When we were RVing along the California coast, we wanted to park as close to the ocean as possible. I wanted sand in my bed and the ocean breeze blowing through our windows. We found some great campgrounds and parks steps from the beach or a short walk or drive from the beach. But we wanted to have our RV right on the beach.
This list has some great options for camping at California’s State Beaches.
But it’s missing one…
We were recommended by some locals to check out Oceano Dunes SVRA (State Vehicular Recreation Area), just south of Pismo Beach. $10 for dry camping on the beach as close to the water as you choose? Yes please! It was such a unique experience that we would recommend to everyone.
Before you jump in your RV rental and head over there, there are 4 things you should know first.
1. What to expect.
This is not your typical state beach. It is called a SVRA for a reason. People don’t camp here just for the beach time and beautiful views. They bring their ATVs, dirt bikes, and dune buggies and ride them all weekend long. It’s fun though! Don’t go there expecting a quiet, relaxed weekend on the beach. It’s a party and can get pretty crazy, which surprised us!
Once the crowds started rolling in, our ocean views were being blocked by the buzzing sights and sounds of the many vehicles flying by our site and along the beach. At first, we were a little annoyed. But once we realized that this is the only beach in California that allows vehicles, we understood and adjusted our expectations for the weekend.
We decided to join in on the fun and rented ATVs from one of the rental shops right there on the beach. Everyone was very friendly, the park rangers kept everyone safe and in control, and the experience was one we will never forget. ATVing over the sand dunes was an absolute blast! Next time we visit, we plan to enjoy the quiet week before the crazy weekend and get the best of both worlds!
2. During the summer, get there early!
There are not assigned spots for RVs. You can literally park anywhere (besides in the dune area). Spots are first come, first served. We arrived on a Friday morning and the beach was hardly crowded. There were a lot of options of where we could park and we scored an awesome spot with perfect ocean views. We enjoyed a beautiful, quiet sunset that night, but it all changed when we woke up the next morning.
Locals starting piling in early Saturday morning to camp for the weekend. Tents and RVs were pulling right up next to us, nearly blocking us in. The beach was almost completely filled up by Saturday afternoon.
3. Avoid getting stuck in the sand.
Everyone we talked to HIGHLY recommended airing down every tire on our fifth wheel and our truck. We didn’t love the idea because of how much time it takes to not only air down, but then air back up 8 big tires! But we were SO glad we did it anyways. We had no problems driving through the sand once we aired all of our tires down to 20 psi (which is the magic number everyone recommends).
All weekend we watched (and helped) people who got stuck in the sand because they refused to air down. Don’t be those people. As you’re leaving the park, there is a station with multiple air hoses that you can pay to use. For $1 per tire, you can get aired back up and on your way pretty quick!
4. Plan ahead.
We didn’t drive anywhere else the rest of the weekend, since we didn’t want to keep airing our tires up and down. Luckily, we were prepared and stocked up on food before heading to the beach. There aren’t many stores or restaurants to walk to, so be sure to get what you need ahead of time.
Our weekend at Oceano Dunes SVRA was one we will never forget! Although it was completely different than we had expected, we made the best of it. I hope that by sharing these 4 tips, you are more informed than we were and can better prepare for the fun this beach has to offer!
Want some more California route inspiration? Check out this post that includes 4 awesome routes.
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