Here are some of the best tent camping destinations
in the Eastern United States

Using criteria summarized on the DESTINATIONS page and my personal experience of visiting almost 300 campgrounds over the past 50 years, I have compiled this list of great tent camping destinations east of the Mississippi River. This list includes many destinations that I have personally visited plus a few more that offer the best combination of location, safety, amenities, maintenance, and recreational opportunities. For more information about each destination, click on its link.

Wisconsin

Peninsula SP in Door County northeast of Green Bay (471 sites). Five campgrounds; I prefer S Nicolet Bay CG but many tenters prefer Welcker's Point CG. Campsites have dirt/ grass surface with gravel parking area and tent pad.
Devils' Lake SP north of Madison (423 sites). Three campgrounds; Tent sites in all three but Ice Age CG seems to be the best.
Kettle Moraine SF-Southern Unit west of Milwaukee (265 sites). Four campgrounds; I prefer Ottawa Lake CG. Campsites have dirt/ grass surface with gravel parking area and tent pad.
Northern Highland-American Legion SF near Rhinelander and the Michigan UP state line (871 sites). Four developed campgrounds and dozens of primitive camping areas.
Governor Dodge SP near Dodgeville (270 sites). Two campgrounds; I prefer sites 1 - 44 in Cox Hollow CG. Some campsites have dirt/ grass surface and others have gravel surface. beautiful un-glaciated rolling hills, professional theatre, golf course, popular tourist attractions.

Michigan LP

Ludington SP on Lake Michigan (373 sites). Three CGs; very popular camping destination; beach & many programs.
Platte River NPS CG in the Sleeping Bear Dunes NLS on Lake Michigan (179 sites). Great walk-in sites with tent pads but many tenters prefer DH Day rustic CG (87 sites).
South Higgins Lake SP near Grayling (400 sites). Very popular CG with beach and water activities.
Holland SP on Lake Michigan near Grand Rapids (309 sites). Tenters should avoid the Beach CG because is a RV park. Lake Macatawa CG has the best tent sites.
Interlochen SP near Traverse City (490 sites). Large lake, beach, a few lakeside sites, large school and theatre of the arts.
Waterloo SRA near Jackson (350 sites). Both Portage Lake CG and Sugarloaf Lake CG are good for tents.

Michigan UP

Straits SP on the Straits of Mackinaw (270 sites). Great CG in UP; near ferries to Mackinaw Island.
Tahquamenon Falls SP on the eastern side (296 sites). Best in the UP; 3 CGs; child and family friendly atmosphere; near Lake Superior & Hemmingway sites.
Lake Gogebic SP on the western side (127 sites). Beautiful lake side sites in the western north woods but mosquitoes & flies; Great fishing!

Illinois

Illinois Beach SP on Lake Michigan north of Chicago (241 sites). Very popular, reservations highly recommended.
Rock Cut SP near Rockford and the Wisconsin state line (269 sites). Reservations are required. Rustic lakeside sites at the back of the campground have nice views.
Mississippi Palisades SP on North Mississippi River (241 sites). Beautiful views of the Mississippi River.
Shabbona Lake SP near DeKalb (150 sites). Most sites shady; Canvasback Cove loop is close to lakeshore.
Sangchris Lake SP near Springfield (185 sites). Large grassy sites. Many historic Lincoln sites.
Coles Creek COE CG on Carlyle Lake near St. Louis (148 sites). One of 5 nice campgrounds, large grassy sites, great fishing.
South Marcum COE CG on Rend Lake north of Carbondale (160 sites). One of four great tent friendly COE campgrounds in southern tip of the state.
Fort Massac SP on Ohio River near Paducah KY (50 vehicular sites plus nice tent camping area). Historic exhibits and fort.

