Imagine waking up to the sounds of ocean waves, then heading out to a sunrise dip in the ocean. Imagine eating your meals at the beach, heading out of the sun for an easy siesta, then heading out for another dip as the sun begins to retreat. In our family, we’ve found beach camping to be one of the most memorable and exciting forms of camping. Beach camping can allow you and your family to enjoy the beach while enabling you to take a much-needed break when the sun is at its peak and you need a rest. It’s important, however, to follow some guidelines so that your experience can be as safe and relaxing as beach camping is meant to be.
Number One: Make sure that you choose a legally acceptable destination. You can’t just choose any beach to camp on. You must consult campground directories to be sure that the beach you camp at is meant for beach camping.
Number Two: Only camp in designated camping areas. The campground will tell you where you may and may not camp on their beach. Respect these guidelines. If the destination is remote, and beach camping is allowed, but there are no designated camping spots, be sure to take tides into careful consideration. People who have never been to the ocean are often naive about the distance that the ocean recedes at low tide. It is very easy accidentally pitch camp during low tide, only to be flooded, or worse, swept away, when the tides return. Be very careful. Consult locals for advice. If you are new to the ocean experience, do not camp in remote areas. The ocean is a powerful force and you need the experience to be safe.
Number Three: Bring an awning. Whether you are camping in an RV or a tent, be sure to bring an awning. The sun can be unbearable at times on the beach. An awning is vital to preventing sunburn and heatstroke. If you have no awning for your tent, you can use an old heavy blanket, cut some hold in it and loop it over your tent poles. Park your car close to your tent. Then slam the blanket into the car doors. This works very well, creating heavy shade between the tent and the car. Just remember to unhook the blanket before you go anywhere. We used this system on a beach camping trip years ago and were very satisfied with the convenience and the amount of shade produced.
Number Four: Have an ample supply of maximum protection sunblock. You will need it. Reapply several times per day. If you are camping with small children remember that they are usually too busy and excited to notice that they are burning. You will have to check them often for burning and reapply sunblock before they ask you to. Pull back a strap of their swimsuits or the waistband of their clothing to check for changes in skin tone. Remember that if you just size them up for burns without pulling back some of their clothing, even you may not notice the slow, subtle changes that indicate the onset of sunburn.
Number Five: Bring a huge cooler. Fill it with ice. Make sure that you have plenty of drinks that everyone likes. If you have kids who are not water drinkers, then make cool-aid or iced tea. They may need to have some flavor to keep them drinking. Remember, most kids do not drink until they are thirsty, and thirst indicates that dehydration has already occurred. You cannot allow anyone on your trip to get dehydrated. Have scheduled drinking breaks. One way to do this is to play the radio. Teach everyone in the family that when the commercials come on, they have to take a drink.
Number Six: Remember your neighbors. Sound carries at the beach. If you do play your radio, make sure that everyone else on the beach is awake and has started their day already. Sounds that wouldn’t disturb neighbors at a wooded campsite may disturb neighbors at the beach. Be very careful about this.
Number Seven: Do not bring infants, small children who have poor safety awareness, who do not follow directions, who do not understand the language well, or who wander away. Beaches are incredibly beautiful places, but they can be very dangerous. Make sure that your kids are old enough to be safe during a long stay at the beach. The beach may not be a good destination if you have family members with dementia or autism.
Number Eight: Bring treats to share. Often beach campers have multi-family parties at night. They often make big batches of food to share with their neighbors. Pack some special cookies, chips, or bread to share– just in case you are invited to participate in one of these impromptu gatherings.
Number Nine: Do not have a fire on the beach unless you are specifically informed that you are permitted to do so. Most beach camping areas do NOT allow beach fires.
Number Ten: Clean up after yourself throughout the day. The wind can easily carry your plastic bags, sandwich bags, wrappers, and other garbage from your campsite to the ocean. Be careful to have a trash container that seals well, is easy to get to, and is out of the wind.
Number Eleven: Bring several mats to wipe your feet on. Place them outside your car doors and outside your tent or RV entrance. We like to also have a shallow tub that we fill with clean water. We keep clean towels on a laundry line next to the tub. Then, before getting into the car or going into the tent, we wipe our feet on the towel, then stand on mat, dipping our feet into the tub one at a time. Then we dry our feet with towels and then enter the tent or the car, where we keep clean flip flops for indoor use only. This cuts down on tracking sand in significantly.
Number Twelve: The whisk broom is your friend! A small, hand-held broom is very useful. Sand WILL be everywhere, even if you use the system mentioned in step number eleven. Use the whisk broom often.
Number Thirteen: You may even want to take more elaborate precautions to cut down on sand tracking. One way to do this is to pitch a separate tent that you will use as a changing tent. Get a tent with a high ceiling to make changing clothes easier. Then, when you come in after swimming, you can remove your sandy swimsuits without getting sand in your living space.
Number Fourteen: Leave the expensive camera equipment and other electronics at home. Beaches are notoriously hard on this kind of gear. Sand gets in everything, and the grit quickly destroys their internal workings. If you love your camera, leave it at home. Buy a cheaper camera for the beach, or use a disposable. Buy a cheaper mp3 player. Don’t even think about bringing Cd’s.
Number Fifteen: Plan to leave while you’re still having fun. Think about how many days you think you want to camp at the beach, then plan to spend only half that time at the beach. Go somewhere else for the second half of your trip. Beach camping is wonderful, but in small doses. You will crave shade trees and grass after more than a couple of days at the beach.