The Best Beach Camping in Northern California

Family watching sunset at Gold Bluffs Beach.

Tai Power Seeff / Getty Images

It's a dreamy idea: Take a drive along the Northern California coast, pitch a tent right beside the ocean, listen to the waves all night, and wake up to harbor seals barking nearby. This guide to places you can pitch your tent (or park your RV) at the beach in Northern California was created by scouring the coastline to find places to camp from Santa Cruz County to California's northernmost point. As you drive, you'll find cliffs plunging straight into the sea and dramatic "sea stack" rock formations offshore.

Read on to discover where you can go beach camping in Northern California, in order from south to north.

01 of 10

Sunset State Beach

Camping at Sunset State Beach

Monica Bourne

Located 16 miles south of Santa Cruz, Sunset State Beach is, as Goldilocks might say, "just right." You can set up camp under shady pine trees and be on the beach in just a minute a two. There are more than 90 campsites, with nine open to RVs only. Amenities here include coin-operated hot showers, piped water, and restrooms; RVers should keep in mind hookups are not provided. You can book your site up to six months in advance on ReserveCalifornia; prices start at $35 a night.

Address
Sunset State Beach, Watsonville, CA 95076, USA
Phone +1 831-763-7063
02 of 10

Seacliff State Beach

Camping at Seacliff State Beach

Monica Bourne

Seacliff State Beach—home to the abandoned 435-foot S.S. Palo Alto, a fishing pier, and 2 miles of Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary shoreline—is a picture-perfect place to spend a day. Open to self-contained RV campers only, the beach's campground features 26 full hookup sites and 37 non-hookup sites, backed by vertical bluffs that block the wind. Both water and a sanitation station can be found at New Brighton State Beach nearby; note that it costs $10 to use the dump station. This popular spot gets booked up months in advance, so you'll want to start planning your stay well ahead of your trip. Reservations can be made on ReserveCalifornia's website, with campsites starting at $55 a night.

Address
Aptos, CA 95003, USA
Phone +1 831-685-6500
03 of 10

Coast Campground

Point Reyes National Seashore is perhaps California's most scenic coastal park. In fact, it's one of the most beautiful coastal parks in the country. Point Reyes has four backcountry hike-in campgrounds, including Coast Campground, situated 220 yards from the beach. With 12 regular campsites and two group sites, the campground can be reached via a 1.8-mile hike along the Laguna and Fire Lane Trails. There are both vault toilets and water faucets; although the water is typically potable, it's recommended that you pack water purification tablets just in case the campground's water treatment system is down. Note that only gas stoves, charcoal, and canned heat can be used to cook.

Campsites are available either three months or 14 days in advance, depending on the site. (Site 9, however, is available for same-day reservations.) To book (and obtain your camping permit), head to Recreation.gov; campsites start at $30 a night.

Address
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956, USA
Phone +1 415-464-5100
04 of 10

Tomales Bay

Sleeping bag in back of van with view of Tomalas Bay, California

Paigefalk / Getty Images

Boat-in camping is allowed on national seashore beaches on the west side of Tomales Bay, beginning north of Indian Beach in Tomales Bay State Park. Like Coast Campground, the beaches here have vault toilets, although, unlike Coast Campground, there is no potable water. Bear in mind that visitors to Tomales Bay are prohibited from collecting wood; make sure to purchase firewood in West Marin, and get a free fire permit at the Bear Valley Visitor Center before arriving. There are 20 camping permits available each day; head to Recreation.gov to reserve your spot, with prices starting at $30 a night.

Address
Tomales Bay, California, USA
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Doran Regional Park

Rising full moon during golden hour at Bodega Bay, California. Doran Park campground in foreground

Gary Saxe / Getty Images

With 2 miles of beach, this regional park off Bodega Bay offers coastal hiking trails through grassy dunes, birdwatching, surfing, and fishing. Campers will find more than 120 tent and RV campsites spread across five areas: The Shell, Gull, Cove, Jetty, and Miwok. The park offers access to potable water, as well as restrooms with flush toilets and coin-operated showers. RVers should keep in mind that electrical hook-ups are not available, and there is a $7 dump station fee. You can book your site up to 12 months in advance on the Sonoma County Regional Parks' website. To reserve an ADA-accessible campsite, call (707) 565-2267.

Address
201 Doran Beach Rd, Bodega Bay, CA 94923-9780, USA
Phone +1 707-875-3540
06 of 10

Bodega Dunes Campground

USA, California, Pacific Coast, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast State Beach, Bodega Head
Westend61 / Getty Images

Situated between Jenner and Bodega Bay on Highway One, Sonoma Coast State Park has some of California's most dramatic coastal scenery, with massive rock formations offshore and crashing waves. Bodega Dunes is arguably the best of the park's four campgrounds. With 99 developed campsites, it offers token-operated hot showers, a potable water fill station, flush toilets, and a dump station for RVers. Note that hook-ups are not provided. Campsites are $35 a night and can be booked 48 hours to six months in advance. However, for thru-hiking and bikepacking, there is a communal site available for $5 per person per night.

Address
Bodega Bay, CA 94923, USA
07 of 10

Wright's Beach Campground

A young woman wrapped in a blanket sits on Wrights Beach, California

Christopher Kimmel / Getty Images

Another Sonoma Coast State Park campground, Wright's Beach offers 27 developed campsites right next to the beach. Amenities here include running water and flush toilets, although registered campers will need to travel the 5 miles to Bodega Dunes to use their showers, portable water fill station, and dump station. Dogs are welcome, but they must be kept on a leash. You can book your site on ReserveCalifornia 48 hours to six months ahead of your trip; campsites are $35 a night.

Address
7095 CA-1, Bodega Bay, CA 94923, USA
Phone +1 707-875-3483
08 of 10

Clam Beach County Park

The name of this Humboldt County beach suggests one of the beach's most popular activities: digging for clams. Located near Little River State Beach, Clam Beach County Park is 280 miles and a six-hour drive from San Francisco. It offers 15 campsites, two of which are ADA-accessible, on a first-come, first-serve basis. While the park doesn't have showers, there are restrooms available. There is a $25 fee to camp and a three-night maximum stay.

Address
Clam Beach County Park, McKinleyville, CA 95519, USA
Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Anchor Bay Campground

This six-acre, privately-owned family campground in Mendocino County is about a three-hour drive from San Francisco. Situated along Highway One, Anchor Bay Campground has 27 overnight campsites—23 of which are at or on the beach—and 40 owned sites. Each campsite features a water hookup, picnic table, and fire pit. For RVers, there is only one full hookup site, although 14 sites do provide electricity. There are also restrooms with flush toilets, coin-operated showers, hot water, and a septic dump station. Ice, bait, and firewood are available to purchase as well. Campsites start at $45 a night and can be booked up to 12 months in advance by calling (707) 884-4222.

Address
35400 CA-1, Gualala, CA 95445-9592, USA
Phone +1 707-884-4222
10 of 10

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

Gold Bluffs Beach

Ben Amstutz / Flickr

Operated by Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Gold Bluffs Beach Campground is nestled along a 10-mile stretch of beach and within hiking distance of Fern Canyon. With 24 RV and tent sites, this dog-friendly campground offers solar showers, restrooms, and bear-proof lockers. Note that trailers are not permitted and RV hookups are not provided. As of March 2022, permits are required to visit the beach's day-use area and the Fern Canyon Trailhead from May through September. Campsites start at $35 a night and can be booked on ReserveCalifornia.

Address
Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, Davison Rd, Orick, CA 95555, USA
Phone +1 707-465-7335
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10 Northern California Spots Where You Can Camp Right on the Beach