Is Camping On The Beach Legal In California

Is Camping On The Beach Legal In California 

It’s summer and you must be thinking about beaches. Right? For sure, there is no other place better for beaches than California. Imagine you are on a beach, so then you think of camping. 

Now the million-dollar question is! Is it allowed and legal to camp on beaches of California? This type of thinking has made me do some research regarding this subject to get the exact answer whether it is legal to camp on the beaches of California.

For What Camping Is Not Allowed On California Beaches?

Beach camping on many beaches of California is not allowed. You can’t directly camp here on the beach but there are some, where you can camp without having to worry about the law. But campgrounds can be a bit far away from the beach and there are some valid reasons for this. 

Beaches are always open to the public because it is public property after all. But there are some restrictions as well. On most of the beaches, you can not be allowed to stay after dark or after a certain time. You must abide by the rules of the authorities otherwise you can be in trouble. These restrictions are not for nothing. These restrictions are meant for the safety of tourists and for the sake of the environment as well. 

Let us go in-depth about why camping on most beaches is not allowed. 

A lot of reasons are for such restrictions. Such as:

  • The safety of the people along with the environment. The ocean water on California’s beaches comes really farther up the shoreline. Imagine someone is camping happily under his tent and sleeping and completely lost in dreams! Suddenly a huge tidal wave comes over and he gets swept away. That can definitely be a problem for sure.
  • And in terms of the environment, there are many reasons why people are not allowed to stay at night and camp on the beach. One such reason is the oceanic habitat. Some fish, turtles and crabs come near most of the beaches. It is part of their natural routine. Some come to mate and some of them come to hunt around the beaches. So the human presence can interrupt their natural activities. And that can put a bad effect on the environment and the ecosystem. 

So that is why there are some laws on California’s beaches that restricts people from camping on the beach. 

List of Some Beaches You May Camp in California

Fortunately for campers who love camping, there are some beaches where they allow campers to camp on the beach. 

Considering this I made a list of all those beaches below:

Thornhill Broome Beach

First on my list is Thornhill Broome Beach. The Thornhill Broome beach is situated in Point Mugu State Park. The beautiful white sandy beach is one of the few beaches you can camp in California. The campground is right next to the beach. It is located right next to the beach actually but you can definitely set up your tent in the sand near the picnic table. This awesome campground is located a little bit North of Malibu. 

Oceano Dunes SVRA

This is the Beach in California where people drive dune buggies or ATVs. This beach is loved by off-road riders. It is like a paradise for them. Oceano Dunes is located in the south of Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County. You can make reservations for camping on this beach through the Reserve California website. But it is really hard to get a reservation because it is one of the most visited beaches in California. So it is recommended that you make reservations days before you come to visit here. 

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore is located in North San Francisco. You can not find old school car campgrounds here, but instead, it offers various types of backcountry camping experience. You can reach some of those backcountry campsites through biking, hiking or boating. If you want to have more pieces of information in regards to this beach, then you can view the web page of The National Park Service Website. 

Santa Rosa Island

A part of the Channel Island National park. This beach is second to none in terms of its beauty. Almost all of the Channel Islands beaches allow some sort of camping, but Santa Rosa beach is a bit different and unique because it allows campers to go backcountry camping on some remote islands here. On this beach, you can camp from August to December. 

Lost Coast Trail

This beach is located in a very remote region. The Lost Coast Trail beach can be reached through very intense hiking. This area is under the authorisation Bureau Of Land Management (BLM). They manage the entire area here. The most fun part is that the Bureau Of Land Management does not restrict people from camping on the beach. They can come and camp directly on the beach. But the tides change all the time. You have to be careful about the tides here. And before coming here you have a brief idea of hiking. And you have to have permission to hike on this trail. 

Catalina Island

Another marvellous beauty of California is the Catalina Island beach. You can reach camping spots on this beach through hiking or kayaking. This beach is located in a very remote area. Some campgrounds need a safari bus to reach. You can check some websites about this beach to know about the most beautiful camping sites. This is also one of the most visited beaches of California. So an advance reservation is recommended. Otherwise, you will have a hard time finding free space on this beautiful beach. 

List of Some Beaches to Camp Close to The Beach

There are some beaches where you can camp close to the beach and I have put those on the list as well. 

San Onofre State Beach

Located in the north of Oceanside San Diego County California. This is another busy spot for tourists. You will have to make an advance reservation before going there. Otherwise, you will fail to find a free campsite there. So make sure to get the reservation done before making a trip to this beach. And for more ideas about this beach, you can visit some websites regarding California’s beaches. 

