It is an open secret that California hosts some of the best coastlines and beaches in the United States. The state receives visitors from all over the world, looking to drive on Highway 1 or the Pacific Coast Highway and experience its rugged bluffs or spot the migrating whales.

It can be said that there aren’t that many better ways to truly enjoy the California coast and all its wildlife than night camping on the beach.

Nevertheless, with California’s coast littered with rocky cliffs, beach camping is a different endeavor. Certain areas do not allow you to camp right on the beach—placing you further back inland—while others sport a coastal cliff instead of that idyllic stretch of sand. 

Most of the year, the evenings are windy and cool, with the mornings foggy, particularly if you are beach camping north of Los Angeles. All California beach camping sites highlighted in this article allow visitors to be fully immersed in coastal nature. With that in mind, here are the best beach camping places.

Two Harbors and Parson’s Landing Campgrounds

Two harbors campground sign post

These campgrounds are located on Catalina Island and offer hike-in tent camping. Situated near the resort town of Two Harbors is the Two Harbors Campground.

This campground offers views of the Pacific Ocean and the harbor, making it an idyllic spot for those that enjoy California beach camping. Moreover, it offers easy accessibility thanks to its proximity to the San Pedro ferry point and the town.

This is especially important as Catalina Island doesn’t allow visitors to drive cars. As a camper, you can choose from renting a simple campsite that you can set up yourself or booking one of the 12 tent cabins offered by Two Harbors. These cabins come with a two-burner stove, fully charged lanterns, and cots.

California beach camping visitors who want more adventure can head to Parson’s Landing Campground. It is a secluded campground that offers beach camping California. It is located on Catalina’s northeast side and can only be accessed via kayaking or hiking.

Water and shade aren’t provided; however, you can preorder a locker with water and firewood for $20. While there is a small restaurant and shop in Two Harbors, you are better off bringing most of your food from the mainland.

Looking to pack a few meals of your own? Consider the AlpineAire Foods Sweet & Sour Grilled Chicken.

Booking a campsite is easy, simply head over to reserveamerica.com. You should note that Two Harbors campsites can cost between $28 and $31 per night for a tent campsite and $65 to $85 for a tent cabin. Parson’s Landing can cost between $21 and $27 per adult, with children getting a reduced fee of $12 to $18 per night.

Thornhill Broome Campground

Thornhill Broome Campground is located in Point Mugu State Park and Ventura County. It is a drive-in tent and RV beach camping site that lets you camp right on the California beach.

Yes, that is right! Compared to the majority of beaches in California, Thornhill Broome Campground is situated right on the beach.

You get 69 rustic campsites suitable for RV campers and tent campers. Each campsite gets a grill, fire ring, and picnic table. Visitors should note that the fire ring can only be used when the fire danger is low. There is a sign located at the entrance of the park that shows the fire danger status for the day.

Hikers are bound to love Point Mugu State Park, as it is home to about 70 miles of hiking trails. Water lovers are also not left out, as this state beach is a great place to swim and body surf.

Booking a campsite at this California state park is easy. Head over to reservecalifornia.com to reserve one of 40 sites. The other 29 tent sites are operated on a first-come, first-serve basis. All 69 campsites cost $35 per night.

Scorpion Ranch

If you love the Channel Islands National Park on Santa Cruz Island and hiking, you will certainly love Scorpion Ranch. All you have to do is get your bags ready and hop on a boat to an island off the California coast of Ventura. You will likely encounter whales and dolphins during your trip to the island.

The Scorpion Ranch Campground has 25 sites with a maximum occupancy of six people. It also has six group sites that can hold up to 15 people. The campground is a half-mile walk from the beach and pier. You should note that there aren’t any services on the island, so you must pack everything you need before getting on the boat.

Once on the island, you will discover island foxes begging for snacks. Ensure you properly store your food to protect these cute creatures. You can add a bit of variety to your California beach camping by booking a sea kayak tour.

The kayak tour lets you paddle some of the clearest and most biodiverse waters you can encounter in California. You also get the chance to visit a collection of sea caves if your visit is at low tide.

Want activities for the nighttime? You can venture up to Cavern Point to enjoy the sunset and fantastic views of the island’s harbor and mainland California.

Booking a campsite at Scorpion Ranch is quite easy. You simply need to head over to recreation.gov and pay the $15 per night fee for a single campsite. If you want a group site, you will need to pay $40. You must also arrange water transportation to the island via Island Packers in Ventura Harbor.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Campground

Julia Pfeiffer State Park Beach campground

If you feel lucky, you could head over to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where you can get a night at one of the four-person environmental campsites. The park has two campgrounds located about half a mile from the parking lot.

The sites are located right above the popular McWays Falls. While you might not be able to see the falls when at your tent, you can be sure that you are the only people left in the park once it closes.

