positive. It has a playground, showers and dump station, but offers no hookups.
The Aberdeen/Matawan train stop to New York’s Penn Station maintains bus service to the Big Apple, too. Round trip train fare to New York costs $29.50 with substantial discounts for seniors, students and handicapped folks. Bus fare is a few dollars more.
If you want some adventure, the commuter ferry from Atlantic Highlands to the Wall Street terminal costs $47 round trip. Kids under 5 are free and kids 5-12 are $38.
Its terminal is about a 17-minute car ride from the park. The 40-minute ride by boat from the home of America’s first lighthouse allows panoramic views of the trip, including the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and the New York City skyline.
Passengers can enjoy their voyage from both of the climate controlled indoor and outdoor viewing areas. The boat even has a full-service cash bar, satellite TV and Wi-Fi.
“Bikes, boards and beagles” are allowed.
When you arrive in Manhattan, don’t miss the glorious boat ride on the Staten Island Ferry. It leaves from the southern tip of the island near Wall Street. It offers some of the best views of New York City from the water and it is FREE, gratis, zero cost. (It was only nickel when I was a teenager!)
It passes close enough to the Statue of Liberty. Bring your camera to capture this writer’s first memory.
For more information, visit www.njparksandforests.com.