California is famous for its glorious beaches, so it’s no surprise that it sees hundreds of thousands of visitors along its coast each year. With over 420 public beaches along the California coast, it can be difficult to determine which ones allow you to stay overnight. Don’t worry. Below we’ve got a comprehensive guide to some of the beaches and coastlines you can sleep on in California.
Laguna Beach, Ocean Cove Beach, Refugio State Beach, Oceano Dunes, The Lost Coast, Big Sur, Thornhill Broome Beach, Morro Bay State Beach, Bolsa Chica State Beach, and Marshall Beach are all beaches or coasts that offer spectacular overnight stays on the beach in California.
Each beach offers a different overnight experience. Keep reading to find out why these beaches are so special for an overnight stay, as well as discover what factors you might have to consider to stay on them!
California offers a fantastic variety of beaches, whether you’re looking for somewhere more secluded or with endless activities.
Whatever your preference, one of our beaches below will tick your boxes and be the perfect spot to rest your head.
For more general laws on beach camping, do check out my guide on the beach camping regulations in the US.
1. Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach is a small city located in Orange County. It’s a luxury coastal destination that combines beach life with city convenience.
While the city and beach mix might seem odd, we can assure you that Laguna Beach is a testament to how city and beach life can work.
In Laguna Beach, you’ll need to camp in a designated campground to sleep on the beach. We’d recommend the Moro Campground, located directly on the coast.
With the sea footsteps away and beautiful coast views, you can’t go wrong.
2. Ocean Cove Beach
Ocean Cove Beach is the perfect spot for those who prefer a more secluded beach stay.
Located within a rocky cove, Ocean Cove Beach is a great way to escape the usual hustle and bustle that most California beaches experience.
Ocean Cove Beach is rocky, unlike typical beaches, but its location offers superb fishing.
Camping on the beach is prohibited due to the tides, but you can pitch up in Ocean Cove Beach Campground on the cliff above the beach.
Due to unpredictable weather during the winter, the beach is only accessible from April to November.
If you’re looking for a great beach tent to pitch one in your favorite spot, my guide on the best beach camping tents will help you out.
3. Refugio State Beach
Refugio State Beach is the perfect beach to sleep on if you’re looking for a calmer camping vibe.
Offering beautiful hikes and excellent coastal fishing, Refugio is a great base to explore the wonderful outdoors that California’s coast has to offer.
Since Refugio is a protected state beach park, you must pay park fees to sleep on the beach or camp in a designated camping ground.
If you want to spend the night on Refugio Beach, we recommend checking out Refugio State Beach Campground.
Not only does the campground offer camping directly on the beach, but it also offers handy campsite amenities and guided kayak tours!
4. Oceano Dunes
Oceano Dunes is a wonderful way to explore California’s coastal dunes. While also offering wondrous views of the sea, it offers a variety of alternative activities, such as ATVs or sand buggy riding.
Sleeping on Oceano Dunes is simple. You can either camp in the State Vehicular Recreation Area for free or in a designated campground for a small fee, depending on your required amenities.
It’s the perfect spot for anyone searching for a beach that doubles as an activity hub, be prepared to make a load of new friends!
5. The Lost Coast
The Lost Coast is an undeveloped space along the California coast that combines wonderful forest stretches alongside beautiful untouched beaches.
Measuring around 25 miles long, the Lost Coast offers a variety of spots to sleep on the beach.
While backcountry camping along the Lost Coast will require a permit, you can easily find many campgrounds directly on the beach.
Shelter Cove RV Campground, Usal Beach Campground, and Mattole Campground are all positioned within the sand’s reach.
6. Thornhill Broome Beach
Located in Malibu, Thornhill Broome Beach can be found in Point Mugu State Beach. A pebble beach surrounded by rocky coves, Thornhill offers scenic views and plenty of hikes.
To sleep on Thornhill, you’ll need to camp in a designated campground. We’d recommend Thornhill Broome Campground, which offers tent sites right on the beach.
Since the beach is particularly rocky, ensure you bring an extra roll mat or inflatable mattress!
7. Morro Bay State Beach
North of Morro Bay lies Morro Bay State Beach. Stretching over 3 miles, Morro Bay Beach offers spectacular views and hosts a diverse array of wildlife.
Due to the breezy winds that hit the beach, Morro Bay Beach attracts numerous kitesurfing, surfing, and windsurfing enthusiasts.
To sleep on the beach, you’ll need to camp in a designated campground, usually priced around $35 a night.
Morro Dunes RV Park and Morro Strand State Beach Campground are great spots to pitch right by the sea.
8. Bolsa Chica State Beach
Attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, Bolsa Chica State Beach is a summer hot spot.
Located in Orange County, Bolsa Chica offers everything you could imagine for the perfect summer vacation, with surfing, fishing, and many other activities right at your fingertips.
The only hitch with Bolsa Chica is that to sleep on the beach, you’ll need to be in an RV.
If this isn’t an issue, we recommend checking out one of the RV parks directly on the sand, such as Bolsa Chica Campground. You’re sure to feel the ocean breeze from any site at this campground.
9. Marshall Beach
Another great secluded beach spot is Marshall Beach, located near the Golden Gate Bridge.
Renowned as one of the best beaches in San Francisco, Marshall Beach offers spectacular bird watching, adventurous hikes, and glorious views of the Pacific.
To sleep on the beach, you’ll need to obtain a valid camping permit, which is only available for those arriving by water. Be aware that the beach can only be reached by hiking during the day or by boat.
10. Big Sur
Big Sur is a wonderful 23-mile stretch of coast located between Carmel and San Simeon.
Dotted along Big Sur is a variety of diverse beaches offering something for everyone, whether you’re into surfing or prefer a sandy hike.
While some of the beaches along Big Sur prohibit overnight camping, plenty of beaches allow it. One of our favorites is Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park which allows you to camp within minutes of the coast.
Another is Limekiln State Park which offers beautiful redwoods on one side and stunning ocean views on the other.
With so many beaches along the California coast, it can be tough to work out which ones you can legally spend the night on.
We hope this article has given you some ideas about which beaches you can sleep on in California.
If you’re wondering about other beaches, always check online first to ensure you can pitch up to avoid picking up a fine or camping somewhere dangerous.