I’d been camping and backpacking many times before, but never on the beach. Since beaches are so popular, and often overridden with hotels and tourist traps, I knew that finding a place to wild camp was going to be a challenge. After two very frustrating days of searching through the net and looking at zoomed-in Google Earth, I was able to find the perfect camping spot. Here I’m going to tell you how I did it and hopefully spare you some of the frustration I went through.
First Off, Know the Laws!
In many places, wild camping is illegal. This normally isn’t an issue in the mountains (unless you are in a popular national park) because you can always easily get far enough away from civilization that no one will even be able to see you, nevertheless care where you put your tent.
For my first beach camping trip, my 5 year old and I were going to Greece. Wild camping is VERY illegal in Greence. And it seemed like pretty much all Greek beaches located near heavily-civilized areas.
I’ll admit that the legal issue worried me!
What if we made a fire at night and the police showed up?
Where would we go if we got kicked off the beach?
Since I was really worried about this issue, I decided to check out the paid campgrounds on the beach. Greece has approximately 50 official camps, most of which are near the beach. Here’s the problem with those official camping spots though:
- They are expensive. In Greece, the price of camping (for 1 adult, 1 child, a tent and no car) came out to the same as a private apartment near the beach!
- They aren’t open year round. Our trip was in the beginning of April, so there were only about 4-5 camps open during this season.
- They are UGLY. Seriously, they mostly look like parking lots with some grass or trees by them.
- You can’t make a fire. And what’s the point of camping if you can’t have a campfire at night???
- They have wifi, electricity, and other annoying amenities. I go camping to get off-grid (a digital detox, if you would), so the idea of listening to fellow campers talk on their cell phones and playing bad music at night definitely didn’t appeal to me.
I’m sure there are lots of nice beach camping places which don’t resemble big parking lots, and you might not care about the other issues. But, for me, these were major issues so I decided to search for a wild camping location.
Where Are You Going to Get Water?
With any camping spot, one of the most important considerations is water. When I go wild camping in the mountains, I always make sure to be near a stream or lake. But my camping water filter obviously doesn’t work on salt water, so water would be an issue. That meant I’d have to be near a fresh water source on the beach or close enough to civilization that I could walk to get water every day or two.
With this in mind, I went to Google Earth and started looking in the region fresh water sources. I found a few streams and zoomed in really close on them. I mean really ZOOMED IN on them to the point where I could see how many builders were in the area.
It took HOURS of crawling over Google Earth click by click until I found a spot which looked promising. I was a bit hesitant about showing up at some random spot without knowing what it really looked like. Maybe the locals would get angry if they saw me there? Maybe the spot was really dirty? Maybe the stream was full of sewage…?
I decided that I’d had enough of internet searching. It was time to ask real people.
Get Local Advice (and make a friend in the process)
I’ve been a member of Couchsurfing since 2006 – back before it became commercial. I still love the site because the community is so helpful. There are groups for pretty much every city and region. I went to the group for Thessaloniki and made a post asking for tips about where to camp. It only took a few hours before I got some responses.
Most of the advice wasn’t useful – like when they recommended the official camping spots which I’d already dismissed or recommended places far outside of my chosen region. One guy was pretty helpful. When I posted the GPS coordinates of where I was considering (the maps above), he immediately told me that it was a bad spot for multiple reasons. Then he contacted me in a private message to ask for more details of what I was looking for. He didn’t want to give away all of the best wild camping spots in Greece in a public group. 🙂
I was really pleased when the local guy – Panos – even offered to drive me to the camping spot he recommended. So I decided to ask if he wanted to come with us. He said that he’d already been thinking of going there, so would postpone his trip until we came. For my part, I decided to come on Saturday instead of Sunday to fit his work schedule.
YES, I met with a total stranger that I met online, got into his car, and went into the wild with him!
YES, my young daughter went with me!!!
I know that most people would think that this is crazy, but it is something that I’ve gotten used to doing. And my life is much better and genuinely enriched because of it. I want to raise my daughter to TRUST people instead of fearing them. So much for the “Stranger Danger” program that kids in my generation grew up learning!
Because of Panos, I was able to find the best wild camping spot on the beach, and he was great company for the 2 of the 7 days we spent there (he stayed just for the weekend). There was a little store about 1km away where we could buy water and lollipops. We had everything we needed!
So, ultimately, my advice is this:
ASK THE LOCALS!
If you aren’t on Couchsurfing (and only join if you are genuinely ready to trust people and enjoy that trust!), there are still a zillion different online forums and groups where you can get in contact with locals. For example, I once found a great wild camping spot by going on Flickr, finding a picture of a beautiful area, and contacting the amateur photographer.
The internet and its corresponding technology may be blamed for creating a disconnect in people, for having a negative effect on human interactions, but let’s not forget how wonderful it can be as a tool for connecting people.