Europeans have lived in the Connecticut area for hundreds of years, and various Indian tribes lived here for thousands of years before that. Throughout this long history, what is now Rocky Neck State Park has been a popular summer destination for families. Before the Great Depression in the 1930s, this park was basically a large fertilizer factory, but the business left the area, and conservationists created the park in 1931. These individuals used their own money to buy the property and deed it to the state. Their timing was excellent. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began working on state parks nationwide about two years later. Much of the CCC's work, including a 750-foot long granite and timber pavilion, still remains. Rocky Neck State Park has more than just nice facilities. The long sand beach beckons families to swim and picnic near the shore, and if you like to stretch your legs, miles of trails await eager hikers. Plus, this part of the Atlantic coastline is very ecologically diverse. Saltwater and freshwater come together, so the fishing is excellent as well. Whether you're coming from near or far, renting an RV from nearby or hauling the old rig, Rocky Neck State Park has over 100 RV and trailer-friendly sites. Although no hookups are offered at this park, a dump station and plenty of water spigots are located on-site.
RV Rentals in Rocky Neck State Park
Transportation in Rocky Neck State Park
One of the nice things about this stretch of the Atlantic coast is that everything is close by, yet also somewhat isolated. The isolated nature of the park means that maneuvering rigs, trailers, or other large vehicles into the park should be a breeze. Located just off of I-95, roads are paved and well maintained year-round. Once inside the park, visitors should have no trouble navigating to and from their campsites.
This area of Connecticut is dotted with numerous state parks and forests, making it easy to enjoy day trips during your stay at Rocky Neck State Park. Harkness Memorial State Park is located up the coast about 10 miles, and Nehantic State Forest is about ten miles to the north. Connecticut's largest state forest, Pachaug State Forest, sits along the Rhode Island border, about 45 minutes from the park.
There is ample parking near the beach. That's where visitors spend most of their time and where many of the hiking trails originate. It's close to the saltwater marsh fishing area. Day visitors from out of state should note that there is a small parking fee during the peak season (May through September).
Campgrounds and parking in Rocky Neck State Park
Campsites in Rocky Neck State Park
Niantic / I-95 Exit 72 KOA
Within a couple of hours of Boston and New York City lies the city of Niantic, a coastal town with plenty to explore. Relaxation is easy in this small Connecticut village full of historical and cultural significance. Great restaurants, dynamic entertainment, and warm hospitality make this a great place to unwind and enjoy nature. At Niantic KOA, you can enjoy amenities like Wi-Fi, cable TV, and beautiful sites set up to accommodate rigs of up to 65 feet. Cook a meal in the Kamping Kitchen and stay fueled up with on-site propane and firewood available for purchase.
Rocky Neck State Park Campground
135 RV and trailer friendly sites are open between May and September at Rocky Neck State Park. Some are in lush wooded areas, and others are out in the open, so take your pick: reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance.
Although the park has no hookups available, most campers still enjoy their stay thanks to the generous facilities the park provides. Amenities include an outdoor community fireplace, shower and restroom facilities, drinking water spigots, a concession area, a swimming pool, and a dump station. Each site is equipped with its own picnic table and fire ring. The campground is divided into five loops: the Heron, Egret, Crane, Osprey, and Seagull. Each loop surrounds a toilet and shower block and water supply, so you're never too far away from the amenities you need.
Seasonal activities in Rocky Neck State Park
Although Rocky Neck State Park isn't famous for its mountain biking trails, you should still consider bringing the bicycles along on your RV camping trip. Biking is allowed on various trails and all roads within the park, making it easy to leave the camper parked at the campsite and see the park on two wheels instead. The beach is a trek from the campground on foot, so a bike is the best way to travel to and from these areas.
Most people come to Rocky Neck State Park to enjoy something that’s not technically in the park. For the most part, the beach is smooth, soft, sandy, and white. There are some rocky spots here and there, but that’s how the park got its name. Typically, the ocean is almost swimming-pool calm, and there is plenty of parking for large rigs in the nearby parking lot. Other facilities include a snack bar, showers, flush toilets (which replaced the old chemical ones), a sheltered picnic area adjacent to a walkway, and an open picnic area that’s right on the water Lifeguards are generally on duty during the summer. However, an adult should still accompany children at all times.
Anglers may fish from the jetty all year long, and during the off-season, the beach is open for fishing as well. Common catches at Rocky Neck State Park include winter flounder, bluefish, blackfish, and striped bass. Crabbing is allowed at designated spots, as well. Be careful on the jetty, especially at night, as there is a sheer drop. Fishing is also permitted in the saltwater marsh. Be sure to bring your own gear along in the pop-up, as there are no rentals available at the park.
Not many of these bridges remain on the East Coast. The Northeast Corridor Footbridge is listed in the Historic American Engineering Record. The railroad dates back to 1848, and the bridge is almost a hundred years old. Architecturally, it has cool arches and other significant features. It’s an all-around historical photo op, especially if you get the ocean in the background. The footbridge can be accessed near the Rocky Neck Pavillion on the beach, not far from a spacious parking lot where you can park your campervan for the day.
It’s hard to beat a picnic on a warm afternoon in a place where sea salt lingers in the air. Picknicking near the beach is a favorite pastime amongst visitors, and various tables are sprinkled along the waterfront, making it easy for more than one group of people to eat near the water. In addition to the beachfront picnic areas, there are other areas on the north and south ends of the beach parking lot. If you want to picnic near the Airstream, each campsite is equipped with its own table and fire ring.
Ellie Mitchell Pavilion
This curved stone building is the largest Civilian Conservation Corps structure in Connecticut. The defunct fertilizer plant, which once stood here, provided most of the supplies to build the structure. Workers used locally-sourced granite and timber to fill in the gaps. The pavilion is located near the beach and railroad footbridge. Overall, this is an excellent place to be if the weather is suspect, and the Sprinter is still parked at the campsite.
Although it’s not actually a caveman-type cave, Baker’s Cave is still a pretty cool spot. It’s a layered granite rock outcropping not far from the shoreline. You can park the motorhome near the beach and hike the short distance to the cave. History buffs and kids alike take joy in the story of this old cave. Supposedly, a man with the last name Baker, hid in this cave to avoid military service during the American Revolution.
Rocky Neck State Park Trail
The Rocky Neck State Park Trail is a well-marked, easy to hike, 2.5-mile loop trail that’s about 80 percent wooded. It runs the length of the park from the beach to the ship graveyard. Along the trail, the wildflowers are a sight to see in early spring. Even though the area is pretty flat, this trail offers excellent views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Connecticut River, so don't forget the camera in the campervan. The views are a little better in late fall and winter when the trees have no leaves.
Not much of this shipyard is left today, but back in the early 1800s, the Beckwith Shipyard was one of the most important mercantile points in the area. The Beckwith family produced vessels like fishing smacks, sloops, schooners, and other small craft. Many, if not most, families in the area either built ships or fished from the completed vessels. When the British blockaded Long Island Sound during the War of 1812, the Beckwiths, with the help of their neighbors, moved the ships further inland and covered them with tree saplings. The plan worked great until the ships began getting stuck in the mud. Remnants of the shipyard can be viewed from the Four Mile River Trail that snakes through the park.
Four Mile River Trail
This appropriately named four-mile trail is an excellent place to view the park’s diverse ecosystems up close. In early spring, the freshwater from the Four Mile River and saltwater from the Long Island Sound form an estuary. In the autumn, Four Mile River Trail is an excellent birding spot. There are lots of herons and cranes to be seen, as well as osprey and mute swans. Also, as mentioned, the bass fishing is very good in the saltwater marsh located just off the trail.