15 Frugal Ways to Enjoy the Beach

If you are within driving distance of a beach then you are very lucky! It is hard to find a cheaper alternative for a fabulous time with you and/or your family. And summer is not the only time when the beach can offer fun; spring, fall, and winter (depending upon your location) are great times to enjoy the view as well.

I grew up landlocked on a dairy farm. Each summer we would take a one week vacation to Ocean City Maryland, something we looked forward to all school year. During this week we would stay in a condo owned by a family member, head to the beach each day, play miniature golf, eat Fisher’s popcorn, walk along the boardwalk at nighttime and ride choice rides on the pier (I preferred the Ferris wheel and haunted house). There were many fond memories from these vacations. But then the week would be over and we’d have to wait another year to see the ocean again. Since moving out on my own I have lived next to the Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic Florida Coast, and now we are just an hour away from the Gulf of Mexico. Every time I drive to the beach it feels like a vacation to me. 

During a daytrip my husband and I made to the beach this past weekend I began to think about (and witness) all of the wonderful things there are to do at the beach. Below I’ve listed them for you.

Author’s Note: please make sure you check with your beach to make sure these activities are permitted, specifically if the beach you are visiting is a national park.

Frugal Things to do at the Beach

  1. Read Books and Magazines: We both love to take our books to the beach and read to a gorgeous background. I also use beach time to catch up on a magazine or two. If you don’t have magazine subscriptions, check with your library or borrow from friends.
  2. Have a Picnic and/or Grill: We typically pack sandwiches, chips, and lots of drinks. When we meet up with family they bring a portable grill and we grill hot dogs, sausages, burgers, etc. Everyone chips in by bringing an item.  
  3. Collect Shells/Pebbles for a Collage: It is a lot of fun to look for shells (particularly when you find unique ones!). You can keep a jar of your collected shells at home. Another way to display your beach finds as a family is to purchase a fisherman’s net at a craft store to hang on the wall. Work together to decorate the net with shells, driftwood, etc. Martha Stewart has some interesting seashell craft ideas.
  4. Be on the Lookout for Wildlife: Research ahead of time on the internet or take a book out of the library on wildlife you might encounter at your beach. This past weekend my husband and I got to see a ray/skate and a baby hammerhead shark! We also saw a variety of seagulls and pelicans. Typically we see sandpipers as well. In Ocean City we would find the occasional horseshoe crab.  
  5. Play Frisbee: I’ve got a free Frisbee from a conference I went to and like to take it with us for a game.  
  6. Fly a Kite: If you don’t own a kite, you could make one. Here’s a version that uses newspaper. Could be a fun project to get everyone excited about the upcoming beach visit.   
  7. Ride/Jump the Waves: You can body surf, or you can use a body board to try and catch a wave. My sister and I love to jump the waves as they come. I am always surprised by the height I get and the feeling of flying.
  8. Take a Walk/Run: I like to walk/run at the water’s edge bare foot and then jump in for a cool-off afterwards.
  9. Build Sand Castles: Bring any containers you have at home to use to build sand castles (no need to purchase pails and buckets if you do not have them). If you are with a lot of kids, pair them up with an adult and hold a competition for who can build the highest castle before the tide comes in!
  10. Dig for Sand Crabs: If you and the kids are looking for more wildlife sightings, try digging for sand crabs. These aren’t for eating or keeping, but can be fun to find. They live below the sand at the water’s edge. When the water flows back into the ocean, take note of any little holes and/or bubbles. Then start digging!
  11. Go Fishing: If you like to fish, bring your license and fishing gear and see what you can catch.
  12. Go Crabbing: We did this once when we went to the beach with our uncle and his family. It’s a great way to entertain kids (heck, it’s fun for adults too). And in the end, you might just have yourself a crab feast that would cost you and your family a small fortune in a restaurant. Paul is interested in trying this again, and his brother already owns crab traps. There are many rules and regulations to follow for recreational crabbing (check with your parks and recreation state agency to learn about your own regulations such as licenses, size of crabs you can keep, number of traps you can use, etc.).
  13. Sit by the Water’s Edge: Take your chair and sit on the water’s edge while the little waves come crashing over you. This is very soothing, and can also afford you a good observation point for the little ones playing in the water.  
  14. Ask Someone to Take Your Photo: Instead of paying for photo packages by professional photographers on the beach, find a neat location and ask someone to take you and your family’s photo. Dunes, rocks, piers, and the ocean all make great backgrounds. If you are looking for a fun pose with your family, try building a pyramid or burying someone and gathering around them. You can blow the photo up, frame it, and hang it on your living room wall.
  15. Watch the Sunrise/Sunset: Either come early, or stay at the beach late and witness nature’s beautiful light show.

I’d love to hear your own ideas or things that your family enjoys at the beach in the comments below!

More Frugal Vacation Tips

8 thoughts on “15 Frugal Ways to Enjoy the Beach

  1. Rebecca

    My parents live in a condo on the beach so we visit grandparents and do family vacations all in one trip (also super frugal since we don’t have to pay for a hotel). A neat idea that I recently came across and want to try is to get foam shapes from a craft store and glue thhem to the bottoms of flip flops. Then when you walk on the beach, you leave a fun pattern.

  2. Linda

    Unfortunately, we don’t live near a beach but when we visit my husband’s family in another state we like to drive about 1 1/2 hours to a beach on a lake which is part of a state park. We usually bring sand toys for the kids and just let them play in the water. I always try to do a little reading in the shade.

  3. Linda

    By the way, what’s going on with the Punchtab points? I haven’t been fully credited for all the points I earned. Is something wrong with the site?

      1. Madison

        Linda & Dylan,
        It looks like the Punchtab popups weren’t working, but the points were still crediting. It’s been fixed I’m told. Thanks for participating in the rewards program!

  4. Katie Christianson

    I think another big one is bring you own chair/umbrella (instead of renting one) and bring your own refreshments

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