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9 beautiful places to go beach camping in the US

If the mixtape of gently crashing waves and calling seabirds combined with an awe-inspiring sunrise sounds like the ideal way to wake up, then you might consider camping right on the beach. Depending on where you are geographically in the United States, beach camping options may include finding an RV parking spot, a campsite where you can pitch a tent, or even booking a cabin on the beach. And enjoy exploring the local area while at your campsite by hiking in natural formations, canoeing on nearby waterways, or viewing birds and other wildlife.

Here are nine of the best places for beach camping in the United States.

The sun setting into the ocean, next to the silhouette of a rocky cliff topped with trees

Oregon’s Sunset Bay State Park delivers when it comes to cliff views at sunset.

Photo by Emily Marie Wilson/Shutterstock

1. Sunset Bay State Park, Oregon

If awe-inspiring views of sandstone sea cliffs are your thing, consider Sunset Bay State Park in Coos Bay. This campground on the Oregon coast is made for an active retreat: you can sunbathe on the park’s nearby sandy beaches or swim in the calmer waters. Take advantage of the abundance of hiking trails around the campground that also connect to nearby Shore Acres and Cape Arago state parks.

Close-up of light brown bird with long curved beak on beach

Come for the Gulf coastline, stay for the birdwatching.

Photo by Tim Malek/Shutterstock

2. Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

  • Type: Drive-up tent or car camping
  • Book now: No reservations are necessary as the campground is first-come, first-served and open year-round in the park. You can obtain a camping permit at the entrance stations before pitching your tent at Malaquite Campground, Bird Island Campground, North Beach, South Beach and Yarborough Pass.

The longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world is located along the Padre Island National Seashore, stretching some 70 miles along the Gulf of Mexico coastline. Located 25 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, this nature reserve is home to 380 bird species and is popular with families who enjoy waking up at dawn and watching sea turtle hatchlings. For the adventurous kind, Padre Island offers swimming, nature walks and kayaking.

Dock jutting out into the water at sunset.

The sunset views on Orcas Island are unforgettable

3. Orca Island, Washington

Whale sightings are a rare but exciting highlight of a visit to Orcas Island in Washington State. Easily accessible via ferry from the mainland with a Washington State Ferry departing from Anacortes, the West Beach Resort campground offers beachfront cabins and pet-friendly safari tents. You can enjoy the views from the cabins’ patios and take part in family-friendly camping activities such as face painting and scavenger hunts.

For water enthusiasts, kayak or canoe around East Sound Bay, as well as the lakes on Orcas Island and the Pacific Ocean, where you can spot sea otters and blue herons.

Beach at sunset with snow-capped mountains in the background

Get a front-row view of the snow-capped mountains at Eagle Beach State Recreation Area.

4. Eagle Beach State Recreation Area, Alaska

Featuring a mix of outdoor activities, Eagle Beach State Recreation Area offers plenty of trails for power walking and hiking, as well as spots for fishing. The campground is located about 27 miles north of Juneau, Alaska’s capital, in the southeastern part of the state. While camping here, enjoy the panorama of Mount Juneau and the Lynn Canal, and keep your eyes peeled for sea lions, whales, and seals resting along the area’s waterways.

Small platform floating on a lake surrounded by fog and trees

To get to the Lower and Middle Saranac Lake campgrounds, you’ll need a boat, but it’s worth it.

5. Saranac Islands, New York

Boating enthusiasts looking to camp on a beach should head to New York’s Saranac Lake Islands, where you can access the lakes through a series of locks that allow you to raise or lower your vessel to the appropriate water level. There are even a few island sites available, offering the chance to set up camp while listening to the calls of common divers as the sun sets.

Don’t have your own boat? No problem; Outfitters in Saranac Lake offer canoe, kayak and powerboat rentals.

6. Big Sur, California

From the golden sands of SoCal to the dramatic seascapes of the north, California is a beach camper’s paradise. The state’s Highway 1 is a popular way to explore the diversity of the Pacific Ocean’s landscape, as the route follows the long coastline. One stop along the way is Big Sur, on the Central Coast. For views of some of the West Coast’s big waves, stay at Kirk Creek Campground; it has about 40 spots for tent camping. (Try to find one of the campsites numbered 8-22, which are closest to the ocean.)

Piece of driftwood on a rocky beach shore, with small white tent and mountains in the background

You don’t get much closer to the water than this.

7. Homer, Alaska

Located along the 4.5-mile road in southern Alaska, the Homer Spit is known as the world’s longest road to ocean water. Travelers can spend the night at the Homer Campground, where there are plenty of RV and tent camping sites available. From your camper you can view Kachemak Bay and the surrounding mountains. There are also cultural activities available along the peninsula, such as the Inupiat Heritage Center and the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve Visitor Center, which offers visual representations of the historic 1,000-mile migration land bridge between Alaska and Russia, once pulled by woolly mammoths and scimitar cats.

Clouds cover the sky during sunset on a beach with the gray beach stones.

Jekyll Island is almost 6,000 hectares in size.

Photo by jadimages/Shutterstock

8. Jekyll Island, Georgia

You can spend the night on the beach on Jekyll Island at this 18-hectare wooded campsite, a 15-minute walk from Driftwood Beach. This destination is well worth a visit with its 179 campsites, including 167 full hookup sites and 12 primitive tent sites.

Campground amenities include free WiFi, two bathhouses with toilets and hot water showers, and coin-operated washers and dryers. If you need supplies for your tent or RV, there is a store stocked with supplies such as firewood, propane, ice, and personal items. A market with additional groceries and takeaway meals is just a five-minute drive away.

Wooden boardwalk leading to blue water

The Manitou Islands offer easy access to Lake Michigan views and towering sand dunes.

9. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

If you are a bird lover, then the Manitou Islands are the place for you. The destination is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, home to numerous species of hawks and eagles. You can reach both the North and South Manitou Islands by private boat or Manitou Island Transit’s passenger ferry service. The ferry service operates from the Fishtown Dock in Leland.

First-come, first-served options are available on North Manitou Island, which observes first-come, first-served, and at the Popple Campground on South Manitou Island. For reservable sites, you can book a spot at the South Manitou’s Bay and Weather Station campgrounds.

On both islands you can pitch a tent at one of several designated campsites; after a night’s rest you can undertake the popular ‘dune climb’, a walk along the park’s scaled hills.

This article originally appeared online in 2021; it was last updated on May 28, 2024 and contains current information.