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Set on the northern tip Monterey Bay and hemmed in by soaring sandstone cliffs, New Brighton State Beach showcases the natural beauty of the Golden State. While it was once anchored by a 19th-century Chinese fishing village, today, the enclave has been reimagined as a 93-acre state beach for everyone to enjoy. Spend the day basking on the sand or enjoy a scenic picnic lunch on the wooded bluffs.
At just four miles from Santa Cruz, New Brighton State Beach offers a winning combination of natural beauty and urban allure. New Brighton is also an hour and a half from the Golden Gate City, which makes it a great place to camp in an RV near San Francisco. Planning a getaway to the California Coast? Browse a huge selection of RV rentals in Santa Cruz County.
The beach is the main draw at New Brighton, with sunseekers flocking to bask on the sand and cool off in the Pacific Ocean. Local operators in the nearby town of Capitola will hook you up with kayaks, paddleboards, and other watersports equipment. You can also sign up for stand-up paddleboarding and surfing lessons. After dark, head down to the beach and claim a bonfire ring – don't forget the s'mores ingredients.
Stop by the Pacific Migrations Visitor Center for an introduction to the unique history and ecology of the park. Displays on the sooty shearwater migration, which sees thousands of the seabirds migrate to the Pacific Rim in search of anchovies, are especially interesting.
From December to April, Monterey Bay is one of the best places to see gray whales migrating along the Pacific Coast. Brings your binoculars or join a whale watching trip. You should also watch for marine mammals like dolphins, otters, and sea lions splashing offshore. When you've had your fill of sun and sand, stretch your legs on one of the shaded hiking trails that wind through lush coastal live oak and Monterey pine forests.
Set atop sandstone bluffs and shaded by towering pines, oaks, and Monterey cypress, the campground at New Brighton State Beach offers a unique chance to sleep under the stars in Santa Cruz County. Choose from more than 100 tent and RV sites, all featuring picnic tables and fire rings. The best sites are perched on the edge of the bluff and treat campers to space, privacy, and stunning views.
Like most state park RV campgrounds in California, New Brighton offers modern bathroom blocks with flush toilets and hot showers. A handful of full-hookup sites are available, though they fill up fast. Other sites offer water and electricity, as well as access to a dump station for serviced RV rentals. The largest sites at New Brighton State Beach can accommodate trailers up to 36 feet long.
The family-oriented campground is open year-round, with visitors spiking during the summer. It's best to make a reservation if you're visiting from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During the summer, the Campfire Center hosts storytelling sessions, singalongs, and star-gazing workshops. Kids will love exploring the park, earning badges and getting their hands dirty in the Junior Rangers program. Dogs are welcome when motorhome camping at New Brighton; just be sure to keep your pet leashed and bring them into your trailer at night. You'll also be sharing your site with resident raccoons, so be sure to store food in your designated locker or car.
A 15-minute drive up the coast, Santa Cruz will win you over with its gorgeous beach, oceanfront cafes, and liberal-minded locals. Ride stomach-churning roller coasters at the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, challenge your crew to a game of beach volleyball, or dig into a feast of tacos and craft beer. The colorful Santa Cruz Farmers' Market is a fantastic place to stock up on fresh produce for your camp kitchen.
Stroll 30 minutes up the coast and you'll find yourself at Seacliff State Beach, another beautiful stretch of sand. Divers will jump at the chance to explore SS Palo Alto, a concrete freighter wreck that's now home to sea stars, anemones, and colorful marine life. Cast a line from the fishing pier and you could reel in flounder, sole, salmon, halibut, steelhead, and mackerel – perfect for a fish fry back at your RV rental. You don't need a license, but you will need to comply with Department of Fish and Wildlife limits.
Capitola, a five-minute drive or 30-minute walk away is the closest place to stock up on gas, groceries, and other basic supplies. Today, many of the characterful beach shacks have been reimagined as cozy cafes, seafood restaurants, and souvenir shops. San Jose, a 50-minute drive north, is also a great place to stock up on supplies or rent a camper near New Brighton State Beach.