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Sightseeing- East Coast vs. West Coast

    ​In the past year, our first as full-time RV’ers, we’ve spent considerable time on both the east coast and the west.  I shouldn’t have been surprised at some significant differences between the two, especially in the realm of sightseeing and photo opportunities.  Here are a few observations.

    Access to Viewpoints
    After experiencing both coasts, one of the most obvious differences between them is with physical access to the coastline, beaches and surrounding forests.  Most of the land in the east coast, especially in the most beautiful spots, is private and either fenced off or posted to keep out.  This was even true with most lakes.  Coming from Southern California, this was especially surprising to me.  In the west, most of the natural landscapes and vistas are either public accessible for free or part of a state or federal park.  

    One day in Massachusetts, I decided to go on what I call a photo jaunt, driving and stopping all along whatever route I had decided upon.  Naturally I wanted crashing waves, rugged coastline, pristine beaches and green forest, but none of that was found.  The coast is lined with miles of private homes and thick forest nearly always stood between the highway and the ocean, providing no view at all.  The few shots I got that long day were the ones I trespassed to take.

    Let’s face it.  One third of the country’s population is on the eastern seaboard, so it shouldn’t be shocking to see that in state parks and beaches, and in nearly every scenic or historic town, easterners and tourists can be shoulder-to-shoulder on any given day.  This only really happens in the west during key holiday weeks or perhaps any time in the Rocky Mountains

    Historic Buildings and Sites
    The United States was formed in the east and, to the credit of lawmakers and city fathers, innumerable historic buildings, Revolutionary and Civil War battlegrounds, museums and heritage sites have been set aside and well-preserved.  The myriad of fascinating locations is the main reason we always look forward to visiting the east.  Its Mexican roots notwithstanding, the Southwest can’t hold a candle to the east when it comes to historic sites, and the central and northern Pacific coast have even fewer notable locations.







    While neither is better than the other, the east and west cultures are very different.  Sometimes clichés are based on truth and that certainly seems to be the case when comparing the two regions of the country.  The west tends to be more athletic and health-minded while the east seems to be more interested in its cosmopolitan lifestyle.  Art, theater and history can be enjoyed on both coasts, but for sheer quality and numerous opportunities for a metropolitan experience, the east is far superior.

    A couple of differences stand out when comparing camping and resorts.  In the east, there are many more seasonal vacationers, whether camping or having property, than in the west.   Every eastern lake and many coastal roads are lined with summer homes, and the zones of seasonal campers in east coast resorts are many times larger than campgrounds out west. To be fair, there are huge seasonal groupings in Arizona, Southern California and Florida, but the balance of the west coast is mostly devoid of these camping subdivisions.  The issue is that seasonal neighborhood residents often view us interlopers as vagabonds or street rats.  There are friendly people everywhere, but the large number of seasonal inhabitants makes it much more likely for this view to be shown.

    Second, it seems like western campers love dark, serene nights and the abundance of stars, while their eastern counterparts would rather bring the big city with them when they camp.  East coast campsites are often adorned with enough lights to compete in a Christmas light contest, with flashing strobe lights, rotating spotlights, electronic lamps shining colorful shapes up into the trees and enough solar lighting to blaze a trail from one end of a resort to the other.  These campers are also much more likely to build and man private taverns and public bars, complete with tiki torches and thatched roofs.

    Sunrise vs. Sunset
    Purely a personal preference, but sunsets seem grander and more vibrant than sunrises over oceans or other bodies of water.  I did cross off a bucket list item in the east, however, when I photographed a sunrise from Acadia National Park in Maine.

    The takeaway is this:  Knowing these differences can help maximize your enjoyment in each region of the country.  You can plan on more state-run parks and attractions and extra visits to historical locales in the east and more self-guided tours and longer drives in the west.  You can enjoy your solitude in the west and party like rock stars in the east -- savor the differences and revel in the RV lifestyle.