Pismo Beach offers campers a unique camping experience right on California’s central coast. This camping ground is known for its outstanding sunsets, diverse wildlife, and beautiful beaches. Pismo State Beach has a range of attractions and activities to ensure you are entertained for the duration of your camping trip.

This guide will highlight all the Pismo Beach camping delights, where the best campgrounds are located, what activities you can engage in while camping, the attractions close by, and what camping is like throughout the seasons.

Before highlighting the camping delights that Pismo State Beach offers, it is important to provide a brief history of the beach.


Pismo Beach: A Brief History

Pismo is a tiny town located on California’s central coast. The Chumash Native American tribe first occupied the region until Spanish explorers drove them out. Pismo Beach, in the late 1800s, transformed into a popular tourist attraction, thanks in part to its unique scenic surroundings and hot springs.

The city also earned its bootlegging reputation during prohibition. Fortunately, that reputation disappeared, as Pismo Beach is known for its sand dunes and coasts. This popular tourist destination is also known for outdoor recreation, such as swimming, picnicking, camping, and surfing.

View of a tree and lifeguard station on Pismo Beach.
Coastal Sentinel: Lifeguard Station and Tree at Pismo Beach.

Why Pismo Beach Camping Is the Way to Go

Pismo State Beach has the charm of a seaside town with inviting views of the Pacific Ocean. The shore is sometimes called the World’s Clam Capital due to its Clam Festival and clam-digging locations.

The Pismo State Beach lakeshore provides visitors with a unique opportunity to camp amongst the dunes via the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. The park has over 5 miles of sand dunes and a lakeshore area with access to off-road vehicles. All of this makes Pismo Beach camping the place to be!

Visitors will need to rent ATVs, sand dune buggies, or other off-road capable vehicles to explore the dunes. The coastal dunes park also has traditional campsites with popular amenities such as showers, waste dumping, and fire pits.

Where Can You Find Pismo Beach?

As stated earlier, Pismo Beach is a city on California’s central coast. This California beach is located in the southernmost section of San Luis Obispo County.

Pismo Beach Camping: Activities

Two horses on the beach

Horse Riding

If you are a fan of equine life, you can explore Pismo Beach without getting in the water. This activity is offered around the beach and enables you to explore the various wildlife-abundant estuaries and maze of dunes.

Wildlife Watching

Pismo Beach plays host to diversity-rich wildlife. If you are lucky enough, you can spot humpback whales, elephant seals, or dolphin pods. If you aren’t a fan of marine life, you can also enjoy the wild turkeys, butterflies, and birds that call the area around Pismo Beach home.

Surfing

Pismo Beach is a surfing hub, which is demonstrated by the numerous surfing contests held throughout the year. Surfing at Pismo Beach is welcome to all, those with experience and those without. Various surf schools can help you get started.

Kayaking

Pismo Beach is a wonderful kayaking spot that lets you explore the beach’s caves, coves, cliffs, and rocks. Various kayak companies offer rentals at different price points.

A few of them are Pismo Beach Surf Shop & Kayak Rentals, Pismo Beach Dive Shop & Kayak Rentals, and Central Coast Kayaks. Alternatively, you can bring your own Aquaglide Chinook 120 inflatable kayak.

Fishing

Pismo Beach is known for being a wonderful fishing destination. There are so many species for anglers to try their luck at striped seaperch, spot fin croaker, and barred surfperch, to name a few. You need to get a license before fishing from a boat or the shoreline.

Boating

Considering it is a beach, it makes sense that boating is one of the activities you can engage in at Pismo Beach. You can choose to head over to a sailing club or, alternatively, sign up for a boat tour to see the sights. The boat tours are known for providing rare glimpses of aquatic wildlife that call Pismo Beach home.

Cycling

Cycling is an extreme activity for visitors to Pismo State Beach. There are a plethora of cycling routes for visitors to select from, with the routes ranging from easy at just 16km to hard at 95km. For visitors that don’t have a bicycle, there are various bike rental stores in the Pismo Coast Village.