You can spend the day hiking to Cone Peak, the tallest coastal mountain in the contiguous US at 5,155 feet. You can head over to Treebones at night for some wonderful food at the Sushi Bar. Alternatively, you could have a garden-to-table campfire feast at Wild Coast Restaurant in Treebones.

For beach camping California visitors who love late-night adventures, you can head to the Esalen hot springs. These spring-fed tubs are only available to the public in the early morning hours. You should also note that you must make a reservation to access the hot spring tubs.

Booking a campsite at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is easy and inexpensive at $30 per night. There are also discounts for people with disabilities and seniors. The campsites at this campground are quite popular, so you will need to book as early as possible via reservecalifornia.com.

Kirk Creek Campground

Kirk creek campground with tent and table

Kirk Creek Campground is located in southern California, particularly the Big Sur coast in Monterey County. This campground has drive-in tent and RV camping. It best suits those who want a traditional outdoor California beach camping experience.

The campground overlooks the Pacific Ocean and has sports for RV camping and tents. It has 40 sites which hold up to two cars and eight people. Each site is equipped with a picnic table and a fire ring.

If you are trying to stay as close to the Pacific ocean as possible, campsites 8 to 22 are your best bet. These campsites are also the furthest from Highway 1. You should note that Kirk Creek Campground is a dry camp, so you will need to bring your own water to use with the vault toilets.

Booking a campsite in Kirk Creek is easy as the campsite is open throughout the year. Reserving a campsite costs $35 per night and can be done online at recreation.gov. You should note that the campsites tend to get booked quickly, so you are better off making a reservation as early as possible.

Treebones Resort

treebones resort glamping camgground

Treebones Resort is located in Big Sur, Monterey County. It offers one of the best drive-in glamping experiences. Big Sur has the reputable of California’s most photographed coastline.

Treebones Resort is located off Highway 1 at the southern end of the Big Sur Coast. This glamping destination has 6 yurts for visitors to choose from. You can try out the nests created by a local artist—you will need to bring a backup tent and sleeping bags as these structures are constructed from woven sticks and driftwood.

If you want more protection from the weather, you could try out the domed Autonomous Tent located on a hillside. The autonomous tent has a shower, more than 500 square feet of living space, and a compostable and flushing toilet.

Booking a campsite at this campground is easy. You can book one of Treebone’s tents or yurts on its website, treebonesresort.com. You should note that bring your own tent sites cost around $105, while yurts are priced higher at $360 per night.

Steep Ravine Campground and Cabins

This beach camping California campground is located near Stinson Beach in Marin County. It offers basic cabin or drive-in tent camping options. You should note that while there are cabins, they do not provide a glamping experience.

Located in Mount Tamalpais State Park, a short walk from the shore, you get 10 rustic structures that lack typical camping amenities like ensuite toilets, electricity, and running water. You will have to bring your own essentials, such as cooking supplies and sleeping bags.

Related Reading: Keep your sleeping bag clean with this rectangular liner from Alps Mountaineering.

Fortunately, there are some amenities like drinking water, vault toilets, and a wood-burning stove in the cabin for heating or cooking. When considering California beach camping at this campground, you should consider coming when there is a negative tide, as it allows you to enjoy the Steep Ravine Hot Springs.

The geothermal vents located on the base of the cliffs are only available during low tides. When the tide is low, you can dig out a tub to soak in on the beach. Alternatively, you could head over to the hot springs grotto, which the locals maintain. You should note that the grotto has a clothing-optional policy.

Booking a campsite or cabin at Steep Ravine Campground is quite easy—you simply need to head over to reservecalifornia.com. As stated earlier, this site is a popular spot with tourists and locals alike, so you might need to book your stay a couple of months in advance; this is especially true if you want to snag a cabin for the weekend.

Marshall Beach

Marshall beach golden gate bridge campsite

Marshall Beach is located in Tomales Bay in Marin County, and compared to other beach camping California sites on this list, this is a boat-in tent camping. As such, it is more suited to the nautically minded.

It can be found on the north end of Tomales Bay State Park, bordering the Point Reyes National Seashore. While there are several beaches in the bay that allow camping, Marshall Beach’s small sandy cove is one of the more frequently visited spots.

For California beach camping visitors that want a unique experience, the fall season is the best time to book a trip. Come during the fall to see the Tomales Bay bioluminescence—a natural phenomenon where light-emitting sea creatures cause the water to light up with specks of white and blue light.

Booking this campsite can be challenging as there are only 20 permits issued for day camping on Marshall Beach. These permits can be reserved via www.recreation.gov. All campers are required to remain on board overnight. Kayaks can be rented from Blue Waters Kayaking, located in Marshall.

