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5 Best Camping Beaches in California to Hang Your Hammock Tent

Camping in the beach provides a different kind of experience quite different from that of camping in the mountains or in the woods.

…Imagine yourself swaying gently in your hammock, with the palm leaves dancing to the salty breeze from the sea above you. Imagine listening to the almost hypnotic and timed lapping of the waves into the sandy shore, as the whole surrounding is drenched in crimson light from the setting sun…

...Imagine cooking in the fire pit or grilling sea food or barbecue in the fire grill, and then gathering around the camp fire telling stories and sharing laughter with the rest of the family before settling for the night in your hammock tent, letting the peaceful sound of the waves and night insect send you to sleep…

These dreamy images are what encourages many families to go and spend day and night at the beach, the same images that you will be sure to see and experience in some of California's most popular camping beaches.

Refugio State Beach

Blue skies, fresh sea breeze, warm sun and peaceful crashing of the waves make for a great morning by the beach. ©ars5017 on Flickr

This is one of the most popular camping sites located in Santa Barbara County, south of California.

Unlike most beaches, Refugio State Beach is one of the few remaining underdeveloped beaches in the state, so being here gives you the chance to experience a slice of the old California – raw and pure and pristine. California through my Lens and Evan Thomas (TravelGrom) offer some great shots and photos of the place. The sandy shores which are lined with date trees and palm trees are almost always filled with other beach goers and day users, along with coastal fishermen, bird watchers and other overnight campers.

There are about 60 camping sites in the area, and the best part is that they are all within walking distance to the beach. Necessary amenities were put up in the place to make camping experiences more convenient, like flush toilets and showers. Picnic tables and fire rings are also available for use, most of them under the shade of palm trees to make sure that meals are cool and comfortable.

There are many things to do in Refugio Beach. Aside from the regular swimming activities, you can also do some hiking and cycling in and around the area. Kayaking is another famous activity in the place where you will get to paddle alongside playful porpoises or get to see migrating whales passing by while gulls and other sea birds hover above you.

San Elijo State Beach

Sunsets are just the beginning of what can be a fun and wonderful night at the camp. ©Steve Holden on Flickr

San Elijo State Beach in San Diego, California gets almost half a million visitors each year, so it will be wise to make reservations well ahead of time in order to secure one of the over 150 camping sites available. Camp ground amenities include flush toilets and showers together with the usual picnic tables and fire grills.

There are many activities that can be enjoyed in the area. It has a gently sloping beach which is nice for a walk and some fun in the sand. There is also swimming and surfing available, and nearby is a reef that is great for diving and snorkeling. Also, do visit the San Elijo Lagoon, an ecological preserve that houses beautiful birds like herons and egrets and other coastal birdlife.

San Clemente State Beach

Hiking to the lookout points offers fantastic views of the blue ocean – so blue in fact that it can be difficult to say where the water ends and the sky begin. ©Paul Hamilton on Flickr

The beach is located in the southern end of San Clemente City in Orange County. This is another one of California's most famous beaches and has been so since the late 1930s, receiving more or less 2,000,000 visitors annually. The sandy shores of the beach stretch for more or less a mile which makes it for a great walks even with your dogs (dogs are allowed in the park as long as they are on leash.) The Campsite has some great pictures of the place along with a detailed map of the camping grounds.

There are many things to do in this beautiful beach. For one, it is very famous among many surfers because of the great waves and breaks in the area, ranging from easy to challenging. There is also an abundance of wildlife in the area which makes for great wildlife viewing. The ravines and canyon shrubs you may see gray foxes or raccoons. Bird life like hummingbirds, green parrots and even great horned owls can be spotted flying over the area.

Carpinteria State Beach

Seals, sea lions and other marine animals are some of the main attractions in Carpinteria State Beach. ©Myrna Litt on Flickr

This is one of the larger campsites in the area, with over two hundred sites dedicated for overnight camping. Because of its size, it is divided into four different sections: Ana Capa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel. Do know that out of these four, only Ana Capa and Santa Cruz are to be used for tent camping, while the other two are for RVs. Santa Cruz though is much preferred between the two since it actually allows you to camp facing the beach, just like having your own beachfront property.

There are picnic tables and fire rings and some other amenities as well like dump stations and a nearby camp store. The moderate all year climates make it a wonderful escape from the volatile temperatures of the surrounding metropolitan areas. Aside from the fantastic views of the beach, there is also a panoramic view of the mountains.

There are many things to see and do in the area. For instance, there are bikes and skates for rent, and there are paths available for walking like the Carpinteria Beach trail. You can walk to the Tar Pits Park or the estuary and visit its rare and beautiful resident birds.

You can also expect to see a lot of marine animals here. You can see seals, sea lions and dolphins along with an occasional gray whale. Don't be surprised if you suddenly see a crab, a starfish, a sea anemone, or even and sea urchins while walking on the shore.

El Capitan State Beach

One of the best things about this site is that it is located amongst many trees, giving you the combined view of woods and the ocean in front. There are about 140 campsites, but they tend to fill up fast especially during the peak seasons, summers and even weekends. There are also bluffs and cliffs, along with rock tide pools which add to the dramatic effect of the place. The warm waters of the beach are perfect for swimming, even for kids.

There are amenities like flush toilets and coin-operated showers, and Laundromats even; so despite being sheltered under the canopy of trees you can still have a taste of the convenience of modern life. Of course, there are also picnic tables and fire grills in the area. There is a small convenience store nearby should you need anything, although they are usually in business only during the peak season.

If you are lucky you will see some of the wildlife in the area like elephant seals, sea lions, and even dolphins swimming and playing in the water.

There are many things to do in El Capitan State Beach and the surrounding areas. You can go swimming, kayaking, fishing, or surfing. For land activities you can try horseback riding, mountain biking or hiking. You will never run out of fun things to do in the area...

Camping by the beach, swaying in your hammock tents and watching the day end as the sun sets over the sea is one of the best ways to end the perfect day, especially so when you have your family with you. After all, the fun in any activity is not about the place itself, but rather who you spend it with and how.

Happy Camping!

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