If you love the surf, sand, and the sea, there is no excuse not to visit Emma Wood State Beach Park on your next Californian RV getaway. Featuring beachfront views right from your window, the park is the perfect place to call home or visit for a day trip. This historic beach was once a part of the 8,000-acre sheep ranch owned by Emma Grubb Wood. The land was donated to the state of California in 1956, following Emma's death. Emma Wood State Beach was opened to the public in 1957 and since then has been providing thousands of visitors each year with a place to have some beachside fun.
Since the park is only 112 acres in size, there are limited exploration opportunities, but there are plenty of fun activities to enjoy. Swimming, surfing, fishing, and beach walking can all be enjoyed during your visit, and the city of Ventura owns the adjoiningSeaside Wilderness Park, so be sure to check it out if you want to explore a more wooded area. Another highlight perfect for history buffs is the 1942 artillery emplacements that were placed on the beach in response to the attack by a Japanese submarine known as the Bombardment of Ellwood.
You cannot beat the location of the Emma Wood State Beach Campground since you can nearly touch the sand from your RV. All sites in the campground are primitive, but if you want some more amenities, you could also stay at the Ventura Ranch KOA. There are also group campsites available at Emma Wood State Beach, including one that is RV-friendly. Peak season runs from March until October, so pack your swimsuit and have some fun in the sun!
Emma Wood State Beach is located just off Highway 101, three miles north of the city of Ventura. From Santa Barbara, it's about a half-hour's drive south on Highway 101. It's easy to reach the park with a rig up to 45 feet long since it is right off of the highway. Once inside the state beach, however, you may have some trouble turning around in tighter spaces, which is why the size limit is imposed.
One thing to take note of is that if you are planning to stay in the campground that the sites are quite tight and back-in only. Your rig or trailer needs to be parked within the space allotted, not hanging over the end since space is limited within the campground.
A benefit of visiting the southwestern area of California is that you won't have to worry about any snowstorms impacting your journey to the park. There aren't usually any weather events that would cause the park to close, but if you are concerned, it is always best to call the park office before you start your drive to the park.
Just visiting for the day? Next to the campground, there are a few spots where you can park your rig, but they are limited.
Looking for a campground with some more luxurious amenities? Located around 24 miles inland of Emma Wood State Beach is the fantastic Ventura Ranch KOA. The campground is a great place to chill out and is quieter than the Emma Wood Campground since it is away from the highway.
There are plenty of sites to choose from at the Ventura Ranch KOA, including deluxe patio sites that are equipped with water- and electric-only sites or sites with full hookups. RVs up to 65 feet in length will be able to stay here, so it is a great choice if you are traveling with a larger rig.
The campground offers a playground for children and a pool for everyone to keep cool in. You can also stay connected with Wi-Fi and keep warm with firewood if you are visiting during the winter. Other amenities include restrooms, showers, a dog park, jumping pillow, and a climbing rock. Reservations are recommended, and Ventura Ranch KOA is open all year round.
The North Beach Campground is the main campground at Emma Wood State Beach, and it can only be used by RVs or trailers. Not all sites are uniform within the park so you will have a pad that is either asphalt, dirt, or a sandy surface. The sites are known to not be level since they are so close to the water, so be ready to use your leveling blocks. Campsites may hold up to eight people and three vehicles (including trailers) per site, so there is enough room for your family to be comfortable.
There are no hookups within the campground, but generators are allowed to be used during the day. Portable toilets are available for your convenience, but there is no bathhouse, dump station, or water collection points within the campground. Some of the campsites have rocks for fire circles.
Many campers have commented that there is a lot of noise here due to both a freeway and a railroad track that run very close to the campground. Although trains don't blow their whistles, they are still loud and come by multiple times a day. Most campers feel that the location on the beach makes up for the inconvenience of noise and aren't too bothered by it.
Reservations are required during peak season and can be made up to six months in advance. The campground is especially busy on weekends and holidays, so if you are traveling during this time you will have to book your site well in advance.