Coast Camp

limantour beach point reyes afternoon

Coast Camp is located in Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County. It is a campground that offers hike-in tent camping and is the perfect place for those that want to try backpacking. Nestled in sand dunes near Limantour Beach, Coast Camp has 14 sites and can be accessed via a 1.7-mile-wide flat road—basically a gravel and dirt road.

This campsite has amenities such as vault toilets, picnic tables, and water onsite; however, there is no cell service, giving the campground a remote feel. The good thing is that you aren’t that far from your vehicle should anything happen.

Coast Camp lets you gather driftwood from the beach to start a bonfire. You should note that you must have a beach bonfire permit before doing so. You can obtain your permit at the Bear Valley Visitor Center—the same place to get your camping permit.

Booking this campsite is easy; you can reserve your spot at recreation.gov. Before starting your trip, you must drive to the ranger station to pick up your permit.

Mendocino Grove

mendocino glamping campground

If you are interested in camping but are not the type to rough it, then glamping at Mendocino Grove is the California beach camping ground for you. At this campground, you can forget packing a sleeping bag. Instead, this luxury glamping spot has 60 roomy tents with warm comforters, plush linens, and comfy beds.

There are also communal gas barbecues for those looking to cook instead of heading to a restaurant in the nearby town of Mendocino. You will, however, need to bring in your own grilling utensils and cookware.

While you aren’t able to camp right on the beach at this campground, it is close to the coast and just a short drive to the numerous beaches in Mendocino. Alternatively, you could rent an outrigger from a nearby boat rental service a short walk from the campground.

Getting a boat means you can spend all day paddling on the Big River that begins in the campground and empties out to the ocean. Booking your ultimate beach camping California trip at Mendocino Grove is possible via the campground’s website.

Shipman Creek Campsite

Shipman Creek Campsite can be found on the Lost Coast Trail in Humboldt County. This campground is a hike-in tent camping, which means you can only access this campsite via hike trails.

You can backpack the Lost Coast Trail in northern California if you want true adventure. The trail cuts across one of the most remote sections of California’s coastline. The only way to access the beach for beach camping California is on foot, as the area is too rugged and steep to lay a road down.

You should note that the Lost Coast Trail isn’t for hiking newbies. It can take about 4 days to complete the 25.3-mile trail. Furthermore, you are bound to trek on tough terrain, lugging around your shelter, clothing and food, so make sure you prepare the right way.

King Range Lost Trail

Nevertheless, you are presented with dramatic scenery: headlined by the King Range mountains. These mountains skirt the trails and drop right into the ocean before ending in black-sand beaches. You might even see the elusive yet enormous Roosevelt elk if you are lucky.

Booking the Shipman Creek Campsite is easy as you don’t need any reservations. Nevertheless, this campsite is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and there are no restrictions to camping along the Lost Coast. Nevertheless, you are better off sticking to traditional campsites, which are typically hidden in narrow valleys, protected from the wind and elements.

The Shipman Creek campsite is one spot that lets you camp right on the beach itself. As stated earlier, you don’t need reservations for this campground; nevertheless, each member of your camping group would need to obtain a permit for the trail. This can be done via rercreation.gov. Permits are free; however, each has a $10 reservation fee.

The busiest time of the year for this campground has to be summer, with permits selling out a couple of months in advance. Fall and Spring are easier seasons to get a permit in; however, you should reserve yours a few months before your trip.

Furthermore, if you are California beach camping, you will have to bring a bear canister to store your food. You can rent one from one of several nearby locations for just $5.

Recommended read: https://thehikingadventure.com/hiking-gadgets-hikers-needs

Gold Bluffs Campground

Gold Bluffs Campground is located in Prairie Creed Redwoods State Park, about an hour from the Oregon border. While there are various campgrounds within Prairie Creed Redwoods State Park, Gold Bluffs is located amongst the dunes along a 10-mile stretch of beach.

To get to this popular campground, visitors need to choose between hiking in on the 4.5-mile Miners Ridge Trail, biking the Ossagon Trail—6 to 12 miles one way, depending on your start point—or driving 6 miles in on a stretch of unpaved road. The campground is as far from eh main roads as possible, ensuring a tranquil atmosphere.

Booking a campsite is easy as you make a reservation on www.reservecalifornia.com. You can expect to pay $35 for every night you spend at your campsite. If you want to bike or hike, you will need to apply for a backcountry permit before doing so.

Fortunately, the permit is free—you also do not need to reserve a campsite as the bike and hike area of the campground runs on a first-come, first-serve basis. Campsites in this section cost $5 per night.

When heading to Gold Bluffs Campground, ensure that you carry with you exact change. This can make the entire payment process smoother, particularly if you pay at the self-service station.



Last update on 2024-04-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API