Summer is in the air here at RV Atlas headquarters and we are looking forward to lots of beach days, camping trips, and baseball games. And to be quite honest–we have been talking quite a lot about planning a big Southern California Beach Camping road trip with our boys for spring or summer 2022. So in other words–we are California Dreamin’ in a pretty major way!
So the timing seemed perfect to have our friend Lauren Eber back on the show to talk about California beach camping and five great campgrounds from San Diego to Santa Barbara! Lauren is a lifelong California native and she loves to travel with her family in their van named “Yayho.” You can follow their adventures @afamwithavan on Instagram. She has been on the RV Atlas podcast several times and has helped us create some amazing content. Check out two of our favorite episodes with Lauren right here:
To listen to Lauren and Jeremy talk about Southern California beach camping and hear Lauren’s detailed reviews of 5 great campgrounds from San Diego to Santa Barbara, click on the media player above, or subscribe to The RV Atlas wherever you get your shows!
For a brief overview of our discussion on the Southern California Beach Camping please check out Lauren’s notes right below! All pictures compliments of Lauren Eber.
Lauren’s Opening Thoughts on Southern California Beach Camping
Most of the beach campgrounds are part of the California State Park system, reservable on reservecalifornia.com, but there are also some local, federal, and private options.
They are very popular and the best bet is reserving well in advance, but it is possible to snag last-minute cancellations and walk-ups.
Weather tends to be mild, but be prepared for wind, bring plenty of sunscreen and water, and dress in layers. It’s often foggy and cool in the morning, sunny midday, and chilly again when the sun goes down.
Anytime you are camping within striking distance of the beach, it’s hard to go wrong, but these are some of our favorites between San Diego and Santa Barbara.
South Carlsbad State Beach Campground, Carlsbad (San Diego)
On a bluff with gorgeous views overlooking the ocean. Only a little bit of shrubbery or a tree separating the small sites, but the views are worth it. Walk down long staircase to the beach, or there is a wheelchair ramp available. Over 200 sites, a few with full hookups. RVs up to 34’.
Carlsbad Camp Store is being completely revamped to include a café, beach rentals, outdoor seating. Beach rentals and general store are open I believe, and check back to see about the café, but it looks like it will be great. https://www.windmillfoodhall.com/
In the meantime, grab takeout from Pelly’s Fish Market & Café, within walking distance, or drive 5 minutes to the Windmill Food Hall, with about 14 vendors in the landmark Carlsbad windmill building. https://www.windmillfoodhall.com/
Near one of our favorite So Cal family attractions, Legoland
Moro Campground in Crystal Cove State Park, Newport Coast
On a bluff with incredible views across PCH from the coast.
58 sites; 28 for RVs up to 38’ with water and electric hookups; really nice bathhouses with new, clean showers and toilets
Short walk and tunnel across PCH to beach.
Great network of hiking trails departing from campground. “Short loop” is just about 3 miles with some elevation gain; great ocean views, better if you do the loop counter clockwise. Pick up a map from the park rangers.
Eat on the beach at the Crystal Cove Shake Shack (date shake is a favorite), or for a more formal sit-down, walk over to the Beachcomber.
Thornhill Broome Campground in Point Mugu State Park (Northern Malibu)
Point Mugu State Park is in northern Malibu, on the border between LA and Ventura counties. Has three campgrounds. Thornhill Broome is our favorite spot for Southern California Beach Camping. Basically no amenities (a few water spigots and some porta potties), just a long parking lot along PCH, but it is toes in the sand camping, pull right up onto the sand, and have a spot with a picnic table and fire ring and your own little stretch of beach. Some highway noise, but it’s mainly drowned out by the sound of the ocean.
RVs up to 31’ but no hookups, no dump station.
69 sites, but lately not all of them have been open.
Tons of hiking and mountain biking trails you can walk to from the campground. Try the Scenic and Overlook Trails loop, departing from Sycamore Canyon campground across PCH. About 3-3.5 miles. https://www.hikespeak.com/trails/scenic-overlook-trail-loop-point-mugu-malibu/
Explore Malibu area. Malibu Pier has food, shopping, beach rentals. Tidepools at Leo Carillo. For my personal favorite place to eat, take a ride down the coast a bit, to Malibu Seafood https://malibuseafood.com/
Carpinteria State Beach Campground
Big campground, over 200 sites, some of which have water and electric hookups right on the sand, which is very rare.
Premium sites in the Santa Rosa loop are best for RVs, and premium sites in Santa Cruz loop are best for tenters who prefer to be away from RVs. One of the most expensive state beach campgrounds, with premium hookup sites going for $80/night.
An authorized concessionaire, 101 RV Rentals, will deliver an RV for you to stay in if you don’t have your own.
The Beachhouse at the neighboring Carpinteria City Beach rents kayaks, SUPs, and other beach gear.
Head south to Rincon Point to watch the surfers, and if you get inspired, take a surf lesson from Surf Happens surf school. There are several surf shops in Carpinteria as well.
For food, take a walk over to the main drag in Carpinteria, Linden Avenue. There are lots of options. A few favorites are The Spot, for classic burgers and beachy seafood, and Tacos Don Roge.
Ocean Mesa at El Capitan Canyon
The one private campground I’m recommending, this one isn’t immediately on the beach, but the El Capitan Canyon Resort is so special, it had to make the list for great Southern California Beach Camping spots. The campground for tents and RVs has canyon views and is beautifully landscaped.
RVs up to 50 feet with full hookups, wifi, fire pit, picnic table. https://www.oceanmesa.com/
The property also has a huge assortment of cabins and yurts. Pool, playground, hiking trails, massages, wonderful café and general store with outdoor eating area and lawn games. Short walk/hike to a llama and goat farm. Wine tasting.
Easy walk to the beach.
Change things up and head inland to Santa Ynez. Take your pick of the wonderful eateries and wine tastings in the region, hit Trattoria Grappolo in town or head to the Hitching Post, made famous in the movie Sideways.
Follow Lauren Eber and Her Family @afamwithavan
Thank you so much to Lauren Eber from @afamwithavan for taking us on this amazing Southern California Beach Camping road trip from San Diego to Santa Barbara! And also huge thanks to Lauren for sharing her photos with us.
Who else is California Dreaming’ ??