Take a trip along the Northern California coast, set up camp right next to the water, listen to the waves all night, and wake up to the barking of harbor seals. This list of beach locations where you can pitch your tent (or park your RV) in Northern California was compiled by scanning the coastline from Santa Cruz County to the state’s northernmost point. You’ll see cliffs tumbling into the water and stunning “sea stack” rock formations offshore as you drive.
From south to north, read on to find out where you can go beach camping in Northern California.
1. Sunset State Beach
Sunset State Beach, 16 miles south of Santa Cruz, is “just right,” as Goldilocks would say. In just a minute or two, you can set up a tent beneath the shade of shady pine trees and be on the beach. There are around 90 campsites, nine of which are only open to RVs. Coin-operated hot showers, piped water, and facilities are available, but RVers should note that hookups are not available. ReserveCalifornia allows you to book your campsite up to six months in advance, with fees starting at $35 per night.
2. Seacliff State Beach
The derelict 435-foot S.S. Palo Alto, a fishing pier, and 2 miles of Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary shoreline make Seacliff State Beach a picture-perfect destination to spend the day. The beach’s campsite, which is only open to self-contained RV campers, has 26 full hookup sites and 37 non-hookup sites, all of which are protected from the wind by vertical bluffs. Nearby New Brighton State Beach has both water and a sanitation station; notice that the disposal station charges $10 to use. Because this popular destination fills up months in advance, you’ll want to start organizing your vacation as soon as possible. Campsites start at $55 per night and can be reserved on ReserveCalifornia’s website.
3. Coast Campground
Perhaps California’s most beautiful coastal park is Point Reyes National Seashore. In reality, it’s one of the country’s most stunning coastline parks. Coast Campground, located 220 yards from the shore, is one of four backcountry hike-in campgrounds in Point Reyes. The campground, which has 12 standard campsites and two group sites, is accessible by a 1.8-mile hike along the Laguna and Fire Lane Trails. Although the water is usually potable, it’s a good idea to bring water purification tablets just in case the campground’s water treatment system goes down. Cooking is restricted to gas stoves, charcoal, and canned heat.
Depending on the venue, campsites are offered three months or fourteen days in advance. (However, Site 9 is open for same-day reservations.) Visit Recreation.gov to make a reservation (and to get your camping permit); campsites start at $30 per night.
4. Tomales Bay
Starting north of Indian Beach in Tomales Bay State Park, boat-in camping is permitted on national seashore beaches on the west side of Tomales Bay. The beaches here, like those at Coast Campground, offer vault toilets, albeit there is no potable water. Visitors to Tomales Bay are not permitted to collect wood; purchase firewood in West Marin and obtain a free fire permit at the Bear Valley Visitor Center before arrival.
5. Doran Regional Park
This regional park near Bodega Bay has 2 miles of shoreline and includes coastal hiking routes over grassy dunes, birdwatching, surfing, and fishing. More than 120 tent and RV campsites may be found in five different areas: The Shell, Gull, Cove, Jetty, and Miwok. There is potable water available, as well as flush toilets and coin-operated showers, in the park. Electrical connections are not available, and there is a $7 dump station cost for RVers to consider. On the Sonoma County Regional Parks’ website, you can reserve your spot up to a year in advance.
6. Bodega Dunes Campground
Sonoma Coast State Park, located on Highway One between Jenner and Bodega Bay, features some of California’s most stunning coastal views, including towering rock formations offshore and pounding waves. The best of the park’s four campgrounds is Bodega Dunes. For RVers, it has 99 constructed campsites with token-operated hot showers, a potable water fill station, flush toilets, and a dump station. Note that there are no hook-ups available. Campsites are $35 per night and can be reserved up to six months ahead of time. There is, however, a communal site accessible for thru-hiking and bikepacking for $5 per person each night.
7. Wright’s Beach Campground
Wright’s Beach, another Sonoma Coast State Park campground, has 27 constructed campsites located on the beach. Running water and flush toilets are available here, however, registered campers must travel 5 miles to Bodega Dunes for showers, a portable water fill station, and a dump station. Dogs are permitted but must be kept on a leash at all times.
8. Clam Beach County Park
The name of this beach in Humboldt County alludes to one of the shore’s most popular activities: clam digging. Clam Beach County Park, near Little River State Beach, is 280 miles and a six-hour drive from San Francisco. On a first-come, first-served basis, it offers 15 campsites, two of which are ADA-accessible. While there are no showers at the park, there are restrooms. There is a $25 camping fee and a three-night stay limit.