Of all the literal happy campers out there, beach campers are probably the happiest. If you think about it, beachfront camping offers nature’s version of all the stuff you spend cash money on to keep you comfortable at home: the softest mattress (sand), a soothing sound machine (crashing waves) and a combination fan/humidifier (balmy ocean breezes).
With summer in full swing, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite beachfront camping destinations in the U.S.—plus ALL the gear you need to make your trip a shore thing.
Wright’s Beach / Sonoma Coast State Park
Oceanfront accommodations on the prettiest slice of the California coast for $35–45 per night? HECK YEAH. Classic NorCal scenery, including wind-gnarled trees and dramatic, rocky coastlines, provides a gorgeous home base for sweet day hikes and general beachy goodness. NOTE: due to cold, sharky waters and gnarly rips, the ocean is more of a spectator sport here.
BRING IT: While you’re probably safe from landsharks, the water’s not the only thing that’s chilly up on the Lost Coast! Even if you’re camping in high summer, it can get down into the 40s at night. Make sure you’ve got an easy-up, easy-down abode like our Night Owl tent, and a cozy bag to cuddle up in—our popular Galactic comes in both men’s and women’s models.
Hoffmaster State Park / Muskegon, Michigan
This massive beachfront camping area offers nearly 300 sites along three miles of prime Lake Michigan shoreline, along with the “white sand, turquoise seas” vibes you’d expect from the Caribbean. Safe shorelines and easy hiking trails make this a great place for families—but a quick walk into the nearby town will reward mom and dad with local craft brews, too.
BRING IT: Nothing says “summer at the lake” like a big ol’ family BBQ—and nothing serves it up in style like our Camp Kitchen—an essential set of nesting stainless steel pots and pans with color-coded crew of durable recycled plastic plates and bowls AND stainless steel utensil sets. Matching cups sold separately. You’ll definitely need a convenient Folding Cooler, too.
Cumberland Island National Seashore / Atlanta, Georgia
One of the South’s best-kept secrets, Cumberland Island has a scant 16 beachfront camping sites accessible only by ferry, so reservations are a must. Relax in the shade of moss-draped live oaks, share the sugary beaches with wild horses or stroll through the shambling ruins of the Dungeness Mansion—built by the Carnegie family, but today inhabited by armadillos.
BRING IT: With lots of natural shade and miles of varied terrain to explore, your Cumberland must-have is lightweight, comfy seating. Our Mesh Lowdown Chair features breezy mesh construction to keep the air flowin’ on hot days, plus a lower base so you’re not blocking anyone’s view of the ocean. It also comes in a Loveseat for beachfront camping/canoodling.
Cape Lookout National Seashore / Harkers Island, North Carolina
Something about beachfront camping makes you feel like you’re living high, even when you’re roughing it…which you absolutely WILL be on Cape Lookout. Once your boat drops you off and heads back to civilization, you’ll be alone—no services, only miles of pristine beaches and breathtaking ocean views. Plan to bring everything you need and pack out your trash.
BRING IT: Thanks to Cape Lookout’s amazingly remote location, this is your opportunity to design the sprawling campsite of your dreams—complete with separate daytime digs and evening environs. There’s virtually no shade near the water, so be sure to bring along a Cabana to prevent burns…and keep those good vibes going long into the night!
Biscayne National Park / South Florida
For bragging rights both above and below the surface, you can’t beat Biscayne. Beachfront camping at Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key campgrounds is accessible only by water—take a powerboat shuttle or load up your kayak for the seven-mile paddle. Once you’re there, you’ll find a pretty cluster of barrier islands to explore and SO. MUCH. KILLER. SNORKELING.
BRING IT: You know you’re a snack. Thing is, those ubiquitous Biscayne bugs know it, too! Don’t let those lil’ creeps spoil your post-swimming-or-snorkeling naps—keep the skeeters off yer back and the sand fleas outta yer biz with the ultimate daytime duo for beachfront camping: our Bestie BFF down below, and our Cabana up above. Done and DONE.
Photos: Tom Milam, @twm_photo