The Bay Area's Best Beach Camping

The Bay Area's Best Beach Camping


To celebrate the fact that fall in the Bay Area isn't anywhere near the freezing temperatures the rest of the country experiences, try camping on the beach this weekend. Here are some of the best spots just a short drive from the city.

Take in the Views at Kirby Cove

It might be hard to snag a reservation, but if you manage to, spending the night at Kirby Cove is well worth the planning ahead. Drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and just below you, along the coast, you'll see your home for the night — one of four small campsites right on the beach, overlooking the Pacific and the twinkling lights of the city. Make sure to bring firewood and enough water to last you the night. Learn more.

Insider Tip: Can't manage to reserve one of the four overnight camping spots? Get one of the day passes and have a picnic lunch.

Camp and Surf in Big Sur

Head down to Big Sur and stay the night at Plaskett Creek, a campsite right next door to Sand Dollar Beach. Winter means fewer crowds and better waves, so bring your board — Sand Dollar is protected from northern and southern winds and is a great spot to surf. Afterwards, warm up back at your campsite next to the fire pit. Learn more.

Insider Tip: No reservations left? Try your luck at one of Plaskettt Creek's first-come, first-served campsites.

Camp and Kayak in Tomales Bay

What's better than camping on the beach? Camping on a secluded beach. Take off in your kayak from Chicken Ranch Beach on the west side of Tomales Bay and continue on up to Tomales Beach or Marshall Beach, the area's two boat-in campgrounds. While the campsites might not allow dogs, they do have bonfire pits! Learn more.

Insider Tip: You can rent a kayak through Blue Waters Kayak, which is right next to the Marshall Store — pick up one or two dozen raw oysters and grill them at your campsite as the sun sets.

Camp and Surf at Half Moon Bay State Beach

If you're looking to be one with the classic NorCal wind and fog, head straight to Half Moon Bay State Beach. Less than an hour south of San Francisco, the two miles of sandy shore are made up of four smaller beaches, but you'll be out on a bluff right at Kelly Avenue, one of the best and most consistent surf spots in Half Moon Bay. Learn more.

Insider Tip: Each site comes with picnic tables, BBQ pits, and fire rings — not to mention access to hot showers.

Take in the Scenic Shoreline at Pt. Reyes

The Pt. Reyes National Seashore is wild, beautiful, and just a quick drive from the city. Make your way up with a reservation for Wildcat Campground, located in an open meadow on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. You'll need a backcountry permit and you'll hike in and out 5.5 miles each way, but the sunset views will make it worth it. Learn more.

Insider Tip: Love waterfalls? Love beaches? Love 40-foot waterfalls on beaches? From Wildcat, take a short two-mile round trip hike to Alamere Falls, one of Marin's classic hikes.

Camp Off the Beaten Path in Mendocino County

Calling all weekend warriors! This one calls for a bit more of an adventure — after all, the beach where you'll be camping is about 200 miles north of San Francisco. Just a few miles north of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County, Blues Beach is a spot where you can find yourself on a remote, isolated campsite just steps from the water — and all for free. There's consistent surf on Blues Beach year-round, and, depending on the season, it's a great spot for rock cod fishing, abalone diving, and all kinds of wildlife viewing. Learn more.

Insider Tip: Why not bring a bottle of wine? Stop by Pacific Star Winery on your way, just a few miles north of Fort Bragg off of Highway 1.

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