Article contributed by Joe Laing, El Monte RV

Children playing on the beach!

Children playing on the beach! Photo copyright Linda Aksomitis.

When it comes to counting miles of beautiful coastline, California has a leg up on the rest of the U.S. (even considering Florida’s stretches of white sand and Maine’s rugged islands).

Only in California can you drive the coast and fluctuate between wide sandy beaches and stark cliffs dropping hundreds of feet into the Pacific, in a temperate climate where it’s generally comfortable to be outside year-round.

For stunning drives, Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Monterey ranks among the world’s best, with hairpin turns hugging the cliffs as the road soars over the ocean. Likewise, southern California includes many of the country’s most famous surf spots, while the north offers isolation and rocky points, with the occasional sandy cove tucked in where visitors can truly experience and appreciate the wild nature of this coast.

Of course, if you’re visiting California to enjoy the beaches and shoreline, you logically want to stay as close to the ocean as possible. Although California has dealt with a host of budget cuts that shuttered some state parks, not to mention 2008 wildfires that ravaged the Big Sur region, the state still offers some of North America’s finest oceanfront camping options. Here are a few favorites.

Morro Strand State Beach

Although this central California spot doesn’t offer the isolation of more remote beachfront campgrounds, it’s a gorgeous three-mile stretch of sand with vistas across Morro Bay to the iconic rock jutting from the ocean, and within walking distance of the cute little town of Morro Bay.

Morro Rock, CA

Photo above by Kanan H, Jani (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The campsite accommodates 76 vehicles up to 24 feet in length, and reservations are taken between Memorial and Labor Days. Be aware that there are no showers or electric and water hookups, so even though you may be sharing space with other vacationers, this is still ‘primitive’ camping, of sorts. Most of the time, however, you’ll be out on the beach that’s just a few steps away from the campground, looking for peregrine falcons that nest on Morro Rock, casting a line into the ocean, or just relaxing and watching the sunset over the ocean. For family fun, stroll into town and enjoy the small aquarium and a seafood dinner close to the source.

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

You’d be hard-pressed to find a beach more wide open and beautiful than Gold Bluffs, located within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, just thirty miles from the Oregon border. You’re more likely to encounter Roosevelt elk grazing in the campground than to find large crowds of people. The site is only open in the summer, from April to September, and it features 26 primitive sites (although it can accommodate RVs, but there are no hook-ups). Solar showers and restrooms are available, as well as over 70 miles of hiking and biking trails through the redwood forests of Fern Canyon and along the miles of deserted sandy beach.

San Clemente State Beach

It’s much harder to find a quiet camping spot to yourself in southern California than in the north, but San Clemente State Beach in Orange County, halfway between L.A. and San Diego, is a welcome respite and a popular place to relax and catch some rays.

Take a tour yourself with this short YouTube video!

The campground features 141 sites, including amenities like showers, full hook-ups and a dump station (there’s even Wifi, so it’s possible to set-up camp for a working vacation). Most visitors come for the coastal hiking along nature trails, the surf breaks, and the swimming and fishing along the beach. Plan ahead to visit, however — it often books up half a year in advance.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Simultaneously easy and difficult to reach, camping at Point Reyes is for the truly adventurous. Although it’s a short hop across the bay from San Francisco, the hike-in backcountry campgrounds make for a spectacular escape from the city, if you’re willing to walk to get there (or, if you’re lucky enough, pull up in your boat or kayak at Tomales Bay).

Morro Rock, CA

Morro Rock, CA. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license. Photo credit to Poppy.

The backcountry sites at Point Reyes offer true isolation, but include the amenities of a waterfaucet, a vault toilet, a grill and a picnic table. Shoot for a reservation at the Coast Camp, where you’ll sleep a stone’s throw from the ocean in an idyllic little valley. It’s a two-mile hike from the nearest access point.

Alternatively, explore Point Reyes via day hikes while car or RV camping at one of the numerous nearby private and Golden Gate National Recreation area campgrounds .

Wherever you camp along the California coast, waking up beside the Pacific Ocean is an experience that will stay with you always. These are just a few favorites among many options for California beach camping — what other spots have you found?

About the Author — Joe Laing

Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV Rentals, your nationwide source for RV rentals. El Monte RV also sells used motorhomes through eight different locations across the United States. For more information on purchasing a used motorhome see