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Full-Time RVing: Campground Hosting at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

As a full-time RV'er, Stephanie writes about many natural wonders to be found in the U.S. National Parks and Monuments are her favorites.

One of the benefits of camp hosting on the Outer Banks is having the opportunity to spend lots of time on the beach.

One of the benefits of camp hosting on the Outer Banks is having the opportunity to spend lots of time on the beach.

Camp Host Volunteers

One of the benefits of full-time RVing is having the freedom and mobility to follow the call to far away places. Another benefit is that when you do find a place you love, you can usually stay as long as you like. One way to ensure a lengthy (and lost cost) stay in a place you love is to volunteer to be a campground host. While the National Parks system and some other public campgrounds limit the amount of time you can camp in one campground, campground hosts may spend a month to six months at their assignment.

As I mentioned in some of my other articles on full time RVing, my husband and I love the beach and like nothing better than to be beach bums wandering from one beach to the next. If we can play in the ocean and hear the surf, we’re happy! So volunteering to be camp hosts at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore seemed like a perfect opportunity for us.

How To Find Volunteer Campground Hosting Positions?

  • When you visit a place you like, just ask! Making personal contact with the Volunteer Coordinator is one of the best ways to line up a volunteer position.
  • Check out the website to browse volunteering opportunities for National Parks and other federal agencies as well as some state park opportunities. Not all volunteer jobs will include a free campsite. Check details!
  • Check out State Park websites for a listing and information about volunteering in State Parks. Sometimes you will have to contact individual State Parks, other times there is a central coordinator.

Why Volunteer to Camp Host at a National Park?

Benefits of Campground Hosting:

Most campground host volunteers are provided with a campsite, usually with full hookups, during their time as camp hosts. If full hookups are not available, at the least there is water and electric except in the most remote areas. Uniforms, if required, are usually provided. Even if a uniform is not required, there is sometimes a dress code (i.e. khaki pants or shorts, white shirt).

Duties: Hours of work required vary from 20 hours a week per couple to 32 hours a week per person. This differs by agency. We've found that the National Parks expect the most time. Usually, the duties are easy: check the campsites, see which campsites are open, clean out fire rings and police the sites, be available to help campers or answer questions. Sometimes hours worked just mean being available at your campsite to answer questions. A detailed list of expectations should be provided beforehand. Usually camp hosts are not involved in enforcing campground rules, taking money or dealing with rowdy campers. Rangers and Law Enforcement are there to take care of difficulties. Often a husband and wife team can arrange to work the same days so that they have time off together.

Requirements for Campground Hosts: Volunteers at Federal parks and public lands are usually required to be U.S. citizens and will need to show proof of citizenship. Again, this may differ by agency. You will also have to provide your social security number for insurance purposes. Volunteers will often need to provide references during the application process and go through a background check. Depending on the agency, the park may require a commitment of 1 to 3 months from campground hosts.

Campground Hosting on The Outer Banks

Camp host site at Frisco Campground,

Camp host site at Frisco Campground,

Ready to do the rounds of the campground.

Ready to do the rounds of the campground.

Getting Your First Job as Campground Hosts

Life many things in our lives, volunteering as camp hosts was not long in the planning. We were camping at the Frisco Campground in Cape Hatteras National Seashore when we noticed that the camp host site was empty. So we asked if they needed a host, they said “yes”, and there we were, the new campground hosts and our first volunteer experience.

Those who have had extensive experience with campground volunteering must have seen it all. It didn’t take long for us to discover that many campers coming to the seashore are not only inexperienced in camping, but in life. Our campsite was in the middle of the campground close to the restroom and showers, so we had some great people watching opportunities as campers walked by our site. I have to admit, though it wasn’t nice to laugh at people, that we had to struggle to keep a straight face on more than one occasions.

Cute little frogs sometimes show up in the restrooms. Little suction cups on their toes allow them to hang onto the walls and ceilings.

Cute little frogs sometimes show up in the restrooms. Little suction cups on their toes allow them to hang onto the walls and ceilings.

