The Best 25 Spots Where You Can Camp on the Beach
Grab a backpack and your swimsuit! These gorgeous beach camping destinations are the perfect choices for socially distanced summer fun.
Calling all happy campers!
After months of being cooped up thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns, we’re all more than ready to get out and enjoy ourselves. But how do we do that and still stay safe? For many eager summer vacationers, the answer is camping. According to the Camping After COVID-19 edition of the KOA 2020 North American Camping Report, experienced campers, by and large, are forging ahead with their planned trips this year. But even those who never or rarely camped in the past are expressing an interest in this type of vacation right now. Among the top reasons cited are a desire to be outdoors after having to stay at home for so long (46 percent); the low cost of camping as opposed to other types of trips (41 percent); and the relative ease of social distancing while camping (37 percent).
Beach camping can take your outdoor adventure up a notch—as you watch a sunset or sunrise over the water, fall asleep to the sound of waves, and have splashy good times during the day. Even better? You can find amazing beach camping all over the country. In addition to prime spots on the coast, there are plenty of lake beaches where you can pitch a tent or park an RV. One quick note: While camping was allowed at the following spots at the time of publication, check the latest COVID guidelines for the destination before you plan your escape. And no matter where you go, the CDC wants you to follow these 11 rules before traveling again.
Fort De Soto Park, Tierra Verde, Florida
Beloved by locals, this county park in the St. Pete/Clearwater area covers five islands on the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Rent a canoe, kayak, or bike to explore the park’s trails, fish from a pier, visit a fort from the Spanish-American War, or just lounge on the beach. Pelicans, herons, egrets, and dolphins are commonly spotted, and in summer, sea turtles nest along the beach. Take in a gorgeous sunset at the end of the day from the 238-site family camping area. It’s complete with washers and dryers, modern restrooms and showers, a playground, and a campground store to grab essentials as well as souvenirs.
If you’re interested in exploring the best camping spots beyond beaches, check out these 15 incredible campsites that should be on your bucket list.
Port Aransas Beach, Port Aransas, Texas
This six-mile stretch near Corpus Christi has been a favorite beach camping spot for families for more than 50 years, and you’ll find plenty of room to social distance here. Perks include lots of wood picnic tables, a fishing pier, umbrella and lounger rentals, a variety of restaurants less than a mile away, and a party fishing boat that docks two miles away. The I.G. Magee RV section provides water, electric hookups, and showers, but if you want to wake up next to the Gulf of Mexico, you can pitch a tent right on the beach. (Just make sure to purchase a beach pass, good for three days, before setting up camp.) Porta-Potties and outside showers are available at the beach. As with any beach on the Texas Gulf Coast, the water isn’t crystal clear, but the waves attract kids and surfers.
Channel Islands National Park, Ventura, California
For a beach camping vacation with a tropical feel, head to this string of islands off the southern coast of California. The only way to access the five islands and their tent campsites is by ferry. Keep in mind that each island has its own distinctive vibe. On Santa Rosa Island, for example, travelers can stay in one of the 15 reservable campsites for a peaceful and secluded—albeit bare-bones—experience. The campsites here each come with a wind shelter, picnic table, food storage box, potable water, and a toilet. Eastern Santa Cruz Island, meanwhile, has the largest campground, with 31 sites.
So, what can you do once you choose the right island for you? Explore sea caves, hike on trails overlooking the ocean, stargaze at the incredible night sky, and kayak through kelp forests. If this is your first time sleeping in the great outdoors, make sure to avoid these 13 camping mistakes most first-timers make.
Grand Isle State Park, Grand Isle, Louisiana
Fishing fans and their families can enjoy a rare opportunity to fall asleep to the soothing sounds of rolling waves while enjoying a beachfront vacation at Grand Isle State Park, which earned the number 19 spot on “52 Places to Go in 2020” by the New York Times. The park boasts a 400-foot-long fishing pier and a nearby fish-cleaning station; state officials estimate there are more than 280 species of fish living in the waters and marsh around the island. In addition to great fishing, there are plenty of activities for the rest of the crew, including swimming, boating, kayaking, surfing, crabbing, birding, and biking. The park offers 49 full hookup RV campsites and 14 beach tent sites, all of which must be reserved in advance.
