In our over 13 months of our new lifestyle of retiring to a small motor home, we have only camped in official campgrounds a couple times. Now, we are committed as volunteers to a campground lifestyle for the next five months. The setting is pretty enough on Indian Lake in the UP of Michigan. We are basically situated in the Hiawatha National Forest. We spent a year up here years ago so everything is not unfamiliar for us.
Generally speaking, a campground campsite is usually smaller and closer together than a state park one. For obvious reasons, the state park has more land at their disposal and the camp grounds have a finite number of acres to work with so the campsites are smaller.
The state parks perks are the amount of lands for trails and a larger scale of vistas and opportunities for scenic viewing. You feel like you could discover even more if you were to stay long enough since you do not see everything at first gaze and just know there are many hidden treasures if you walk further or drive to more isolated spots.
Both types of camping may offer water sports and the appreciation of lake viewing since many have that in common as the main draw may be water, especially for fishermen. Again, the similarities of what water offers a camper are fun, swimming, fishing, boating, observing birds and water fowl and available at both facilities. The only difference may be the size of the lake and what kind of boating is reasonable. Lakes of course can differ as to what fish inhabit it and which fisherman that will attract.
Most state parks have very few planned or organized activities so you are expected to enjoy arranging your own camping time. There may be an occasional activity to take part in at a state park but, not nearly so many as at a campground. Again, the larger the campground the more planned and organized activities will be available. At the top of this spectrum is the campground that fancies itself a resort. They will have constant options sometimes daily or even more often for the camper to engage in.
The biggest difference I have discovered so far is the friendliness of the campers. Most campgrounds have several long term, permanent or seasonal campers. These folks act as the welcoming committee and try to connect campers with each other. I have not found the degree of friendliness in the state parks since most will not be visiting very long. Making close friendships is a problem in that respect. Don’t get me wrong, most campers are friendly people but, the longer term camper is rarer in the state park.
Most time there are few amenities at a state park. Where most campgrounds have laundromats and stores, usually nether is present at a state park. They all my offer electric and water but, usually only campgrounds offer sewer hook ups though we have found a few. Most state parks have handicap sites but, not all campgrounds. We have found Wi/Fi at both but, not TV cable hook ups. Some of the larger camp grounds offer cable.
Both offer a different type of camping. If you like doing your own thing and enjoy solitude, I believe state parks are better. If you like organized activities and to really connect with campers and make new friends, I suggest campgrounds.
Each one has certain attractions and plusses and minuses. Try to mix in both for a better trip and more variety.