A 12' Penn Battalion 6-12 paired with a Penn Squall 2 12 or 15 will set you back $300 total and get you in the game. You don't need to spend a lot to catch fish, and is it really worth it if you aren't here using it all the time? My main drum rig is over $1000, but it hasn't magically made me catch more than my $350 rig. But I live here, I love fishing and am on the beach all the time, so I didn't mind investing in my hobby.
Avets are nice, but the new Squalls/Fathoms are amazing reels, completely idiot proof. Turn the mag on full while learning to cast, and back it off a little bit as you start getting a feel for it. Also its Penn, so if you do have an issue with it, take it to any reel guy and he will most likely have the parts in stock already.
I run 17lb mono on my rigs, just make sure you're using a shock leader. Do NOT bring braid to the point if you plan on being in the conga line.