Driving on the Beach

beach sunset

Driving on the Beach in California

Gone are the days of ‘beach blanket bingo’ where film crews glamorized California – the beautiful people, the nice vehicles, the sport of surfing and the glorious beaches. There are very few places left on the California coast that you can actually drive a vehicle on the sand, right next to the ocean. The military bases, oil corporations and the utility companies have the front row seats to the Pacific genocide, and the rest of the population is restricted with extreme limited access.

Baja California has minimal regulations on coastal access with a car. No pavement, no signs, no cell phone signal, and no help for miles – something to consider if you get stuck south of the border in Mexico. Baja has numerous places to explore below Ensenada, but asking locals is always a favored approach. Pay attention to private property signs and always close the cattle gate (if you found it closed).

Southern California, no beaches allow vehicle traffic. San Diego offers a sliver of sand @ Silver Strand SB, which is a developed campground for motorhomes and car campers, located right on the beach south of Coronado, CA. Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, San Diego allows driving on sand and a favorite among active dogs, but not camping is allowed. In Los Angeles you can park a motorhome at a sandy, paved campground for a hefty overnight fee. Dockweiler Beach, right near the Chevron plant and LA sewage treatment facility. Sounds delightful, not.

Ventura & Santa Barbara Coastal Regions have many awesome State Beaches, but none allow vehicles on the sand.

AWD on the sand

Central Coast California:

  • Oceano SVRA – off road sand dunes and open camping on the beach. Day use or overnight camp fee required; near Pismo Beach, CA
  • Red, White and Blue Beach – nude beach w/ campground (now closed); north of Santa Cruz, CA

Northern California:
Lost Coast

  • Usal Beach Campground – redwood creeks and forests meets coast and cliffs. Camp fee for overnight use. Long dirt road access. No RVs!
  • Black Sands Beach (OHV 4×4 trail, now closed to all vehicles) near Shelter Cove, CA

chico couple

after-the-fun maintenance tip:

Salt water and sand is very corrosive to metal – which will rust your truck or car badly. Now that you’ve had fun on the beach, we remind you to clean the underneath of your vehicle ASAP. Spraying powerful hose in your wheel wells and all underneath the vehicle. You might need to lay on the ground and get wet to do this job properly. Some car wash places might be able to do this service for you, but it will cost ya.

Campgrounds Beach

California Campgrounds –
Camping at the Beach

Costal Cliffs

Autumn and Spring are often the best months to enjoy the (somewhat) uncrowded coastline of California. Kids are in school, summer vacation rush is over, and there is plenty of sunshine before those winter storms come rolling in.

reservations are highly recommended

Anything & any place along the coast is “much desired”, worthy of charging for. From seaside restaurants to convenient, paid parking lots – face it – California can be expensive.

Beach camping is no different. Coast camping in California is abundant, but state run campgrounds will run you a pretty penny. Camping fees are well above $20 per night. If you want flush toilets in the bathroom and a level, paved spot for a big RV, it will cost even more. Make sure to reserve a campsite as far ahead as possible. Ask about off-season months to visit.

Privately run campgrounds are often more expensive, but they might be a nicer facility and be in a better location. If you want free camping, then head to the northern part of the state – and take a dirt road to reach your seclusion. Both the Big Sur and Lost Coast both have excellent dispersed camping on backroads, at no charge, and a campfire permit is required for such camping.

Campgrounds situated on a sandy beach or right on a cliff edge overlooking the ocean. Private cove camp sites, tent cabin rentals, yurt resorts, RV campgrounds; Several coastal canyons (from sycamores to redwoods) usually have creeks and abundant camping options.

Pismo Clear Winter Day

Campgrounds Beach: a popular search phrase for camping near the coast in California. The best months to camp along the coast depends on what part of California you wish to visit – at what time of the year. With 700 miles of ocean front there is a lot to choose from – RV parks w/ small marina, 4×4 camps, hike-in only sites, and plenty of California State Parks & Beaches.

Much of the coastal camping is NOT “on-the-sand” beach camping. Most of the coastline in California is rugged, some forested and usually full of ‘wildfire prone’ chaparral. Cliffside campgrounds, redwood canyons with creeks, green grassy lawns w/ shade trees and paved camp sites, US 101 busy, freeway campgrounds; all are close enough to the shore to be considered COASTAL camping.

Even in winter, the coast can be quite mild in Southern Cal, so the campgrounds are open all year long. NorCal Coast gets the brunt of WET & COLD winter weather, so those camps are open seasonally, during warmer, drier months (APRIL-OCT).

