There are few more tranquil activities than taking a drive to a beach, pitching a tent, and letting the somniferous swell of the ocean surf lull you into peaceful sleep. But a lot of times, just because the campground site has "beach" in the title, doesn't mean you can actually set up nearby for the night. Here, then, are my favorite five camping sites on the California coast that actually offer close proximity to the beach.
San Clemente State Beach
About halfway between L.A. and San Diego is San Clemente State Beach, which includes 142 different beach-adjacent campsites. Just make sure to get a reservation in advance, as the campground gets super popular during the summer.
San Elijo State Beach
Down on the San Diego coast is San Eligo. Along with the standard natural beauty of the Pacific coast, there is also a reef that divers or snorkelers can explore.
Doheny State Beach
Located in Dana Point, the southern end of Doheny State Beach includes campgrounds with sites only a few steps removed from the beach proper. However, if you're going during peak season, expect a crowd. The beach attracts almost one million visitors a year.
Carpinteria State Beach
Twelve miles south of Santa Barbara, this state beach offers a full mile of sand for swimming, tide pool exploring, and camping. From December through May, it also offers occasional glimpses of gray whales as they make their migratory journey.
Leo Carrillo State Park
One of the favorites for L.A. weekend warriors, Leo Carrillo is just a short drive up Highway 1, and offers 1.5 gorgeous miles of beach for recreation, as well as a number of campsites to use. Again: A reservation is wise.