20 Best Places in the US for Beach Camping
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Summer camping is so much more special when you are camped right on the beach. We absolutely love beach camping and Padre Island National Seashore is our all time favorite camping spot – mainly because its 3 hrs drive away from Houston. We also loved camping at Bahia Honda State Park during our trip to the Florida Keys. There are so many more activities you can do when you are camped on the beach – swimming, fishing, surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, beach combing – in addition to sleeping by the roaring waves and waking up to beautiful sunrises. However, not all beaches allow beach camping – still we are lucky that the US has some of the most stellar beach campsites in the world. Here’s a list of the absolute best beach camping sites with beautiful views, clean sand, and pretty surf. In this list I mention campsites on the US Mainland as well as gorgeous beach campsites in Hawaii. Not all of these campsites are accessible for mere mortals with a 2WD sedan – some of them require days of backpacking while others require a RV to enjoy the experience.
Best beach campsites in the US for 4WD vehicles and RVs
These parks offer camping right on the beach. Some of the campsites are primitive without any facilities but offer a once in a lifetime experience.
Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina
The campsites are Cape Lookout National Seashore are stunning. The adventure begins when you board the ferry to the island. The ferry is active in high season from April to November. You can also arrive by car if yours is a 4WD and indulge in beach driving. The primitive camping facilities only enhance your sense of adventure. My only gripe about this campsite is the always cold water of the Atlantic Ocean. The beach camping here is especially popular with kayakers.
Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts
The right to camp on the pristine beach at Sandy Neck Beach Park is limited to ‘self-contained’ 4WD vehicles. By self-contained, we mean 4WD vehicles with toilets and tank, required off roading gear, and an ‘okay to drive off road’ permit. Camp sites are restricted to hundred vehicles per night, meaning you will have to arrive early to snag one.
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
Our absolute favorite beach camping site in the whole wide world! We have always secured exceptional sites while indulging in camping at Padre Island. The best of all – all of the beach campsites are free, located right on the beach, and you simply pick one as you drive along. You do need a 4WD vehicle for this adventure but we have managed with a 2WD at times as well.
Best beach campsites in the US for 2WD vehicles
These beach campsites can be reached by sedans and family cars at one cost – you are separated from the beach by a small distance. On the plus side, most of these sites offer picnic tables, grills and paved access roads.
Assateague State Park, Maryland
While Assateague State Park is popular with those who love beach camping, the island’s most famous residents aren’t beach or camping enthusiasts but the hundreds of wild horses that roam free on the island. Even on the shortest of visits you are likely to see a few of the famous horses – the key to watching them safely is not offering them food or approaching them in any way. While the campsites are not located on the beach they are separated from the water by just a few sand dunes and the views are as gorgeous as those from the beach.
Sonoma Coast State Park, California
Have you always wanted to camp along California’s famous State Route 1 and enjoy the spectacular views? Then Sonoma Coast State Park is your best bet. The state park has long sandy beaches, rocky coastline, and rugged cliffs that make camping in the park a sheer delight. Camp at any of the 120 campsites at Wright’s Beach and you will also experience breathtaking Pacific sunsets.
Bahia Honda State Park, Florida
Located in the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda has the best beach in southern Florida. Offering crystal clear turquoise waters and excellent snorkeling opportunities, Bahia Honda is perfect to get some R&R. Waking up to the roaring surf and cries of soaring seagulls, camping at Bahia Honda is an absolute delight.
Waiʻanapanapa State Park, Hawaii
Waiʻanapanapa State Park offers excellent opportunity to camp along the Road to Hana. The campsites are located amidst wild, volcanic coastline and offer dramatic views of the Keawaiki Bay. Other attractions at Waiʻanapanapa State Park include hiking trails, native forests, caves and arches, seabirds colonies, and beautiful beaches.
Long Key State Park, Florida
Located at Mile Marker 67 along the Overseas Highway in Florida Keys, Long Key State Park has many beautiful ocean view campsites. The park has kayaking and hiking trails and is a great stop along the Key West road trip. We snagged a beautiful ocean view site and spent 2 memorable days at Long Key last October.
Best beach campsites in the US for backpackers
These beach campsites are the most secluded and can be reached by mile long hikes while carrying all your gear in your pack. The rewards are well worth the efforts and camping at one of these sites is a memorable experience.
Lost Coast, California
Lost Coast, by virtue of its name, conjures images of camping in secluded, misty conditions and a befitting hike to reach the coveted beach. Not for the faint of heart, the Lost Coast Trail is exactly as the name suggests. If you do venture on this hike, you won’t be disappointed. Located in King Range National Conservation Area along California’s North Coast, the trail takes you through dramatic scenery, rocky coast, and foaming waves. Be prepared to get wet and study the tidal charts properly prior to going, parts of this 25 mile one way trail are under water at high tide.