JUNE GLOOM is a cloud layer that covers the coastline in the early part of summer. Weather is warm to cool with clouds, or the weather can be bright and sunny – if the marine layer ‘burns off’ by mid-day. Consider these local weather patterns, May Gray & June Gloom, when planning a vacation to the beaches of California.

listed from south to north

Southern California Beach Camping

Coronado Island
San Diego Beach Camping
Encinitas
Carlsbad
Orange County Beach Camping
San Clemente
Dana Point
Laguna Beach

Los Angeles Beach Camping

Bolsa Chica State Beach
Doheny State Beach
Malibu Creek State Park
Ventura Coast Camping

Coast Campgrounds

Central Coast Beach Camping

Santa Barbara Beach Camping
Pismo Beach Camping
Morro Bay Camping
Big Sur Campground

Monterey Bay Camping

Monterey Bay Camping
Half Moon Bay
Santa Cruz Camping
Santa Cruz Redwoods

Angel Island

San Francisco Camping

Angel Island State Park
Point Reyes Camping
Marin Redwoods Camping
Sonoma Coast – Camping Jenner

Northern California Coast Camping

Mendocino Coast
Kings Range
Lost Coast: Shelter Cove
NorCal Redwoods Camping
Crescent City Camping

Stairwell to Beach

Mendocino Beach Camping

Mendocino Coast Campgrounds

villageoncliff
Tent camping directly on a sandy beach can be found at USAL BEACH – on remote reaches of the rugged Lost Coast, via long dirt roads (not recommended for RV or camper trailers). Numerous small, cheap, forested campgrounds can be found on the Kings Range (dirt) roads. The area is also known as Honeydew or the Emerald Triangle. The “emerald” comes from the color of the main economic staple, cannabis.

The remainder of camp accommodations are State Parks and State Beaches on the Mendo coast, offering developed campgrounds and most are first come, first serve.  There are no campgrounds inside the popular, historic village of Mendocino, CA , but two state parks are within a mile to the north and south side of town: Van Damme Campground & Russian Gulch Campground. Local KOA and a few private RV parks make up the rest of the scenic coastline.

Lost Coast Camping BLM

Kings Range National Conservation Area

camp on the sand

Lost Coast Bridge

Westport Union Landing State Beach

MacKerricher State Park

  • Pinewood Campground
  • Surfwood Campground

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

dscn0083

Fort Bragg, California Campgrounds

Cleone Campground

Hidden Pines Camp & RV Park

Jug Handle Creek Farm & Campground

Pomo RV Park & Campground

Sportsmans RV Park

Woodside RV Park & Campground

Caspar Beach RV Park Campground

Camping Mendocino Village Area

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

Mendocino Coast Village

Mendocino Coast –
Albion, Pt. Arena & Gualala

camp

Manchester State Park

Manchester KOA Campground

Anchor Bay Campground @ Fish Rock Beach

Gualala River Redwood Park

Redwood forest

Mendocino Coast towns:
Albion
Caspar
Elk
Fort Bragg
Gualala
Little River
Mendocino

Orange County Beach Camping

Orange County Coastal Camping

OC Beach Campgrounds

The overdeveloped Orange County coast is packed with condos, homes, parks and beaches, coastal villages, restaurants, shops and train tracks, so campgrounds in this region are few and far more popular than one might expect. Since Los Angeles has very limited beach camping options, most tourists wander further south for SoCal beach camping on the OC or San Diego coast line.  Orange County Coast Campground reservations are highly recommended all year long, so make sure to plan ahead.

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

pierscene

Bolsa Chica State Park
Huntington Beach, CA

Crystal Cove State Park
Tent Camp Primitive

Moro Campground
Beach Cottages
Laguna Beach, CA

Doheny State Beach
Dana Point, CA

Huntington State Beach
Huntington Beach, CA

Newport Canals

Newport Dunes RV Resort
Newport Beach, CA

San Clemente State Beach
San Clemente CA

 

DSCN0037

see more on OC towns –
Seal Beach, CA
Huntington Beach, CA
Newport Beach, CA
Laguna Beach, CA
Dana Point, CA
Capistrano Beach
San Clemente CA

Santa Barbara Beach Camping

Santa Barbara Beach Camping

Santa Barbara Beach Camping

Santa Barbara Campsites

Beach Campgrounds along the coast are made up mostly of State Beaches & Parks. This is a popular and busy part of the California coastline for camping, all year long. Many RVers vacationing year round and big family events are held often. Tent camping is also available – but you will be surrounded by motorhomes, and paying a premium price for a camp spot. With the major highway US 101 zooming along the cliffs at shoreline, some of these campground are located within ear distance from the freeway and the railroad track. Ocean waves may overpower the traffic noise, but we aren’t guaranteeing anything. Early summer vacations tend to be foggy.

Try also, Santa Barbara Mountains Camping

Ojai Camping & Ventura Coast Camping

nearby towns –

DSCN3402