Crashing surf, the sound of gulls, and that unique salt-and-sand scent are just part of what makes the ocean so magical. With miles of sandy beach and cresting waves, the seaside calls out to visitors of all ages. Whether it's sandcastle building, body surfing, or surf swimming you're after, the ocean offers plenty of activities – for free! And somehow just gazing that distant blue horizon is enough to soothe the most restless of spirits.
Ocean camping has a special allure, drawing in all kinds of campers. Fishing enthusiasts look forward to casting their lines in ocean waters or to deep sea fishing, crabbing, and shrimping. Bird watchers love viewing the birds that flock to the shore, from pelagic cormorants and terns in the north to flamingoes and egrets in the south. And wildlife viewers have the chance to see cresting whales, dolphins, porpoises, and even manatees.
Kids can peer into tide pools, learning about ocean creatures, or dip their toes in the waves. The beach is full of playthings for kids, from sand piles to bull kelp that's washed up from the sea. Families can go beach combing, looking for sand dollars and smooth sea glass.
When you're planning an ocean camping trip, it's useful to keep a few things in mind. First, consider the weather before you go. The coast is often cooler and foggier than inland areas, so it's wise to pack extra jackets, hats, and raingear. You'll also want to plan for sun with sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm, and sun hats. If you burn easily or have little ones in your group, you may want a sun umbrella or canopy.
On long, flat beaches, the movement of the tide can alter the shoreline by a mile or even more. Invest in a tide chart – available at bait shops and seaside convenience stores – so you know when the tides peak and fall. If you'll be tent camping, be sure to identify the high tide line, a collection of seaweed and other debris high on the beach, before you pitch your tent. There's nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night because your tent is swamped in ocean waves!
Similarly, RV campers should only park in designated campsites where they can be sure the tires won't sink in the sand. And while it might seem like a great idea to sleep out right on the sand, a sandy bed can become very cold. Be sure to use a sleeping pad or small inflatable mattress to keep yourself up off the ground.
Most ocean areas have charming seaside towns nearby that offer gift shops and fresh seafood restaurants. This is a great place to try lobster or crab, steamed clams, or oysters on the half-shell. Many areas have their own distinctive seafood recipes, from chowder to gumbo, so be sure to try the delicacy of the place you're visiting.
You might also find interesting attractions like maritime museums, historic ships, and aquariums. Visiting these sites will give you a better sense of the place you're touring and a new awareness of the creatures that make the sea their home.
The ocean is a perfect summertime destination, with its cooling breezes and luscious waves. So head to the coast this month and dive headfirst into ocean camping!