Camping at the beach can be an awesome way to save money and experience more of the natural parts of the beach! This is part 1 of how we took four kids camping for five days at the beach for a fraction of the cost of a typical beach vacation!
I’m sharing about our recent camping trip at the beach this week.
Stick around for a recap of what we did, and come back for another camping meal plan, a packing list for anyone intimidated by camping (especially with kids), and a list of tips and best-buy supplies that made our trip so much easier!
Check out these other camping posts from past trips too:
Beach Camping with Kids :: Recap
A week ago today we loaded up our van and “adventure vehicle” to spend five days camping at the beach.
Our original plan was to camp at our favorite spot in the mountains, but we checked the forecast for the mountains several days before our trip, and after seeing rain everyday, we decided to switch to the beach.
In what would be the start of a series of unfortunate events, a day or two before our trip (in other words, after we had already paid our deposit at the beach) the forecasts flip-flopped and it was now the beach which was expected to be wet and stormy all week.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little anxious about how the trip would go. This would be our first time camping at the beach, our first time camping with four kids (and three of them under 5), and now there was the chance of being rained on for at least part of each day. Oh, there was the case of shingles I was starting the week out with, too.
We were determined to vacation, though. Or at the very least to give it a try. So I packed along our rain jackets, we bought a couple extra tarps, and asked our church to pray for fair weather.
Monday morning we loaded up and left surprisingly early. We had a few errands to run before hitting the highway, and it was during one of these that my husband discovered a screw in his tire. This turned out to the first occasion in our trip in which we saw God’s goodness and watch-care over us. Less than a mile from where he saw the screw was a tire shop that could fit him in almost immediately. And across the street from the tire shop was an auto shop where he needed to pick up power steering fluid.
Perched atop pillows and camping gear, the kids watched a movie in the van while the car was being fixed. I used the time to ask a friend about natural remedies for shingles, and my husband used it to finish up his errands.
Second answer to prayer of the week: what could have been a bad week with shingles had a quick (and inexpensive!) turnaround with extra doses of Vitamin C and B12 each day.
Once we arrived at the campsite, the kids played while my husband and I set up camp. Everyone was relieved to be out of the car since what was supposed to be a three hour trip had become a six hour trip.
Setting up camp was followed by reading aloud, exploring the woods surrounding the tent, a steak dinner, and visiting the marina and small shop for fresh ice and pre-bedtime bathroom needs.
And, of course, daddy’s traditional off-the-cuff campsite stories in the dark.
Not surprisingly, the excitement was still high when it was time to go to bed. All the kids were wound up, but my toddler was especially excited. It was her first time camping since she was just 9 months old, and so everything was new. Pink sleeping bag! A tent! All my brothers next to me!!!
Needless to say, it took a while for everyone to go to sleep that night.
We started Tuesday with a simple breakfast and then a little nature journaling. The kids gathered leaves and we used our guides to identify what they were, before drawing them in their sketchbooks. It was a really simple activity, but we all enjoyed the slow start and the time we spent discussing the types of trees around our campsite.
The bulk of the day on Tuesday was spent at the beach–five hours straight. Snacks and picnic lunches were pulled out of the van when we needed them. Our big kids LOVED playing in the sand and the waves, and the baby was obliging to stay happy on his beach blanket or napping in the ergo.
There’s something about the beach, though, that makes my boys wander off. Last year it was my second born who gave us a heart attack; this year it was our firstborn.
He had walked a short way to the pier with us watching him, but then on his way back he completely missed seeing us. We figured he was just walking a little down the other way, but once we realized he wasn’t stopping, he was already too far to hear us calling. I was left holding the baby and wondering what in the world he was thinking while my husband took off running to catch up with him.
There was a period in which I couldn’t see either my husband or my son. All I could do was try not to freak out and recite one of my kids’ memory verses over and over (“when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You”). I am thankful that it really wasn’t too long before they came back into view, and thankful that the incident led to a discussion with all of my kids about what to do if they need help.
It turned out to be another good ending to what could have been a bad situation.
After so much sun on Tuesday, I wanted to keep the kids out of the sun a bit on Wednesday. We planned to stay around the park and enjoy a few activities close to our campsite.
First up– modeling clay and cookies.
Since we were not in a rush to get anywhere this morning, I took advantage of the time to do a little campsite school. I kept things simple with a little more nature journaling, reading aloud from our nature books, and practicing some of our songs and poems for our co-op group.
After “school” we hiked, picnicked by the river, and spent a little time fishing and catching crabs.
The park where we camped is home to some of the only naturally growing Venus fly traps. We found them on our hike, as well as pitcher plants and other really interesting plant life.
I showered and fixed my hair on Thursday morning. This seems worth mentioning, even though about thirty minutes later I pulled it back because it was so hot.
Thursday was our day for all of our outings and sightseeing. We started off at the aquarium and had a good visit, but everyone was a little on edge because we were all hungry. Maybe we would have enjoyed the fish more if nobody had been hangry?
We visited a Civil War battle site after the aquarium. Our hunger issues were solved as we picnicked in a gazebo near the beach. We ate and then explored some of the natural places, before going and walking through the visitor center and museum.
This little “cave” opening was visible from where we sat to eat lunch, and my kids kept talking about going over to check it out. Who would have thought it opened up into such a big and spacious spot!
We caught a ferry over to Southport to spend the evening in the town there. We had plans to do this and that, but a torrential downpour pretty much put a stop to most of them. Instead, we taught the kids what a progressive dinner was, and made our way through a coffee shop, tried some Thai food, picked out some old fashioned candy, shared some fish at a restaurant on the coast, and topped everything off with ice cream and the sunset.
It seemed that the rainy weather was finally catching up to us (this was the first rain of the week!), and we were a little scared about what would be waiting for us back at the campsite. On the drive back (we missed the ferry– oops!), my husband and I discussed exactly what we would do if everything was soaked and we had to leave that night.
But, again, God answered our prayers and those offered up by our church (thank you for checking your email!). Remarkably, our tent stayed dry even though where we had just left had several inches of standing water in some places.
Never was I so thankful for an air mattress in a stuffy tent.
Our plans for Friday morning were touch and go because we didn’t know what the rain was going to do. We debated just packing up and leaving, or trying to get to the beach one last time. Honestly, I was torn. I thought I would regret not trying to go to the beach, but I was also just ready to get home by this point too.
We ended up not needing to make a choice at all, since the moment we finished loading our vehicles the rain started pouring. After hitting up a Chick-fil-a for free wi-fi (podcasts for the road!) and lemonade we were off. Thankfully the trip home was much less eventful!
(Oh, and I’m still trying to get everything put away. Hashtag, vacation probs).
The week had its hard moments, (I’m looking at you, bedtime), but all in all I am SO glad we went! We had a really great time together, and camping always brings us closer since there are so few distractions.
I’m already excited for our next trip. That is, after we make it back to the mountains first!
Have you ever camped near the beach?
What is your family’s favorite vacation?