Zephyr Cove RV and Campground, Zephyr Cove, Nevada
Beach camping in Nevada? Yep! This picturesque option, whose motto is “Socially Distant, but Close to Nature,” is on the southeast shore of Lake Tahoe, which straddles the Nevada-California border. The family-friendly campground accommodates RVs as well as walk-up/tent campers. Aside from exclusive beach access, visitors can enjoy an on-site restaurant, rides on the M.S. Dixie II paddle wheeler, marina activities, and horseback riding. There’s even a general store. That’s on top of all the famed fun of the Tahoe area, such as casinos, whitewater-rafting tours, golf courses, and even skydiving. Looking for a spot a little closer to home? Check out this list of the best RV parks in every state.
Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key, Florida
It’s hard to top the Florida Keys for relaxation, tropical beauty, and outdoor adventure…unless you’re camping there. Bahia Honda State Park is renowned as a top beach camping spot, with scenery to rival any Caribbean island. It sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, so anyone who loves the water, from preschoolers to grandparents, will have the time of their life. Choose from kayaking, shelling, snorkeling, taking a dip in the turquoise waters, and lazing in a hammock. RV and tent camping can be found here, with showers, drinking water, and other amenities. And although it’s open now, keep the climate in mind. If anyone in your family doesn’t do well with heat and humidity, you may want to plan your visit for early fall.
Charlestown Breachway Campground, Charlestown, Rhode Island
Hopping on the summer RV trend? Then drive yours on over to the Breachway to soak up the sun. Visitors enjoy water sports and, from the east side, panoramic views of Block Island Sound. Fans of saltwater fishing will appreciate the boat ramp, and when you’re ready to explore off-site, the Frosty Drew Observatory, quaint shops, and seafood eateries are a 15-minute (or less) drive away. Not completely sure of what constitutes good manners in an RV-only campground such as this one? Read up on the unspoken etiquette rules of RV camping.
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, Alabama
Visitors will love this spacious campground, which offers a secluded camping experience just 1.5 miles from the white sand and bustling beach towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. While Gulf State Park isn’t technically on the beach, we’re including it on this list because its stellar amenities and proximity to the beach make it worth a look, especially for families with young kids. Between biking, fishing, hiking, kayaking, swimming, and paddleboarding, campers hardly need to leave the park, but just in case, scores of restaurants, the Fort Morgan Historical Site, and the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo are close by.
The park is home to 496 full hookup campsites and comprehensive facilities that include a pool with a splash pad; laundry facilities; an Interpretive Center; a Nature Center and Learning Campus; a camp store; tennis, volleyball, and pickle-ball courts; organized weekly activities; bathhouses; and an on-site restaurant, Woodside. (Be aware that playgrounds are closed as of this writing due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the pier is closed for maintenance. Check the site for updates.)
Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
Huntington Beach State Park is about a 30-minute drive south of lively Myrtle Beach, making it a perfect best-of-both-worlds option. Despite its proximity to the popular vacation hub, it is situated in a much quieter, less crowded area known for its quaint fishing village, through which most of the state’s seafood is sourced. Ideal as a socially distanced vacation hideout, the park is right on the Atlantic coast and offers both tent and RV camping, as well as plenty of cool things to do, including hiking, birding, and touring the lovely and historic Atalaya Castle. Around the campfire, try one (or more) of these delicious camping recipes you’ll want to make all summer.
Lake Sakakawea State Park, Pick City, North Dakota
This water wonderland may keep a low profile, but Lake Sakakawea State Park, with 180 miles of shoreline, is massive. The swimming beach is a perpetual draw for vacationing families, and the reliable wind on the lake attracts sailboat enthusiasts and windsurfers. Anglers, meanwhile, will find a full-service marina, a convenience store, and a fish-cleaning station. Tent camping is most popular along the south shore of the lake, which is widely agreed upon as having the most scenic view. And those with RVs can settle into the Tobacco Gardens Resort & Marina, also on the south shore. If you’re not into full-on beach camping but still want to kick back at this secluded hideaway, you can rent a rustic cabin.
Fontainebleau State Park, Mandeville, Louisiana
Louisiana’s most-visited state park is a 40-minute drive from New Orleans and just outside the charming town of Mandeville. Spread across 2,800 acres, Fontainebleau State Park is conveniently located on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, which is often dotted with colorful sailboats. With a diverse ecosystem and an expansive wildlife preserve, the area is home to more than 400 species of birds and other animals. Visitors can indulge in activities such as cycling, hiking, swimming, biking, fishing, or simply kicking back and soaking up the sun on the lake’s sandy beach—one of the largest white-sand beaches in the state.
The park offers 126 “premium” and “improved” hookup (RV) campsites, as well as traditional campsites, cabins, and, for groups of 10 or more, lodges for rent. If you’re more interested in hanging out on the beach than camping, take a day trip to the best beach in your state—or any other.