Na Pali Coast, Hawaii
Accessible only by the 11-mile Kalaulau Trail which connects Ke’e Beach and Kalalau Beach, these backpacking only campsites are well worth the effort to reach them. The beach camping area has literally everything from lush valleys, gushing waterfalls, towering sea cliffs, and pristine sand. Camping permits to this site are hard to obtain and require advance planning.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park’s Second Beach Trail offers one of the most exceptional beach camping in the area. Accessed by a short mile long trail, this camping spot does not require any strenuous hiking and is popular with families and beginner backpackers. Offering dramatic views of the coast and of the headland forests, this is a very unique camping spot. Wildlife viewing opportunities include bald eagles, seals, whales, and even bears! That reminds me, make sure you have bears canisters to store food and garbage if you plan to camp here.
Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Point Reyes National Seashore Wildcat Campground is perfect for backpackers looking to get their feet wet. It can be reached by a 5.5 mile hike from the Palomarine trailhead. The beautiful hike borders the Pacific coast and offers stunning views while the secluded campsites are located on a grassy seaside meadow. The beach is just a short walk away from the campsites.
Andrew Molera State Park, California
Located in California’s Big Sur region, the 24 campsites at Andrew Molera State Park can be accessed by a short half mile walk from the trailhead. The sites are located along the Big Sur river and just a short walk away from Molera Beach which offers beautiful views of the Pacific.
Best beach campsites in the US to reach via ferry / kayaks
While some of the beach campsites on this list can be accessible by ferry, some of them can be reached only via kayaks.
Biscayne National Park, Florida
Accessed by a powerboat shuttle or seven mile kayak trail across Biscayne Bay, the park offers beautiful beach camping at two of its keys – Boca Chita Key or Elliott Key.These campsites are water enthusiasts paradise – there is plenty of snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and marine life in the area. We highly recommend avoiding hurricane season of June through November; getting stuck in a hurricane is not easy!
Little Tybee Island, Georgia
Georgia’s beautiful Little Tybee Island can be reached only by a boat or kayak. The campsites on this island are all free and the island is great for boondocking. Wavy sand dunes, coastal marshes, and dense forests – there is little for everyone at Little Tybee Island.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Have you always wanted to star on your own version of a ‘Stranded’ movie (think Cast Away, Lost)? Camping on Dry Tortugas National Park is your chance to do it. Reached via 90 minutes ferry or an expensive seaplane ride from Key West, Dry Tortugas is a world far removed from the US Mainland. Surrounded by turquoise waters, the beaches here are stunning. To camp here you need to bring all your gear on the ferry. Then the ferry leaves you on the island by yourself and picks you up the next day. To keep you company for the night there is the grand old Fort Jefferson, a thousand seabirds, marine life, and wait for it, crocodiles.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina
Located on Outer Banks, North Carolina Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers some of the best camping in the area. Activities such as kayaking the sound, climbing Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Bodie Island Lighthouse keep visitors busy for days. Cape Hatteras offers plenty of camping near the beach facilities the best of which is Ocracoke campground. The campsites are separated from the beach by a few barrier dunes and campers are welcome to enjoy the spectacular views of Atlantic Ocean.
Black Sand Beach State Marine Park, Alaska
Accessed only by boat or plane, Black Sand Beach State Marine Park in Prince William Sound is a stunning Alaskan gem. This beach campsite is not for the fainthearted – one of the best ways to reach the camping spot is by sea kayaking through marine life and icy waters. The campsites are unique and have views of sparkling glaciers, Alaskan mountain ranges, and the frigid ocean.
Best beach campsites in the Midwest and around the Great Lakes
If you thought that beach camping was limited only to the coastal US States, you are in for a surprise. Midwest also has some spectacular beach campgrounds with beautiful views of the blue waters of the Great Lakes.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore consists of 21 islands and 12 miles of Mainland Coast. Visitors can camp along the shores of Lake Superior and on 19 of the 21 islands. While the islands can be accessed only by a boat or a cruise, Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island can be accessed by cars from spring to fall. The park has several great lakeside camping sites.
Fisherman’s Island State Park, Michigan
Consisting of six mile shoreline of Lake Michigan, Fisherman’s Island State Park has exceptional campsites on the shores of the lake. The campsites are nestled among the dunes and have great lake views. Access to the swimming beaches is a short walk away.
Are there any more spectacular beach campsites that we missed out on? Let us know in comments.