Is Camping On The Beach Legal? An Answer For All Ocean States


Do you like camping on the beach? Ever wonder what States allow you to camp on the beach? I have compiled this ultimate list of which states allow you to legally camp on the beach.

So, is camping on the beach legal? Some states allow you to camp on the beach while other states forbid it. Most states allow beach camping only in designated campgrounds. The United States has 23 states that touch the ocean, and all 23 of them have different laws when it comes to legalities of camping on the beach.

Generally, it is illegal to sleep overnight on a public beach in most states in order to protect the beach and wildlife.

The 23 states that touch the ocean are:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. California
  4. Connecticut
  5. Delaware
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Hawaii
  9. Louisiana
  10. Maine
  11. Maryland
  12. Massachusetts
  13. Mississippi
  14. New Hampshire
  15. New Jersey
  16. New York
  17. North Carolina
  18. Oregon
  19. Rhode Island
  20. South Carolina
  21. Texas
  22. Virginia
  23. Washington

Read on to find the laws and opportunities for camping on the beach in each of these ocean states. All state coastline lengths were derived from Wikipedia.

By the way, If you are in the market for a new tent, then you should click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.

1. Alabama

The state of Alabama has 53 miles of ocean coastline. Believe it or not, Alabama does touch the ocean. You can legally camp on the beach in designated campsites in Alabama. For what small amount of the states does touch the ocean, there is no shortage of campgrounds on the beach.

For example, you can camp in Gulf State Park which has 2 miles of beaches and a large spacious campground. While a state park is a great way to go camping on the beach in Alabama, it isn’t your only option. There are many great private campgrounds on the beach in Alabama.

One great example is Dauphin Island Campground. This well-developed campground is a paradise like no other in Alabama. You might not think of beach camping when you think of Alabama, but you will after looking at some photos of Dauphin Island.

2. Alaska

The state of Alaska has the most coastline of any state at a whopping 6,640 miles. Alaska offers tremendous flexibility when it comes to camping on the beach. Obviously, if you are on private property then you must be granted permission from the owners before ever camping on the beach. Beyond private property, there are many opportunities for beach camping in Alaska. Many National Parks located in Alaska offer backcountry camping on their beaches.

There are also many established campgrounds located on the beach in Alaska. For example, In The Homer Spit, you can camp right on the beach in the “halibut capital of the world”. There is no doubt that you will not have a hard time finding beach camping in Alaska. Alaska is generally very lenient and open to camping pretty much anywhere, and beaches are no exception.

3. California

The state of California has a total of 840 miles of ocean coastline on the pacific ocean. Many of the state’s public beaches close to the public at night until the next sunrise. You generally must stay at a campground close to the beach in California. There is one popular exception to the rule. This can be found on the central coast near Pismo Beach.

It is known as Oceano Dunes. It is actually a State Vehicular Recreation Area that allows camping right on the sand. 4 wheel drive is highly recommended, but it is no doubt a unique experience in California.

For a more wild adventure, you could technically camp on the beach in California if you go backpacking in Channel Islands National Park. The park contains 5 islands and all 5 islands offer camping. Backcountry camping is available on two of the islands: Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa has certain beaches that you can backpack to and camp right on them.

Beyond that, for a more traditional beach camping experience, California has plenty of options. Although you will usually have to reserve the campsites well in advance in the warmer season. If you are looking for a campsite on the beach in Southern California then look no further than Thornhill Broom Campground in Point Mugu State Park. It is probably as close to the beach that you can (legally) camp besides Oceano Dunes.

4. Connecticut

The state of Connecticut has 96 miles of coastline. Camping is allowed on some developed campgrounds in Connecticut. For example, Hammonasset Beach State Park is Connecticut’s largest shoreline park with over 2 miles of beach access. Hammonasset Beach State Park has a large campground that is nestled very close to the beach.

Another good example of a developed campground on the beach in Connecticut is Rocky Neck State Park. This park offers a spacious campground with 160 campsites and is in very close proximity to the beach. So if you are looking for beach camping in Connecticut check out these two state parks.

5. Delaware

The state of Delaware has just 28 miles of ocean coastline. Delaware offers beach camping in developed campgrounds. For example, Delaware Seashore State Park has two campgrounds located by the beach. It is an excellent place to find some beach camping in the state of Delaware.

Another good example of a developed campground on the beach in Delaware is Cape Henlopen, State Park. Camping in this state park gets you close to the beautiful beach. So if you are looking for beach camping in Delaware, these two state parks are a great place to start.

6. Florida

The state of Florida has 1,350 miles of ocean coastline surrounding the peninsula state. Like in most states, for the most part, you can only legally camp in designated campgrounds. One exception to this in Florida is in Everglades National Park. This is because the National Park offers backcountry camping. Permits are required and all backcountry campsites require watercraft to access. This is true on the beach camping in Florida.

Besides the Everglades, Florida does have some great campsites that are on the beach. One such campground can be found at St. Andrews State Park. Camping is pretty close to the beaches at this state park and at many other Florida State parks, so they are a good place to look for when looking for beach camping in Florida.

7. Georgia

The state of Georgia has 100 miles of ocean coastline. Georgia offers beach camping in developed campgrounds. A great example of a beach camping campground in Georgia is at Sea Camp Campground in Cumberland Island National Seashore. This National Seashore is the perfect place to start looking for beach camping in Georgia.

There are tons of opportunities for beach camping in Georgia since Georgia has thirteen barrier islands in total with hundreds of miles of shoreline just waiting to be explored and camped on. There are many campgrounds located near the shoreline in Georgia and finding them online is pretty easy.

Georgia’s backcountry is on the beach in Cumberland Island National Seashore and in many others. Backcountry camping may be available so check out the National Park Service website for more information on the various beach camping opportunities and regulations.

8. Hawaii

The state of Hawaii has 750 miles of coastline surrounding the islands. Hawaii is synonymous with beaches and there is no shortage of beaches that have campgrounds. For the most part, actually camping on the beach is legal only with a permit or in a designated campground.

There is much confusion on this law since a lot of Hawaii’s homeless population occupies beaches in a camping fashion. To stay safe you should stick with designated campgrounds on Hawaii’s beaches. There is no shortage of camping on the beach in the state of Hawaii.

One good example of camping on the beach in Hawaii can be seen at Anahola Beach Park. This beach campground is located on the island of Kauai, which happens to have several other beach campgrounds that you can find here.

Another good example of camping on the beach in Hawaii can be found on the big island. Hapuna Beach State Park offers exceptional camping. In fact, the Island of Hawaii offers many camping opportunities on the beach, so don’t forget about them when you visit the big island.

9. Louisiana

The state of Louisiana has 397 miles of ocean coastline in the Gulf of Mexico. Camping on the beach is allowed in designated campgrounds. One example of a campground on the beach in Louisiana is at Grand Isle State Park. This state park has 14 campsites on the beach for tents. Campers must carry their equipment from their vehicles down to the beach campsites to camp.

 Another good example of camping on the beach in Louisiana can be found at Rutherford Beach. This beach in Louisiana actually allows you to drive on the beach and camp right there. The best part is that its free to camp on Rutherford Beach in Louisiana. Not too many places allow such freedom of camping so if you are in Louisiana, be sure to check it out.

10. Maine

The state of Maine has 228 miles of ocean coastline. Main has some really unique camping opportunities on the beach. The state of Maine is home to the Main Island Trail, which consists of the entire coastline of Maine and has over 200 connecting islands. It is managed by a nonprofit organization known as the Main Island Trail Association. Members of the association are granted access to the islands along the trail for camping and other activities in return for treating the islands with respect.

Beyond the Main Island Trail, Maine also offers camping right on the beach in more developed campgrounds. One good example can be seen at Hermit Island. This island has a large, but spread out campground of 271 sites and mostly caters to tents and pop-ups. Many of these campsites are right on the ocean.

Another good example of developed beach camping in Maine is Searsport Shores Ocean Campground. This campground is highly rated and offers a wide variety of campground types including primitive backpacking sites and jumbo RV sites. The campground boasts 40 acres of land and is not short on fun activities.

11. Maryland

The state of Maryland has just 31 miles of coastline. Luckily, camping is not in short supply in Maryland. A great example of camping on the beach in Maryland can be found at Breezy Point Beach and Campground. Unfortunately, they do not allow pets on the beach or in the campground.

12. Massachusetts

The state of Massachusetts enjoys 1,519 miles of ocean coastline. In that stretch of the ocean, there is a plentitude of camping opportunities. Camping on the beach in Massachusetts is legal in designated campgrounds for the most part.

Cape Cod is perhaps one of the most well known and recognized peninsulas in the United States. There are two places that you can go camping on Cape Cod. “Sandy Neck” is one of those two areas where camping is allowed on Cape Cod. The other option is at Scusset Beach State Reservation, Cape Cod isn’t the only place for beach camping, but it certainly is one to think about.

13. Mississippi

The state of Mississippi has just 44 miles of coastline on the Gulf of Mexico.  Camping is allowed on the beach in developed campgrounds in Mississippi. One great example of beach camping in the state is at Buccaneer State Park. This state park offers developed and primitive camping really close to the beach.

Another good example of camping on the beach in Mississippi is in Biloxi Mississippi. This city has many RV parks on the gulf and therefore close to the beach. One such RV camping park in this city is Southern Comfort Camping Resort. This family-owned and operated park is right across the street from the beach.

14. New Hampshire

The state of New Hampshire has just 13 miles of ocean coastline. New Hampshire allows camping in designated campgrounds near the beach. One such campground is Hampton Beach, State Park. This state park offers an RV only campground right on the Hampton River and the Atlantic Ocean. They do not allow tents or pop up campers, only RVs with hook up capabilities.

It is because of New Hampshire’s very small amount of ocean access that there is not much camping available on the beach. There is however a multitude of hotels located on the small 13 miles of shoreline that New Hampshire has.

15. New Jersey

The state of New Jersey has 130 miles of ocean coastline. New Jersey has strict laws against being on public beaches after a certain hour like in most states, but that doesn’t mean there is no camping on any beaches. New Jersey offers camping on the beach in developed campgrounds close to the ocean. One good example of camping near the beach in New Jersey can be found at  Ocean View Resort Campground. This campground is located pretty close to the Jersey Coast.

One of the most sought after camping on the beach experiences can be found at Seaside Heights. For a very limited time of the year, some lucky campers get to enjoy camping on this beach. Space is extremely limited and so are the dates. It typically happens only once a year and there are many rules you must follow. If that sounds interesting to you then check out the Seaside Heights official website.

16. New York

The state of New York has 127 miles of ocean coastline. Camping on the beach in New York is allowed in developed campgrounds. A good example of beach camping in New York can be seen in Hither Hills State Park. This state park offers a large campground right by the beach and even a nearby large freshwater lake.

There is ample opportunity for camping on the beaches of Lake Ontario since only a small portion of New York touches the ocean, namely Long Island. For camping on the beaches in lake Ontario look no further than Southwick Beach State Park. This state park occupies a good portion next to Lake Ontario, and it has recently seen some much-needed renovations.

17. North Carolina

The state of North Carolina has 301 miles of ocean coastline. Camping on the beach in North Carolina is allowed in designated campgrounds only for the most part. An excellent example of this can be found at the highly-rated Carolina Beach State Park. While camping at the state park isn’t directly on the beach, it’s pretty close and it is highly rated.

Carolina Beach State Park isn’t the only place to camp on the beach in North Carolina, there are many more. One of the most highly sought after beach camping experiences can be found at a place known as “Outer Banks”. The Outer Banks are a series of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. In this area, you can find many beach campgrounds.

Camping on the Outer Banks in North Carolina is limited to these developed campgrounds. The Outer Banks is associated with Cape Hatteras National Seashore and is therefore operated by the National Park Service. One thing is for sure, you are bound to find some beach camping in the state of North Carolina.

18. Oregon

The state of Oregon has 296 miles of ocean coastline. Beach camping in Oregon can be a little tricky. For one, all of Oregon’s coast is established as being publicly owned. This could give the impression that camping on the beach in Oregon is legal everywhere, but this simply is untrue.

In fact, there is a specific law in Oregon that rules out many on the beach camping opportunities. The law states that overnight beach camping is not allowed “within or adjacent to any Oregon state park, nor on beaches within most major city limits.” So right off the bat, it eliminates many portions of the public coastline.

The good news is, however, that there are still many opportunities for camping on the beach in Oregon with developed campgrounds and some dispersed camping. Most of the dispersed beach camping can be found by people that are thru-hiking the Oregon Coast Trail, which spans for 382 miles along the pacific ocean.

For developed camping on the beach in Oregon, one good example to look to is at Cape Lookout State Park. This state park offers a very large campground very close to the beach. They even have hook-up sites for RVs.

Another good example of beach camping in Oregon can be found at Fort Stevens State Park, which offers a massive campground right next to the beach. There are many other examples of some fantastic state parks in Oregon that offer beach camping. You can search for some of them on the Oregon state park website.

19. Rhode Island

The state of Rhode Island has just 40 miles of ocean coastline, which isn’t surprising given that it is the smallest state. Camping in Rhode Island beaches may be done only in designated camping areas on the beach and with a proper permit or reservation. The good news is that a few state parks in Rhode Island offer camping on or near the beach. 

One good example of camping on the beach in Rhode Island is at East State Beach. In order to camp on this beach, you must have a self-contained camping unit and 4 wheel drive. Check their website for more details. East State Beach isn’t the only place to camp on the beach in Rhode Island though.

Another good example of beach camping in Rhode Island can be found at Charlestown Breachway. At Charlestown Breachway you will find a campground that is again suited for RVs that are self-contained.

For more possible camping on the beach in Rhode Island, check out the Rhode Island state park website.

20. South Carolina

The state of South Carolina has 187 miles of ocean coastline. Camping on beaches in South Carolina is allowed in designated campgrounds located on the beach. For example, one of the most popular beach campgrounds in South Carolina is at Myrtle Beach State Park. Myrtle Beach State Park offers a large campground with lots of amenities near the beach.

Myrtle isn’t the only place you can camp on the beach in South Carolina. Another good example would be at Hunting Island State Park. Hunting Island State Park offers 100 campsites in very close proximity to the beach. This state park is competing in popularity with that of Myrtle Beach. 

There are many other examples of great camping locations in South Carolina, just make sure that you either have permission from who owns the land or you have a permit for a designated campsite.

21. Texas

The state of Texas has 367 miles of coastline in the Gulf of Mexico. Camping on the beach is legal in texas in developed campgrounds. A good example of camping on the beach in texas can be seen at Sea Rim State Park. This state park offers camping right on the beach.

Another good example of camping on the beach in Texas can be seen at Padre Island National Seashore. There is a wide array of camping opportunities on this National Seashore.

22. Virginia

The state of Virginia has 112 miles of ocean coastline. Camping on the beaches in Virginia is only allowed in designated campgrounds. A good example of a campground that is on the beach in Virginia can be found at False Cape State Park. This state park offers primitive camping near the beach.

Another good example of camping on the beach in Virginia can be seen at First Landing State Park. This state park has many campsites available near the beach.

23. Washington

The state of Washington has 157 miles of ocean coastline. Camping on the beach opportunities in Washington is substantial. One good example of camping on the beach can be seen at Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park. A wilderness permit is required to camp on Shi Shi Beach. In fact, there are several opportunities for beach camping in Washington’s Olympic National Park.

Another good example of where you can camp on the beach in Olympic National Park is Rialto Beach. Rialto Beach is another beach that allows camping. You do however also need a wilderness permit in order to do so.

While Olympic National Park is a great place to camp on the beach in Washington, it isn’t the only place. Another great example of beach camping in Washington is at Pacific Beach State Park. This state park is one of many state parks located on the beach in Washington that has campgrounds right on the beach so if you are looking for some beach camping in Washington, don’t forget to check out its many state parks that touch the ocean.

Most beach camping in Washington state does require some sort of permit or reservation so make sure you are following the local laws when trying to camp on the beach.

Related Questions

Can I set up a tent on the beach?

Most public beaches allow you to set up a tent on the beach for day use since tents can help protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

How do you anchor a tent in the sand?

The most effective way to anchor a tent n the sand is to tent stakes that are specifically designed to be anchored into the soft sand. Regular tent stakes will slide out of the soft sand too easily even with a small amount of wind.

My Favorite Camping Gear

  • Air Mattress: click here to check out my favorite on Amazon.
  • Tent: click here to see my favorite tent available on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Pad: click here to check out the one I love on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Bag: click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
  • Camping Stove: click here to see the best camping stove on Amazon.

Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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