Pismo Beach offers a unique camping experience on the central coast of California. Famous for its beautiful beaches, outstanding sunsets, and diverse wildlife, Pismo Beach offers a range of activities and attractions to keep you entertained during your camping trip.
We recommend camping at North Beach Campground or Oceano Dunes, which offers quick and free access to Pismo Beach, easy routes to restaurants, and outdoor activities. While Pismo Beach is open all year round, we recommend camping in Autumn when the crowds are thinner, but the weather is still warm.
This guide will detail which campgrounds are the best, both on and off the beach, what camping is like throughout the seasons on the beach, what activities you can do when camping in Pismo Beach, and what attractions are close to keep you occupied.
There are two camps on Pismo Beach: North Beach Campground and Oceano Campground.
Both campgrounds offer the chance to be as close to the beach as possible while providing access to various restaurants and outdoor activities!
Both campgrounds require reservations, so remember to book in advance.
Address: 399 S. Dolliver St., Pismo Beach, CA 93449
North Beach Campground is beautifully located and has 103 camping sites that provide easy access via a foot trail to Pismo Beach.
All camping sites are open-air and provide a range of useful amenities. These include a dump station, pay showers, fire pits, restrooms, and picnic tables.
If you want to own a fire pit, you can read our article on the best propane fire pits.
Each camping site has a maximum occupancy of 8 people, including children. This campground only offers dry camping, so there are no electrical hookups.
Prices start from $25 per night. If you bring a motorhome or RV, the maximum length of a camper is 36ft.
Pets are allowed in the campground but must be kept on a leash and remain inside your tent or RV at night.
Unfortunately, the North Beach Campground does not offer Wi-Fi, but you’ll have a phone signal. The campground is within walking distance of Monarch Grove if you want to check out some butterflies.
Check-in is from 2 pm onwards, and check-out is noon, so you can get a morning swim in before you leave!
Address: 555 Pier Ave, Oceano, CA 93445
Located behind Pismo Beach and next to the Oceano Lagoon, Oceano Campground contains 82 camping sites. It’s a slightly longer walking trail to Pismo Beach, but you have two trails to choose from.
There’s a beautiful trail around the Oceano Lagoon too, which is popular for bird watching.
A great reason to stay here is that you don’t need to pay $5 for a day pass to visit the beach during the day, it’s included with your campsite.
Unlike North Beach Campground, Oceano offers sites with electrical hookups. Sites are usually priced at $25 for no electrical hookup or $40 with a hookup.
The campground also has useful amenities, such as a dump station, restrooms, and showers. The camping sites are well-spaced and offer a maximum occupancy of 8 people per site.
The campsite has a quiet policy that is enforced between 10 pm and 6 am to ensure everyone has an enjoyable experience.
The site also has trusted security 24/7, so you can feel safe throughout your stay. Pets are allowed in Oceano Campground but must remain on a leash and inside at night.
It’s important to note that there is a 36ft motorhome limit here! Like the North Beach Campground, check-in is at 2 pm, and check-out is at noon.
The campgrounds on the beach can get busy in the summer, and if they’re full, there are plenty of other options! Below we’ve got a couple of other campground options that are still close to the beach.
Address: 165 S Dolliver St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Located next to North Beach Campground, the Pismo Coast Village offers 400 full hookup sites with wireless internet access and cable TV.
While the site is very close to Pismo Beach, access to the beach is a slightly longer walk than the campgrounds mentioned above.
Slightly pricer than Oceano Campground, prices range from $74 to $91 per night depending on the time of year, but it’s reasonable if you want a swimming pool and arcade on site!
Address: 1001 Pacific Blvd, Oceano, CA 93445
Located next to Grover Beach Amtrak Station, Coastal Dunes is just north of Oceano Campground.
Within proximity of Pismo Beach, the campground offers 240-level grass sites that range from pull-thru, back-in, and hiker/biker campsites.
