Laze your days dashing in the water and your nights sleeping underneath the stars at these can’t-miss beach camping spots across the United States.
Long Key State Park: Long Key, Florida
Camp like America’s best did in the early 20th century at Long Key State Park. Located in the middle of the Florida Keys, this waterfront state park was one of many stops along Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway.
From former President Herbert Hoover to American author Zane Grey frequented this tranquil spot to fish. Today, the park’s main oceanfront campground is closed due to damage caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017, but you can still camp by the shore year-round at the smaller primitive campground.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: Wisconsin
If you happen to live in the Midwest far from the country’s West Coast and East Coast beaches, fret not: Northern Wisconsin’s stretch of Lake Superior shoreline features 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland packed with small white sand beaches.
Several of the lakeshore’s islands offer campsites on or near a beach, including Outer Island, York Island and Manitou Island. No matter which location you choose, you can expect to find amenities like fire rings and bear-proof food storage lockers. Some sites also offer picnic tables, tent pads and vault toilets or stump privies.
Keep in mind, almost all of the lakeshore’s campsites are only accessible by boat. You must make advance reservations for camping permits, which are valid for up to 14 days.
Hunting Island State Park: Hunting Island, South Carolina
Venture 17 miles southeast of Beaufort to camp in South Carolina’s most popular state park. The area’s main draw is its 5 miles of pristine beaches, where loggerhead sea turtles and various shorebirds nest every summer.
Hunting Island State Park is also home to a beachfront campground designed for novice campers thanks to amenities like paved roads and restrooms with hot showers. Plus, each campsite can accommodate recreational vehicles and features water and electrical hookups.
A dump station can also be found on-site. Up to six people can stay at each campsite, and pets are welcome in all camping areas.
Sonoma Coast State Park: Bodega Bay, California
Travellers who want a dose of adventure while visiting Northern California should spend a few days camping at Sonoma Coast State Park. This 17-mile-long stretch of protected coastline sits less than 60 miles northwest of Sonoma and Napa, making it easy to tack some time at the beach onto a wine vacation.
To wake up to phenomenal ocean vistas, camp at one of the park’s 27 Wright’s Beach campsites. On-site amenities are limited (think: picnic tables, fire rings and bathrooms with flush toilets).
Padre Island National Seashore: Texas
Though you may be tempted to spend most of your Gulf Coast beach vacation on better known South Padre Island, consider travelling farther north to North Padre Island. Here, you’ll discover Padre Island National Seashore, which boasts more than 130,000 acres of beaches, trails and campsites.
Multiple beach camping areas are available, including Bird Island Basin Campground, where you can enjoy Laguna Madre panoramas and activities like fishing, kayaking and windsurfing. The campground offers sections for both tents and RVs, but there are no on-site amenities other than covered picnic tables and chemical toilets, so plan on stocking up on supplies at the Malaquite Visitor Center before you arrive.
Horseneck Beach State Reservation: Westport, Massachusetts
For easy access to a beach campground from New England cities like Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, head to Horseneck Beach State Reservation.
Situated less than 70 miles south of Boston and about 35 miles southeast of Providence, this 2-mile-long stretch of sand boasts breathtaking Buzzards Bay vistas, plus excellent windsurfing, fishing and bird-watching opportunities.
Beach wheelchairs are also available, meaning travellers with mobility issues will be able to enjoy the beach and its scenery as well.
At the beach’s tent-, trailer- and RV-friendly campground, visitors will find 100 partially paved campsites and a variety of amenities, including basketball and volleyball courts, a playground, picnic tables, grills, a dump station and restrooms with flush toilets and hot showers. Each campsite can accommodate up to four adults, two tents and two vehicles.
Olympic National Park: Washington
Enjoy both lush greenery and proximity to the beach at Olympic National Park. In this national park 75 miles northwest of Seattle, you will find trail-filled forests and 70-plus miles of coastline, which you can admire from one of two campgrounds with beach access: South Beach and Kalaloch.
Gulf Islands National Seashore: Florida and Mississippi
Gulf Islands National Seashore, which stretches 160 miles from Florida to Mississippi, is home to 12 areas featuring historical forts, hiking trails and white sand beaches.
Although the shoreline’s main campgrounds do not sit directly on the sand, several sections allow backcountry camping or camping in an undeveloped area with no facilities. In Florida, travellers can beach camp in the Perdido Key Area.
On the Mississippi side, campers can choose from four islands: Petit Bois, West Petit Bois, Horn and Cat. To beach camp in any of these areas, visitors must arrive by boat.
None of these areas require purchasing camping permits. Keep in mind that campsites must be at least 300 yards away from bird nests.
Assateague Island National Seashore: Maryland
Whether you’re looking for a change of scenery from bustling Ocean City or a unique camping experience, Assateague Island National Seashore can’t be missed.
Maryland’s section of the seashore offers countless opportunities for leisure activities like kayaking, fishing and swimming. Plus, you’ll find two herds of wild horses here, which you may spot roaming the beach from your oceanside campsite.
Individuals and smaller groups can pick from drive-in spaces. They can accommodate trailers and RVs and walk-in spaces.
Jalama Beach County Park: Lompoc, California
A quieter beach than others found in and around nearby Santa Barbara, California. Jalama Beach County Park appeals to everyone from surfers to anglers to wildlife enthusiasts.
Visitors can catch a wave, cast a line or go whale watching and birding. The park also serves as a superb option for camping by the Pacific Ocean.
Jalama Beach’s campsites offer beach or ocean panoramas, as well as amenities like picnic tables and BBQs. Additionally, the park has restrooms with hot showers and a convenience store that sells grocery staples and fishing equipment.
Sandy Neck Beach Park: West Barnstable, Massachusetts
A twist on a classic Cape Cod beach vacation by camping at one of the peninsula’s highly regarded beaches. At Sandy Neck Beach Park, which sits in the mid-cape section of Cape Cod. You can extend your day at the beach by camping overnight in an off-road vehicle or tent.
Camping in an off-road vehicle can get expensive, so consider staying in the primitive tent area. This sandy section of the park is located more than 3 miles away from the parking lot. You’ll need to hike with your gear to your site.
Keep in mind, Sandy Neck requires starting your hike before 7 p.m. Once you arrive, you’ll find amenities like a portable toilet and drinking water.
Bahia Honda State Park: Big Pine Key, Florida
The Florida Keys are home to several beaches that permit camping.
Situated 35 miles northeast of Key West on a remote island, Bahia Honda provides a quintessential Florida backdrop. Inside the park, travellers can rent snorkelling gear to explore offshore when they’re not bird-watching, fishing or biking onshore.
Bahia Honda campgrounds that offer waterfront sites include Buttonwood and Bayside. Buttonwood is ideal for travellers with RVs. Its sites are gravel and come with electricity hookups and access to a bathhouse and a dump station.