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Pacific Coast Highway Campground Reviews

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San Simeon

Limekiln

Kirk Creek

Andrew Molera

New Brighton

Half Moon Bay

Standish Hickey

Wright's Beach

Bodega Dunes

Mill Creek

California Highway 88

Mendocino Camping

Other Campgrounds

Limekiln State Park

California's Pacific Coast Highway - Google Map

Link to see a custom Google Map of our pictures along the California's Pacific Coast Highway
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San Simeon Campground Elephant Seal Yelling

San Simeon Campground

San Simeon State Park includes includes the Santa Rosa Creek Natural Preserve, the San Simeon Natural Preserve and the Pa-nu Cultural Preserve. The San Simeon Campground is down a short road from the Pacific Coast Highway and the Pacific Ocean. The campground has two sections: San Simeon Creek and Washburn. San Simeon Creek is closest to the ocean and costs more per night, $25 vs. $15 per night. The sites are similar, but campers at the more expensive side have access to bathrooms with running water and showers. Campers at Washburn are reminded they do not have access to the showers. The good news is the porta potties are very clean.

The sites are nicely spaced. All have grassy areas to put your tent up on. They are all primarily sunny, with some straggly coastal trees throughout the park.

Make your camping reservations using Reserve USA. When we made our reservations in mid-May, there were still sites available for the next weekend.

There is plenty to do in the area. Visit the Elephant seals that rest on the beaches nearby. In the winter the males are fighting for females and the pups are born. The pubs remain until early summer. Check the Friends of the Elephant Seals website for information about how many seals are likely to be there when you visit. Don't forget to make reservations in advance (way in advance) to tour Hearst Castle.

Limekiln campground Limekiln campground beach

Limekiln State Park

Limekiln State Park is 56 miles south of Carmel, two miles south of Lucia. The campground is small, just 28 sites. One third are in a dirt parking lot just yards from the ocean. The rest are in a breathtakingly beautiful redwood fern canyon.

The campsites are relatively close together, but there are very few of them. The forested sites are placed on both sides of the creek. The ocean sites are not very attractive, but they are just steps from the ocean.

Make your camping reservations using Reserve USA. In mid-May, there were still sites available mid-week, but no weekend sites were left.

The beach is relatively small, the covered with very small rocks rather than sound. Signs warn that it the ocean is rough and swimming is not advised. Large cliffs rise up from both ends of the beach and jut into the ocean. As a result, the beach is well protected from the wind.

There are three short hikes from the campground. They are all less than half a mile one way. The fork to the right follows one branch of the creek to the lovely little waterfall pictured above. The fork to the left leads to a large waterfall and historic limekilns. You have to cross the creek (walk in the water) several times to see the waterfall. The ranger will give you a map when you come it. Plan to pay $6 per car unless you camped at a state park the previous night.

Kirk Creek Campground

Kirk Creek Campground

Kirk Creek Campground is in the Los Padres National Forest. The campground is located 35 miles north of San Simeon State Park. They may not sound like it is too far from civilizations, but it takes longer than you think to drive on Highway One. Kirk Creek campground sits on the bluffs above the ocean. Some are more sheltered by trees than others. Shelter is important if it is windy.

The campsites are first come - first serve. During the summer they fill up mid-morning on Friday for the weekend. Bathrooms have running water.

Andrew Molera Campground

Andrew Molera at Big Sur

Andrew Molera campsites near Big Sur are a mile from the parking area. They are all first come-first serve, so there is hope of grabbing a spot on a busy weekend if you get their by mid-Friday. We used back packs to haul our gear to the site. Other car camping types made many, many trips to the car.

It was nice to find a campsite but I don't think I would go back. The campsites are in an open, dusty meadow full of dinner eating creatures. Even after storing our food in the food locker provided, much of it was gone by the end of a day of hiking. It would be a fine park if you wanted to hang out on the near-by beach and hike, but we wanted to sightsee.

New Brighton Campsite Fishing at Del Mar Pier New Brighton State Beach

New Brighton State Park and Beach

New Brighton State Beach is six miles south of Santa Cruz. Only a few minutes away unless it is rush hour. The campground sits on the bluffs above the north end of this very long beach. You can walk on it for almost five miles. Some of the campsites are right on the bluff, so you can see the ocean from your tent. You can hear the ocean from all of the campsites.

The campsites are fairly close together, except for some prime ocean view spots. Many of them are under the shade of tall cypress trees. There is not very much vegetation. The road that connect the campsites is level, paved and good for little bike riders. There are ranger led campfires on the weekends and a nice visitor center that highlights the migration of both people and whales into the area.

