Can You Still Camp at Pismo Beach for Free?
Pismo Beach and its stunning dunes have been a popular free camping spot in California over the years. Between the gorgeous scenery, outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, and one-of-a-kind wildlife, it’s a part of the Central Coast you shouldn’t miss.
But can you still roll up in your RV and stay overnight without having to pay? Join us as we take a closer look at the rules and costs of camping at Pismo Beach.
Where Can You Camp at Pismo Beach for Free?
Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for all campsites within the official boundaries of Pismo State Beach. This is a change from even just a few years ago when free camping was available for RVers at the park’s North Beach campground during the offseason.
These days, North Beach sites cost $25 per night in the offseason. No hookups are available at these sites, either. The beach’s other option, Oceano Campground, costs $40 per night for sites with hookups or $25 for those without during the offseason. Prices increase during peak times.
Are There Other Costs?
Beyond the cost of your site itself, those reserving a spot will be responsible for a $7.99 reservation fee. Additionally, you’ll pay a $10 fee if you want to use the campground’s dump station. Hot showers available at campgrounds are also coin-operated.
Do You Need Reservations for Pismo Beach?
If you’re planning on camping at Pismo Beach during peak season (May 15 through Nov. 30), you’ll need reservations. Do so on ReserveCalifornia.com or through the state’s phone reservation service (1-800-444-7275).
You can book up to six months in advance. However, you have to book a minimum of 48 hours in advance.
Are There Other Camping Options?
Camping is not permitted on the beach in the city of Pismo Beach, only in the designated areas at the State Beach to the south of the town itself. However, the area around the city and the state beach has several other camping options available.
These include the nearby Pacific Dunes Ranch RV Resort, located just off the shore amid magnificent dunes. Those looking for more amenities and a great location can try out the Holiday RV Park, which offers a pool, spa, and clubhouse, as well as easy access to downtown. Just to the north of the city, you’ll find the Avila/Pismo Beach KOA, which offers full hookups, a pool and hot tub, a dog park, and even mini-golf.
Pro Tip: Here are our favorite campsites near Pismo Beach.
Should You Camp at Pismo State Beach?
If you’re looking for a beautiful and relatively affordable campground and don’t need a lot of frills, Pismo State Beach is an excellent choice for camping.
It’s also a fantastic spot for wildlife lovers and home to the country’s largest over-wintering colony of Monarch butterflies from November through February. It’s the origin of the famous Pismo clam. Pismo is a popular bird-watching spot, as well.
The main attraction here is, of course, the beach itself. It’s a popular spot for fishing and surfing, as well as simply relaxing by the water. Beyond the gorgeous beach, Pismo State Beach offers a popular visitor center with exhibits on the area and its natural inhabitants.
You can also enjoy a variety of hiking and horse trails. Pismo is the only beach in California where you can drive your vehicle along the shore.
Pismo Beach is Worth the Fee
While the days of free camping at Pismo Beach may be over, that’s no reason to skip a trip to this special place. Both hookup and no-hookup sites in the two campgrounds are still relatively affordable.
Plus, you have a variety of options outside the state beach as well. So whether you’re budget-minded or focused on staying close to the beach itself, it’s worth planning a trip today. Have you ever visited Pismo Beach? What was your favorite part?
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