To New Yorkers, it sounds gloriously apocryphal: an inexpensive, uncrowded, lakeside camp deep in the elm- and oak-studded woods one hour from the city. But it's for real. Really real. I've lived it.
Ensconced in Harriman State Park since 1926, Camp Nawakwa is a year-round “rustic retreat” maintained by the NY Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, a “membership organization dedicated to the enjoyment of the outdoors.”
At the heart of the camp is a large Adirondack-style lodge with a well-provisioned community kitchen and communal tables. The lodge's elevated porch looks out at otter- and beaver-busy Lake Sebago, to which the camp has access via a swim dock with shallows for kids and deep water for the rest, as well as a boat launch, where the camp fleet includes canoes, kayaks and a small sailboat.
Peaceful overnights are possible in camping areas or lake-view tent platforms, and in six simple shared cabins furnished with single beds (bring sleeping bags and pillow cases). There's even an outdoor hot-water shower and flush toilets (set in outhouses).
In keeping with its Adirondack pedigree, Camp Nawakwa sits amid hundreds of miles of volunteer-maintained mountain hiking trails (watch for deer!), including one from the NJ Transit station at Tuxedo, making it reachable without a car. (It's also a few miles from the Sloatsburg station, off of Seven Lakes Drive.)
At present, Nawakwa costs $10/$5 a day per adult/child under 13, but you must be a member or a guest of one.