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The Best Beach Camping Spots in the U.S.

By Adrienne Jordan

Aug 17, 2021

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Pitch a tent for beach camping on the Padre Island National Seashore in Texas, and wake up to these views.

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Pitch a tent for beach camping on the Padre Island National Seashore in Texas, and wake up to these views.

These waterfront camping sites offer unbeatable sunrise and sunset views. Here’s where you can pitch your tent or drive your camper van right onto the sand—or as close to it as you can get.

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If nature’s mixtape of lightly crashing waves and seabirds calling coupled with an awe-inspiring sunrise sounds like your ideal way to wake up, then you may want to consider camping right on the beach. Depending on where you are geographically in the United States, beach camping options might include an RV parking site, a campground where you can pitch a tent, or even booking a beachfront cabin. Don’t forget to explore your local surroundings while at your campsite by hiking natural formations, canoeing on nearby waterways, or watching birds and other wildlife. Here are eight of the best places for beach camping in the U.S. right now.

Coos Bay, Oregon

Oregon’s Sunset Bay State Park delivers when it comes to sunset cliff views.
  • Location: Sunset Bay State Park
  • Type: Tent camping, RV hook-up sites, and rustic yurts
  • How to book: Reservations can be made up to six months in advance at ReserveAmerica.com.

If awe-inspiring views of sandstone sea cliffs is your cup of tea, then consider Sunset Bay State Park, located just south of Coos Bay near the small fishing village of Charleston, Oregon. This Oregon Coast campsite is made for an active retreat—you can catch sun rays on the park’s nearby sandy beaches or swim in the calmer waters. Take advantage of the plethora of hiking trails around the campsite that also connect to the nearby Shore Acres and Cape Arago state parks.

Corpus Christi, Texas

Come for the Gulf shoreline, stay for the bird-watching.
  • Location: Padre Island National Seashore
  • Type: Drive-up tent or car camping
  • How to book: No reservations are needed as the campsite is first-come, first-served and open year-round in the park. You can pick up your camping permit at the entrance stations before pitching your tent at either Malaquite, Bird Island Basin, South or North Beach Primitive, or Yarborough Pass Primitive campgrounds.

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The longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world is located along the Padre Island National Seashore, reaching 70 miles across the Gulf of Mexico coastline. This nature preserve 25 miles southeast from Corpus Christi is home to 380 bird species and is popular for families that like to wake up at sunrise and view sea turtle hatchling releases. For the adventurous sort, Padre Island boasts such activities as swimming, nature hikes, and kayaking.

The Best Places for Beach Camping in California

Eastsound, Washington

We’ll just be out on this dock watching the sunset on Orcas Island.
  • Location: West Beach Resort Campground on Orcas Island
  • Type: Beach cabins and tents
  • How to book: Safari tents are bookable online at Pitchup.com.

Whale sightings are a rare but exciting highlight of a visit to Orcas Island in Washington State. The campground at the West Beach Resort is easily accessible via ferry from the mainland via a Washington State Ferry departing from Anacortes and offers quaint, beachfront cabins as well as pet-friendly safari tents. You can take in the views from the cabin patios and take part in family-friendly campground activities like face-painting and treasure hunts. For water lovers, kayak or canoe around East Sound Bay, as well as lakes on Orcas Island and the Pacific Ocean, where you might spot local wildlife like sea otters and blue heron. 

Franklin County, New York

Getting to the Saranac Islands campground in New York requires a boat, but it’s worth it.
  • Location: Saranac Islands campground
  • Type: Boat-access only camping
  • How to book: Reserve a campsite at ReserveAmerica.com

Boating fanatics who want to camp on a beach should head to the Saranac Lake Islands in New York, where you have access to lakes through a set of locks that allows your vessel to be raised or lowered to the right water level. Your over-water camping sites are located on Lower Saranac Lake and Middle Saranac Lake.

Don’t have your own boat? No worries; outfitters in Saranac Lake offer canoe, kayak, and motorboat rentals. Coupled with the ability to camp on selected island sites, you can grill your fish for dinner, while listening to the calls of common loons as the sun sets.

Glacier Highway, Alaska

Get a front-row view of snow-capped mountains at Eagle Beach State Recreation Area.
  • Location: Eagle Beach State Recreation Area
  • Type: RV sites, tent camping, and cabins
  • How to book: Camping sites are first-come, first-served and start at $20 per site; they can be paid for at the campground. Cabins start at $60 per night and can be reserved at ReserveAmerica.com

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With a hodgepodge of outdoor activities, Eagle Beach State Recreation Area offers plenty of trails for power walking and hiking as well as places to fish. The campsite is roughly 27 miles north of Juneau, Alaska’s capital, in the southeastern part of the state. While camping here, take in the panorama of Mount Juneau and the Lynn Canal, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for sea lions, whales, and seals that rest along the area’s waterways.

Homer, Alaska

It doesn’t get much closer to the water than this.
  • Location: Homer Spit Campground
  • Type: Tent and RV
  • How to book: Both tent and RV spots start at $35 per night and can be reserved at HomerSpitCampground.com.

Situated along southern Alaska’s 4.5-mile stretch of road, the Homer Spit is known as the world’s longest road into ocean waters. Mark your bucket list for a stop at the Homer Campground, which has ample RV and tent camping availability. From your RV, you can view Kachemak Bay and the surrounding mountains. There are also cultural activities available along the peninsula like the Inupiat Heritage Center and the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve Visitor Center that provides visual renderings of the historic 1,000-mile migration land bridge between Alaska and Russia, once trekked by woolly mammoths and scimitar cats.

Jekyll Island, Georgia

You won’t be right on the water but very close to it when camping on Jekyll Island.
  • Location: Jekyll Island Campground
  • Type: Full RV hook-up back-in or pull-through sites and tent sites
  • How to book: You can see availability and reservation information at the website: www.jekyllisland.com/campground

Overnight beach camping on Jekyll Island can be experienced at this wooded 18-acre campground, a short walk to the beach.  (The campsite is not directly on the beach as that is prohibited by Georgia State Park ordinance.) However, this destination is still well worth a stop with its 179 total campsites, including 167 full hook-up sites and 12 primitive tent sites.

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Once you’ve settled in, walk along the popular Driftwood Beach, a striking array of trees and branches left behind due to soil erosion. Amenities at the campsite include free Wi-Fi, two bathhouses with toilets and hot-water showers, and coin-operated washers and dryers. If you need to bulk up on supplies for your tent or RV, there is a general store stocked with necessities like firewood, propane, ice, and personal items. A market with additional groceries and take-out food is just a five-minute drive away.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

The Manitou Islands offer easy access to Lake Michigan views and soaring sand dunes.
  • Location: The Manitou Islands
  • Type: Lakeshore tent camping
  • How to book: For South Manitou camping, reservations can be made at Recreation.gov. A backcountry permit and fee payment must be completed before camping. Permits are available on the island and on the mainland, and groups are limited to a maximum of 10 people.

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

Camping options are available on both North Manitou Island, which contains eight designated campsites, and at Popple Campground right next to the water on South Manitou Island. On both islands, you can pitch a tent along one of several designated campsites; after a night of rest, venture out on the popular “dune climb,” a hike along the scalable mounds located in the park. 

>> Next: 7 Easy Ways to Make Your Camping Trip More Comfortable

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