Assateague State Park, Berlin, Maryland
One word: horses! If you have kids (or even if you don’t), camping on this famous beach where wild ponies roam is a bucket-list experience. The island itself is quite small, but camping in between Chincoteague Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, with spotted ponies as your bunkmates, is a big memory. Aside from the horses, deer and waterfowl abound. On the bay side of the island, you can explore secluded coves by kayak or canoe. On the ocean side, swim, beach-comb, and boogie-board the day away. Reservations for one of the 100-plus tent sites are a must, as you can imagine.
Cave Lake State Park, Ely, Nevada
Cave Lake State Park boasts some of the most dramatic scenery around: beautiful mountains, wooded expanses, rocky bluffs, and a 32-acre lake. Fishing for rainbow and German brown trout is excellent, and elk, eagles, and songbirds are commonly spotted there. Campers can also swim, go canoeing, mountain bike, and hike. The tent campsites have a fire pit, grill, picnic table, showers, flush toilets, and a designated parking spot for your car. Group sites that accommodate more than one tent and car are available if reserved in advance. You can even rent a yurt next to the lake for a really memorable overnight campout. Not interested in roughing it? Consider these luxury camping adventures for adults.
Timber Cove Boat Landing and Campground, Jenner, California
Sonoma County offers more than just famed wineries. It’s also home to some of the state’s most underrated beaches. One such hidden gem is at Timber Cove Boat Landing and Campground, which sits in a calm ocean cove with wonderful views. This stretch of rugged coastline at the northern end of the county is well known by locals as the place to go for boating, fishing, and diving. A few miles north you’ll find the Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve, which offers hiking amidst lush blooms, small waterfalls, and redwoods. The campground also has access to a river for fishing. RVs and tents are both allowed, as are dogs.
Deer Island Coastal Preserve, Biloxi, Mississippi
For active campers searching for a secluded site, Deer Island will be a sliver of serenity. Located right off the coast of Biloxi, this is the closest of Mississippi’s barrier islands. All it takes to get there is a five- to ten-minute paddle in a canoe, kayak, or on a paddleboard. Keep in mind that when camping here, you’re essentially on your own; you won’t find any campgrounds. No fee or permit is needed, as long as you pitch your tent on the sandy shore area and stay fewer than seven days. That said, the island’s white beaches, pine maritime forest, and marshes set the scene for a serious hiatus from the stresses of daily life. And if you leave feeling utterly rejuvenated, it’s not your imagination. Researchers have found that camping actually helps you sleep better.
Red Coconut RV Park, Fort Myers, Florida
Camp along a white-sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico in a vintage-style RV park that dates back to the 1920s. A Fort Myers Beach landmark, the Red Coconut holds 41 camping sites, a shower house, recreation hall, community grills, volleyball and shuffleboard courts, and a laundry area. Each site comes with cable and Internet, full hookups, and a picnic table. Down on the beach, parasailing, jet-skiing, and kayaking are popular pastimes. And there’s also plenty of shopping, dining, golfing, and tennis-playing right outside this RV park in Fort Myers.
Cape Lookout National Seashore, Beaufort, North Carolina
You can only get here by ferry or private boat, but it’s well worth the effort. Folks who love beach camping will find that the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina have everything they’re looking for: rugged dunes, beach grass swaying in the breeze, good swimming conditions, peace and quiet, and great fishing. Only tent camping is allowed at Cape Lookout National Seashore. However, you can also rent one of the 23 cabins currently open; unlike tent camping, though, you need to make a reservation in advance for those. National seashores and parks offer some of the best camping anywhere. For more inspiration, both on and off the coasts, here are 15 of the best places to camp in national parks.
Homer Spit Campground, Homer, Alaska
We know, Alaska may not have been your first thought for beach camping. But hear us out: This campground on Kachemak Bay is surrounded by stunning scenery of mountains and ocean—and Homer sees temperatures in the 60s in July and August. A fairly large campground, it can accommodate more than 100 RVs and 25 or more tents. And while Homer was featured on the Discovery Channel’s Alaska: The Last Frontier, that doesn’t mean you’ll be in the middle of nowhere. The campgrounds are near the cruise ship docks, which means restaurants, shops, and bars are a few steps away, as are a number of intriguing art galleries and the Seafarers’ Memorial.