Swimming

The shoreline spans 17 miles, ensuring enough space for Pismo Beach’s visitors to get into the water. The average water temperature rises to about 59F, making getting into the water, particularly during the summer, a refreshing prospect. There is also a 1.5-mile stretch where lifeguards are present. You should note that they are only available from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend.

Pismo Beach Camping: Campsites

Pismo Beach camping

Camping at Pismo State Beach is possible at Oceano Campground and the North Beach Campground. Both campgrounds let visitors get as close to the beach as possible while ensuring clear access to various outdoor activities and restaurants. You should note that both campgrounds run a reservation system, so you will need to book in advance.

Oceano Campground

The Ocano Camp is located next to the Oceano Lagoon, right behind Pismo Beach. It has 82 camping sites. It also has two walking trails that lead to Pismo Beach; however, the trails are slightly longer than those found at the North Beach Campground.

RVs parking at  oceano campground.
Embracing the Ocean Breeze: RV parking spots for camping by the Oceano Campground Pismo Beach

There is also a beautiful trail that encircles Oceano Lagoon. This trail is quite popular amongst bird watchers. A benefit of choosing the Oceano Campground is that you don’t have to worry about paying for a day pass when visiting the beach during the day. The normally $5 fee day pass comes included with your campsite.

Oceano Campground also offers sites with electrical hookups, costing around $40. Non-electrical hookup campsites cost $25. Asides that, this campground has useful amenities such as restrooms, showers, and a dump station. The camping sites are properly spaced to ensure privacy, and each campsite has a maximum occupancy of 8 people per site.

The campsite has a quiet policy, enforced between 22:00 and 06:00, to ensure every campground visitor has a pleasant camping experience. It also has 24/7 security, ensuring visitors feel safe throughout their stay. While pets are allowed on the campground, they must be inside at night and remain on a leash when in public.

For RV campers, Oceano Campground has a 36ft RV limit.

North Beach Campground

The North Beach Campground has 103 camping sites that offer easy access to Pismo Beach via a foot trail. All the campsites are open-air and offer a range of essential amenities. These amenities include pay showers, a dump station, restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits.

RVs parked at North Beach Pismo Beach campground.
RV Campsite in North Beach Pismo Beach

Each campsite, like Oceano, has a maximum occupancy of eight. You should note that North Beach only offers dry camping with no electrical hookups. Campsite costs start from $25 per night. RV campers are also welcome at this campground; however, there is a maximum length limit of 36 ft.

Pets are allowed on the campground but must be kept on a leash and remain inside the RV or tent at night. Since this campground is a dry camp, it doesn’t offer Wi-Fi. It does, however, offer a phone signal. This campground is within walking distance of Monarch Grove, which is a hotbed for butterflies. Check-in is at 2:00 pm, and checkout time is noon, so you can get one final activity in before leaving for home.

When getting a campsite, you are better off tent camping at Oceano Dunes or North Beach Campground, as both offer free and quick access to Pismo Beach, outdoor activities, and easy restaurant routes.

While Pismo Beach Camping is available all year, you are better off camping in the Autumn as the weather is still warm and crowds are much thinner.

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Monarch Butterfly Grove at Pismo State Beach

Pismo Beach’s Monarch Butterfly Grove is open from November to February. The western monarch butterflies overwinter in publicly owned and protected areas at Monarch Butterfly Grove. Over 200 coastal locations—some located in San Luis Obispo County—are identified as monarch clusters.

Pismo Beach Camping: Places to Check Out

Pismo Beach is known for its attractions, as it has something to offer all year round when you are tired of the beach, or the weather isn’t the best. With that, here are the best-rated attractions.

Spyglass Park

Spyglass Park is a great attraction for those that want a more relaxed vibe. This park offers fantastic ocean views and a large grassy lawn with barbecue pits and playground equipment. This is great if you want to take a break from being on the beach for a day.

Oceano Dunes

The Oceano Dunes is a unique area of Pismo Beach that offers the backdrop of ocean views and white sandy hills. For those who love adventure, you can head off-roading by renting a motocross bike, buggy, or ATV.

