The Cape Cod campground that time forgot
Hot sun, warm waves, and cool sea breeze through the pitch pines: this is the stuff of summer that lures millions of people to Cape Cod National Seashore each year. And it's what make the North of Highlands Camping Area—nestled in a shady forest near the northern tip of the cape—a perennial favorite for families looking to unplug, slow down, and bask in the old-fashioned pleasures of the season.
The Trust for Public Land helped protect the North of Highlands Camping Area with a conservation easement, ensuring that future generations of visitors to Cape Cod National Seashore will still have a welcoming, affordable spot to while away lazy summer days. It's the kind of place families come back to year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation.
The Curriers have been in charge at North of Highlands Camping Area for 60 years. Initially, Evelyn, a school nurse, and Malcolm, a postal worker, kept their day jobs while working on the cape in the summers. Evelyn and Malcom's son Stephen took over in 1984; now his sons, Gregory and Brandon, are taking their turn managing the 234 campsites.
Many of the guests are third-generation visitors here, too, and today fourth-generation campers are starting to toddle over the pine-shaded grounds. Stephen says the long history many families have with this place makes a visit feel like a big family reunion.
The Angiello brood all hail from New Jersey. Joe Angiello’s brother started coming here in the mid-1960s; eventually, he convinced most of the rest of his family to join him. These days Joe and his wife, Roanne, are joined here by their three adult daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, family friends, neighbors, and various stray acquaintances they’ve picked up over their two decades of camping on Cape Cod.
“It’s one month every summer there’s no video games, no TV, no computers,” says Annie, one of Joe and Roanne’s daughters. “That’s my favorite thing about coming here. The older kids play board games with eight-year-olds.”
The Cox family
The Cox family first pulled up to North of Highlands Camping Area on a summer day in 1982. They’d been driving up and down the Cape looking for a place to stay, hoping to steer clear of the crowds that inundate the seashore each summer. “We arrived in this wooded, clean area, a great walk to the beach—it was just exactly what we were looking for,” says Kevin, now in his 60s.
“It was peaceful, not too commercial,” says his daughter Jenny. “And it’s been that way ever since.” Jenny now visits with her sons, Sammy and Hugh. She's happy her boys will grow up experiencing the joys of a summer spent outdoors: from swimming and bonfires on the beach to quiet nights under the pines. The campground is an escape for her, too. “I feel like I’m the most grounded when I’m here,” she says.
Bob Orendorf jokes that when his kids were teenagers, he'd drive into North of Highlands Campground, remind them when they were headed home, and then barely see them for the rest of the trip. “They’d sleep over at their friends' campsites then all descend on one family’s site for breakfast,” Bob says.
“It’s a 1950s neighborhood feel. The kids run around in a pack,” Dee Orendorf agrees. That atmosphere helps the families form lasting bonds with each other. In fact, Bob and Dee's daughter Megan was one of many campers who met their future spouse on the grounds as kids.
Tammy and Brian Perzanoski started staying here as young adults in a small tent, graduated to a pop-up camper when they had their daughter, Emily, then upgraded to a 26-foot camper. Everywhere Tammy looks sparks a memory. She can name every campsite the family tried until they found the one they loved. The hammock is where Emily would curl up in the mornings with her teddy bear when the sun came up. The camp office is where Emily worked as a teenager. The small blue toy soldiers in the nearby tree that Emily found have stood guard over the Perzanoskis' site for years.
“There’s no price you could put on staying here,” Tammy said. “It’s the smell of the pine. That first time when you get here and the sun is beating on the pine and you can smell it. It’s the way the sun comes through the trees. It’s just everything.”
Does your family have a favorite campsite you've returned to again and again? Or do you have a place in mind for starting a new tradition? We want to hear about it! Leave us a comment, or join us on Facebook.
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