Hard times have depleted their numbers as condominiums take the place of tents and RVs. But, according to a report in the Star News, Wilmington, N.C., the ones that have survived remain havens for campers looking to find the peaceful quiet that comes with life by the water.

And while the campgrounds all differ, they attract similar types of people and share the ability to provide a lifestyle that some seek at a price many middle-class Americans can still afford.

I don’t care if you’re on a bicycle or in a tent, it’s all $40 a night,” said Gary “Skip” Skipper, manager of Waterway Campground, near the mouth of the Shallotte River across the Intracoastal Waterway from Ocean Isle Beach.

It’s $375 a month for a permanent rental.

Most campers prefer an RV, and the prices are the same.

The 54-year-old with a thick country accent has been the manager here for a year. He rarely wears a shirt and has a dark bronze tan except where flip-flop straps cover his feet.

He lived at the campground for more than 10 years before he took the job as manager and has a nickname for almost everyone.

“That’s ‘Typhoon Shirley,’” he says of one camper. “Everyone calls her that because every time she visits, she brings the rain.”

He oversees 46 campsites on a small plot of land bordered by thick pine, a dirt road, another campground and the Intracoastal Waterway.

The rules at the campground are simple. Visitors need to stay quiet from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Most keep to themselves anyway, said Mike Robinson, 63. The retired construction worker has spent time at the site since 1991. His wife sent him down from Charlotte to clean their camper.

“The atmosphere is really great. It’s quiet,” he said. “No one disturbs each other, and everyone abides by the rules and works together. I can’t complain … .”

Skipper added that there are never problems because “everyone knows everyone.”

It’s why once a year, for his extended family, he cooks “a whole hog” along with oysters and clams. The community blocks off a section of the dirt road and fills the driveway with picnic benches.

The residents catch most of the food off the pier, where Skipper said he has seen “more flounder caught there than anywhere else in the United States.”

“It’s wild,” he said.

Skipper traveled around the U.S. as a welder before he settled down at the campground. He still has a three-bedroom house in Bladen County, where he lived all his life.

But he doesn’t see the need to go back much anymore.

Why would he? From his front porch at the camp, he can see the Atlantic Ocean just over the Shallotte Inlet.

“It’s a whole different life,” he said. “And I enjoy the view.”

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