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Getting a Beachside Campsite in California

By Edited Mar 23, 2015 1 2

Camp Near the Beach

How refreshing it is to wake up in the morning to waves crashing, and sea air at a campsite on the California coast. Camping right on the beach at Oceano Dunes or next to a beach known for great surfing like Doheny could be as easy as planning ahead. Some beach side campsites might even be gotten on the spur of the moment.

Plan Ahead

Many beach side campsites can be reserved seven months in advance through California Sate Parks. Besides being able to make reservations through the State Parks website, it has up-to-date information and campsite maps which can help you get a feel for the lay out of the park. Especially if you've never been to the area, with the maps you can decide which campsite will give you the best view of the sunset and surf. Some campgrounds offer reservations for specific sites, and some fill the sites as campers with reservations arrive.

Be Ready

Have your first, second, and third choice dates handy the very day and minute reservations open up. Not only have all possible dates, but all possible campsites as well. You may have to get together with your fellow campers to agree on what might be acceptable sites if your first choice is not available.

Getting these details settled before you get online will help you make those quick decisions you may be forced into to grab the very best site possible. Since many other campers will be going online or getting on the phone at the same time, being prepared will pay off.

Don't Give Up

If you don't get the campsite you'd like, all is not lost. Check back with the campground you'd like for cancellations at least once a month. 

Try Different Regions of the Coast

The Northern, Central, and Southern California coasts all have their unique beauty. Being flexible about what area of the coast you'd like to camp at could bring great new experiences with a beach side campsite.

If your are driving down the Ventura Highway in the summertime, and you see an open camping space on the beach. Check at Emma Wood Campground to find out if you can stay there.

Get Directions
Ventura, CA, USA

Be at the Right Place and the Right Time

Campsites such as Emma Wood State Beach right off the Ventura Highway, and the Silver Strand in San Diego may have first come first serve spots available on the spur of the moment. 

Arrive during the Week

Whether camping at high or low season, trying to get a first come, first serve spot, or getting a reservation, arriving at the campsite midweek will increase chances of getting a spot on the



California coast sunset

Camp during Low Season

Low season varies for each campground. So check with California State Parks to find out what low season is and if the campground is open then. January and February are often low season, but because of winter storms, the campground may not be open. In this case the months just before and after winter storms may have more available campsites than in the summer.

Consider Self Contained Camping

Camp in an RV with bathrooms and kitchens that don't need a hook up. More and more due to State budget cuts, less bathroom facilities are available at beach campgrounds. Such is the case at Seacliff in Montery, at Emma Wood in Ventura, and at the Silver Strand in San Diego. A modest size, self contained RV may be your ticket to a relaxing few days camping at the beach.



Jun 6, 2011 7:01pm
I've wanted to try some of these coastal state parks. I've heard that you need to plan a year in advance to get one of the Crystal Cove cabins. Perhaps the other campsites don't take as long. I'll have to give them a try.
Jun 7, 2011 1:07pm
Oh those Crystal Cove cabins sound beautiful! I would love to stay there sometime! Mostly I camp up north a ways and have some friends that are experts at getting the best campsite. The secret is being on the phone or internet the second the campground opens for reservations that season. Thanks for stopping by Deborah-Diane!
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