At Emma Wood State Beach, you park your camper right beside the ocean. Yes, right beside the ocean. the campsites are angled toward some rocks. On the other side of those rocks is the Pacific Ocean. You couldn't camp any closer to a beach than this without getting water in your tent.
You can go swimming at Emma Wood, and people sometimes go surfing here. Fishermen may catch a few perch, bass, cabezon and corbina but need a license.
On the high plus side, the views are beautiful. Offshore you can see the Channel Islands. A few pelicans may fly by in a formation that makes them look like B-52 bombers. People sometimes report sighting dolphins or even an occasional migrating whale from their campsites.
It all sounds pretty sweet, but there are drawbacks. The location is scenic, but the campground is wedged between the ocean and a railroad track. You can expect several trains to pass every day (and in the night, too). And trains are never quiet. The campground is also just below an elevated highway on-ramp. All of which adds up to sometimes annoyingly noisy. Some online reviewers say that it feels a little unsafe, with theft warnings and "sketchy" goings-on. I haven't experienced that and can't comment on it, but you can read the reviews at Yelp for yourself.
And it's not really a park but just a place to park the RV, with no hookups (not even water) and only vault toilets (aka porta-potties).
If you don't expect anything more than dirt, sand, rocks and the ocean, your expectations will be met.
A similar - but nicer - RV campground next to the ocean is a few miles north at Rincon Parkway. Find out about it here.
What Facilities Are There at Emma Wood State Beach?
Emma Wood State Beach has room for 90 sites (campers or trailers up to 40 feet long), but there are no hookups and no dump station.
The sites are not level and may contain a mix of asphalt, dirt, rocks and whatever the ocean throws in.
Tent camping is not allowed, and it is suitable for fully self-contained RVs only. The nearest dump station is at McGrath State Beach, 15 miles south.
It's first come, first-served from Labor Day1 through mid-May. The rest of the year, Emma Wood State Park campsites must be reserved in advance, and you'll have to do it as much as 6 months ahead of time. Our guide to California state parks reservations will show you how.
Also at Emma Wood, but not on the ocean you'll find a group campsite and an en route campground where you can stay for one day only.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Emma Wood State Beach
- This park is open Friday and Saturday only from October 1 through March 31
- Because it's so close to the ocean, it may close any time because of high tides
- Dogs are allowed in the campground (on a leash) but they can't go onto the beach
How to Get to Emma Wood State Beach Campground
Emma Wood State Beach
1 Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September.