We've done a lot of camping over the years but, until recently, hadn't looked close to home in Orange County. Here are some suggestions if you want to get off by yourself or out with the crowd in the OC.
State Park Beach Camping - can be booked through Reserve America and they are sold out every single night during summer and spring vacation but definitely worth the effort.
Go to their website and check out what each park has to offer - you will not be disappointed
Bolsa Chica Beach and Wetlands (across PCH) - is our favorite place to go surfing. JJ is a good (not great-yet) surfer and the waves at Bolsa are just perfect. Joe and I love to take him there because we always see a pod of dolphin and precisions of pelicans fishing just over the top of the water in perfect rows. You can build a fire and cook in the provided pits but there are snack shacks with great food and plenty of showers and restrooms (clean restrooms!!!). Most weekends there are folks set up renting surfboards and giving lessons. Do give it a try….it is a lot harder than it looks! But there is no turning back once you catch your first wave! The state currently charges $10.00 to park all day but once you leave that's it…no coming back for free. Do try to take a walk across PCH to the wetlands. There is always an amazing variety of birds that stop for a break as they migrate along the flyway. Bolsa has a huge RV camping facility with everything you need to settle in for a week or stop for the night. You must have reservations so contact www.reserveamerica.com to book your reservations as early as possible. You can reach Bolsa by exiting the 405 on Bolsa Chica going west and then taking a right on Warner to PCH and turn right again.
Crystal Cove State Beach - In 1979 the State of California purchased approximately 3,000 acres and some beach cottages from the Irvine Company and then it took 20 years to evict the people living in them. In June 2006 Reserve America began taking reservations for the newly renovated cottages. Each year there are more available…but reservations are nearly impossible to acquire as more and more people hear about them. Give it a try - at $150-$200 per night these cottages are considered the gem of the coast. I cannot believe I shared this…now I will NEVER get one! Go to www.reserveamerica.com to TRY to get reservations…on the first day of each month, the sixth month out becomes available - so 1/1 all of July becomes available. They also have camping for REAL campers. You hike back up steep trails, carrying in everything you need including water. The strenuous trail reportedly takes 2-6 hours but believe me, no one in my family can speak to that as fact! Make sure you are booking the right thing when you contact Reserve America - they have different pages for cottages and camping!
Doheny State Beach - is a great place to learn to surf because the waves are small, well spaced and conditions are predictable. The bottom is full of rocks so it is also one of the worst places to learn to surf if you don't have booties for your feet. Surf fishing is also very popular in this area with some excellent results! We often rent a spot at this beach for a large crowd. You get barbeques, a fire pit and a big plot of grass right up against the boardwalk and the beach. They have volleyball, snack bars, rest rooms and equipment to rent including surreys. Stay out of the way if my family is having a race! Doheny also has camping at the south end of the park and it has been voted by 'reader's choice' as best camping in the country. You need reservations so go online to www.reserveamerica.com as soon as possible to make sure you are not disappointed as this is probably the best beach camping in the southland. They have everything you need for whatever type of camping you do and the atmosphere is pure FUN!
San Clemente State Beach - located south of town and is very popular with surfers and skin divers as well as hikers. You can also go skin diving for lobster! The campgrounds are located up on the cliff and there are trails cut into the bluff for beach access. This campground would require real vigilance for families with small children and can be booked by contacting www.reserveamerica.com as soon as you possibly can. You can get great views of whales and other sea creatures as they migrate up and down the coast.
San Onofre State Beach - is a 3,000 acre scenic coastal canyon park divided into three areas. San Onofre Bluffs offers camping and day use parking adjacent to the sandstone bluffs. The beach below is accessed by rugged dirt trails. Campsites are a bit rugged with cold outdoor showers and chemical toilets and no hookups. You still need to book ahead with www.reserveamerica.com The San Onofre Surf Beach offers a world class surf break for day use only. There are portable toilets. The San Onofre/San Mateo Campground is across the freeway and inland about three miles. San Mateo Creek flows by the campground to the sea and the wetlands are home to many endangered species. This campground has it all, hookups, flush toilets, hot showers, fire pits and picnic tables but it is really hot here in the summer and the marines practice drills and maneuvers nearby with the helicopters creating a dust nightmare. Down at the very end of the beach there is a clothing optional area (naturist beach) located on about 600 feet of beach leased from the marines at Camp Pendleton. I understand the first time you try sunbathing in this fashion you better use a bunch of sunscreen!!
Orange County City Beach Camping -
Huntington Beach - (Surf City) is changing every single day and that's why we just love to visit. Already well know for surfing, volleyball and extreme sporting events as well as the best 4th of July celebration on the coast - Surf City reinvents itself each season. The newest attraction is the romantic Sunset Gondola Ride which runs about $80.00 for two people (I understand this is a fabulous way to propose to your sweetie) and takes you on a tour around the six islands that make up Sunset and Huntington Harbor. Parking is available but don't forget to pay at the station before you take off to enjoy the sights! Walk out on the pier and watch the surfers in and around the pilings and have lunch at Ruby's Diner. Ruby's has great food and atmosphere - you can also find them on the piers at Newport and Seal Beach as well many other locations. (Try a chocolate shake and some onion rings!) Camping right on the beach in Huntington at Sunset Vista RV Park is amazing but available only October 1 - May 31st. Nice discount for seniors so be sure to ask. They do not take walk in or call in reservations so book online at www.surfcity-hb.org and expect to pay about $60.00 per night.
Private Parks Beach Camping
Newport Dunes RV Park - this is an amazing '5 star' approach to camping. They have thought of absolutely everything to make your 'recreational' stay memorable in the OC! Take Jamboree to Back Bay Drive for tent luxury RV accommodations -located on the Newport Harbor Back Bay this place is fabulous! Call them directly to get a quote and make reservations at 949 729-3863.
County Wilderness Parks
Casper's Wilderness Park - is Orange County's largest park with over 8,000 acres. Camping is available for RVs, tents and trailers and there are even equestrian accommodations at Starr Mesa campgrounds. Book with ocparks.com and do book early as reservations go fast!
O'Neil Wilderness Park - is located in Trabucco and Live Oak Canyons and offers camping, RV and trailer accommodations. It is located inland from the ocean but the old growth live oak and sycamore trees are beautiful and the quite, serene setting is really lovely. Book with ocparks.com and remember the creeks are dry and it is quite hot during summer months.
click in emergency
Orange County has it's share of emergencies and campers have a headstart in any situation requiring them to evacuate their lodging. Take a look at our emergency page for these rare, but critical, situations.
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