Featuring an incredible beach that offers RV lovers a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the ocean, Pismo State Beach is the place to visit if you are looking for a beachside paradise. Pismo State Beach, located northwest of Santa Barbara, manages to balance the modern luxury of beach spas, wine tours, and film festivals right alongside beachfront camping, pier fishing, and dune buggies.
Touristy little beach towns run together along the miles of wide sandy beach from Pismo to Oceano - about two and a half miles. There are two campgrounds to choose from within the state beach area: North Beach in Pismo and Oceano toward the south. Between the two campgrounds lies a giant mass of beach dunes, which are a beloved playground for OHVs (Off-Highway Vehicles).
Pismo State Beach is the last spot remaining in CA where it's legal to drive out onto the sand, and the access road is right past the Oceano Campground. This presents a special luxury, where visitors can pack every beach toy they own, along with food and drinks for the whole family, right into the car for one easy trip. This access is well used by surfers, fishermen, clam diggers, and visiting beach-goers.
If you're looking for other ways to spend the day, the surrounding area has no shortage of attractions. One of the main draws is the variety of wine tours north toward San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. There is a Monarch butterfly grove, a 100-year-old mineral spring, biplane and helicopter rides, sea caves, and more.
The weather at Pismo Beach is mild year-round, so whenever you get the chance to visit, you will be welcomed with a huge variety of choices for fun and entertainment. The Oceano Campground is perfect for RVs up to 36 feet in length and features electrical hookups, while the North Campground can only be used by tents. Peak season at Pismo State Beach runs from April until October.
Driving to Pismo State Beach isn't too difficult since it is located in a very popular part of the country in southern California. The park is located directly off the One Highway, so it will be very easy to find, and there is only one entrance available for the North Campground and the Oceano Campground, which is located further south. If you are bringing your RV to this state beach, you won't be able to enter the North Campground, so make sure you set your GPS to Oceano.
There are plenty of places for you to stock up on any supplies that you might need, including at Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, and Arroyo Grande. The beach town layout of these small towns doesn't leave much room for big vehicles, so it might be hard to find parking if you are trying to pick up supplies during the day. California is serious about it's paid parking; watch for signs, meters, and warnings - tickets are a lousy souvenir.
The Oceano Campground has plenty of room to loop around and comfortably maneuver back. Sand can mean uneven pads, though, so be prepared to do some leveling. This part of California is known for having great weather all year round, but if you are concerned that the park may be closed due to adverse weather conditions, it is best to contact the park office prior to arriving.
Looking for an inland camping location that is not too far from Pismo State Beach? If so, head to the multiple award-winning Santa Margarita KOA that is around 32 miles from the ocean. Featuring a rustic and rural vibe, the campground’s been named the “best-kept secret on the central coast of California.”
Fishing, hiking, biking, boat rentals, and horse trails are less than half a mile away at Santa Margarita Lake, and the campground itself features some great amenities. You can enjoy free Wi-Fi, a swimming pool, picnic tables, barbecue grills, a playground, disc golf, recreational facilities, activity and game rentals, a pet walk, and a snack shack all without having to leave the campground. You can choose between full hookup and water and electric only sites that are suitable for RVs up to 40 feet in length. Santa Margarita KOA is open all year round and reservations can be made online prior to your arrival.
Located only a few miles north of Pismo State Beach, the quaint Avila/Pismo Beach KOA is completely smoke-free and nestled inside a lovely California canyon, with some fantastic amenities for campers looking for a little more luxury.
Sites at the Avila/Pismo Beach KOA are suitable for RVs up to 40 feet in length and include full hookups with cable and Wi-Fi. Amenities include restrooms and showers, laundry facilities, community propane barbecue pits, a year-round pool and hot tub, deluxe sites, a playground, a game room, recreational facilities, bike rentals, and a well-stocked general store. Guests of all ages will also enjoy the petting zoo and farm across the street. This campground is pet-friendly with some restrictions, and since it is so close to the beach reservations are recommended.
Oceano Campground is one of two campgrounds within the Pismo State Beach area and the only one that is suitable for RV camping. The campground is very well regarded as being a great place for some beachside camping, so if you are craving the beach, this is the place to stay!
There are a total of 82 beach dune campsites to choose from, including half that are equipped with electric and water hookups. The remaining sites are primitive with no hookups, but there is a central dump station and water collection points available for your convenience. Other amenities available within the Oceano Campground include flush toilets and hot showers along with a picnic table and fire pit. The sites within the campground are on the smaller side, so only RVs up to 36 feet in length will be able to stay here.
Open year-round, this is one of the most popular campgrounds in the state so reservations are an absolute must. If you are planning to visit during the peak summer months, you will have to book a site at least four months in advance, sometimes even longer.
If you are visiting Pismo State Beach and you are planning on doing some tent camping, you are in luck! Along with the Oceano Campground, there is also the North Beach Campground that is suitable only for tents.
Within the North Beach Campground, there are 100 sites for you to choose from, all of which are primitive with no hookups available. You will have the choice between using one of four shower blocks that also have restrooms, and the beach is only a short walk away thanks to the Beach Foot Trail on the western side of the campground. Expect the tent sites to be a little smaller than the RV ones that are available, but they are also cheaper to rent due to no hookups being available.
Like the Oceano Campground, you will have to make your reservation well in advance of your stay since it is known to be busy all year round, especially during the summer.
One of the main highlights of Pismo State Beach is that you can enjoy access to the only drivable beach in California. There is vehicle access to the beach near each of the State campgrounds, which makes life very easy. Instead of hauling your beach chairs and cooler from the parking lot, you can load everything, and everybody, into the car, and drive right to your beach spot for the day. Driving down the beach near sunset will bring you back to the 1960s, but remember to only take cars down that will be able to handle the sandy conditions.
No permits are required to fish on the 1370 foot Pismo Beach Pier. The water toward the end is deep enough to grab lingcod and red snapper, so you may even need a net to bring in your trophy. Other rules still apply, so please check with the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife. The surf fishing is also very good for smallmouth bass and California flounder, but you'll need to buy a license if you fish beyond the pier. Chat up the locals on the pier, they usually know just the right bait to reel in dinner so they can help you out.
0One of the most accessible and most forgiving surf spots in the area, catch some waves north or south of the Pismo Beach Pier. A consistent beach break that never feels crowded. Several local shops offer cheap equipment rental and lessons if you don't have your own board or aren't experienced, so everyone can be a surfing superstar. Waves pick up in the winter but are a perfect size for boogie-boards in summer. It gets hot enough mid-summer for board shorts, but real wet suits are a must when temps are below 70.
There are top wineries everywhere in this area, so many that you won't even have to drive around to find them thanks to the many wine tours in the region. Whether you explore Paso Robles, Arroyo Grande, or San Louis Obispo, there are so many choices and so much beautiful scenery between wineries, you'll be glad that someone else is driving. A variety of wine tour companies will pick you up from the park for tours that range from a couple of hours to all day.
If you happen to visit the state beach during the month of March you may time your trip with the International Film Festival that is held in Saint Luis Obispo. Featuring six days of independent film screenings held at theaters and wineries around the San Louis Obispo area, this unique opportunity is well worth checking out. You will have to buy tickets to attend the festival, but if you are a movie buff you won't regret it!
From October through February thousands of Western Monarch butterflies show up at the eucalyptus trees at Pismo Beaches' own butterfly grove. Knowledgeable and well-informed volunteers offer visitors daily talks and information about the butterflies. So many orange and black wings cover the tree branches that you will be able to barely see the trees! It's a short walk from the North Beach Campground and well worth checking out, so bring your camera and enjoy this unique display.