The walk to the beach is a short, but very steep. People who struggle walking or families with too much stuff, drive down to the beach and park at sea level. Depending on the weather, the water can be calm or have swells large enough to surf on. Many folks boogie board. There are no tide pool areas. There are some fire rings on the beach and the restrooms have running water.

This is a large campground with brand new bathrooms with lights, running water and showers. Despite their newness, and maybe because the campground is so large, they were rarely clean during our visits. There are few mosquitoes. At the shoreline you will see seals, sea lions, dolphins and diving pelicans. While we were there in July there were schools of little fish that the pelicans and dolphins were chasing after. They put on quite a show.

Reservations: Campsites can be reserved starting on January 2nd through Reserve America. Make your reservations early as this campground is near the Bay Area and is a very popular weekend get-away. Expect it to be reserved from May through September. It was completely reserved for the Memorial Day weekend by 11 am on January 2nd.

Weather: New Brighton is on the northern California Coast. Expect costal fog all summer, and warm days in the early fall. It can be very pleasant even in the winter. The water is warmer than north of San Francisco, but it is by no means warm. Kids will be able to play in the water, but only a few adults will last long.

Half Moon Bay Campground Half Moon Bay State Beach

Half Moon Bay State Beach Campground

Half Moon Bay State Beach and Campground are just south of the town of Half Moon Bay along Highway One in California. This popular campground is right on the Pacific ocean, but only a few sites have a view of the ocean. That is probably good, because in the summer the wind can really blow off the ocean and the sites have no trees or shrubs, just grass. Expect difficult weather in the summer. It will be either foggy or windy or both, as is much of the northern California coast in the summer.

The campsites very close together. Each site has the standard picnic table and fire ring and all of the sites had space for 3 cars. It feels a bit like camping in a parking lot. The restroom are clean and new with pay as you go showers. Campsites can be reserved through Recreation.gov

The white sandy beach is unprotected so the waves are large. It is very near the internationally famous Mavericks Annual Surf competition. This beach is all sand. If you want to tide pool, visit the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, just north of the harbor.

Wright's Beach Campsite Bodega Dunes Campground

Sonoma Coast State Beaches

The California, Sonoma Coast State Beach has four campground associated with it. All four can be reserved through Reserve America.

Wright's Beach sits literally on the beach. Campsites have some shrubs and small trees to break the wind. This aerial photo shows their layout. The beach is long and sandy.

Bodega Dunes campground much larger and although it is very close to Bodega Bay, you will probably get into a car to drive out to the coast to play. Nearby you will find rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, Goat Rock, the towns of Bodega Bay and Jenner, the Russian River and the Korbel winery.

We did not visit Willow Creek Environmental Camp and Pomo Canyon Environmental Camp.

These campgrounds are on the Northern California coast so the ocean is cold and the weather is foggy in the summer and nice in the fall. Plan for cold nights any time of year.

Shandish-Hickey Campground

Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area and Campground

Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area and Campground is on the South Fork of the Eel River along Highway 101, north of Ukiah in California. Its location is convenient if you need a place to stop while on the way north from the Bay Area or if you are looking for a spot to swim and play.

There are many swimming holes along the Eel River and plenty of places to hike. The weather is hot and dry in the summer. Make reservations for Standish-Hinkey using Recreation.gov

Mill Creek Campsite Azalea in the Redwoods

Mill Creek Campground

Mill Creek Campground is part of Del Norte Coast Redwoods Park, south of Crescent City. We camped there Memorial Day weekend with only a week's notice. It was one of the few places with sites left. The campground is 1,200 feet above sea level and it looks like it is consistently 10-15 degrees colder than nearby, lower elevation parks. While we were there, it was not only colder, but wetter. We endured a drenching spring rainstorm. Considering how lush and green the park is, I imagine that happens a lot.

The Mill Creek campground is a couple of miles from the road, so it is very quiet. The campsites are surrounded by old growth redwoods and the azaleas were blooming. There are many trails throughout the park. Beach access is at least seven miles away. To the south, visit Patrick's Point State Park, Redwoods National Park and Eureka. To the north, enjoy the beautiful, rocky Oregon coastline.

Getting There: The Campground is 7 miles south of Crescent City, California. The campground entrance is 1.5 miles east of the highway and the campground is still another mile after entrance. The park sign says in capital letters "MILL CREEK CAMPGROUND" and in small letters "Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park". Make reservations for Del Norte State Park using Recreation.gov

Mendocino Campgrounds

Van Damme

MacKerricher Campground

Navarro River Redwoods State Park, Pual Dimmick Campground

About the Mendocino Coast

California Campgrounds

California Highway 88

Pacific Coast Highway

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