These days, children spend much of their time with eyes glued to a screen or heads buried in electronic devices rather than enjoying childhood through real-life adventures. Even before the pandemic, this 21st century way of life presented uncertainties for a future where society lacks environmental education and appreciation. Luckily for families who live on the water, eco-awareness is naturally instilled in their minds.
After months of virtual learning and binge-watching TV, this summer is the perfect time to get your junior skippers out on water expeditions and sharpen their seamanship skills. The following summer camps offer some of the best boating and water sport programs on the East Coast.
In the Sebago Lake region of southern Maine, this overnight camp spans 95 acres of pinewoods and open fields full of adventure. Located on beautiful Crescent Lake, the Tenny River links to Panther Pond and flows into Sebago Lake where the mountainous backdrop sets a gorgeous summertime scene. Kids can enjoy sailing, kayaking, canoeing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, waterskiing, paddleboarding and fishing. Check out the sister property Camp Nashoba Day on Fort Pond in Littleton, MA. (207-655-7170, campnashoba.com)
Situated along crystal-clear Lake Armington, this overnight camp is surrounded by New Hampshire's tranquil White Mountains and is an easy drive to escape the busyness of Boston and New York. Named after the famous poet, Whitman's poem I Hear America Singing is read at the opening campfire to inspire values based on his philosophy of community stewardship. Aquatics programs include sailing, kayaking, paddleboarding and waterskiing, as well as whitewater rafting trips. Kids' favorites include taking a spin on Corcl boats or jumping on Aquaglide Rockit, a giant water trampoline. (800-657-8282, campwalt.com)
Originally founded in 2007 as Boat Camp, captains Rob and Kate Yeomans have grown this organization into a nature-immersive program for children near the Newburyport area. Kids can hop aboard the F/V Erica Lee and local charters for sea explorations. From catching frogs in swamps and doing penguin slides across mud flats to racing handmade driftwood boats, children learn stewardship and environmental education on land and sea while having the time of their lives. (978-463-2233, merrohawke.org)
If your kids not only love the water but also want to learn about everything in it, this is the place to be. With a mission to empower students through ocean-based experimental programs, this foundation offers a STEM-based curriculum focused on marine science, sailing, powerboating and adventure sports. In addition to summer camp, they offer private lessons, eco-tours and events such as the Recycle Regatta, where students compete to build the best small-scale model sailboat resulting in two winners: most creative and most seaworthy (fastest). (860-535-9362, nessf.org)
Lake Como, PA
Nestled in the lush green forests along the northeast Pocono Mountains, this residential camp for ages six to 15 is surrounded by numerous bodies of water. The camp's private lake covers 40 acres with a fleet of 50+ boats. Campers can certify in sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing, canoeing, kayaking, banana boating and even jet skiing. Big bonuses: playing on the water trampoline, rolling log, inflated iceberg and giant waterslide, and jumping off the Tarzan swing. Favorites include scuba classes conducted by instructors from Inland Water Sports Inc. or canoe trips on the Delaware River. (570-798-2707, lohikan.com)
Since 1914, this sleepaway camp has instilled nature appreciation through a legacy of Quaker values. Located on Maryland's Eastern Shore, kids ages seven to 16 will love the magic of the Chesapeake Bay's wildlife-rich marshland that occupies more than 550 acres of untouched nature. The rustic environment offers programs such as Sail*Ski Camp for sailing, waterskiing, wakeboarding and kneeboarding, and Fishing & Crabbing Camp that teaches marine education and how to reel in the perfect catch. Intimate programs for first-time campers are also offered later in the season. (410-348-5303, echohillcamp.com)
Along the Potomac River on the 106-acre site of Dangerfield Island, nature adventures are just steps from the city. Kids can sail along the DC waterfront starting on Sunfish dinghies and Flying Scot sailboats, then advance to Hobie 16 catamarans, racing Flying Juniors and windsurfing for ages 12 and up. Top-level students can work their way up to take the Big Boat Adventures course onboard a Catalina 25' for a true sea captain experience. Kayaking, paddleboarding and rowing programs are also available. (703-548-9027, boatingindc.com/washington-sailing-marina)
In the heart of South Carolina's Lowcountry, the museum offers the Opti Sailing Camp for ages eight to 12 and 420 Sailing Camp for ages 12 to 18. Each camp consists of five half-days at the Georgetown Public Dock. Focusing on marine education and safety, beginners learn the basics fromknot tying to tacking and jibing while intermediates learn advanced sailing maneuvers and race tactics. Registration fee includes a U.S. sailing course book, skills logbook and t-shirt. (843-520-0111, scmaritimemuseum.org/scysp-registration)
St. Petersburg, FL
Hosted by the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, this center offers sailing programs, board sports and fishing camps. Students spend the week learning to sail or sharpening their skills in Optimist prams and keelboats. Summer camps include Harbor Mice, Optimist Boats, and 420 Boats. The beginner and intermediate courses allow the same age groups to explore various skill levels. Beginner Harbor Mice learn to sail with a buddy whereas the Lime Green Fleet helps intermediate kids build on their skills. (727-822-3113, sailstpete.org/youth-programs)
Located along the Sarasota Bay on Florida's Gulf Coast, this location sits within gorgeous panoramic views. The Tadpole beginner program teaches ages five to six boat introductions on vessels including the Maine Cat and Precision 18. Aboard Optimist dinghies, ages seven to 12 can learn basic nomenclature and seamanship while ages eight to 12 in the skipper class enhance their sailing skills. Both the 420 beginner and advanced programs are for teenagers 13 to 18 to master high-level skills and racing. (941-504-4236, sarasotayouthsailing.org)
Big Pine Key, FL
In the Florida Keys, Seacamp is dedicated to marine science education for ages 10 to 17. The programs focus on research and field observation to instill the importance of ecological education. Minutes from the Florida Reef, the blue waters and coral canyons are packed with colorful fishes, invertebrates and mammals for an up close and personal exploration of the only living coral reef in the country. Aquatics programs include sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and lifeguarding, plus a variety of scuba and science courses from basic scuba and snorkeling lessons to marine investigations and master diver certifications. (877-SEACAMP, seacamp.org)