Summer’s not the only season for camping. Families wanting to prolong the season need to head to coastal, temperate zones (bonus if they can find yurts or cabins at the campground). Family camping is economical, easy to plan, and often close to home! We’ve compiled a list of our favorite coastal campgrounds for families in the Pacific Northwest and California. At each of the following state campgrounds, you’ll find miles of beach, shady trails, ample camping space, and programs for kids. Check the websites below for exact pricing, but on average, California and Oregon state park fees are very reasonable (under $20 a night for tent camping and under $30 for hook-ups). Don’t forget hot cocoa and most importantly, the s’mores!
Sunset Bay State Park OR: Located just outside Coos Bay, Oregon on Highway 101, it’s safe to say Sunset Bay is my family’s favorite coastal campground. The sites are nestled in a beautiful forest just steps from the beach, flat, paved loops allow for perfect bike riding around camp, the showers are heated and facilities up-to-date, and the beach itself is gorgeous. Best of all, yurts are available (reserve far ahead!), as well as two additional state parks within easy hiking distance.
Cape Blanco State Park, OR: The beacon of the Cape Blanco lighthouse welcomes campers to this windswept section of Oregon’s pacific coast, where rugged cliffs and high coastal plains lead from Highway 101 to the campground. The sites overlook the beach and light with lots of space for kids to play and explore. All sites are first-come, first-served at this park, but there are four rustic cabins that can be reserved ahead of time. I’ve never seen this park truly crowded, and love the stark beauty of the storm-battered coast along this exposed shore. In season, families can take a lighthouse tour, too!
Harris Beach State Park, OR: One of our favorite beaches for its natural beauty and natural playground qualities for kids, Harris Beach is located just north of Brookings, Oregon (again, on Highway 101). Kids love to explore the rock formations along the cliff sides of this beach, as well as the creek that feeds into it from the nearby campground. I love that the campground has plenty of sites, and is on the bluff overlooking the beach, giving campers wonderful views of the ocean (and keeping day crowds away from the sites). The town of Brookings is near enough to offer conveniences, but far enough removed that families truly feel away from it all. And like Sunset Bay, yurts are available to rent (but be sure to reserve early!).
Navarro River Redwoods State Park: This gorgeous state park just off scenic Highway 1 near Albion in Mendocino County boasts beachcombing, swimming, picnicking, and camping at Paul M. Demmick campground. The redwoods here are fantastic: in summer, you’ll be cocooned in a shady bower (when you’re not seeking the sunshine on the beach), and kids love playing in and around these massive trees while at the campground. For a fun way to spend the day, venture to the Russian river for a swim!
San Onofre State Beach, CA: This sunny California beachside state park near the city of San Cemente offers sunbathing, surfing, and boogie-boarding in addition to San Mateo Campground, which lies one mile away via sandy trail. The pros of this camping experience are many: think blue skies, warm evenings, and beautiful surf. There are, however cons: the proximity of both the freeway (I-5) and Amtrak train tracks are definitely annoying, and the beach can certainly get crowded in summer. With 3.5 miles of sand at your disposal however, you’re sure to find a place to lay your beach towels!