This Turf's Got Surf
Your home is your (sand) castle: Pitch your tent at these campgrounds by the sea
SEBASTIAN INLET STATE RECREATION AREA | FLORIDA
The beach: Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area straddles two counties with three miles of sandy beaches along Florida's famed Route A1A. Most of the action is centered on the north jetty, which surfers consider the best break in the state for its sudden-rising, dramatically breaking waves. Younger kids can take refuge in a calm,
shallow lagoon right across the road. On the inlet's south side, the beach is narrower but less crowded, and the surf's a bit kinder--until you hit the Monster Hole break a third of a mile out.
The campground: Fifty-one campsites for tents and RVs ($13–$15 per night), most with full hookups, occupy a scrubby land lobe south and west of the 1,548-foot bridge that arches over the inlet. Fifteen campsites overlook the Indian River Lagoon, with the south beach a short stroll away and the north beach a hop across the bridge.
A park concession by the north-side beach picnic area sells food and fishing supplies, and serves meals until 6 p.m. Because winter is Florida's high season, the campground rarely fills during the summer. Bring insect repellent to combat the mosquitoes and no-see-ums.
Farther afield: Beneath the inlet bridge, catwalks offer great vistas and a breezy reprieve from the sweltering rays, especially on an incoming tide. At this manmade inlet, anglers land blues, jack, flounder, snapper, grouper, and mackerel. The inlet connects the Atlantic Ocean with the narrow 156-mile Indian River Lagoon, the nation's
most diverse estuary. Ecotourist boat trips to Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge originate at the park marina.
Resources: For park information, call the Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area at 407-984-4852. For camping information and reservations, call 561-589-9659.
POINT MUGU STATE PARK | CALIFORNIA
The beach: Set in the wilds of southern Ventura County, this gorgeously desolate stretch of coastline could be called Little Big Sur. In fact, it's hard to believe that Malibu lies a mere 25 miles to the south. In this rugged topography, mountains sidle right up to the ocean. The primevally wild beach is a bit forbidding, with its steep
offshore dropoff and frigid water making swimming hazardous. A half-mile down the coast, a flat expanse provides worthy sunbathing and hiking between beaches and tide pools at low tide.
The campground: Thornhill Broome Beach Campground occupies slightly more than a mile of rocky beachfront; its only drawback is its proximity to the Pacific Coast Highway--both are pressed against the shoreline by the plunging Santa Monica Mountains. But the sound of the waves drowns out traffic noise, and if you were any closer to the
water, you'd be surfing. Along with 60 primitive campsites ($10 on weekday nights, $11 on weekends), the campground offers picnic tables, chemical toilets, and fire pits. Another close-by park campground, Sycamore Canyon, provides 55 sites that lend a different perspective from the northeast side of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Farther afield: Point Mugu State Park's 15,000 acres include 70 miles of trails for hikers and mountain bikers. From nearby Sycamore Canyon, this trail network leads into the Santa Monica Mountains. A must-do trek is the Overlook Trail, a ten-mile loop that rewards you with some of the most stunning ocean overlooks on the Central
Resources: For park information, call the California Department of Parks and Recreation's Angeles District at 818-880-0350. For camping information and reservations, contact ReserveAmerica at 800-444-7275; www.reserveamerica.com.
EDISTO BEACH STATE PARK | SOUTH CAROLINA
Tom Bladgen/Larry Ulrich Stock
The beach: Edisto Island is the most remote island accessible by car along the South Carolina coast. To get there, visitors must take South Carolina 174 for nearly 30 miles, driving past former plantations and under a canopy of gnarled live oaks hung with Spanish moss. Edisto sits at the head of a marshy triumvirate (the Ashepoo,
Combahee, and Edisto rivers), which forms the ACE Basin. There's little more to this isolated stretch than rental cottages with names like "Swamp Fox" and "Old Timer," blessedly nonfranchise restaurants such as the Sea Cow, and Edisto Beach State Park. The park claims a mile-long, brown-sand beach facing the balmy Atlantic along the northeast flank. While the island's
beaches continually battle erosion, intensified last year by hurricanes Dennis and Floyd, their dramatic high and low tides make them a shell collector's paradise.
The campground: Between the main beachfront campground and the marsh-side overflow area, Edisto Beach State Park offers 100 campsites ($21 per night). Arrive early to camp at one of the coveted oceanfront spots (reservations not accepted). Some sites sit out in the open behind the dunes, while others nestle among live oaks, magnolias,
and the tallest palmettos in the state. Be sure to bring insect repellent.
Farther afield: ACE Basin's teeming network of rivers, wetlands, and marshy islands begs to be explored by car, bike, boat, canoe, or kayak. The 12,000-acre national wildlife refuge lies upriver from Edisto Beach; pick up orientation materials at refuge headquarters, located in an antebellum plantation home.
Resources: Contact Edisto Beach State Park at 843-869-2756; www.southcarolinaparks.com. For campground information, call 843-869-2156. Call ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge at 843-889-3084.
CAMDEN HILLS STATE PARK | MAINE
The beach: On the Maine coast, where sandy beaches are as rare as whale's teeth, expect to find plenty of rocks. Midcoast off U.S. Route 1, two miles east of Camden, this state park offers a 1,700-foot shoreline along Penobscot Bay. Within the park is 1,385-foot Mount Megunticook, the tallest mountain directly descending to the ocean on
the Atlantic Coast. To swim, you'll have to head for Laite Memorial Beach, a small stretch of municipal shoreline in nearby Camden. And if you just want to wiggle your toes in the sand, drive just up the road to the town of Lincolnville.
The campground: At 5,700 acres, Camden Hills is Maine's largest coastal state park. The 107-site campground (with five group areas) is extremely popular during Maine's brief summer season (July and August), so you'll need reservations. Sites are arrayed in two loops close to Penobscot Bay and the picnic area, and they access the trail
network that leads into the hills. From May 15 through October 15, nightly fees are $13 for Maine residents, $17 for nonresidents. The day-use fee is $2 per person, 50 cents for kids under 12.
Farther afield: Hikers here can trek more than 25 miles of trails that crisscross Mounts Battie and Megunticook, among them the mile-long Megunticook Trail, which climbs 1,100 feet to Ocean Lookout. The park's most popular vista is the 900-foot Mount Battie summit, reachable by car or by foot (a half-hour hike). Your reward will be an
"oh, wow!" view of placid Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay.
Resources: Call Camden Hills State Park at 207-236-3109. To reserve sites, contact 207-287-3824 or www.state.me.us/doc/prkslnds/reser. Call the Rockport-Camden-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce at 207-236-4404; www.visitcamden.com.
– Parke Puterbaugh
|Pleeeeease MOM! . . .I WANT IT.
Wouldn't it be cool to check out psychedelic fish and pretty shells with underwater binoculars? The new Bin-Aqua-Lars from Wild Planet Toys ($12) are just what you need--a kid's snorkel mask with extra magnifying oomph. Lock binocs to the side for regular viewing; swing them over the mask for 3x magnification. "These are
great, says Robbie Medeiros, age nine. "They really make stuff look bigger. Hey, do you have a penny or something I can dive for?" Contact 800-247-6570; www.wildplanet.com. – L.T.B.