Indiana

Lincoln State Park near Ohio River and Kentucky state line (237 sites). Family centered campground, small lake, historic sites, live theatre.
O'Bannon Woods State Park near Louisville, KY (263 sites). Pool, bridle trails, canoeing, caves. 
Brown County State Park near Bloomington (404 sites). Nashville IN tourist area and Indiana University.
Prophetstown State Park near Lafayette (55 sites). Aquatic center, family activities, historic sites, Purdue University.
Turkey Run State Park north of Terre Haute and near Illinois state line (209 sites). Scenic hiking trails and river.
Tippecanoe River State Park south of South Bend (112 sites). Very large, shady, grassy sites.
Indiana Dunes State Park west of South Bend (140 sites). Sand dunes, Lake Michigan, visitor center. Or visit the National Park for more secluded sites).

Ohio

Coming soon

Pennsylvania

Coming soon

New York

Four Mile Creek SP near Niagara Falls and Canadian border (275 sites). Open grassy sites.
Wildwood SP on Long Island about 75 m E of New York City (242 tent sites plus 80 RV sites). Long Island Sound, beaches.
North-South Lake CG in Catskill State Forest Preserve in SE NY (219 tent/ RV sites). beaches, historic sites.
Rollins Pond CG in Adirondack State Park (287 tent/ RV sites). Boat rental, beaches, historic sites.
Watkins Glenn SP in Finger Lakes region (305 tent/RV sites). Pool
Allegany SP near Jamestown and Pennsylvania state line (423 tent/ RV sites). Beaches.

Virginia

Hungry Mother SP in extreme western tip (94 sites).
Douthat SP near Covington and the West Virginia state line (87 sites). Four campgrounds; Lakeside and White Oak are best for tent camping. Small lake, beach, boat rentals, store, restaurant on weekends, great trout fishing hole.
Big Meadows CG in the Shenandoah NP west of Washington D.C. (217 sites). 53 walk-in tent sites; most reservable; few walk-ups. This is one of four campgrounds in the park and was selected because it is the most central. Other campgrounds are Loft Mountain CG (219 sites including 50 walk-in tent sites), Mathews Arm CG (179 sites in a Generator free area), and Lewis Mountain CG (31 sites).
Pocahontas SP south of Richmond (114 sites). Two small lakes, pool, boat rental, CCC structures, Civil War historic sites.
North Bend COE CG on John H Kerr Lake south of Richmond near North Carolina state line (244 sites). Large lake
First Landing SP on Atlantic Ocean north of Virginia Beach (222 sites). Historic sites, beach, bike rental, bike trail, store.
Kiptopeke SP on Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean south of the Maryland state line (133 sites). Wildlife viewing, beach.

Kentucky

Headquarters CG in the Mammoth Cave NP near Bowling Green (105 sites, best tent sites are in the  back loop). Cave tours, ranger-led programs.
Hillman Ferry CG in the Land Between the Lakes NRA and near Tennessee state line (380 sites). Large lake, boat rentals, planetarium, working farm exhibit, nature center, bison range, ATV area, historic sites.
Baileys Point COE CG on Barren River Lake east of Bowling Green (215 sites). Large lake, swimming areas, weekend movies, volleyball court, boat rental.
Cumberland Falls SP near Corbin (70 sites). Pool, hiking trails, waterfalls, moon bow, horse rental, restaurant.
Carter Caves SP near Morehead (119 sites). Cave tours, horse rental, large lake, miniature golf, boat rental, restaurant.
Fort Boonesborough SP south of Lexington (197 sites). Pool, miniature golf course, historic fort, historical programs, museum, Kentucky River.
Levi Jackson SP near London (146 sites). Tree Top Adventure, pool, historic buildings, miniature golf, outdoor theatre, summer programs.