Pismo Bowling

If you are sick of the beach or cannot head out for whatever reason, you can always have fun at Pismo Bowling. Created in 1939, this bowling arena offers a classic aesthetic that is certainly charming. Bowling at this arena is also inexpensive, $10 for a single game ($4.50 for the bowling shoes and $6 per game)

Monarch Grove

Monarch Grove is located south of Pismo Beach Pier and houses tens of thousands of monarch butterflies. The butterflies can be found on pine and eucalyptus trees. This attraction is free to all Pismo Beach visitors.

Thousands of Monarch butterflies gathered at Pismo Beach.
Nature’s Spectacle: A Flutter of Monarch Butterflies at Pismo Beach.

Dinosaurs Cave Park

Dinosaurs Cave Park offers 11 stunning acres and is open to the public. Visitors can catch a glimpse of beautiful coast views. These views can be accessed thanks to the paved path located along the park’s edge. For those visiting with family and little kids, there is a dinosaur-themed playground where the little ones can burn off some energy.

Beach Clam Festival

Pismo Beach’s biggest event is arguably the Beach Clam Festival. It is held every October and attracts thousands of people looking to celebrate a Pismo Coast Village tradition that can be traced back to 1946.

The festival is a wonderful attraction with countless local vendors, food trucks, and live music. This festival is even more attractive because it is free to attend!

Avila Hot Springs

Avila Hot Springs offers two pools for those that want to be in the water but not the ocean. The first is a 400-square-foot freshwater swimming pool with water slides. The second pool is a mineral pool heated to 104°F—the perfect temperature for soaking your muscles. You can get a morning pass to the hot spring for just $15 or an all-day pass for $35.

Pismo Preserve

If you enjoy hiking, Pismo Preserve should be your first port of call. The Preserve spans 900 acres and has 11 miles of explorable hiking trails. The trails come in various difficulties without easy trails like Pismo Discovery Trail and more challenging ones like Peekaboo Trail.

Pismo Beach Camping: Campgrounds Near the Beach

The campgrounds located right on the beach can get quite busy during the summer; there are a plethora of other options to select from. With that in mind, here are a couple of campgrounds that are still close to the beach.

Lopez Lake Recreation Area

Lopez Lake Recreation Area is a great choice for those that want to be near the beach yet still want a chilled-out space. It is a 20-minute drive from Pismo Beach and has about 350 camping sites ranging from full hookups to traditional primitive camping.

Panoramic view of Lopez Lake and the surrounding marsh hills
Natural Wonders Unveiled: The Scenic Lopez Lake and lush marsh hills

You also get 1000 acres of lake surface via Lopez Lake. The lake offers a peaceful atmosphere contrasting with the hustle and bustle of Pismo Beach camping. Camping on this holiday RV park costs anything from $30 to $55, depending on the type of camping you want. You also get essential amenities like restrooms and hot showers.

Coastal Dunes RV Park and Campground

Coastal Dunes is located just north of the Oceano Campground, right next to Grover Beach Amtrak Station. This RV campground has 240 grass camping sites in all varieties: hiker/biker, back-in, and pull-thru.

You can expect to spend anything from $30 to $60 on a campsite for RV camping. The higher price is incurred if you require water or a full hookup. Coastal Dunes offers amenities such as hot showers, restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits.

Pismo Coast Village RV Resort

The Pismo Coast Village is located right next to North Beach Campground. As an RV resort, it offers 400 full hookup sites with cable television and wireless internet access. While this campground is close to Pismo State Beach, accessing the beach takes you slightly longer than the trails on the Oceano and North Beach campgrounds.

View of the Pismo Coast Village RV Resort
Your Coastal Retreat: Pismo Coast Village RV Resort.

You should also note that Pismo Coast Village RV Resort is slightly more expensive than Oceano Campground, with prices ranging from $73 to $90 per night, depending on the season. Nevertheless, the slightly high cost is worth it, particularly if you are interested in having an arcade and swimming pool on site.

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RV Parks at Pismo Beach Camping

RV parked on the beach

Pismo Beach is a popular travel destination for RV campers as there are several RV parks in the area. Pismo State Beach is a great choice for RVers looking to vacation right by the beach. Alternatively, you can travel along the central coast by renting an RV from anywhere near Pismo Lakeside.

