The Definitive Guide to Tips for Camping on a Beach


Beach Sunset

It’s the stuff of travel journals and travel vbloggers; waking up on a deserted beach, just you, your tent, and the waves. My daughters had this dream as well, it turned out.  I am, for better or worse, the kind of parent who tries to find ways to make dreams come true. It is a disease of my generation. After weeks of beach camping, I have plenty of tips to make any other dreamers experience perfection. Here are our hard-earned tips.  Combine this with our clickable camping checklist.

Ocean Tides

Where to Camp?

Tides Happen!

Grab a tide app, like TideTrac, or take a snapshot of the posted tide schedule from the ranger station on your phone. Ideally, get to your campsite around high tide. This will help you know the outer edge of the water on the beach. That said, if you are like us, you will get there at a random time to set up camp. In that case, your childhood training in reading context clues is your friend. Look for driftwood, seaweed, and other sea refuse.


Tent on Beach

Look for Beach Creeks

Real beaches, not the ones at all-inclusive resorts, usually have a varied topography. There will be high spots, ideal for camping, certainly. But, then there will be the red herrings. As you wander around the camp-site, notice places where the sand seems to look like dry creek. Most likely, at high tide, or during particularly stormy nights, that area fills in water. Do not set up camp there.


Tent on Beach
The View from the Tent

Staying Healthy and Happy

Radiation Alert

Ideal camping sites are despoiled space, where you, and you alone, can look out onto the sea. But, that also means that you and your tent are not shaded from the reflection of the sun. Make sure to take care of yourself with sunblock.

Sand, Sand, Everywhere

Sand and children are natural partners. You are as likely to get kids to walk the dog as to get them to keep sand out of your tent. But, there are a few ways to keep the sand at bay.

  • Make a “no shoes” rule—no exceptions.
  • Brush off all your limbs before getting into the tent.
  • Keep beach prizes (like shells, stones, etc) out of the tent.
  • Brush out the tent before setting up sleeping bags. Brush out before striking your tent.
  • Turn your tent inside out before packing up to shake out the tent.

Bear Box

Creature Comforts

Keep the Animals Out

Camping beaches are often quite remote. It’s just you, the tent, the sea, and all the animals that come out at night. There is nothing more frightening than waking up with the thin piece of cloth separating you from a hungry raccoon. Keep from having this experience by hiding food in a bear box or bear canister. Do the same with the garbage b/c those coons love junk.

Beach Fire

Make a Fire

The best part of beach camping, in my mind, is the meal that you create as you hear the waves lapping against the shore. The best beaches are miles away from parking lots and RVs. So, to get dinner made, you will need to start a fire. Most beach campsites encourage you to use drift wood.  Be careful to find the wood that is most dry (most will have some dampness).  You will also want to bring some cardboard as a starter. The fire is also essential for keeping you warm. Beaches are surprising cool as the sun goes down.

Bring Light

The best and worst of beach nights is the isolation. With kids, you will find yourself late night looking for the pit toilet. Don’t be the person hoping that your phone still has a charge. A head lamp makes things way easier.

Tent on Beach
A Seaside View

Use a Synthetic Sleeping Bag

Sand and natural fibers are not a good match. Don’t make that mistake. Use a synthetic sleeping bag and make sure to give it a really good shake before wrapping it up.

Bring a Rain Fly & Tarp

Wet sand turns the amazing Instagram fantasy into the Tough Mudder. Now, while you can’t totally avoid rain, you can try to keep your tent dry. First, on the ground, before setting up your tent, put down some hardcore garbage bags or a tarp. And, then get a tarp or a rain fly poised over your tent. Once you are prepared, the sound of the rain will be pleasurable instead of horrifying.

Sand Stakes

Beaches breezes are great for hair but can turn tents into kits. Rather than enjoying a windy afternoon chasing your beloved REI tent down a lonely beach, buy some sand stakes and a real kite :>

Sand Dunes
Sand Dunes

Respect the Natural Environment

Don’t Tread on Dunes (and other protected Environments)

Beaches usually edge on protected environments, like sand dunes. Make conservation everyone’s job by staying out of the dunes. If you aren’t sure where you can walk, err on the side of staying away. Also, rangers are skilled in helping young people understand why some areas are off limits. For example, a nice Oregon ranger helped us understand about the nesting habits of sea birds. Who wants to mess with baby birds?

Collect with Care

We have a “collect by photos” policy for a great deal of nature’s bounty. This is particularly true of beach finds. So many “shells” are the home to animals. Rocks, inert as they are, might be more tempting. But, if you take them all home, they won’t be there for the next beach goer. As a form of compromise, we usually take a couple and the photograph the ones that don’t make the cut


2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. The “no shoes” rule is absolutely wonderful. We’ve never been camping on the beach but this extremely exhaustive and informative list makes planning a trip in the future extremely helpful. I cannot wait for an opportunity to get to the beach and try these tips for camping on the beach.

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