Tennessee

Elkmont CG in the Great Smoky Mountains NP near Gatlinburg (220 sites). Some drive-in and some walk-in sites; all have elevated tent pads; no showers. Historic structures, hiking trails, mountain river swimming holes, ranger-led programs, visitor center, trolly into Gatlinburg. Other campgrounds in the park are Cades Cove CG near Townsend (159 sites) and Cosby CG northeast of Gatlinburg.
Chilhowee USFS CG in the Cherokee NF near Chattanooga; (35 tent only sites plus 47 large developed crushed stone tent/ RV sites). Remote mountaintop location attracts few RVs; small lake with beach, waterfalls.
Harrison Bay SP on Tennessee River near Chattanooga (28 extra nice tent sites in CG D; 87 tent/ RV sites in CGs B & C; 47 RV sites in CG A). Pool, golf course, bike rental, restaurant.
Bandy Creek NPS CG in the Big South Fork NRA Cookeville (150 large, well-spaced crushed stone tent/ RV sites). Pool, extra nice bathrooms, concrete tables, horse trails & rentals.
Fall Creek Falls SP near McMinnville (16 primitive tent sites plus 222 developed sites). Pool, Canopy Challenge Course, golf course, bike rental, CCC projects.
Cedars of Lebanon SP near Nashville (117 sites organized into 3 areas; areas 2 & 3 have nice crushed stone tent/ RV sites; area 1 is reserved for RVs). Pool, disc golf, CCC projects.
Defeated Creek COE CG on Cordell Hull Lake near Lebanon (155 crushed stone sites).
Piney USFS CG in the Land-Between-the Lakes NRA near Clarksville (383 crushed stone tent/ RV sites). Large lake, pioneer village, large nature center, planetarium, ATV area, historic sites, bison range.
Reelfoot Lake SP near Union City and Mississippi River (118 sites). Tent only sites; wildlife refuge.

North Carolina

Jackrabbit Mountain CG in the Nantahala NF on Lake Chatuge in the extreme western tip (92 crushed stone tent/RV sites). Crushed stone tent pads, large lake, beach, horseshoe pits.
Deep Creek CG in the Great Smoky Mountains NP near Bryson City (45 tent only sites plus 47 crushed stone tent/RV sites). Tubing, rails, waterfalls, unique shops. Smokemont CG near Cherokee is also very popular (142 tent/RV sites).
Lake Powhatan CG in the Pisgah NF west of Asheville (98 crushed stone tent/RV sites). Small lake, beach, mountain rivers, swimming holes, waterfalls, Blue Ridge Parkway tourist attractions. Davidson River CG south of Asheville is also very popular. (132 crushed stone tent/RV sites).
Julian Price Memorial Park NPS CG on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Boone (196 sites). Small lake, boat rental. Doughton Park CG on the parkway is also popular (125 sites).
Morrow Mountain SP east of Charlotte (106 sites). Prehistoric exhibits, museum, pool, mountain river, canoe rental.
Jordan Lake SRA west of Raleigh (1,000 sites). Six campgrounds, Poplar Point CG (579 sites) is the largest, Parker’s Creek CG (250 sites) also popular.
Carolina Beach SP on the Atlantic Ocean south of Wilmington (83 sites). Beach, sand dunes
Frisco NPS CG in the Cape Hatteras NSS on the Atlantic Ocean (127 sites). Beach, lighthouse. Other popular campgrounds in the seashore are Ocracoke CG (136 sites), Cape Point CG (202 sites), and Oregon Inlet CG (121 sites).

Georgia

Unicoi SP in northeast Georgia Mountains near Helen (105 sites). Small crushed stone sites plus 31 walk-in sites with a nice bathroom. Small lake, beach, waterfalls, Bavarian village, popular tourist area. 
Cloudland Canyon SP south of Chattanooga, TN (72 gravel sites plus 30 walk-in tent sites). Hiking trails, Civil War sites, hang gliding ramp, aquarium, other popular tourist attractions.
Red Top Mountain SP on Alatoona Lake north of Atlanta (45 tent/ small RV sites with electricity plus 24 extra nice tent only sites). Large lake, boat rental, beach, miniature golf.
Stone Mountain Park east of Atlanta (431 sites). Large shady grass/dirt sites; popular tourist area, restaurant.
Elijah Clark SP on Clarks Hill Lake north of Augusta on South Carolina state line (165 crushed stone sites).
F.D. Roosevelt SP north of Columbus (109 sites). Large level grass/dirt sites. FDR Museum.
Cotton Hill COE CG on Walter F. George Lake on Alabama state line (94 sites). Large lake, swimming area, boat rentals.
Skidaway Island SP on Atlantic Ocean south of Savannah (87 crushed stone sites). Beaches, historic sites.
Seminole SP on the Chattahoochee River in extreme SW corner of state near Alabama and Florida state lines (50 sites,). Best tent sites in the back loop, large lake, guided boat tours.
Stephen C Foster SP in Okefenokee Swamp in SE corner (66 tent/ RV sites ). Remote location.

