Beach camping in California sounds like something out of a fairy tale! When most people think of camping, they imagine forests, lakes, and dirt paths. Yet, in reality, you can camp in any space that allows it.
So, if you live in sunny California, you might enjoy setting up camp along the clear sands and blue waters of the beach. It’s still camping, but with a much different atmosphere.
If that sounds perfect for your family, then here are 13 of the best beach camping sites in California.
#1 – Doheny State Beach
You’ll find the Doheny State Beach along the Southern California coast. It has a total of 121 campsites, with 33 right on the beach. These sites can accommodate tents, campers, and RVs. No matter which site you stay at, you’ll still have access to the beautiful beach. This campsite has plenty of amenities for visitors, including drinking water, flush toilets, hot showers, dump stations, picnic areas, walking trails, volleyball courts, and even an amphitheater. You can also find firewood for sale on-site. It’s certainly worth the visit for anyone looking to camp beside the beach.
#2 – Shipman Creek Campsite
The Shipman Creek Campsite in Humboldt County is a great place if you’re feeling adventurous. It’s along the Lost Coast Trail, which goes along one of the wildest areas of California’s coast. The paths are too rough to the drive down, so the only way you can access the camping area along the beach is by foot. It’s best for backpackers who like to carry all their camping supplies with them. If you want to complete the trail in its entirety, then it will take about four days and 25 miles. So, this camping trip isn’t for the faint of heart.
#3 – Mendocino Grove
Mendocino Grove is much different than Shipman Creek because it’s more like camping in style. It’s a luxury “glamping” site that provides spacious tents with comfortable beds. No need to worry about lying in a sleeping bag on the ground! Many visitors head out to restaurants in town for meals, but there are also public grills available at the campsite. It’s not located directly on California’s shoreline, but it still has access to some beautiful beaches. There are also opportunities to rent canoes on the water.
#4 – Wright’s Beach Campground
Wright’s Beach Campground is in Sonoma Coast State Park, which is about an hour and a half away from San Francisco. It has both beachfront and inland campsites, so you can choose which one you prefer. Frequent campers claim that it has some of the most gorgeous coasts, but it can be quite a bit cooler near the water. It also has plenty of scenic trails to explore. It’s recommended that you reserve a spot at this campground in advance since spots can fill up quickly.
#5 – Coast Camp
Like Shipman Creek Campsite, Coast Camp is another great option for backpacking. It’s located about an hour north of San Francisco, and it’s a part of Point Reyes National Seashore. This is a campground that you need to hike to, but you won’t be too far away from your car. It has 14 camping sites available. At the campground, you’ll find water, vault toilets, and picnic tables. The cell service there isn’t great, which is a good excuse to disconnect from technology for a little while.
#6 – Sunset Beach State Beach
Sunset Beach in California sounds like a camping paradise. It’s located between Santa Cruz and Monterey. At this campsite, you’ll be surrounded by pine trees, sand dunes, and picnic areas. You’ll find 91 campsites there, which are on a bluff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Some of the campground’s amenities include water, flush toilets, and hot showers. Guests can purchase firewood on-site too. It’s a great getaway for families, no matter the time of year.
#7 – Refugio State Beach
Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara has no shortage of things to do. Guests can go swimming, fishing, hiking, and biking during their stay. There are 66 camping sites that are all within a short walking distance from the beach. In fact, you can even see the ocean from many of the sites. It has a few amenities for guests, including water, flush toilets, hot showers, and a camping store. It’s not often that you’ll find a campground surrounded by beautiful palm trees.
#8 – Doran Regional Park
Doran Regional Park is just south of Bodega Bay. No matter where you set up camp at this site, you’re sure to have wonderful views of the water. It’s a great location for walks along the beach and taking photos. It has a few basic amenities, including water, flush toilets, showers, and dump stations. It’s also a pet-friendly campsite. Reservations are required at this tropical campsite, so be sure to reserve your spot before it’s too late.
#9 – Marshall Beach
This campground is unique because you need to take a boat in to get there. It’s located at the northern side of Tomales Bay State Park, next to the Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s one of the most popular beach camping sites in this California area, but it only has vault toilets, which means no flushing. The best time of the year to visit is in the fall, where you might experience bioluminescence. It’s a rare phenomenon in nature where tiny sea creatures like algae cause the water to glow. It’s something you’ll have to see to believe.
#10 – Morro Strand State Beach
As the name implies, Morro Strand State Beach is located near the town of Morro Bay. It has an ideal mix of tent camping sites and sites with RV hookups. It has beautiful views of the beach and of Morro Rock, which is a volcano that no longer functions. If you’re not looking to spend your entire trip in the great outdoors, then the nearby town has plenty cute shops and delicious restaurants. It even has a harbor where lots of seals, otters, and sea lions hang out.
#11 – McGrath State Beach
McGrath State Beach in Oxnard has a wide variety of nature sights, such as woodlands, coastal dunes, and a beautiful beach. It has a wide range of plants and animals, so there’s no shortage of areas to explore. The campground is even located along the Santa Clara River Estuary Natural Preserve. There are 174 different campsites, all of which are within a 1/4 mile of the beach. There are a few amenities for guests, which include flush toilets, water, hot showers, and a campfire center.
#12 – Steep Ravine Campground and Cabins
Steep Ravine is a little nicer than some of the other beach camping experiences in California, but it’s not considered glamping. They have simple cabins, so you can stay in those instead of a tent or camper. While there aren’t many features in the cabins, guests can enjoy public amenities like drinking water, vault toilets, and stoves. Just make sure you bring all of your own camping supplies for eating and sleeping. You can dip in the water at the beach or the nearby hot springs. It’s a popular camping spot, so you can reserve a site ahead of time.
#13 – New Brighton State Beach
New Brighton State Beach is a California state park next to Santa Cruz. The campsites there each include a fire pit and picnic table, with running showers and clean bathrooms nearby. There are 111 camping sites, but this campground can be busy, so it’s a good idea to make reservations in advance. It’s the perfect place for all types of visitors, whether you’re camping with a tent, RV, or camper.
California is a state with many family-friendly activities, but many people don’t think of camping while they’re there. Camping is the perfect vacation because it allows you to disconnect from the chaos of life while enjoying nature. Not every campground has to be the same, so why not check out beach camping in California for a change of pace?