So while you’d probably land yourself in hot water (figuratively speaking) if you tried to pitch a tent for an overnight on Newport Beach, say, or on the sands of Venice Beach, don’t dismay. There are other, legitimate ways to keep ought but a zip of nylon tent between you, sandy beach and sparkling water. Two of the spots we’re about to suggest might not be the standard Pacific Ocean package, ranging instead towards quiet mountain lakes or bird-rich lagoons, but collectively, they offer a glimpse of California camping that’s both well-rounded and usually picturesque. Whether or not you pack the boogie board is up to you.
If you’re strictly interested in the standard California beach scene, then good options like Refugio State Beach (not far from Santa Barbara) or Leo Carrillo State Park (in Malibu) should go to the top of your list. Swim, snorkel, do a little surfing or stick to lazy beach wandering at either of these well-situated camping areas, with the soothing sound of ocean action to put you out for the night.
This one is also on the coast, but located up north in Humboldt County (near Trinidad, CA), Big Lagoon County Park is set just in from a decidedly cooler stretch of California shore, a stone’s throw from long stretches of peaceful lagoon (with some surprisingly warm waters good for summer swimming). There’s sandy shore to go around too, as well as sea kayaking, beach combing and bird watching.
And finally, it’s not every beach that spends a good chunk of winter covered in snow. Set at over 6,200 feet above sea level, D.L. Bliss State Park on the west shore of Lake Tahoe does, but its seasonal charms make summer camping right on the beach even more of a treat. The only caveat? When it comes to California camping, this is a popular one, so make your reservations early.