The best things about camping are the things we don’t have while we’re at home living our busy lives: Solitude, an open sky, the sounds of a living earth that get overpowered by an ever-active civilization. I go for the crickets and the whispering of critters’ feet on the forest floor, but many sleep better with the thundering roll of water against the shore when they escape urban life and wander out under the stars.
The ocean has the capacity to make a place feel full and deserted all at once, and when you find the right spot, where the gentility and power of nature coexist, that is where you stop and dwell for a while. You don’t have to travel far to find such wonder; there are many places in the United States to begin your beach camping season.
Ocean Shore Camping:
Acadia National Park in Maine is home to pebble beaches and the moody waters of the Atlantic. On Cumberland Island, Georgia, also an Atlantic destination, you will find mudflats, tidal creeks, and famously wild horses that rove across the beaches and through the winding oak trees. In the Pacific, there is a chain of islands belonging to California called the Channel Islands. Created out of tectonic movement, the islands lodge sea lions and marine animals that bring vibrance to the diverse landscape.
Desert Lake and Sand Camping:
Beach camping is not limited to the ocean. Inland there are plenty of treasures to explore. This March, I spent seven days kayaking the slot canyons and open water of Lake Powell. What I remember the most was sand in my socks, in my sleeping bag, in my toothbrush. Be prepared for sand and learn to be okay with sharing quarters with it. The other thing I recall was a lack of natural coverage. Finding a place to change or a place out of the sun becomes more difficult when vegetation is scarce. Tarps and clothing layers for protection from the sun are indispensable. Desert beaches like Powell and Cumberland Island deliver unique circumstances that have to be considered before arriving.
Pebble Beach and Cliff Camping:
Another inland beach to tour is found in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore features green water, rock cliffs, and parades all four seasons proudly. Camping in places like this and Acadia National Park, while still beach camping, means preparing for different terrain entirely. Pebble beaches and rocky cliffs can be difficult to anchor a fly in or pitch a tent on, but you can use drift wood to create a dead-man and pile rock on top to hold it down, or find a large flat rock to slip through your rope to act as a stake, then stack other flat rocks around it for support. The Channel Islands have multiple types of terrain, so like any other camping trip, know your route and be prepared for anything.
While tropical vacations are good for some who want time on the water, the robust character of beach camping and inhabiting near such raw greatness is unparalleled. Beach camping, whether inland or on the coast, sleeping on soft sand or sturdy stone, in the north, the south, the east, the west, or the middle of the country, is one of the best ways to connect with your spirit and the vast world we seem to ignore as we daily mill about our busy lives. So if you haven’t taken the plunge yet, make this year the one you try something new: a night sleeping with waves in your ears. With so many options in the States and so much beauty to behold, what would hold you back?