Thanks for visiting Mikes Spikes ! This blog is our attempt to equip beach goers with the best knowledge that we have gained over the past 30 years from the trial and error of our own vacations . Hopefully it will save you some time and money in the long run .
It sounds a little technical but we have learned to time our vacations with the tide . It is possible to spend a week at the beach without being jammed up all day against the dunes with hundreds of other vacationers . If you google the beach tide tables for your destination , you will want to time your arrival so high tide on the morning of your first full day is close to 5:00 am . This means that low tide will be near 11:00 am . This is perfect as your family can get on the beach around mid-morning and have plenty of room . Since the high tide mark comes about 45 minutes later each day , high tide on your last full day will have only advanced to about 8:45 am , still allowing you to enjoy the beach without crowding . If you vacation as a couple only and prefer to sleep in and "hit the beach " in the afternoon after most kids have gone in , adjust your arrival so high tide is at 8:00 am on your first full day . You will find that the beach appears emptier and quieter each afternoon as you go out a little later each day .
Depending on where you stay in proximity to the ocean has a great effect on how you pack for your day on the beach . Our condo is 3 blocks off the beach and is more convenient than a oceanfront condo . We have a golf cart and garden wagon which we pile all of our stuff into and go to a beach access that has no stairs and is away from the crowd of a highrise . This tough plastic mesh wagon is currently available at Ace Hardware for $140 and is big enough carry everything mentioned hereafter . The handle even converts to a trailer hitch . From there we pull the wagon to our spot and camp out for the day . If you're in a highrise condo or hotel , a hand truck type carrier works best provided it has large wheels . If you have to carry it all by hand from the car or room , get some type of large beach bags or crates and delegate the load . Another option is to rent your umbrella and chairs by the day if you don't want to haul it around and are willing to spend over a hundred dollars for the week .
Next I'd like to address what the essentials are for a day at the beach . First and foremost is sunblock . Don't even think about anything less than a 30 spf . I say this because "everyone" applies it too lightly which equates to about a 15 spf . I prefer the waterproof squirt gels over the aerosol types due to the waste caused by the wind . Babies should be coated and kept under an umbrella . Children won't stay under cover so they need to be coated at least every 2 hours . The skin areas to pay attention to the most are the shoulders , back , feet , face , and ears . A 45 spf lip balm is mandatory . It's always best for everyone to wear a hat and keep a t-shirt handy just in case you over do it . One last sun protective item is a good pair of polarized sun glasses and some tissue to wipe off the salt mist that builds up hourly . Oh yeah , I forgot to mention to wear a pair of water shoes or sandals . Not only will they protect your feet from shells and hidden debris but also keeps you from scorching your feet in the hot sand at the dunes and boardwalks .
Now on to the basic equipment needed . There are some decent 6' umbrellas out there for about $50 but the best choice is a good quality 8' umbrella that will cost from $100-$200 . If it costs less than $20 don't waste your money . It won't make it through the first windy day . Sam's Club offers an 8' rainbow colored beach umbrella that's excellent for $25 if you're on a tight budget but it generally won't last over a few seasons . The center pole is thin aluminum and tends to split at the joint and the tilt button will break if used very much . Also it has an anoying flap in the wind and it's color fades quickly . We found a good 8' patio umbrella 25 years ago at an end of season sale for $50 so keep your eyes open . We finally replaced recently with an excellent 9' market umbrella that we found at East Coast Umbrellas who carry an excellent line of oudoor furniture . One type of shade to avoid is the pop-up canopy . As a general rule , these dinosaurs can take over a half hour to set up and anchor and even longer to take down and pack up . If not rinsed out daily and allowed to dry , sand and salt tend to get up in the leg assembies and will rust them useless in a weeks time . If a sudden summer thunderstorm pops up and you have to run for it , the odds are it won't be there when you come back . With an umbrella , all you have to do is lower it down . Some beaches are already outlawing the use of canopies and most won't allow you to keep them up overnight . Of course a good umbrella is only as good as it's anchor . Don't waste your time or money with the screw in sand anchors . Most take several difficult and frustrating minutes to install . The absolute best is a Mikes Spikes "Ultimate" Beach Umbrella Holder . It easily cuts into the sand in less than 30 seconds which is very convenient if you like to move with the tide and it's superior hold allows the use of a large quality beach umbrella . These anchors excell on breezy days ! You should be able to find one for around $30 . They are also a great fishing rod holder ! If you are a serious surf fisherman and use a larger rod Mikes Spikes also has an "Ultimate" Surf Rod Anchor for $40 . To see this exclusive line of sand anchors go to http://www.mikesspikes.com/ .
Let's move on to beach chairs . Again , you get what you pay for . We like to sit at the waters edge so our chairs have to be good . Stay away from any type of coated steel . It will rust in a few seasons . A company called Rio carries some fairly decent aluminum beach chairs for about $30-$50 but still has steel pins at the joints that corrode over time . The best route is the wooden style recliner that has stainless steel or brass hardware but these will set you back anywhere from $70-$180 each . This seems expensive but if you have to buy chairs every 2-3 years compared to 25 years for the wooden ones , they're a bargain and can be re-slung . A few that come to mind are The Anywhere Chair , The Outer Banks Chair , and The Cape Cod Chair .
Next we'll discuss the secondary needs . This includes a cooler , beach bag , and toys . A medium size cooler is ample enough to hold your beverages (no glass please) and sandwiches for lunch . We always freeze water in large bowls which lasts longer and use the cubes for drinks . A large beach bag that closes is great for holding your camera , radio , lotion , and magazines . Zip lock bags are great if you absolutely have to protect anything from the sand and salt . Also a small fanny pack is good to keep your valuables and keys separate so they don't disappear in the sand or if you want to go for a walk . A secondary mesh bag works best for toys as they tend to collect sand and can be rinsed out in the bag . Two items that we always found invaluable were boogie boards and a real shovel . "Catching a wave" and a large hole will entertain kids all day !
Finally , I want to address beach etiquette . As crowded as the beach gets , never set up directly in front of someone else if there is room to the side . If it is necessary , try to stagger forward 20' at an angle between the two groups behind you . Don't play your radio so loud that it interferes with someone elses . If it is crowded don't throw any type of ball or disc . They tend to get away sometimes ! Keep an eye on your kids . They also tend to get away sometimes ! Some beaches prohibit surfing and boogie boarding and have deignated areas for these activities . Fishermen like to get an early start so if you come out later , try to honor their fishing space to prevent getting hooked . Most beaches prohibit dogs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm during the summer . If you should bring your dog when it is allowed , be sure to bring some plastic shopping bags to pick up their "business" . You can deposit it , along with any debris , in the trash barrels provided at the dune line . Lastly , never leave your umbrella unatended . Lower it down if you have to leave , no matter how short the time . Your best bet for preventing your umbrella from becoming a tumbling weapon is to secure it with a Mikes Spikes "Ultimate" Sand Anchor !
I hope this information helps to make your trip to the coast more convenient and fun . If we missed anything or you just have someting to add , let me know . Thanks , Mike Haney