Alabama

Monte Sano SP in Huntsville (77 sites). Large level, shady crushed stone sites with water & electricity plus 18 large level shady sites in primitive area. CCC structures, planetarium, mountain bike trails, museums, historic sites.
Cheaha SP south of Aniston (25 extra nice dispersed sites in semi-primitive area plus 43 tent/ RV sites in CG #1, 30 tent/ RV sites in CG #2, and a few more sites in the primitive CG). Remote mountaintop location, pool, small lake, beach, restaurant, CCC structures.
Oak Mountain SP south of Birmingham (145 sites including 70 walk-in tent sites, a few with electricity & water). Small lakes (2), beach, horse rental, raptor rehabilitation center, zoo.
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park west of Birmingham (300 sites). Large level grassy primitive sites with water & electricity but no bathrooms nearby; historic buildings, paved and crushed stone bike trails, Trade Days, Iron & Steel Museum, Halloween festival.
Pickensville COE CG on Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway west of Tuscaloosa (176 sites). Large well-spaced sites, a few waterfront sites, fishing platforms.
Wind Creek SP on Lake Martin north of Montgomery (586 sites). Many small crowded RV sites but a few good tent sites, large lake, beach, boat rental, historic sites.
White Oak Creek COE RA on Walter F. George Lake near Eufaula and Georgia state line (130 sites). Popular and friendly campground; paved driveway with crushed stone auxiliary area, large lake, beach.
Gulf SP on the Gulf of Mexico southeast of Mobile (496 sites). Large crowded sunny RV park but a few campsites (especially along Possum Road) are suited for tents; beautiful sandy beaches, great restaurants, summer festivals.

Florida

Fort Pickens CG in the Gulf Islands National Seashore on the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola (200 campsites). Sections B & D have nice tent sites but no electricity and poor bathrooms; a few good tent sites in other sections. Beautiful beaches, historic fort and museum, crushed stone bike trail, interpretive programs, great seafood restaurants, concerts, festivals, tourist attractions.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park west of Panama City on Gulf of Mexico (22 exceptionally nice walk-in tent sites with water & electricity plus 156 RV sites & 32 cabins). Beautiful beaches, pool, shuffleboard, great seafood restaurants, tourist attractions.
Manatee Springs SP on Suwannee River west of Gainesville (80 sites including 20 tent only sites). Wildlife viewing, swimming area, canoe rental, pontoon boat tours, interpretive programs.
Salt Springs CG in the Ocala NF Southeast of Gainsville (54 tent only sites plus 106 RV sites). Largest and most popular of 13 developed campgrounds in the forest, canoe rental, visitor center.
Anastasia SP on Atlantic Ocean south of St Augustine (139 sites). Beach, historic area, lighthouse, canoe & paddleboat rentals, bike rental.
Hillsborough River SP north of Tampa (112 sites in 3 loops; Hammock circle has best tent sites). All sites have sand surface, most have shade, pool, historic fort, bike rental.
Myakka River SP east of Sarasota (90 sites). Tram tours, bike rental, interpretive programs, wildlife viewing & lots of alligators.
Jonathan Dickinson SP near Atlantic Ocean north of West Palm Beach (135 sites). Boat tours, canoe rental, historic sites, interpretive programs, horse rental.