The amenities can be spartan — or not — but the setting and simple pleasures of coastal state parks go a long way to satisfy devotees.

By Lynn R. Parks | Photograph by Michael Orhelein
From the September 2018 issue

feature-campingWhen Donna Garrison was 4 years old, she came to eastern Sussex County for the first time when her parents decided to go on a camping vacation at Delaware Seashore State Park.

“My dad loved to fish,” says Garrison, sitting at a campground picnic table and eating breakfast — fried eggs. “He found this park and brought the family down. My mom took one look around, saw that there were no trees, and said, ‘No way am I staying here.’ But they stayed a couple of nights and she fell in love with the place.”

The family returned from New Jersey year after year. And in 1988, Garrison, who was married by then and had two daughters, started bringing her own family to the park at the Indian River Inlet.  They have come every year since.

This summer, they were at Delaware Seashore for two weeks in July and again for two weeks in August. The family — Donna; her husband, Warren; daughters Rachael Casserly and Kathleen Garrison; Kathleen’s fiance, Nick Schror; Nick’s sons Mark, 8, and Zack, 7; and the family’s 8-year-old Australian sheepdog, Dex — stayed in three campers: a small pop-up, a 30-foot trailer with sides that extend out, and a 36-foot trailer with bunkbeds. In July, their sites were decorated with patriotic flags, including several Old Glories, a banner that read “All Gave Some, Some Gave All,” and a “thin blue line” flag to honor police.

“We always make sure that we’re in the front row” overlooking the inlet, Garrison notes. “I love to wake up in the morning and see the dolphins going through.”

She says there is just something about the park’s atmosphere that they all love: “We go fishing, we go to the beach, and we go up to Rehoboth, but mostly we just hang out here. We’ve been coming for so long, we’ve made friends with other campers who come the same time that we do.”

“We decompress,” adds her husband. “We’ve got the sun, we’ve got the beach — it’s the salt life.”

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