A Funny Thing Happened at the Campground

The Frogs in the Showers Incident

One of my favorite incidents concerned the little tree frogs that liked to get into the showers and restrooms and cling to the walls. In dim light, they weren’t always easy to see, and could surprise an unwary camper. One afternoon as we sat in our screen tent enjoying the breezes, we heard a loud screech coming from the showers. The cold-water-only shower stalls were built on a wooden platform near the restrooms. We laughed hearing the screech as we figured someone was surprised by the cold shower. However, in a few seconds, she was backing quickly out of the shower wrapped in a towel, pointing to the wall inside and explaining loudly that she was NOT going to take a shower with those things on the wall. It turned out that there were several tree frogs sharing the shower stall with her – tiny, but unwelcome. Even funnier was that when she tried to use a different shower, the same thing happened. Really, they aren’t that scary, are they?

The Jeep that was parked too close to the water at Ocracoke.

The Jeep that was parked too close to the water at Ocracoke.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Beach

A Jeep Drowns - No Lifeguard

Driving on beach sand is not like driving on pavement, and those who don’t follow some common safety and driving procedures can get themselves in trouble. The worst incident we saw took place on Ocracoke Island where the beach is so beautiful and flat that people often drive out for picnics and fishing. One day we took the free ferry to Ocracoke and drove onto the beach looking for a good fishing spot. Near the beach access, we noticed another jeep parked too close to water, with the incoming tide lapping under the tires. The jeep was unattended, and we figured that the owners must have gone for a walk, so we continued on our way, hoping that they would come back soon and move it to drier ground. About two hours later on our way back to the main road we passed the unfortunate jeep again. This time the lower half was covered with water and waves were crashing over the roof while the owner sat on the beach, head in hands. It turned out that they came back too late, and even though other people had tried to pull them out of the water, the vehicle was stuck too deep in the wet sand to be moved. The owner was waiting for a heavy duty tow truck to come via ferry from Hatteras to try to rescue the jeep, but it was too late to save the vehicle. Explain this to your insurance company!

Shore birds on the beach.

Shore birds on the beach.

Gulls fly overhead looking for a handout.  They will help themselves if you don't watch out!

Gulls fly overhead looking for a handout. They will help themselves if you don't watch out!

Reports of Stolen Tent While Campers Were Out Partying!

Early one morning after a night of wind and rain, we woke to knocking on our door and found 3 bedraggled and disgruntled co-eds standing there ready to file a complaint. They had set up their tent, the quick set-up kind with attached floor that looked a little like a balloon, in the early evening and then left to go out to dinner and visit the local bar scene. When they came back at midnight to gusting winds and pouring rain, their tent was gone! They were irate that someone would be so low as to steal at tent. The three of them somehow spent the night in their compact car, but were very unhappy campers. We were pretty sure that no one stole their tent in the middle of a rainstorm, so Bill went out to investigate. Sure enough, the girls had not anchored their tent and it just blew over the dunes and rolled out of sight.

Sea Gulls Near Campgrounds are Not Your Friends

Those pretty birds circling your head when you have a sandwich or take out a cookie for a snack -- NEVER FEED THEM! When camping near the seashore, the gulls are just waiting for you to leave your campsite unattended. So many campers have come back from the beach to find their box of groceries torn apart, bread eaten, cereal boxes broken open and cookies gone. A flock of gulls can demolish a table full of food products in a matter of minutes!

Support Your National Parks by Volunteering

Despite some of the funny things that we saw as camp hosts, we also met some really interesting people and got to know some of dedicated rangers and volunteers at our park. It was a great experience and gave us an opportunity to give back something to a cause that we wholeheartedly support, our National Park System. With budgets being cut more every year, many parks rely on volunteers to keep running smoothly. It was fun and heartening to contribute our small part.

Frisco Campground, Part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Campground Hosting ~ Volunteering

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

I'd Love to Hear Your Comments Below

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on July 24, 2013:

Hello Teresa, Hatteras KOA seems like a really nice private campground, especially if you want to hookup to utilities. The wind can get pretty strong near the ocean, especially during one of the rain storms. The campgrounds on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore are not open year around. They usually open sometime in April and close in mid October. We did happen to be in Frisco one year when a hurricane was making its way up the coast. The campground was evacuated the day before the hurricane was due to hit, and we made our way to a safer spot inland. Tourists are usually asked to leave the islands well before they are in any danger from tropical storms or hurricanes.