Prices range from $30 to $60, depending on whether you require full hookup or water access. The campground includes fire pits, picnic tables, restrooms, and hot showers!
Address: 6800 Lopez Dr, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420
If you like the beach nearby, but want a more chilled-out space to camp in, then Lopez Lake is perfect.
A 20-minute drive from Pismo Beach, Lopez Lake has 350 sites ranging from primitive camping to full hookups.
Offering 1000 acres of the lake surface, Lopez Lake has a tranquil vibe compared to the busy bustle of camping on Pismo Beach.
Prices range from $30 to $55 depending on the camping you need. The site also includes hot showers and restrooms.
Pismo Beach is open to camping all year round, and each season offers a different camping experience.
PS: I also have an in-depth guide on the camping seasons in the US and Canada.
This part of the Pismo Beach camping guide will give you an insight into the weather and temperatures to expect around the year.
Spring on Pismo Beach is when life is beginning to bloom. The weather is growing warmer, and rainy days have begun to reduce.
With temperatures ranging from highs of 65 ℉ to 70 ℉ and lows of 45 ℉ to 50 ℉, Pismo Beach offers perfect tent camping conditions.
On a related note, do check out my guide on the camping temperature ranges in the US and Canada. Now, back to our topic.
While rainfall is still likely, we’d recommend packing a rainfly. It’s common for serious fog to be present along the coast from May through to June, which can lead to some gloomy, cloudy weather.
In March, the San Luis Obispo International Film festival attracts thousands of visitors to Pismo beach, so ensure you book in advance if you’re likely to visit then.
Summer temperatures on Pismo Beach can get seriously hot, reaching highs of 89 ℉. The warmest month throughout the year is usually July when it could get seriously toasty inside your tent.
The upside is that you’re likely to expect little to no rainfall during summer, especially in August. It’s likely to still be cold at night, reaching lows of 56-60 ℉, so make sure you still pack for chilly nights.
Summer on Pismo Beach is peak season, so expect campgrounds to be busy, especially around the 4th of July.
September to November is the best time to camp on Pismo Beach. As the school holidays finish, the crowds start to thin.
The weather in September still reaches up to 80 ℉, but there’s less chance of fog than in the spring and summer.
As the season edges toward winter, you can expect temperatures to reach lows of 55 ℉ and rainfall to increase. Pack accordingly for colder nights, and ensure adequate waterproof tent protection.
During the winter months on Pismo Beach, it’s recommended to camp in a trailer or RV, as rainfall can be heavy and temperatures can get seriously cold (42 ℉).
Don’t let this put you off. Not only are there fewer crowds in camping areas, but winter also hosts a variety of wildlife unseen throughout the rest of the year.
Between November and February, Monarch Grove, which borders Pismo Beach, has the largest colony of monarch butterflies.
A beach guide wouldn’t be complete without a list of all the activities you can participate in. Pismo beach offers something for everyone, whether you like swimming, fishing, surfing, or wildlife watching.
Keep reading to find out what other activities the beach offers!
Pismo Beach spans 17 miles, so there’s plenty of space to get in the water. Summer sea temperatures can get up to 59 °F, which is nice and refreshing in the heat.
Lifeguards also work on a 1.5-mile stretch of the beach from Memorial day to Labor Day weekend.
Cycling is a popular activity in and around Pismo Beach. The beach offers a range of cycling routes from easy (16km) to difficult (95km).
If you haven’t got a bike, you can always rent one from one of the downtown stores.
With the sea at your fingertips, boating is a popular pastime on Pismo Beach. Pop by a sailing club or sign up for a boat tour to get out on the water!
You may even glimpse some aquatic wildlife, such as humpback whales, that call Pismo beach home.
Pismo Beach has a reputation for being a fantastic fishing destination. You could catch many species: barred surfperch, spotfin croaker, and striped seaperch.
You must purchase a license beforehand if you plan to fish from the shoreline or a boat.
