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California's Best Beach Camping Destinations

California's Best Beach Camping Destinations

By Rachael Medina
Staff Writer June 19, 2020

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.

Hundreds of miles of sparkling waters line the Golden State’s coast, offering endless inspiration for hopeful travelers and explorers. From the remote shores of Northern California’s Lost Coast to the dazzling sands of Big Sur and the warm waters beside San Diego’s harbors, there are innumerable destinations for camping on the California coast

When it comes to camping in the summer—or any other time, for that matter—it doesn’t get much better than getting lulled to sleep by the waves at your favorite beach campgrounds. Since California is known for its diverse scenery, there are always new kinds of camping to discover; from glamping in the forest to camping on the beach, California offers it all. There are so many options to choose from, but here are a few of our favorite beach campgrounds in the Golden State. 

Reserve a spot at Coast Campground to camp along the spectacular shores of Point Reyes.

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Coast Campground

Location: Point Reyes National Seashore

Nestled an hour north of San Francisco, Coast Campground is an ideal remote destination where visitors can unwind and return to their roots—if they’re willing to put in the work to get there. This Northern California beach camping spot isn’t for the faint of heart; the shortest way to get there requires a slightly inclined 1.9-mile trek. Should you choose to go this way, begin at the Laguna Trailhead (just past the HI Point Reyes Hostel), and follow the Laguna and Fire Lane Trails. But if you choose to start from the Coast Trailhead instead, you’ll cover an impressive 2.7 miles with your camping gear. (This path is open to bicycles, too, so consider pedaling your way to the campground to make the journey a bit easier.)

Once you’ve arrived at Coast Campground, you’ll be rewarded with ocean views, since the beach is located just 600 feet from the campsite. The campground features 12 individual sites as well as two group sites with amenities such as running water, restroom facilities, food storage lockers, charcoal grills, and picnic tables—though cell service is notably absent. 

Note that you’ll need a backcountry camping permit to set up camp here, so head to the Bear Valley Visitor Center to pick one up. 

Bodega Dunes Campground

Location: Bodega Bay

Located within the 17–mile expanse of Sonoma Coast State Park, Bodega Dunes Campground offers an idyllic spot to overnight in nature. With close proximity to Bodega Harbor and Bodega Dunes Beach, this campground has everything you need to unwind. From fishing and sunbathing to picnicking and hiking, it’s all possible just off Highway 1

Complete with showers, potable water, and 99 campsites, Bodega Dunes Campground is the perfect place to bring the family—though Fido will have to skip out on this trip. 

Take the whole family to Doheny State Beach, one of the most popular beaches in California, for an unforgettable summer getaway.

Doheny State Beach

Location: Dana Point

When it comes to California state beach camping, it doesn’t get much better than Doheny. As one of the Golden State’s most popular beaches—attracting nearly one million visitors each year—Doheny State Beach’s campgrounds offer numerous fun activities. Surf spots, tide pools, world-class aquariums, and more are mere steps from the campsite. 

Spend the day playing volleyball and picnicking on the lawn at the north end of California’s first state beach, then wind down and get to know your fellow campers at the southern edge. No matter how you choose to spend your time, it’s easy to enjoy yourself at this Southern California beach campground.  

Doran Regional Park

Location: Bodega Bay

Doran Regional Park is home to 120-plus campsites that are available year-round. Whether you’re interested in camping in a tent, RV, or trailer, this unique peninsula has all the amenities you need for a successful camping trip, including restrooms with electric outlets, showers, and potable water. 

Split into four distinct areas—known as the Shell, Gull, Cove, and Jetty Campgrounds—this destination is also a great way to see the North Coast without breaking the bank. Depending on your campsite, you’ll be able to admire picture-perfect views of Bodega Harbor, Bodega Bay, or Doran Beach.

Head to the Gold Bluffs Beach Campground for a remote escape along the Northern California coast.

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

Location: Orick

Settled on the northern coast of California where the forest meets the sand, Gold Bluffs Beach Campground is one of the best places to experience the wonder of Humboldt County. The campground is located about an hour north of Eureka and two hours away from Ferndale, so it’s a great spot to get away from it all without traveling too far. 

The campground is nestled within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and is one of the more intimate beach camping spots, composed of only 24 campsites. Spend your time walking along the beach, photographing the stunning landscape, and hiking into Fern Canyon to make the most of your vacation. 

Pismo State Beach

Location: Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach is home to some of the Central Coast’s best surfing spots and the famous Pismo clams. Outfitted with two campgrounds, Pismo State Beach has nearly 200 campsites featuring beach access, picnic tables, restrooms, hot showers, and fire rings to satisfy your camping needs. 

Reserve your campsites in Pismo Beach at least two days in advance, and you’ll be rewarded with access to hiking trails, kitesurfing destinations, horseback riding excursions, and endless family fun. 

Pitch a tent at Thornhill Broome Campground to enjoy a camping trip on the pristine sands of Malibu.

Thornhill Broome Campground

Location: Malibu

Tucked into the Santa Monica Mountains in Point Mugu State Park, the Thornhill Broome Campground offers the best beach camping in Malibu. While its beauty is enough to entice droves of visitors, this campground is also unique for its landscape; travelers can literally camp on the sands (an experience you can’t enjoy at most other beach campsites). 

Go hiking, swimming, windsurfing, and, conditions permitting, cook dinner and roast marshmallows over the fire before tucking in for the evening. In the morning, prepare for a hike along the easy Grotto Trail or the Scenic and Overlook Trails, or gear up for a more strenuous adventure by heading off on the Mugu Peak Trail. 

With so many incredible beach camping options available throughout California, you never know where your next excursion might take you next. If you’ve camped along the Golden State’s coastline, let us know your favorite campgrounds in the comments below.

Staff Writer
Rachael Medina

Staff Writer Rachael Medina

Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…

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