I wrote in my last blog post that one of the reasons we planned our New England road trip was because we wanted to visit Salem. But there was another reason we added Salem to our itinerary: we had managed to book a camping spot on Winter Island.
I still feel like we’re newbies into the RV and camping world, but Winter Island was a place I had put on my camping bucket list because I thought it might be an interesting place to spend the night. Camping on a historic island in Salem, by the sea, it’s hard not to be tempted by this opportunity!
Winter Island is a small island located near the historic centre of Salem and connected to the mainland by a causeway. The island has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994. It has a beach, a boat ramp, a lighthouse and the ruins of Fort Pickering.
Winter Island is closely tied to the history of Salem. It is the location of Salem’s first tavern and first shipyard. In the middle of the 17th century, the island began to be considered an important strategic location and Fort William was built there, in order to protect the port of Salem.
The fort changed names and was rebuilt a few times in the century that followed, until the city of Salem ceded the location to the federal government in 1794. The fort was again rebuilt so that it would part of the first system of U.S. fortifications. The fort was named in honour of Colonel Timothy Pickering, a native of Salem, who served in George Washington’s cabinet as U.S. Secretary of War.
In the 1930s, Winter Island became a base for the United States Coast Guard, which remained in operation until the early 1970s. In 1972, the federal government turned the island over to the city of Salem, and the latter developed it into a public park and urban campground.
The campground offers 22 tent sites and 28 RV sites. We chose a site near the old seaplane hangar because we wanted to be able to have a view of the sea. As the place also serves as a large public parking lot, there was a lot of traffic all day, which somewhat took away from the charm of the place. But in the evening, most of the cars left the parking lot and the day trippers went back home, and we opened wide the doors of our van to be able to take advantage of the sea breeze.
What I really liked about our camping experience on Winter Island was the proximity to all the attractions. Waikiki Beach, the ruins of Fort Pickering and the island lighthouse were all located very close to our site. A 15-minute walk from Winter Island brought us to Salem Willow Park, where there are many restaurants and a few arcades. The Salem Trolley passes by the island, thus offering the possibility of boarding it in order to easily get to downtown Salem and its attraction.
It was definitely a quirky camping spot, and the best way to end our New England road trip!
For full details on costs, availability and reservations, visit Reserve America.