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Ventura Beach Camping

Discover Ventura County's beachside camping spots!

Photo of the Pacific Ocean from the beach in Ventura, California In between Los Angeles County on the south, and Santa Barbara on the north, you'll find the pleasant county of Ventura.

There are 3 state beaches in Ventura which offer outdoors-lovers the opportunity to enjoy a stay along the Pacific Ocean's shore. These are the McGrath State Beach campgrounds, the Emma Wood State Beach RV campground, and the Point Mugu State Park.

Each of these campgrounds offers guests a certain similarity. All three are located in less-populated areas than the campgrounds further south; you'll feel more "isolated" here and have less competition for your spot on the sands with day-use visitors. However, there are also distinct differences between these 3 camping areas. On this page, we'll talk about the experiences you may have if you choose one of these campsites.

Ventura Beach Camping--McGrath State Beach

Photo of a sheltered tent camping site at McGrath State Beach in Ventura County, CaliforniaMcGrath State Beach Campground was scheduled by lawmakers to close in 2012---but was SAVED by citizen action and donations! Panic ensued for fans of California beach camping when the state placed McGrath on its list of campground closures (due to the budget crisis.) The McGrath Campground was scheduled to close sometime between January and July, 2012.

However, fans of McGrath banded together to keep McGrath's chances for reopening alive! The McGrath campground was placed on the closure list NOT due to its lack of popularity; as you may know, many people love & use the McGrath beach campground. The reason had to do with some expensive upgrades the park needs to make to its restrooms & sewage facilities.

However, park fan 'Save McGrath Cindy' rallied up a "McGrath Army" who helped secure a federal grant, private donations, and Oxnard & Ventura County donations...and they were able to save McGrath from closing! There was a Grand Re-Opening Ceremony for McGrath on June 30, 2012...and now happy beach camping-fans are busy enjoying McGrath once more. Be sure to keep up on all the latest news on Cindy's Save McGrath State Beach page on Facebook! Unfortunately, despite the heroic efforts of so many people, problems still plague the McGrath State Beach campground. But why?

McGrath State Beach Campground closes seasonally due to flooding! If you're heading to McGrath SB Campground, ALWAYS check the state park's website or the Reserve America site for the latest information on flood conditions. Unfortunately, 2013 has been a very bad year for flooding at McGrath. In fact, just about the entire summer season was a wash-out (literally.) Only the Labor Day weekend managed to be salvaged (with closures again right after Labor Day for making repairs.) If you'd like to see pictures of the 2013 flooding, here's a link to "Save McGrath Cindy's" Facebook photo page which has several dozen startling pictures of McGrath SB campground flooding.

In 2012 & 2013, the problems have seemed to be endless for poor, beloved McGrath. But, most years have fared better, and surely the future is looking good for a final resolution of the campground's problems. We'll assume that the camping seasons will go much more smoothly in the next few years, and so you'll find a list of campground amenities & contact information in the following paragraphs (to help you prepare for your upcoming campouts.)

McGrath Campground Amenities

The McGrath State Beach camping area is a good, general-purpose family campground. Topping the list of amenities that everyone enjoys is the campground's bathroom facilities. Parents, in particular, enjoy is the fact that McGrath State Beach has flush toilets and showers, which makes it much easier to get the brood clean and ready for bed after spending a day at the beach. Another "plus" is that McGrath is somewhat "away from it all," yet is still close to town. If you need supplies, just hop in the car and head to the stores in either Ventura or Oxnard. Telephones are available at the campground, as well.

McGrath State Beach offers level camping sites, making it easy to arrive, set up, and get on to other activities. Each site has a picnic table and fire grate. Some campsites are well-shaded and screened from other campers; other spots are more out-in-the-open. There are large grassy areas for group camping available.

Photo of tall vegetation screening one RV from another at the McGrath State Beach Campground in Ventura County, California One drawback at McGrath State Beach is that there are sand dunes between the campground and the beach. Thus, you won't be able to see the ocean from your campsite! And, you'll have to hike a bit to hit the beach. Without being able to camp on the beach...or at least SEE if from a bluff, like at some other California state beaches...the McGrath campground seems "less scenic" than some other camping spots along the coast. However, the beach itself is wonderful. There's a wide strip of clean sand, and you'll get a nice view of the Channel Islands.

In the off-season, you may find very few fellow-campers at McGrath SB, particularly on week-days. However, McGrath State Beach DOES fill up quickly during the summer months, and you WILL need to make reservations in advance.

