Fall is the perfect time to plan a weekend camping trip. The crowds are beginning to dissipate but the air is still warm, and, in many places, the swell is starting to pick up. And depending on where you are, it’s a good time to spot the leaves changing colors. While there are plenty of beautiful campgrounds to choose from, we’re always drawn to the coast, especially to locations that offer opportunities for surfing and standup paddling. Here, we’ve rounded up six of our favorite coastal campgrounds for fall camping adventures.
Located on the windward side of Oahu, Ahupua'a O Kahana State Park is situated on the edge of beautiful Kahana Bay. For those who prefer calm waters and stunning scenery, the Kahana stream is the perfect place to kayak or standup paddle. The stream winds through a tropical rain forest, with plenty of greenery to marvel at and rope swings hanging from the trees. Depending on the timing of your trip and incoming swells, there is a fun exposed beach and point break in the bay—it’s unreliable but can be extremely fun. You’ll also want to be sure and pack your hiking shoes and hike to the top of one of the ridges to view the bay from above. Campgrounds offer picnic tables, basic toilets, and no fire pits, so bring a grill to cook on.
San Diego, California
A 3,000-acre state park in San Diego, San Onofre is one of those most iconic surf spots in the world. The gentle, rolling waves are perfect for beginners, longboarders, or anyone looking to have a good time in the water. Surfers are welcomed at all breaks, while the southernmost break “Dog Patch” welcomes standup paddlers. The campgrounds are located a little south of the state beach, with six beach access points dispersed among them. Pack up your boards, grills, and friends, and catch the end of the summer south swell at San O. If you’re looking to venture outside of the state park, world famous Trestles is just a couple miles up the beach and is well worth checking out.
Buxton, North Carolina
Spread across 75 miles of coastal property, Cape Hatteras National Seashore is home to four different campgrounds. While all are beautiful and provide convenient beach access, Buxton is probably your best bet if you plan on surfing. From Buxton, it’s just a short walk to the Hatteras Light House, a beach break that works consistently throughout the year. Other nearby surf spots include Rodanthe Pier, S-Turns, Ocracoke Island, and Frisco Pier. When you need a break from the surf, grab a pole and go fishing or lace up your shoes and explore the surrounding trails.
Morro Bay, California
Located along the eastern shore of Morro Bay in central California, Morro Bay State Park is the ideal spot for nature lovers and water sport’s enthusiasts. The campground is home to 120 campsites, all providing easy access to the bay. If you’re looking to kayak or standup paddle, the bay is the perfect spot and Morro rock provides a scenic backdrop. If you’re hoping to surf, Morro Bay has plenty of waves on offer—Morro Rock, Morro Beach, Morro Bay and Sandspit, Cayucos Pier, and Mouse Rock are all great places to paddle out. Should you wish to venture away from the beach, San Luis Obispo is just a short drive from the campground and offers lots of fun activities and sights for visitors.
Offering some of the best views in all of Maine, Libby’s Oceanside Camp is perched on a grassy bluff overlooking the ocean. Adjacent to the camp is the 1.5 mile-long Long Sands Beach, which has some small, fun surf on offer. The exposed beach break is well protected from the wind thanks to Cape Neddick and the spot has waves available year-round. During your time at Libby’s, be sure and take a stroll through the coastal woods as the leaves should be putting on a spectacular display of color during the autumn months. The campground closes in mid-October, so book a reservation ahead of time if you plan on visiting before it closes for the season.
Located on the picturesque San Diego Coast, South Carlsbad State Beach is the perfect spot for a fall camping trip. Just three miles outside of Carlsbad, the campground is home to 215 sites and is open year-round. The small beach near the campground is located at the foot of the coastal bluffs and is a great spot for swimming, scuba diving, fishing, beach combing, and surfing. Nearby surf spots include Tamarack and Carlsbad Beach, both of which offer something for surfers of all levels. If you’re searching for a calm place to paddle or kayak, the Carlsbad Lagoon is just a short drive from the campground (just make sure you obtain a permit before setting out).