Moro Campground-Crystal Cove

This beach is another busy tourist hub. Many people come here and they come in huge numbers. So make sure that you make an advance reservation before coming. 


Is surfing allowed on California’s beaches?

If you are on a beach you wish to surf and California is a paradise for surfers. So this is the opportunity you do not want to miss out on. Guys who love surfing can never miss such an opportunity. So make sure to bring your surfboard to California. But we all know surfing in strong waves is kind of a dangerous thing to do, so make sure you wear a quality life jacket.

Are there sharks on California’s beaches?

Sharks can be found around the beach water but Shark attacks are rare. But even if the attacks are rare, you still have to be careful because you never know what these crazy Sharks are going to do. There are some beaches in California where the Shark attacks concentration is more than the other beaches. Surf beach near the Vandenberg Air Force Base is quite infamous for Shark attacks. Since the year 2008 four reported Shark attacks have taken place there including two great white Shark attacks as well. Apart from this area, other areas are not known for frequent Shark attacks. But it does not matter which beach you are on or how safe it is. You will always have to be careful and make sure to never let your guard down.

What are the surfboards to buy for surfing in California?

If you are a beginner level surfer then you should buy 8-9 feet long surfboards which will cost you around 380-1,030 US Dollars. But if you are a top-level surfer then you can choose to go for the more expensive brands such as “Pyzel” Pyzel is the best surfboard manufacturing brand in all of the United States of America followed by Al Merrick, JS, Mayhem, DHD, T Patterson and Pukas. So make sure to buy from these brands if you are a top-level surfer. You will be very satisfied with the performance that you will get. Although these surfboards might look a bit expensive due to the high-level quality of these brands every penny is worth it.

What is the best season for surfing in California?

The best time to surf in California depends on swells. Fall, spring and summer are the seasons when you can find the best swells in Central California. Because during these seasons NorthWest swells are so common. But you can also surf in summer if the south swells are good for surfing in the season.

How safe is it to surf in California?

If you are a beginner level surfer then you should always be worried about the waves and current. Make sure not to push yourself too much. Be careful with the waves, wear a good quality life jacket and do not go too far away from the shoreline. But if you are a top-level surfer then you can try and explore the swells because it is going to be a lot of fun for you. But pro or not, you should never go extreme against nature. Because safety should be the first priority because your life depends on it.

Is it allowed to pitch a tent while camping on a beach in California?

It is allowed to pitch a tent while camping  on the beach in California during the day. It is okay in day time but there are legal restrictions to do so in night time. There are safety issues. 

Wild camping is too adventurous. Is it restricted in California?

Wild camping is okay on maximum public property in California. But there are some legal rules for wild camping for example: stay limits, distance, boundaries etc. Some known places to do wild camping in California are National Forests, BLM Land, and some National Parks.

Are any kind of pets like dogs allowed on beaches while camping?

Well, usually pets or dogs are restricted on beaches but with a few exceptions. Pets should be on at least a six-foot leash. Rules are less restricted for service dogs. 

Is fire, charcoal barbecue or gas stove allowed on a beach?

Rules are different for some beaches. Such as in some areas, there are some rules. For environmental issues safety, barbecues or gas stoves are prohibited. But it will be best to do an inquiry before doing so. Restrictions are not the same for all beaches.

Free Beach tenting in California

You don’t get a beachside that won’t charge a penny for camping. And obviously, California beach tenting isn’t any exception. Every single place that provides the correct view of beach campsites charges a fee, even those with porta-potties and no running water.

Sadly, you will also realize half-truths in some guides. Several writers copy and paste from one list to another one while not doing their analysis. If you see a listing that features a free beach camping site close to Orick in Northern California, close to the fresh lake, it does not exist. A State Park Ranger has confirmed that there are not any free campgrounds within the Orick space.

More Places to book at the Beach

If you are the one who thinks tenting is what someone did before the invention of hotels, for them California will offer some nice options of beach hotels, every one of them also exactly on the sand.


So, I hope now all the confusion is blown away about Is Camping On The Beach Legal In California? Look, everything maintains its own rules and regulations. So the California Beaches. But they have made these rules to save the tourists and the environment. Whatever, go and enjoy camping on the beach in California by following the rules. Just one thing, don’t forget to read this article before making a camping plan. 

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