Photo of a sheltered camping spot at McGrath State Beach, with a grassy group camping area in the background

Both tents and RV's are welcome at the McGrath State Beach campground. There is a 34 ft maximum length limit for motorhomes, and a 30 ft max length limit for trailers and pop-up campers. All camping spots for RVs are "back-in" style; there are no pull-through camping spots at McGrath. An RV dump is available on-premises; however, there are no hookups available.

Family camping fees (individual sites) are $45 year-round. The fee covers your rig and one vehicle. Up to 3 cars are allowed at one campsite, but extra cars must pay the park's day-use fee.

Photo of an unshaded campsite at the McGrath State Beach campground in Ventura County, california The McGrath State Beach address is: 2211 Harbor Blvd, Oxnard CA 93030. However, the campground's location is 5 miles south of the town of Ventura. The McGrath State Beach phone number is (805) 654-4744.

Map to McGrath State Beach: McGrath State Beach is located on Harbor Blvd just north of W Gonzales Rd. If you would like to plan your route to the McGrath SB Campground, you may use the upcoming link to view a Google map to McGrath State Beach in Ventura County, California.

McGrath camping reservations and campground map: You might enjoy viewing the following map of the campsite layout at McGrath State Beach. This map, part of the Reserve America website, can show you both the layout of the camping loops as well as the site-by-site details of the McGrath State Beach camping grounds. While you're at the Reserve America website, it would be a good idea to make reservations for your camping space. The more popular time of year that you plan to camp (such as summer vacation and holiday periods) then the sooner you need to make reservations.

You can also find a PDF map of the McGrath SB campsites in the McGrath State Beach printable online brochure.

McGrath State Beach website: If you would like still further information about this campground, or if you would like to make reservations, then you may use the following link to access the main page of the McGrath State Beach website, which is actually a section of the California State Parks official site.

Ventura Beach Camping--Emma Wood State Beach

The Emma Wood State Beach campground is another popular Ventura camping spot. However, it's not for everyone. This camping area limits its guests to those arriving in self-contained camping vehicles ONLY. (There is a group camping area that's part of this state beach, but it's in a separate area remote from the beach camping site.)

Among RVers, though, the Emma Wood "North Beach" campground is a favorite: it accepts longer rigs than many of the state parks in the area. At Emma Wood, your motorhome may be up to 45 ft in length; same for your trailer, too. There are no hookups at Emma Wood; this is parking lot-style camping, but with a pretty view.

The Emma Wood State Beach address is 900 W Main Street, Ventura CA 93001. This is the address for the Ventura River Group Campground, however...and not the actual address of the North Beach RV Camp. The Emma Wood State Beach phone number is 805-968-1033.

Map and directions to Emma Wood State Beach: You may use the following link to view a PDF map to the Emma Wood State Beach. There are 2 maps, one for the North Beach RV camp, and also for the Ventura River group camping grounds. To reach the North Beach campground if you're coming from the south, take Exit 72 from the 101 freeway (which says "State Beaches.") You'll curve around under the freeway, then head north on California SR 1 for a short ways; then, make a left turn onto the State Beach Access Road, where you'll find the campground directly along the water's edge. If you're coming from the north (eg from Santa Barbara,) you may take Exit 78 and head south along Calif Hwy 1 to the campground. Here is a Google map of Dulah, California, which is about half-way between exits 72 & 78. You can adjust the zoom level of this map to find whichever of these two exits that you will need.

Emma Wood SB camping reservations and campground map: You may also wish to check out the following Emma Wood SB camping map from the Reserve America website. (You'll also be able to make your reservations while you're visiting the Reserve America web pages...which is a good idea if your camping trip will be during one of the busy times of year.)

If you would like further details about this Ventura County RV campground, you may follow the upcoming link to visit the Emma Woods State Beach official website.

Malibu Beach Camping--Pt. Mugu State Park

While most of Malibu is in LA County, this delightful camp is actually in Ventura Co!

Photo: Thornhill Broome RV campground along the Pacific Ocean shoreline at Point Mugu State Park, California Do you love rocky, rugged coastlines? As you can see in the picture of Point Mugu State Park's Thornhill Broome RV campground to your right, that's what you'll find at this beautiful California State Beach. As the Pacific Coast Highway heads south from Oxnard towards the Malibu area, the sandy beaches of Ventura County give way to rocky cliffs. Yes, there IS a sand beach at the Point Mugu State Park...but it's relatively small.

Nevertheless, the rocky coastline makes for some stunning views. It's enjoyable to simply watch the waves breaking onto the boulders and listen to the sounds of seagulls overhead. Still, there's more to do at Point Mugu than watch the tide roll in.

Point Mugu State Park has a woodsy section in addition to its oceanfront area.

