First-Timers Guide to Beach Boondocking

Plus, a few can't-miss places to get your wheels in the sand!

Lindsay & Dan McKenzie Lindsay & Dan McKenzie  |  04.04.2018

There’s not many beaches in America that let you drive right up on the beach in your RV and stay several nights. But, they do exist and having the ocean in your “front yard” is RV life at its finest! While you’ll be sweeping up sand for weeks afterwards, and you won’t have the convenience of full hook ups, boondocking on the beach is a really cool experience.

We’ve had the opportunity to boondock on the beach twice in the past year. If this is on your RV bucket list, we’re sharing our top tips for having an enjoyable (and safe!) experience. Plus, the best beach spots we’ve found so far!

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General beach boondocking tips

Beach boondocking can be such a memorable experience. However, you want to make it memorable for the right reasons. Getting stuck in the sand or water can ruin your stay. Here are some general tips to keep in mind.

  • Detach your tow vehicle before driving on the sand.
  • Walk around or drive your tow vehicle, if you have one, to scope out the area before driving your RV on the sand to ensure you won’t get stuck.
  • Park far back from the water (two words: high tide).
  • Be careful on windy days! The wind can blow sand under your RV and tires, making it difficult to get out.
  • Avoid driving in areas with loose sand. Drive closer to the water, where the sand is wet and compact.
  • Carrying extra water can also be helpful if you need to pour water in your driving path in order to get through certain areas.

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Favorite beach boondocking spots

Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, Oceano, CA

Just south of Pismo Beach, this is the only area in California where you can drive vehicles on the beach. For only $10/night you can boondock steps from the ocean and enjoy both relaxation and adventure right from your front door! However, this isn’t your typical California beach and it is called a State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) for a reason.

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On the weekends, people aren’t just relaxing on the beach all day, they bring their ATVs, dirt bikes, and dune buggies to explore the unique sand dunes directly behind the beach. You can find peace and quiet during the weekdays.

However, once Saturday rolls around, you’ll have neighbors piled in all around you and you’ll hear the buzzing of motors in to the wee hours of the morning. It’s quite an experience and can get pretty rowdy. You may even get trapped in by tents and other RVs, so be prepared to stay the whole weekend!

Recommendations

  • Make a reservation ahead of time, especially during the summer and on holiday weekends. Oceano Dunes SVRA limits the number of vehicles allowed on the beach. You’ll have to call the number on the Oceano Dunes SVRA website to make a reservation.
  • Air down ALL of the tires on your vehicles before driving on the beach. They recommend that you take every tire down to 20 psi. While this takes some time to do, you’ll have a much easier time getting through the sand. We saw tons of people who didn’t air down (even large 4WD vehicles) get stuck, so don’t chance it. There is a station with multiple air hoses that you can pay to use as you are leaving the beach. For $1 per tire, you can get air back in your tires and on your way pretty quickly!
  • Stock up on food, water, and other essentials before parking. You won’t want to air your tires up and down in order to come and go. With the crowds, you may not even be able to leave!
  • Rent an ATV right on the beach and join in on the fun!
  • There’s a nearby dump station located on Le Sage Drive.

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Bolivar Flats, Port Bolivar, TX

Texas has a few beaches that allow RV camping, including Magnolia Beach in Port Lavaca, North and South Beach on Padre Island, and Mustang Island State Park in Corpus Christi. We haven’t been to them all, but we sure did love Bolivar Flats, which is just across the bay from Galveston on the Bolivar Peninsula.

Beach boondocking is allowed anywhere along the 27 miles of beaches of the peninsula, which is accessible by taking the ferry or by driving along Highway 87. However, the “Bolivar flats” are on the far west end of the peninsula and are better for RVs because the beach is wide and the sand is compact. The east end of the peninsula is Crystal Beach, which can get a bit more crowded with the rows of houses lining the beach.

beach-boondocking-winnebagoPhoto by Bob Orchard (@thewebnomads on Instagram).

To boondock on Bolivar Flats, you are required to purchase a Bolivar Beach Parking Sticker for each of your vehicles, which costs $10. After this one-time fee, you are free to park on the beach until Dec. 31st of that same year! You can access the flats from Rettilon Road and don’t have to drive far on the sand to find a good spot to park.

During our stay, we had plenty of space to ourselves and our dogs could run and play in the water. It was such a peaceful and relaxing spot (although this might not be the case during the summer). It is also very popular for bird watching! We would leave the blinds open when we went to bed at night so we could wake up to the sunrise each morning. It was a tough spot to leave!

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Recommendations

  • Purchase your parking pass at The Big Store, next to Ace Hardware.
  • Bring insect repellent! The mosquitos come out in full force at dusk!
  • There are several RV parks along Highway 87 that will allow you to dump and fill up water for a fee.
  • Keep off the sand dunes! There’s supposedly venemous snakes lurking in there! Yikes!
  • Clean up trash as you walk on the beach. We were saddened to see so much litter along the sand dunes!
  • Keep a close eye on the weather, as strong winds and storms can elevate tides and create hazardous conditions.

We hope this guide to beach boondocking inspires you to take your own beach adventures in your RV. You’ll love falling asleep to the sound of the ocean and having million-dollar views out your window for a very low cost!


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3 Comments

  1. Larry Widdis Posted on 04.14.2018

    “You may even get trapped in by tents and other RVs, so be prepared to stay the whole weekend!” You didn’t mention crossing the stream before you get to the camping area. Can be easy, and can be impossible even in a 4×4 in the same weekend. Isn’t that stream from Lopez Lake? They could be releasing water on a dry weekend.

  2. Brad Posted on 04.14.2018

    It’s not always advisable to drive in the wet sand area. I’ve seen many vehicles including four wheel drive vehicles stuck in it. You can hit a spot almost like quicksand. First it just Rob’s your engine power like you are driving on a giant sticky mouse trap. Then you are stuck. Then the tide comes in and your vehicle is totalled. I have even run into these spots on my 250R three wheeler (back in the day) barely made it out with it.

  3. Wayne Lowe Posted on 04.14.2018

    Wheels in the sand? Most RV’s fear having wheels in the Sand! It means an expensive tow.