Camping at a Beach Without Leaving a Trace
How Camping at a Beach in Maryland Taught Me to Care
for Our One World Ocean
By Mary Fishel
I bury my toes in the soft sand. The waves are softly crashing in the darkness. The smell and warmth of the campfire make me feel cozy. These are the experiences that keep me coming back to the beach year after year. In fact, camping at a beach has been a part of my life for over thirty years.
My family traveled all over the eastern United States in our tent and our little camper. But my favorite memories of them all are when we were camping at a beach in Maryland on Assateague Island.
I slept outside under the stars on Assateague Island, Maryland before I could walk more than a few steps. Even as a child, I loved the pristine beach and the wildlife that call it home. Wild ponies wander the island. Walking trails lead you through marsh and vegetation. Seagulls hover over the ocean. The experience makes you appreciate the world in its natural state.
Tent camping on the beach is an unforgettable experience. But before you jump in the car and head to your campsite, you should know the best ways to camp without harming the nature around you. With a little planning and some knowledge of the area, you can responsibly camp on a beach. If we all pitch in to do our part, we can enjoy the ocean’s beauty for years to come.
Research Before You Go
Every time I visit Assateague Island, I do some quick research. There are a few things you should know before you get there. Confirm the check-in and check-out times, how many people and vehicles can be at the campsite, and what passes and permits you will need for your stay. Planning ahead of time makes it so easy to get right in and enjoy the beach!
Besides making basic packing lists and travel plans, it’s important to find out the rules for the area you visit. A little bit of planning ensures you easily enjoy your time. It also makes sure you’re confident in your ability to camp so you stay safe. If you’re heading to a national park, you can find regulations right on the national park service website. Otherwise, a simple Google search will usually give you all the answers you’re looking for.
Camping at a Beach With Care
I remember my excitement on one of my first beach camping trips. Our tent was up. The fire was crackling. I remember spotting the nearby dunes and deciding I wanted to run over and set up a beach blanket right on top. But of course, my plan was quickly foiled! My family informed me that the dunes are off-limits. So I set up my blanket right by the waves instead and enjoyed the view without disturbing the natural landscape. Learn more about the best beaches.
Most parks and campsites will direct you to walk and camp in a concentrated area. This keeps humans from disturbing too much of the natural world. Make sure you stay in your designated spot and don’t alter the campsite. When you’re camping at a beach, you don’t really need to go anywhere else! This means staying off the dunes, leaving certain areas of the beach undisturbed, and only walking on designated pathways.
Respect the Wildlife
One thing I love about camping on the beach in Maryland is the wildlife. At Assateague Island, wild ponies roam the beach. They are beautiful. They are graceful. But they are wild animals. It’s easy for visitors to forget that at times. Get too close, and the ponies may kick or bite you. Always remember it’s best to keep your distance from any wild animal. Enjoy them from afar.
Even when you stay at your campsite and respect the space of animals, you can still hurt them unintentionally. Secure any food and trash and throw away any kitchen waste – even that bacon grease or orange peel. Animals will find food that is left behind which could make them sick.
Animals aren’t the only wild things you may encounter. Feel free to take pictures of blooming flowers, and even bird nests from a respectable distance. But also be mindful not to disturb the local vegetation. Make sure the habitat stays untouched so it can be visited by future generations.
Enjoy the Campfire
I have many memories of campfires over years of traveling and camping with my family. But enjoying a fire on the beach is unlike anything else. Some of my first experiences toasting up a big marshmallow and eating chocolatey smores took place at Assateague Island. Laying back in the sand in front of a warm fire while the waves crash in the distance is one of the most relaxing travel experiences.
Fires are no doubt one of the best parts of camping! But there are several important things to remember before you light that fire. Did you know that you should only be using local wood for your campfire? Any wood you bring should be from within a 50-mile radius of your campsite. You can also use any dead wood you find nearby. This ensures you aren’t introducing a new type of pest that may affect the local environment.
Use the designated fire ring and stay with the fire at all times. Enjoy eating smores. But when you’re done, put out the fire with water. Sand and dirt may not put the fire out completely. And you definitely don’t want someone to accidentally step on a hot log underneath the sand! Ouch!
Leave the Beach Beautiful
Maybe I wasn’t a typical kid, but I enjoyed running around, picking up trash, and keeping the outdoors clean. This was especially true while camping at the beach in Maryland. I made sure everything was bagged up and helped my parents get packed.
Our beaches and oceans are such an important part of our world. Leave your campsite the way you found it so the next person can enjoy it too. Anything you brought with you should leave with you. Think about the little things you may not notice at first like cigarette butts and fishing lines. After camping at a beach just once your life will change. I guarantee you’ll want to keep coming back! So start planning, set up camp, start a fire, watch nature, and have an amazing outdoor adventure with your new knowledge.
Keep Camping at a Beach a Great Experience for
Everyone – Including the Fish
Learn More About Protecting Our One World Ocean
Sign up for the Ocean Blue Newsletter and visit the weekly blog to become more informed about how to coexist with nature. Learn why you should care about our one world Ocean.
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Volunteer at Your Local Beach
Use your skills or passions to help out a local community. Whether there is an event to clean up trash, a fundraiser to raise money, or a day to educate kids in the community, there are always ways to give back. Check with Ocean Blue Project for information about planned cleanups in your area. If there aren’t any, Ocean Blue can help you get started.
Spread Your Knowledge to Others
Knowledge is power. People may not realize how much their actions impact our oceans. But now you have a great start on how to leave no trace when camping on a beach. So spread the word and help create more responsible travelers. Ask your friends and family if they know about the unexpected impact of their favorite sweet treats as well. We have one world, so let’s take care of it together!
Author Bio: Mary is an adventure travel copywriter. When she’s not traveling or writing, you can find her playing with her three dogs and working in the garden