Whether you are a California resident or seek out the coast for your vacation from another state, there is no denying the magic of coastal camping. Southern California offers many different campgrounds that give you salt air to breathe in, sand to dig your toes in, and waves to listen to or float ashore in.
Some of our favorite coastal campgrounds are local spots, like San Elijo Campground in Cardiff by the Sea and Carlsbad State Beach Campground. But with our sister vintage trailer business – The Holidays – at San Clemente State Beach, this campground has won its way into our hearts for many reasons. This campground is situated above the coastline, so you get panoramic ocean views and the Campground has the coolest Historic Cottage Visitor Center. The town of San Clemente is fun to explore as well, with tons of great eateries and Spanish Colonial architecture.
Other favorites are El Capitan near Santa Barbara and Crystal Cove near Laguna. Honestly the list could probably go on and on. What we love about California Coastal Camping, whichever campground we end up at, is the ability to wake up and enjoy beach life – typically with just a short walk. It’s also nice to be able to take essentials and come back to the campground as needed for a meal or a nap (oh, those afternoon naps after surfing or swimming – so good!).
If you are planning a coastal camping trip, here are some tips to help you make the most of your experience:
- Plan ahead so you can book your campsite. Reservecalifornia.com is the place to go. But sites often get booked six months in advance. So set an alert on your phone or calendar.
- A service that we often use is Campnab. Campnab let’s you set alerts for campgrounds you are interested in but are full for the dates you want to book. If a spot opens up, you get a text message and can go to reservecalifornia (or whatever reservation system is tied to campground you listed) and see if you can “nab” the campsite. There is a service fee to use this site (monthly or annually), but it’s well worth it if you are an avid camper.
- Consider the best times of year to plan your trip. We are so fortunate in Southern California that good weather is plentiful. But it does get chilly at night around November into March, and sometimes even later. May and June often have May gray and June gloom (as the locals say) and ocean temperatures tend to be cooler. Which just means you need to plan to bring wet suits and plan for activities that make sense without the sun (hiking, searching for sea shells, playing frisbee on the beach, cozying up with a good book).
- Take lots of photos and make fun memory books of your trip in addition to posting to your favorite social platforms. (Check out sites like Chatbooks, Shutterfly). We are also big on editing our photos for the perfect preservation of your experience. So many apps to choose from but among our preferred are Lightroom, VSCO, and Enlight.