Traveling to the park with a group? There are some great group camping options available at the Ventura River Group Camp, which is around two miles away from the beach in the Seaside Wilderness Park. There are three group sites to choose from, two of which are suited to tent-only camping and one that allows RVs.
The tent-only group camps have enough room for 30 people, while the RV site is larger and can accommodate up to 50 people and 20 rigs. If you are thinking about using the RV group camping site, the maximum rig length is 45 feet and there are no hookups. There are cold showers, chemical toilets, and water collection points available for your convenience. All group sites can be reserved in advance prior to your arrival.
If you are a fan of cycling, don't forget to pack your bicycle in your camper for your visit. The popular Omer Rains Coastal Bike Trail begins right next to the Emma Wood State Campground. This is a scenic beach route along the Ventura Pacific Coast, leading into the city and eventually to the San Buenaventura State Beach.
The Ventura River Trail is also accessible from the campground and heads inland along the former Ventura and Ojai Valley Railroad. This bike trail links to the Ojai Valley Trail, which gradually leads you uphill and into the city of Ojai. It is 17 miles total if you were to link all three bike trails from Ojai down to the historic Ventura Pier. Since Emma Wood is in the middle of the two endpoints, you can make two different nine-mile bike trips from the campground.
Surf fishing is another popular activity you can enjoy at Emma Wood State Beach. Anglers usually cast in from the mouth of the Ventura River, where it meets the ocean or off the shore north of the campground. Popular fish caught here include perch, halibut, corbina, and bass. While fishing, keep your eye out for other wildlife, as dolphins are known to swim in this area. Pacific white-sided dolphins, bottle-nose dolphins, and Risso's dolphins have all been spotted off the coast of the campground, so you might get lucky and see some splashing about while you are fishing!
Although there aren't any strenuous trails within the park, you can spend an hour hiking the easy 1.5-mile loop on the Ocean's Edge Trail. Just out of the group campground and picnic area, you'll find the trail leading underneath the railroad bridge. There is little elevation gain on the hike, so it is suitable for hikers of all skill levels.
About two-thirds of a mile in, there's an estuary located where the Ventura River meets the Pacific Ocean, and many sea birds can be seen here. Pelicans, egrets, and even great blue herons have been spotted in this area. As you head back to the campground, there is also a trail that leads to the right and can take you along the River's Edge Trail if you feel like more exploring. Both trails allow for wildlife viewing and a little exercise to start off your relaxing day at the beach.
If you're looking for a place to relax on the beach during your RV road trip to California, Emma Wood State Beach is a perfect choice. Most campers at this state park enjoy finding a great spot on the white sandy beach and relaxing in the sun. It's a great beach for kids to dig or build sandcastles. With the convenience of having your RV right behind you, you can sunbathe for an hour, go make yourself lunch, and head on back to the beach. The beach is not usually very crowded, and you can enjoy a peaceful day taking in the crashing waves. On a clear day, you'll have views of the Channel Islands and be sure to stick around for sunset.
Surfers enjoy Emma Wood State Beach for its reliable beach break waves. It's a popular spot to catch waves that break to the right here, especially in the summer months. There are many local surf shops nearby that can help you with gear and supplies if you have forgotten anything you may need. A quarter-mile offshore is the larger Ventura Overhead, which only breaks a few times a year. At these times, expect to find plenty of surfers out there, trying to catch the big one. Surfing can be a dangerous sport, and it is only recommended for those who have experience and are strong swimmers.
There's nothing like a swim in the brisk waters of the Pacific Ocean. This campground has an excellent swimming area, where it's easy to get in and out of the water. Enjoy the calm waters and do some serious swimming, or just play near the water's edge. Feel free to bring inflatables along, just keep an eye out for surfers since the waves are great for catching. While the water is not super warm, it is calm enough for all ages to go in and cool off for a few minutes in the shallows.