Beach RV Camping in Northern California
Imagine taking a drive along the scenic northern California coast and parking your RV or pitching a tent right beside the beautiful ocean. Then listening to the soothing sounds of waves all night. Then waking up to the melodious barks of harbor seals in the morning — dream camping!
Nothing beats the fun and serenity brought about by camping right on the water’s edge.
Oh, wait! It might be a little harder than you might think.
Let’s Camp the Beach-y Way.
Looking for a beach camping spot in Norcal is more challenging than it is in the south. Geography is the main culprit.
Expect to drive for miles along a spectacular road. It’s on the top of steep cliffs seems like it’s going to drop into the ocean straight down, like the sides of a birthday cake.
There are lots of rocks too, which makes it hard for campers to access, even when you get to the shoreline. Then there’s the harsh weather. Days in the northernmost points of California are colder, and so is the water. But don’t be discouraged right away.
With a little patience and scouring of coastlines, you’ll find beach spots where you can camp and park your RV. You’re in for a treat as these locations are close enough to walk to the beach. You don’t just get a quick glimpse of sand from way across the road. Your beach RV camping northern California dream is very much possible.
Check the list out!
Seacliff State Beach RV Camping in Northern California
First on the list is the picturesque Seacliff State Beach. You’re guaranteed to have IG-worthy photos that you can share with family and friends, and of course, your socials online.
It’s campground stretches along a sandy beach, with its vertical bluffs blocking the wind. This beach also has an abandoned ship offshore that you can explore. If you want to go fishing, go to the pier. You will never run out of activities, making it a perfect destination for camping.
Take note that you need to book your visit a few months ahead, so you better plan your stay ahead of time if you wish to visit Seacliff State Beach.
Sunset State Beach Camping Destinations for RVers
This beach campground, as Goldilocks might say, is just “just right.” It’s a perfect place where you can camp with your RV, set up a tent or a makeshift canopy under the shady pine trees, lounge by the beach in just a minute or two, and enjoy its calming simplicity.
Sunset State Beach is a popular destination that’s a secluded stretch of coastline between the towns of Monterey and Santa Cruz. Apart from camping, other activities you can do are exploring the sand dunes, hiking, surf fishing, sunbathing, windsurfing, surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, beach combing, whale watching, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.
Sonoma Coast State Beach
This famous state beach is located between Bodega Bay and Jenner on Highway One and is a two-hour drive from San Francisco. Sonoma Coast houses some of California’s dramatic coastal scenery, with strong waves crashing against massive rock formations.
It has three campgrounds under the administration of the same state park. They can accommodate RVs that are up to 31 feet long. That’s perfect for RV’ers who want to camp out and have fun.
Clam Beach County Park
As the name suggests, this spot is famous for its unique activity: digging for clams. If you fancy clam hunting and camping, then this is the beach to go to! Clam Beach is about 280 miles and a six-hour drive from San Francisco, near McKinleyville in Humboldt County.
It’s a small place with only nine RV spaces and nine tent spaces, perfect for those who don’t want big crowds. The campground also has cold running water and has vault toilets.
Gold Bluffs Beach Campground
This campground is part of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Here, you can park your RV and set up a tent between the redwood forest and the Pacific Ocean.
Oh, a fun extra for you: You might find a herd of Roosevelt Elk partying on the beach! If you dream of an unforgettable camping experience, this might be the treat you’re looking for!
Just a reminder, though, be sure you don’t accidentally choose the Elk Prairie campground when making your reservations. It’s not a beach, but a land campsite. Sign up for Gold Bluffs if you want to camp by the beach.
Bodega Dunes Campground
This campground is part of the Sonoma Coast State Park and stretches for about 17 miles along the coast.
Bodega Dunes have 98 campsites with flush toilets, hot showers, and a trailer sanitation dump station to provide utmost comfort to campers. The maximum allowed trailers and campers are 31 feet. Unfortunately, there are no hook-ups available.
But hey, that’s just a minor inconvenience compared to the fun that awaits you once you’re out camping. The camp’s day-use area also has a disabled accessible boardwalk that will lead you to the classic sandy beach.
No, NO FIRES and DOGS are allowed on the beach to protect the snowy plovers — listed as threatened species under the Federal Endangered Species Act due to the loss of nesting habitat caused by human development, predication by foxes, ravens, domestic cats and dogs, and invasion of European beach grass.
Johnson’s Beach RV Camping in Northern California
Another favorite destination in Sonoma is Johnson’s Beach. It has been part of the Russian River tradition for more than a century and a favorite summer spot of the county’s locals and visitors alike.
This classic summer getaway is located a 90-minute drive north of the Bay Area in Guerneville’s eclectic and charming town. It sits right at the Russian River Valley’s heart and provides an excellent summertime river experience to its residents and visitors, especially campers.
Johnson’s Beach offers rentals for kayaks, canoes, beach chairs, inner tubes, and umbrellas, plus a snack bar with beer and wine and a kiddie pond. However, pets aren’t allowed except ‘service dogs.’
Doran Regional Park
Another hit camping spot for RVers is Doran Regional Park. It features a two-mile-wide beach stretch on Bodega Bay and is ideal for picnicking, walking, flying kites, playing in the sand, bird-watching, and surfing. It also has a boat launch that provides access to Bodega Bay and Bodega Harbor for kayaking, sport fishing, kite surfing, and stand-up paddling.
The rock jetty located at the west end of the park is a popular spot for exploring sea life and fishing. You can even meander through grassy dunes or walk along the shoreline that connects with the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail. Good news too, as there are more than 120 RV campsites and tents available in this park year-round.
Gualala Point Regional Park
This park is situated at the northwest corner of Sonoma County that borders Mendocino County and Gualala River. Gualala Point Regional Park features a small, forested campground along the river, and an expansive estuary and beach, where the river meets the sea. Trails connect the campground and the beach to the Sea Ranch community and coastal bluffs just to the south.
This place is also popular with beachcombers, day hikers, birders, picnickers, and whale-watchers but rarely gets crowded. It also has a visitor’s center that is open most weekends and houses information about Native Americans, the Gualala River, North Coast history, and the marine environment.
If you’re planning to hit down the sand anywhere in the Golden State soon, there’s no better way to do it than to go RV camping. Northern California has a fair share of camping destinations that don’t disappoint.
These beaches provide you with a camping experience on the sand, just above the high tide level. You can end your day of sightseeing with a night under the stars, then get lulled to sleep by the soothing waves of the Pacific in the background.
Zad Ingar is a writer and editor based in Davao City. She’s much into traveling, beach-hopping, reading books, and falling in love with life. All of which heavily reflects on her articles.