Do you live hundreds of miles from the nearest beach? Or maybe you’re closer than that but responsibilities close to home keep you there, though you long for a day of sun, sand, and surf. These ideas for making over your backyard–or a corner of it–into a fun family seaside resort may be just the ticket!
For transplanted Jersey Shore residents Gil and Sherry Jenner, raising their three boys in the Midwest without the benefits of the beach was a problem they met head on.
“Aside from week-long visits now and then to the grandparents, we wanted them to have the experience of sand and sea during the hot, humid Iowa summers,” said Sherry. Though the town had a community pool inside a nondescript chain link fence, the couple decided that while cooling down was good, enjoying the beautiful “shore” together was even better.
Beginning with a length of their privacy fence that would abut the beach, the family found a deep shade of blue-green house paint and another that looked more like the sky. They first coated the entire surface with the sky hue, applying the darker sea shade along the bottom. Thicker, swirled applications in certain spots created the look of waves, and a little white paint on a thin brush was used for white caps and to create a billowy cloud or two. The shining sun resulted from a melding of yellow paint and gold and red glitter.
A trip to the local home and garden supply store for some crushed granite gave Gil the opportunity to form the “dunes” he wanted, which he covered with a few inches of sand but only after watering the granite with a hose and allowing it to firm up overnight. For the illusion of beach grass, Sherry found some reeds and tall grasses like lemon grass which she planted by digging out pockets in the gravel before it was watered, and later filling them with pots and troughs of the plants. For some serious sand digging with the ability to make castles and the like, the Jenners piled eight inches of sand along the base of the painted fence, where, on a real beach, sand would meet the sea.
Following a municipal code check, a simple DIY fire pit fashioned from the base of a kettle barbecue was added, based on something Gil had seen in a magazine, along with a giant pink and orange beach umbrella and some collapsible lounge chairs.
On their last trip to the Jersey Shore, the family had prepared for their DIY backyard beach by scouting for pieces of driftwood and heaps of seashells with which to garnish their dunes. Youngest son/future marine biologist Tom, age 5, carted back a few dried starfish and horseshoe crabs for extra ambience in the process.
“Because we’re used to some decent corndogs and other ‘beachy’ treats along the boardwalk, we made a concession stand out of a large cardboard wardrobe box and some white paint,” Sherry explained, adding they have to be vigilant about sliding it beneath an overhang when it rains.
“It’s definitely the next best thing to being there,” said Gil. “Next summer we might even charge admission!”