Kayaking on Pismo Beach is a great way to explore the beach’s rocks, caves, cliffs, and coves. Several kayak companies offer rentals for a variety of prices.
You can find rentals at Central Coast Kayaks, Pismo Beach Dive Shop & Kayak Rentals, and Pismo Beach Surf Shop & Kayak Rentals.
Pismo Beach is a hub for surfing in the southern county, which is demonstrated in the surfing contests regularly held here throughout the year.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any surfing experience. Pismo beach has several surf schools to get you started!
7. Wildlife Watching
Wildlife on Pismo Beach is rich with diversity. In the water, you could be lucky enough to spot humpback whales migrating south, dolphin pods swimming, or even elephant seals.
It’s not only marine life that makes up Pismo Beach’s range of wildlife. The beach is known for birds, butterflies, and wild turkeys!
8. Horseback Riding
You can always go horseback riding if you fancy exploring the beach without getting in the water.
Offered in and around Pismo Beach, horseback riding allows you to explore the maze of dunes and wildlife’s abundant estuaries.
Pismo Beach is renowned for its attractions that offer something to do when the weather isn’t great or you get sick of the beach. Check out the nine best-rated attractions below.
1. Pismo Preserve
If you like hiking, then you have to check out Pismo Preserve. Within 900 acres are 11 miles of hiking trails for you to explore.
The trails range in difficulty, with popular trails for beginners (Pismo Discovery Trail) and more challenging routes with steeper inclines (Peekaboo Trail).
2. Avila Hot Springs
Near Avila Beach, the hot springs offer two pools. The first is a 400-square-foot freshwater swimming pool with water slides.
The second is a mineral pool heated to the wonderful temperature of 104℉, perfect for soaking your muscles! Prices range from $15 for a morning pass to $25 for an all-day one.
3. Beach Clam Festival
The Beach Clam Festival is the biggest event of the year in Pismo Beach. Every October, the festival attracts thousands of people to celebrate a community tradition that dates back to 1946.
The festival is an absolute hit with live music, countless local vendors, and food trucks. It’s also free!
4. Monarch Grove
South of the Pismo Pier, the Monarch Butterfly Grove is home to tens of thousands of monarch butterflies.
Overtaking the eucalyptus and pine trees, the butterflies are a wondrous sight. Also, you’ll be pleased to hear this attraction is also free!
5. Dinosaurs Cave Park
With a stunning 11 acres, the Dinosaurs Cave Park is open to the public and boasts beautiful coast views. A paved path along the park’s edge makes it easy to enjoy its stunning views.
If you’re visiting with the family, you’ll be pleased to know there’s a dinosaur-themed playground for the kids to burn off some energy.
6. Pismo Bowling
If the weather prevents you from venturing to the beach, there’s always entertainment at Pismo Bowling. Established in 1939, Pismo Bowl has a retro aesthetic that adds charm.
It’s $6 per game and $4.50 for shoes.
7. Oceano Dunes
The Oceano Dunes are a unique part of Pismo Beach, with white sandy hills and the backdrop of ocean views.
If you like a bit of off-roading, rent an ATV, motocross bike, or buggy and have some fun rolling around the dunes.
8. Spyglass Park
If you’re looking for a more relaxed park vibe, then Spyglass Park is the perfect spot.
The park has fantastic ocean views and a large grassy lawn in the center with playground equipment and barbecue pits. Great if you want to escape the sand for a day.
9. Palisades Park
North of downtown Palisades Park is another wonderful green park with spectacular shoreline views. Suited for all ages, the park has a children’s playground and public tennis courts.
You can also reserve picnic tables and barbecue pits here!
Pismo Beach is a marvelous place to camp, with different campsites to suit your needs, whatever time of year you intend to visit, and activities to keep you occupied no matter the weather.
We hope this guide has prepared you for a camping adventure unlike any other. Start planning your trip today!