Russian Gulch State Park, Mendocino, California
This lovely park features a variety of terrain besides ocean beachfront. The hiking here—through dense forests and fields of wildflowers, past bridges, over rocky headlands, and alongside creeks—is truly memorable. If you can only hike one trail, make it the one that heads to Russian Gulch Falls, a plunging waterfall surrounded by California redwoods. The park is also home to amazing natural formations, including Devil’s Punch Bowl, where waves crash into a collapsed sea cave. Russian Gulch has 26 standard campsites, all family-friendly, with swimming allowed at the beach and tide pooling. Reservations are required.
Need supplies? Check out this cool camping gear for your summer trip—or your backyard staycation.
East Beach/Ninigret Conservation Area, East Beach, Rhode Island
If you really want to avoid crowds on your beach-camping adventure, this three-mile barrier beach is a great choice. Thanks to the limited day parking available, it’s easy to stay 15 or 20 feet away from other beachgoers. The campground offers only 20 sites for rent, so even there, you won’t be bumping elbows with many other vacationers. This is also an ideal choice for folks who want a back-to-nature beach experience—there are no snack bars, equipment rentals, or really much of anything on the beach except bathrooms. Seaweed is rarely a problem here, thanks to the waves and sandy bottom. And families with younger kids, as well as paddleboarders, will love the glass-like saltwater pond that’s also at this location. Oh, and did we mention that the sunrises here are amazing?
Tillicum Beach Campground, Waldport, Oregon
The beaches in Oregon may not be for swimming—the water is too rough and cold—but the flip side is the dramatic, rugged beauty of the coastline here. A prime example is the shore at Tillicum Beach, with sand dunes and views of the mountains when the weather is clear. The beach is popular with experienced surfers, as well as those seeking a bit of solitude (read: social distancing). The tent campground has bathrooms and is right on the beach. RVs are welcome as well, but the hookup sites are slightly farther away.
Summer and early fall is definitely the time to sleep under the stars here, weather-wise. Newport is about a 30-minute drive, where you’ll find boutiques, welcoming eateries, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. FYI, these 14 beaches are better in the fall.
Ocean Cove Campground, Sea Ranch, California
Here, on a small private island flanked by state and county parks, you can camp on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. All campsites, whether RV or tent, come with a picnic table, a fire pit, and access to hot showers, toilets, and a boat ramp that launches into a calm cove. (Boaters will find that ramp a big plus, as the topography of this part of the California coastline makes it nearly impossible to get a boat into the ocean.) A quaint general store is on the grounds as well. The cove is a top spot for skin or scuba diving, and the bluff happens to be one of the best places along the Sonoma Coast to see the sunset.
Cayo Costa State Park, Captiva, Florida
Take a detour to Cayo Costa, a remote campground that is accessible only by boat. (Local tour operator Captiva Cruises goes there regularly; private boats can dock overnight at a boat-camping slip.) Swim, snorkel, fish for flounder and snapper, bird-watch, bike, or go shelling. You might even spy manatees, porpoises, and sea turtles. This unspoiled nine-mile-long island with its wind-shaped trees feels like a private tropical paradise. Thirty tent campsites are available, equipped with a grill, picnic table, and potable water, but no electricity. Hammock beach camping is also an option. While you’re in Florida, you may also want to check out Hobe Sound, which is one of 12 U.S. destinations that just might feel like your canceled vacation abroad.
Kalaloch Campground, Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, Washington
Kalaloch Beach is one of the most visited parts of Olympic National Park, owing to its inspiring rocky landscape and pristine environment. Whales, tufted puffins, and bald eagles are frequent visitors, and during low tide, you can catch a glimpse of sea stars and colorful anemones. Hiking is a must, and you’ll find trails for beginners as well as experienced hikers. You need to reserve one of the 175 campsites in advance; tents, trailers, and RVs are welcome, but there are no hookups. Bonus: The Hoh Rain Forest is a 45-minute drive north for even more nature exploration.
P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, Muskegon, Michigan
Lake Michigan is akin to an ocean, and nowhere is its massive beauty on better display than at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park. It sits on three miles of shoreline and offers both spectacular views and quiet hiking trails. Popular attractions here include the Gillette Visitors Center and the Dune Climb Stairway, which takes you to an observation deck at the top of one of the higher sand dunes, the best place to take pictures. The 297-site campground is open to tents, trailers, and RVs. All require reservations. The busy town of Grand Haven, where you’ll find cozy pubs, microbreweries, cafes, and bakeries, is a short drive away. For more travel ideas, check out these 15 crowd-free summer vacations you can book at the last minute.