Glad you enjoyed your stay on the Outer Banks. Thanks for commenting on my article!

Teresa on July 24, 2013:

Hi Stephanie, I enjoyed your stories and I'm so envious. We just came back from Hatteras KOA and loved being there. I had to laugh at the campers who did not secure they're tent, because I still can remember the RV shuttering from the wind and a good rain one night. And I can't imagine getting creeped out by the little tree frogs....I love them...we've got them here at our house and the grandkids have given them special names of Frankie, Francine.....anyway enjoy your time there. By the way is that campground open year round also?? Just curious what instructions they gave you regarding Tropical Storms and the much dreaded hurricanes? Hoping the OBX are spared......this season.....Irene really reminded everyone that mother nature still rules...

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on July 17, 2013:

Tillsontitan - We've found that volunteering at state and national parks is a great way to contribute to a cause we believe in while gaining a free campsite in a beautiful place. I'd love to volunteer in Alaska! Thanks so much for stopping by with your encouraging comments!

Mary Craig from New York on July 17, 2013:

What a great idea and how good of you to take advantage of it! Volunteering always involves a commitment but at least this one has benefits. I was drawn to this when you mentioned beach...I'm a beach lover, my hubby however is a mountain lover.

We met several site volunteers in Alaska that came from the lower forty-eight and stayed there for months at a time.

A delightful hub with the added benefit of your lovely pictures!

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 20, 2012:

Iamaudraleigh - Well, not our tent(the title might have been a bit misleading), but a group of other camping party-goers lost their tent in a rain storm and reported it stolen. Luckily, it wasn't. Unluckily, they spent the night in their car before it was found.

We saw quite a few tree frogs at the campground, especially in the outdoor showers and restrooms. As you can imagine, not everyone was thrilled! :)

iamaudraleigh on April 20, 2012:

Someone stole your tent?!!!! LOL!!! Stop partying!

I love tree frogs...heard them in Puerto Rico, but did not see them. Perhaps a good thing? :)

Voted up!!!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on January 17, 2012:

Gryphin423 - We did see some funny things while we were campground hosts in the Outer Banks. Luckily, no one was injured in any of these incidents - only the Jeep! Thanks for visiting and commenting!

gryphin423 from Florida on January 17, 2012:

Hi Stephanie, loved this hub. The poor people who owned that Jeep! And I'm sure the frogs are much more afraid of the humans, poor things! Voted up as always! :-)

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 26, 2011:

Thanks for stopping by to comment, Denise. Camp hosting is a great way to spend an extended time in an area, and many full-time RVers regularly volunteer their time in this way.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on April 25, 2011:

Voted up and useful, Stephanie. You are fortunate you have someone to share this activity with. I would love to do this and it makes perfect sense to volunteer as a host if one is already planning on being there anyway. what a great hub-and BTW-Congratulations on having this selected as a featured hub. :)

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 13, 2011:

Well, Simone, being a campground host can go to your head when campers think so highly of your abilities! It's a lot of fun, though, and we did enjoy lending a helping hand when we could. Camping is such a great way to enjoy nature. Glad you enjoyed the hub, and thanks for commenting!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 13, 2011:

I've always looked on at campground hosts and thought to myself, "They really know what they're doing!"

I really enjoyed reading more about campground host duties, and the stories are hilarious, too! Trading funny camping stories is one of my favorite things. This brought back a ton of good memories. Thank you!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 13, 2011:

Hawaii is wonderful! Wish we could spend a few months there on the beach! We do have many of the modern conveniences in our RV, but there are some things we give up when camping, especially when we came in the boondocks. You're never too old to try it, though. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting~

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on April 13, 2011:

I wish I had done this when I was younger. Now I just feel too old to camp and I love my modern conveniences. I was a beach bum for a while in Hawaii and loved it!