Tent camping areas and RV hookup sites are both available at Oceano Campground. This campground offers access to a freshwater lagoon where wildlife is present and access to the beach. The campground center also runs Campfire Programs and Junior Ranger Programs throughout the summer.

Making Pismo Beach Camping Reservations

You can make Pismo Beach Camping reservations by simply calling the toll-free number (1-800-444-7275) or booking online. In order to snag a spot, you should note that reservations must be booked at least two days before your scheduled arrival date.

Although this may be true, you also have the opportunity to book your camping site up to six months ahead of schedule. This is perhaps the best way to avoid uncertainty. If you are RV camping, you should note that you can only park your RV at its designated campsite.

But if your procrastinated and now your site chose site is full, you can try booking a private campsite thru tentrr.com as your last resort.

Pismo State Beach campgrounds have the typical conveniences, including a fire ring, picnic tables, pay-per-use hot showers, and restrooms. Visitors can purchase firewood at the park worker kiosk or Camp Host Campsites.

RV Dumping Facilities on Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach Camping offers fee-based RV dumping facilities, with stations at Le Sage Drive located next to the Grande Avenue entry parking area. You can also get dump stations near the North Beach Campsite entrance.

You should note that dump station usage is not factored into the overall cost of your campground. This means you will be required to pay the $10 disposal fee.

Overnight Pismo Beach Camping

You can only camp overnight on the State Beach just south of North Pismo Beach. This area also lets you create beach bonfires. State Beach is run by the California State Park division.

What to Expect When Pismo Beach Camping During the Seasons

Pismo Beach camping is available all year round; however, each season provides a unique camping experience. This section of the article will provide you with what temperature and weather to expect around the year when camping at Pismo Beach.

Winter

Thinking about Pismo Beach camping during the winter, you must consider camping in an RV or a trailer, as rainfall can get quite heavy. Furthermore, temperatures can drop to 42°F.

The wet and cold weather shouldn’t put you off, as the campsites aren’t as crowded as in other months. Plus, you get to see a host of wildlife typically not seen other times during the year.

Monarch Grove really comes into its own between November and February. This area borders Pismo State Beach and has the largest monarch butterfly colony.

Autumn

Autumn begins in September and ends in November. For most people, it is the best time for Pismo Beach camping. The crowds begin to thin as the school holidays finish. The weather is still warm, reaching highs of 80°F; however, fog is unlikely to be an issue as it is during the summer and spring.

As the season begins turning, temperatures can get as low as 55°F, with rainfall expected to increase. When camping during this season, you should pack warm gear for colder nights. You should also ensure you have adequate waterproof protection for your tent.

Summer

Temperatures during the summer on Pismo Beach can reach 89°F, making weather conditions considerably hot. July is typically the warmest month of the year, so your tent can get quite warm.

However, a benefit of the warm weather is that you might see little to no rainfall, particularly in August. Temperatures do drop at night, reaching lows of 56°F, so ensure you pack warm gear. Pismo State Beach’s peak season is during the summer, so expect the campgrounds to be full of people, particularly during the 4th of July.

Spring

Springtime is when life begins to bloom at Pismo Beach. It signals the end of rainy days and the beginning of warm weather. Temperatures typically range from lows of 45°F and 50°F to highs of 65 to 75°F.

During this time, Pismo Beach offers the perfect conditions for tent camping. Considering tent camping, ensure you have the right tent, like the ALPS Mountaineering Meramac 6 Tent.

You should note that rainfall is still likely, so you should bring a rain jacket like the A6 Rain Jacket with you. You can also expect serious fog along the coast from May to June, resulting in cloudy, gloomy weather.

March sees the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival open, attracting thousands of visitors and tourists to the beach, so you must book your campsite in advance.

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Conclusion

Pismo Beach is a wonderful camp place, with various campsites to suit your needs. It doesn’t matter what season you decide to visit; you are bound to find activities that ensure you keep you occupied regardless of the weather. Hopefully, this guide provides all the information you need to enjoy Pismo Beach Camping.


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