Beach Tent Camping in Southern California


Southern California has plenty to offer beachside campers, whether you are searching for that perfect stretch of isolated sand to reconnect with nature or prefer to lay your head in a luxury canvas "chalet." The Golden State south of Los Angeles offers hundreds of campsites on the beach, including bluff top camping with Pacific views at San Elijo State Beach, seclusion at Santa Barbara's Jalama Beach and 70 miles of hiking trails at Point Mugu State Park. Huntington Beach in Orange County is popular with surfers.

Choose Your Site

  • Among the many camping sites in Southern California located on the beach what qualifies as the best depends on your personal requirements. A comprehensive list is available from the Federal Recreation One-Stop E-Gov initiative. The website provides details of each campsite's location, facilities, opening hours and what activities are available in the nearby area.

Decide When to Go

  • The summer months offer the most clement weather, but if you are looking to escape the crowds, a trip in winter can still bring sunny days. On a coastal trip of the Golden State, "The New York Times" reported temperatures ranging from the high 60s to the low 80s in the south and campsites were all but empty in Jalama, north of Santa Barbara.

Book Your Site

  • You can turn up at your chosen campsite unannounced, but the chances are you will be turned away with a polite explanation that the site is already full. Travel during low season and your chance of finding space is greater, but play safe year-round and book in advance for a guaranteed spot. You can book through or contact the campsite directly.

Respect the Rules

  • Once you arrive at your chosen beach, take note of any site specific rules. Some campsites have restrictions on campfires or camping stoves. Some parts of the beach might be declared off-limits to protect wildlife and vegetation. Don't feed the wildlife, and check for restrictions on storing food that could be harmful to the wildlife. Remember to always dispose of your litter properly and take a flashlight, maps, cellphone and non-perishable food in case of emergencies.

Research the Area

  • Ask the campsite staff what activities are available locally. You might want to take a kayak, surfboard, hiking boots or mountain bikes as there are many beautiful trails available. Wildlife enthusiasts will want to know what animals they are likely to spot. Whales and sea lions can be spotted in season at Carpenteria Beach south of Santa Barbara. McGrath State Beach between Ventura and Oxnard is a popular birdwatching spot.

Consider a Luxury Camping Vacation

  • Glamping--glamorous camping--has become a huge phenomenon in Europe and North America, and if you don't want to go primitive but still want to camp by the beach, there are opportunities in Southern California to rent a canvas tent, chalet or tepee. Facilities at El Capitan Canyon 20 miles north of Santa Barbara are more akin to a luxury hotel with massage, maid service and in-tent heating available.

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  • Photo Credit camping by the sea 2. image by mdb from
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