Warm weather means beach season is upon us. But for some, spending a week among the crowds on the boardwalk doesn’t seem relaxing. With much of the Maryland and Delaware coastline protected by state or national parks, camping is a great way to enjoy the coast and wake up to the sound of the waves.
There are options from Delaware Bay to Assawoman Bay, in Maryland to Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park, and in Delaware to Delaware Seashore State Park and Cape Henlopen State Park.
Assateague Island National Seashore recorded a record 2.7 million visitors in 2021, at its locations in Maryland and Virginia. No camping is permitted in the District of Virginia.
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Parks and Recreation Director Ray Bivens said Delaware parks also saw record attendance in 2021 and a 30% increase in camping. .
People who picked up new habits during COVID-19, whether because they couldn’t go to a gym or their usual vacation spot, and continued with those habits after pandemic restrictions were lifted , Bivens said.
“Overall, we’ve seen a dramatic increase,” he added.
There are a few things to know about beach camping, but with a little care, your time ashore will be a breeze.
Tom Simon of Assateague Outfitters said it’s important to be prepared for the weather when camping. It is very windy along the coast and he has seen tents rolling.
It is important to use equipment designed to withstand the wind. Tent pegs that dig deep into the sand or use an auger type anchor will help secure tents.
The sun is another big factor on the beach, Simon said.
“It reflects off the sand, it reflects off the water. The sun is brutal,” he said.
He suggests a straw hat and long sleeves to protect you from the sun.
One thing you shouldn’t try to avoid: sand. Simon has seen people go to great lengths to avoid putting sand in a tent, but that work is ultimately futile. If you camp at the beach, the sand will spread everywhere.
“Surrender to the sand, coexist with it. You will have a better experience,” Simon said.
When camping on the beach, you must keep food in a bear box or in a locked vehicle. No, there are no bears at the beach. But there are some very savvy wild ponies on Assateague Island who will find and eat your snacks.
“Horses can open coolers. They are super smart. They will destroy all your food,” Simon said.
As the parks saw record attendance during the pandemic, campers may find more competition than in the past for the limited number of designated campsites in each park.
“The campgrounds are full earlier in the season for sure,” Simon said.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Assteague Island State Park, Cape Henlopen State Park, and Delaware Seashore State Park allow guests to reserve campsites months in advance. At Assateague National Seashore, spots are released six months in advance. In Delaware, campers can reserve up to a year in advance.
Bivens said the Delaware website includes a feature that notifies campers when someone else cancels and a spot becomes available.
“You have to make reservations much further than you did before,” Bivens said.
Campsites are available year-round at Delaware Seashore State Park, with a total of 358 sites available around the Indian River Inlet, located between Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach. The entrance is a popular fishing spot and includes a special access jetty for wheelchair users.
There are 88 full hookup RV sites north of the Indian River Inlet, 151 full hookup sites south of the inlet, 86 no hookups and 33 tent sites only.
Bivens said the campsites at the entrance don’t have individual fire rings because they’re close together, so instead there are common fire rings that multiple campsites can use. . There are also two restaurants, Hammerheads at the Indian River Marina and Big Chill Beach Club on the beach.
“After all the driving, they don’t need to go anywhere. Everything they need is within walking distance,” Bivens said.
Camping is also available at Cape Henlopen State Park, where structures such as yurts and cabins are also available for rental.
Bivens said campers can wake up and swim or fish in minutes. The parks offer free guided hikes and other nature discovery programs.
“That’s what we all loved growing up as kids, unstructured outdoor play,” he said.
Spotted Lantern Fly infestations are now present in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Harford County, Montgomery County, Frederick County, Carroll and other counties in Maryland, as well as New Castle and Kent counties in Delaware, according to the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program.
But the invasive insects have yet to infest beaches in Delaware and Maryland. Visitors can ensure it stays that way by leaving their firewood at home and buying wood when they get to the beach. Assateague Farm, Buck’s and many other vendors offer lumber on the trip to Assateague National Seashore in Maryland.
What if you see one in Maryland? Take a picture of the bug, squish it, then report the sighting at mda.maryland.gov/spottedlanternfly.
If you are camping in a Delaware state park, an outdoor firewood ban is in effect. Bivens said it was because of another insect pest, the emerald ash borer. Firewood is available for purchase at all Delaware state campgrounds.
So Maryland, buy local lumber and bring it to the park. Delaware, buy local wood at the park.
Bivens said one of the highlights of camping in Delaware is the wide variety of educational programs to be found in the area. At Cape Henlopen State Park, there are seine fishing programs, where a large net is used to capture near shore creatures and fish for educators to talk about and show off. The park also offers naturalist-guided hikes, Bivens said.
The Indian River Lifesaving Station offers a historic program in which volunteers demonstrate how a cannon, projectile and rope were used to rescue sailors from ships in distress along the coast.
“It really adds a lot of value to your stay without having to overbook or plan ahead,” Bivens said.
You can find more information online, including campsite location, park information, rules, and making a reservation: