Few things represent paradise to a nomad more than parking your truck, van, or RV camper on the beach and letting the waves lull you to sleep after cooking a nice meal over a campfire. Although there are a number of beachfront camping options across the US, few are free, and even fewer allow you to drive your vehicle onto the beach. Below is our guide to the places we’ve found so far!
Free Beach Front Van, Truck & RV Camping Sites
Homer, Alaska – Free Dispersed Camping at Bishop’s Beach
It’s tough to find free camping near Homer. We paid for camping on the Spit the first few nights, then received a local tip that we could boondock on Bishop Beach if we had 4WD. To make this work, you have to drive out onto the beach from the parking lot, and then go as far right as you can (Be cognizant of the tide line. It can vary 500 or more feet between high and low tides at spots around Homer. Be sure not to park where the tide will come up past your vehicle while you’re sleeping…). Technically, you aren’t allowed to camp here, but you can probably do it without being kicked out as long as you’re stealthy about it. I wouldn’t recommend doing it without a 4WD vehicle, though! We stayed here for a few days in August. The temps were cool (50s/40s), wind was strong, and it was rainy, but this is how Alaska is in August. Just be prepared for cool weather and wind whenever you go.
Crystal Beach Free Dispersed Camping – Port Bolivar, Texas
This beach is a rarity because free camping is actually allowed for an unlimited period of time! The beach is roughly 27 miles long, and runs along Bolivar Peninsula, right beside Galveston, Texas. There are numerous spots you can drive out onto it, and the sand is hard enough for large RVs. It’s really easy to find spots to drive out, however it’s not that intuitive to find the free part. Most of the beach requires a $10 permit that you purchase from local businesses (which is really cheap and a good deal). However, if you drive out at Retillon Road and turn left (east), there’s a small area (think a few hundred feet) where you can camp without a permit. Pay attention to the signs in the dunes. They tell you where the area ends. The beach is long and flat, and there’s a rundown port-a-potty near the entrance. Fires are allowed. We stayed here in mid-January, and the temps were cool (40s/50s/60s) with some wind and rain, so be prepared for chilly days and nights if you come in the winter.
Magnolia Beach Free Dispersed Camping – Texas
We haven’t stayed here yet, but will likely try it sometime this winter. Magnolia Beach is very similar to Crystal Beach, and only about an hour west of it. There are lots of free camping options, trash receptacles, and port-a-potties / showers, although it’s unclear whether these are still maintained. Check the link above for a review of Magnolia Beach from other nomads who stayed there!
Port Aransas & Padre Island Free Dispersed Camping – Texas
Port Aransas – If you want to camp for free or cheap on the beach GO TO TEXAS! There’s free/cheap beach camping along the entire coast. We stayed on the beach at Port Aransas, which is right by Corpus Christi. There’s 6 or more miles of beach available for you to camp on. For the first few days, we stayed further north on a sand ‘road’ on the beach. The last few days, we pulled out onto the beach itself, which was still incredibly packed down. We never had to use 4WD, and our parents were fine in their van. The weather was very mild (yes, there was some wind, and it was cooler since it was January, but nights typically stayed in the 50s or upper 40s and most days were in the upper 50s or 60s), the sand was hard packed, the beach was enormous, and there were port-a-potties and trash bins everywhere. We could walk to bars and restaurants from our spot, and played sunset bocce ball every night. Regarding price, if you follow the link above, you’ll see that there’s a free camping area really far down the beach (between markers 52 and 58). If you stay anywhere other than between those markers, you need to purchase a permit for $12, which is valid for an entire year.
Padre Island – We didn’t camp on Padre Island because there was no cell service (and we had to work), but we checked it out for a day. It was truly awesome. Extremely remote, isolated, and peaceful. There are no houses or amenities on the island, so be prepared to boondock. I don’t think you can camp for free. The entire island requires a permit (and national park entrance fees), however I assume the permit is cheap.
Baja California Free Dispersed Beach Camping
We also haven’t made it to Baja yet, but are hoping to within the next few years. There’s supposed to be a lot of great camping along the Baja peninsula, and many van lifers seem to make it there at some point. The cool part about Baja is that it’s really warm. I think the water is cold until you get really far south, but the beaches look beautiful, and it’s really warm year-round!