By Jessica Reid
I’ve grown up visiting Island Beach my whole life but this past summer was the first time that I ever slept over there.
In July, my family of four were invited by our friends and neighbors, the Seedasomes, to celebrate two of their birthdays by camping for the night at Island Beach.
We were given our individual ferry passes and car parking passes in advance. It helped to offload our large array of supplies by Arch Street before parking in the Ferry lot. There was no need to show our beach cards once we got to the ferry or even have a resident pass as the payment for camping ($60 fee + $21 per person) covered everything.
We caught the third to last ferry of the evening and transported all of our stuff onto the island via wheeled carts and coolers – the key being the wheels! More glamping than camping, we made sure to have an inflatable bed for each of us. The pavilion on Island Beach has outlets and the power is kept on until around 10pm, at which point flashlights are a hot commodity as its pitch black out. The Seedasome’s brought an extension cord, small solar led lights, a large flood light that was hung in the pavilion, charcoal grilling tools, etc.
Our hosts were absolute pros, having camped there before. They prepared a detailed list of items to sign up to bring that covered a grilled dinner, smores, bagels for breakfast, water, adult beverages and more. The concession stand, run by Abilis, was open until 7pm, so we also purchased some food and ice cream.
After a fun evening of swimming, exploring, and enjoying our grilled dinner we started to set-up our tents. Typically you would do this under the trees and on the grass but since we knew there was a big storm coming the next morning, we set up all 6 family tents under the pavilion. Fun note about the pavilion – in the early 20th century, there was an amusement park on the island and the pavilion still exists from covering the merry-go-round that was once there.
Once the last ferry left we had Island Beach all to ourselves, which was really special! Aside from the caretaker and his family, it was just the 24 of us campers. FYI, there is a 25 person max for camping overnight on Island Beach and this includes even young children. People can visit you via their private boat but after 10:30pm it’s only allowed to be the campers that have a permit to be there.
Thanks to the many lights that were brought and set-up, although the sun set we weren’t quite in the dark yet. Though another thing to know is that the caretaker cuts the power to the pavilion around 10pm. We got the grill up and running again for s’mores and played games. Glow items were particularly effective whether kids were wearing them or throwing them (we brang a glow frisbee and ball). Most of the kids were asleep by 10pm and most of the adults retired by midnight. Four of us old timers even lasted until 2am playing games by the light of a lantern.
The storm that was about to hit us mid-camping did offer one great benefit – little to no bugs. As this was our first experience camping there we don’t have anything to compare it to but the number one piece of advice that others gave us was to bring a lot of bug spray. The mosquitos are intense there over the summer and at night. Luckily we avoided this issue but unfortunately had to battle the weather in the morning.
We woke up to rain that was coming through the pavilion. Luckily there was enough time before the torrential rain and protection thanks to the pavilion to breakdown our camping gear. We also enjoyed Pop-Up Bagels and munchkin donuts and got one group photo in.
If you’ve ever visited Island Beach you may be familiar with rushing to get in line for the Ferry. Sometimes it’s nice to be at the front of the line and to ensure a good spot for the ride back. For some reason, thanks to the direction of the only Eagle Scout there (he shall remain unnamed), a few of us decided to go get in line early for the first Ferry. Now, the first Ferry off the island is early as this ride brings the staff to Island Beach and there’s no one but the campers riding back on it.
For those of us who stupidly went ahead of time mid storm, we ran with our year’s worth of camping gear, to get under the covering on the dock. We just assumed that this long blue covering would protect us from the sideways rain, however it turns out it’s actually for providing shade from the sun.
The only other rain protection we had was muddy dirty tarp with holes in it. Every item we had brought with us was soaked by the time we got on the ferry to head back to land. Our camping gear had to be hung up and dried for days. It was however one of the funniest parts of the whole adventure. If you can, check out the video of it – photos don’t do it justice. Long story, not so short, we survived our first overnight camping at Island Beach and are excited to go back and try it again next Summer.
You may not be able to campout on Island Beach this summer but you can always take a visit out there as there’s ferry service through this Sunday, September 10th. Here’s the ferry service schedule: https://www.greenwichct.gov/641/Ferry-Service.
For those of you interested in a similar overnight adventure, camping on Island beach is from mid-June to mid-September. Residents with park passes can select their camping date online on the Town of Greenwich Parks & Rec site where you renew your beach pass, etc. In February you can start to book your date but it’s quite competitive. People sign on at the exact time reservations open online and apparently it’s like buying concert tickets that are selling out or booking a morning weekend tee time at the Griff. Hopefully this doesn’t inspire too many of you to compete with me for camping nights in 2024!
Jessica Reid is a co-founder of Greenwich Point Marketing, a locally based digital marketing firm, and IN Greenwich, which is dedicated to promoting what to do and where to go in Greenwich, CT on social channels and https://ingreenwichct.com/. When she’s not working you’ll often spot her running around town with her husband, two daughters and three dogs, on the mats at Greenwich Jiu Jitsu, inverted in a headstand or in an inflatable costume.