Sycamore Canyon tent & RV campground at Point Mugu

Picture:  Cozy campsite under the trees in the Sycamore Canyon campground at Point Mugu in Malibu
Point Mugu's tree-enshrouded Sycamore Canyon campground lies in the bottom of a canyon with steep mountains on either side. Located on the inland side of the highway, you won't believe you're in the same state park as the beachside RV camp just across the street on the shoreline! Sycamore Canyon offers plenty of trails for both hiking and mountain biking, giving guests two vacations in one: both beach and mountain activities. And by the way, the Point Mugu State Park campgrounds are the most isolated of the three Ventura County public beach campgrounds. Not only will you FEEL "away from it all," you actually will BE away from it all! (Or, at least as far away from things as you can get in coastal Southern California!)

Photo: Sunny campsite in the Sycamore Canyon campground at Point Mugu State Park, California
As you can see in the picture to your right, the Sycamore Canyon campground also has a selection of sunny campsites, in case that is your preference. Sycamores are a delightful tree that you won't often find in campgrounds. These are deciduous trees, not evergreens. So, the trees "leaf out" in the springtime, developing into big broad leaves by summertime. In the fall, the leaves turn brown and shed to the ground. So, the views you'll actually enjoy in the Sycamore Campground depend on what time of year that you visit.

During the busy summer camping season, you may not have much choice about your campsite selection (unless you've pre-reserved 'way in advance.) But whether you end up in a shady or a sunny spot, you'll get a good view of the trees. In the off-season, it will probably be easy to choose your favorite site, especially on weekdays.

Sycamore Canyon is popular with families. Watch for people strolling, riding bikes and scooters, playing tag and with frisbees, and all the usual activities that kids everywhere enjoy. Running water and flush toilets are available.

Note: Areas of Sycamore Canyon were damaged by the Springs Fire in April/May, 2013 As our good luck would have it, we camped in Sycamore Canyon about 2 weeks before the fire...and as you can tell from the pictures above, it was looking quite pretty. We haven't seen the campground since the fire, but we do know that the campground was closed for awhile for electrical repairs. However, it re-opened in time for the summer camping season beginning with the Memorial Day weekend. Trails have re-opened, some still showing quite a bit of fire damage. Visitors may find it fascinating to view the aftermath of a Southern California wildfire up close, and the park deemed that the educational value in this was a good reason to reopen the trails. However, remember to remain on the pathways at all times, so that this area can restore and rejuvenate itself.

The beach campground and day-use areas were not affected by the Springs fire, and have remained open for camping, picnicking, sunbathing and swimming.

Map, directions & reservations for Pt Mugu State Park campgrounds

Photo of the Pacific Ocean shoreline at Point Mugu State Park, CaliforniaPoint Mugu State Park Directions: This location is reached by taking the Pacific Coast Hwy for about 15+ miles south of Oxnard, or about 30 miles north of Santa Monica. As you can see in the photo to your right, stunning views await you at the park...not to mention the dozens of scenic vistas you'll pass first if you're heading to Point Mugu from Santa Monica, the Pacific Palisades or southern Malibu. Here's a Yahoo map to Malibu's Point Mugu State Park.

The Point Mugu State Park address is: 9000 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265.

The Point Mugu SP phone number is (310) 457-8143 .

Point Mugu campsite description: There are 2 camping areas: the parking lot-style Thornhill Broome Beach area (with ocean views) and the Sycamore Canyon area, with a sheltered, woodsy feel. Both tents and RV's are accepted at Point Mugu SP. There is a 31 ft limit to the length of motorhomes and trailers. Wifi service is available. If you're looking for beauty, this park has it in abundance.

Point Mugu SB reservations and campsite map: You may wish to view a Point Mugu State Park campground map which shows both the Thornhill Broom Beach campground and the Sycamore Canyon campground.

If you'd like further information about this much-loved beach camping area, you may use the following link to browse through the Point Mugu State Beach official website.

Other California Beach camping articles you may enjoy: If you've had a terrific campout at one of the Ventura County beach campgrounds, you may wish to do a little exploring. Other beautiful state campgrounds can be found within a few hours' drive. To be frank, it's easier to get a camping spot during the fall, winter and spring months. Beach camping is so popular that most of the state beach campgrounds near heavily populated areas are filled up completely during the summertime (since reservations may be made 6-7 months in advance.) With that warning in mind, here are some other good beach camping spots that you may enjoy:

  • Other Santa Barbara beach campgrounds, including El Capitan State Beach, Refugio Beach State Beach and Gaviota State Park.

  • Morro Bay State Park campground

  • Montana de Oro State Park campground

  • The Pismo Beach State Park's Oceano campground

  • The San Simeon state park campgrounds

  • Big Sur Campgrounds



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