Cama Beach State Park: A Great Middle Ground to Camping
There’s nothing more exciting to me than new adventures. Exploring cities, people, culture. If it involves a new place and some terrific food (and maybe wine), count me in. I was able to go on quite the overnight trip to Cama Beach State Park on the breathtaking Camano Island last week. Nestled in Washington just about an hour from Seattle, Cama Beach State Park is the ultimate rural getaway. Read on to see how I fared without packing a hairdryer and minimal wi-fi!
Cama Beach State Park: Not Camping, But Not Quite Glamping
I have never gone camping. I’ve always been much more apt to appreciate natural beauty then return home to my cozy bed. I do consider myself pretty low maintenance, yet prefer a nice bubble bath and amenities to a tent and using dry shampoo, just saying. Since I met Michael, I have said I am willing to try out the whole ‘roughing it’ but throw in that I would prefer the beach to the woods. Lucky for me, I got a taste of being in the great outdoors when I joined a group of fellow travel writers from IFWTWA after our conference last week.
Arriving at Cama Beach State Park, check-in is at 3pm and at their Welcome Center. A taxidermy bear cub by the name of Cinnamon greets you as the friendly desk staff checks you in. As we drove down to the waterfront to find our cabins, I was in awe at the beauty that surrounds you. At first, you may mistake the state beach for a forest with its winding trails and beautiful Douglas fir trees. As you head west, you will soon see the water awaiting you, and the cabins!
Home Sweet Home
Feeling like I had arrived at Camp Inch from the Parent Trap, my cabin could not have been more adorable. It also was larger than my old apartment! The front room was spacious, had a bunk bed, table, chair and kitchenette. The bedroom had a full-size bed along with board games like CLUE and several books to enjoy. The kitchenette features a fridge, microwave and coffee maker.
The bathroom boasted a private shower, but not all cabins do. If you rent one that does not, there’s just a fifty cent fee to use the common facility. I definitely appreciated that I would experience being on the water yet not camping out on the dirt in a tent. And, I gotta say-having my own bathroom and shower are perfect baby steps for a newbie to camping!
Literally outside your door is a stunning wide stretch of water. Hearing the waves, and hoping for a whale sighting (we didn’t see any) made me feel a thousand miles away from reality. If I lived in the city roar of Seattle, I would flock to Cama Beach State Park to get away.
The Center for Wooden Boats and Camp Store
If you are wondering if the Welcome Center is the only contact you will have with outside world, not at all (unless you want it that way). Among the cabins is the Center for Wooden Boats. Here, you will have the opportunity to visit one of Seattle’s most respected maritime heritage organizations. Founded in 1968 by the Wagner Family, it was simply a way to display their growing collection of small boats tied up around their houseboat. To this day, visitors get the chance at the Center for Wooden Boats to rent boats, take sailing classes and learn more about Cama Beach State Park. You can even learn how to build a boat!
At their Camp Store, you can grab some post cards, snacks and nic-naks for the kids. If you do have little ones in tow and find they need a distraction, the Lending Store has your back. Located in the Camp Store, the Lending Store has a plentiful of toys, games and books kids can borrow during their stay. They can also admire all of the taxidermy animals in the shop. Ranger, Jeff Wheeler, commented that he gets a kick out of all the kids that want to stick their finger up the animals’ nose!
If you happened to have family stay at Cama Beach in the 1950’s, there’s a good chance you can see their check-in slip-and see if they have an outstanding balance. The Cama Beach staff loves seeing new generations of families come out to enjoy Cama Beach State Park and some times, they’ll even have some funny documents to share with you on them.
Or, if you’re just an old picture junkie like me, don’t miss their scrapbooks filled with vintage photographs of past visitors and families having a ball. Their store is so much more than a stop for a granola bar.
Ranger Jeff and Cama Beach’s Rebirth
I was so excited to meet up with Ranger Jeff Wheeler. Wheeler has been in his profession for nearly thirty five years, and with Cama for seventeen. As Cama hosts a variety of field trips each year, I can only imagine how much fun they have with him. Ranger Jeff truly adores what he does.
The west side that I got to enjoy last week came to fruition ten years ago. After a nine year hiatus and a thirty five million dollar renovation, the state park returned in all its ‘heyday’ glory in Summer of 2008.
Out the gate, they were booked through that October thanks to a Sunset Magazine feature prior to its re-opening. As we admired some of the wood furniture, Jeff told the story of how the park came to obtain some of it.
“Some local people who like wood working offered to help make furniture for the park. When logging was done for the parking lot I had all the Maple, all the Cedar and part of the Douglas fir milled and stored on site, almost all the outdoor furniture is made by volunteers out of Cama wood.”
Pack What You Need, but Skip a Blanket!
If being away from home has you wishing you packed a security blanket, Cama has you covered. Each cabin features beautiful quilts hand made by state park volunteers!
“The quilters started when a couple was in the park before we started renovations for the opening,” explains Wheeler, “after asking them if they saw the keep out signs, I then gave them a tour of the park and showed them Cabin 1. Cabin 1 was set up to look like the cabins did in the 1930s for legislative visits and tours for the public. The couple saw that we had a hand made quilt on the bed and asked if we were planning on having quilts on all the beds when we opened. I informed her that was not in the plans, she offered to form a quilting group to make quilts for the park.”
While the goal was already eager at one hundred at the time of opening, they quickly exceeded that goal. “When we opened they had finished one hundred and fifty, now every bed in the park has a handmade quilt.”
I absolutely adored my teddy bear quilt during my stay. It just added more to that ‘home’ feeling.
What to Pack
Think of your stay at Cama Beach as camping. You will have beds, quilts, coffee maker, but not your necessities. Pack everything you would like to cook, plates, mugs, utensils, cooking gear like posts/pans. As far as your toiletries, pack a hairdryer, shampoo, soap, towels. I had a small panic attack when it hit me my usual luxury of a hairdryer in room would not be the case at my beach cabin. Luckily, my amazing friend Lorena from Traveling Soulo had me covered!
Another great reason to plan a trip to Cama Beach: It’s the ultimate opportunity to unplug. You can access wifi at their Camp Store, but not in your cabin. Making it the perfect time to at last read that book you’ve had forever, or maybe get your drafts done for a story. You’ll love the sounds of the waves right outside your door.
Plan Your Stay
Learn more and plan your stay HERE. If you would like to hear more about my visit to Cama Beach State Park, check out my radio interview on Lift Your Spirits with Dena Marie. Dena Marie is a Camano local and I feel so fortunate to have had her as our guide on the island. I’ve left a piece of my heart at this gorgeous state park! xo
(*Disclosure: I was a guest of the media for an overnight stay at Cama Beach State park. All opinions are my own. All photography by Mary Farah.)