Whether you’re a seasoned camper or taking your family on their first outdoor adventure, the following campsites all serve up sun and sand with a side of s’mores. Camping on the beach requires a little extra preparation; make sure you pack long tent stakes to protect your tent from seaside winds and always check the local tide schedule before embarking.

Photo: Fred Schroeder via flickr

Assateague State Park
What little kid doesn’t love horses? Or the beach? Together, and you have a destination fit for the youngest set. Camping is allowed on the Maryland side of this island, famous for its wild horses. Oceanside walk in sites are approximately 200 years from the parking lot. While you can stake your tent on the beach, the sites that are sheltered by shoreside shrubs and grass experience less wind. The grasslands are also easier to pitch a tent on. Oceanside sites do not have a view of the ocean, but seeing horses is nearly guaranteed; the famous ponies are known to  roam the campground greeting visitors (and nosing for food). Don’t let your kids pet the ponies, though (they can kick or bite). Campsites do require an advanced reservation (sites are $30). Assateague Island is approximately a three hour drive from D.C.

Online: nps.gov

Photo: Virginia State Parks via flickr

False Cape State Park 
If you have experienced the great outdoors with your kids and are ready to take it to the next level, look no further than False Cape. This area of the Atlantic coast is so undeveloped, you have to hike or bike in to access camping sites. This State Park features 15 miles of hiking trails and 6 miles of beach to explore. There are only 12 campsites along the shore line and reservations are required. This is primitive camping at its best (there are no showers; only pit toilets).  Due to the primitive nature of this beach, camping here is best suited for children 8 and older. For day visitors, there are beach trams which include a tour of the area ($8 a person). False Cape is a four hour drive from the city.

Online: dcr.virginia.gov

Photo: Virginia State Parks via flickr

First Landing State Park 
If you want to take the family camping — and we mean the whole family, fido included — head to Virginia’s most popular State Park, First Landing. You won’t get a secluded experience on these grounds, but you will have access to a number of (little kid necessary) amenities (think: electric hookups, showers and restrooms, grills, picnic tables and more). There are 200 campsites; spots range from $24 to $32. This beach is approximately a three and a half hour drive from the district.

Online: dcr.virginia.gov

Photo: Virginia State Parks via flickr

Belle Isle State Park
You don’t need to travel towards the ocean to hit the beach. This park, nestled along the Rappahannock River, offers 28 well-equipped, private camping sites (sites cost $30). Onsite you’ll find private showers with hot water, restrooms, washers and dryers, a playground and more. The park boasts seven miles of shoreline.  Kids will enjoy exploring the areas tidal pools and sandbars. Biking and boating are also popular past times at Belle Isle. The park is a two and a half hour drive from downtown.

Online: dcr.virginia.gov

Photo: Gareth Williams via flickr

Governors Island
If not everyone in your family is “outdoorsy,”  Collective Retreat, a new “glamping” experience nestled along New York harbor, will let you and your family relax under the stars without all the work. Well-appointed, luxury tents feature private bathrooms (starting at $500 a night; breakfast is included). Luxury tents can accommodate up to 2 adults and 2 children (rollaway beds are available for children 12 and under for an additional fee of $100).  While the Island’s sandy stretch, Water Taxi Beach,  is just short bike ride away, the real lure of this site is the skyline view. We’ll repeat that: The. New. York. Skyline. There are a number of playgrounds on the Island, along with family-friendly bike paths.

Online: collectiveretreats.com

—Meghan Meyer

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