Can You Sleep in Your Car in Pismo Beach?

People standing near the ocean, on the shore, at Pismo Beach.

Heading off to good ol’ Pismo Beach, eh? Wondering if it’s possible to sleep outside of the campgrounds, inside your vehicle? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In today’s article, we’ll discuss the following question: can you sleep in your car in Pismo Beach? Stay tuned!

So, what’s so special about Pismo Beach that one would sacrifice a good night’s rest by sleeping inside an automobile just to be there? If you haven’t heard about this place before, you’re in for a treat. In other words, we’ll expand our talk to cover some basic info about this Californian beauty.

Sleeping on any beach outside a designated campground area is illegal in the state of California, even when you’re inside your vehicle. However, you’ll be happy to know that you can actually sleep inside your car at Pismo Beach, just within the boundaries of the North Beach and Oceano Dunes campgrounds.

Here, at Outdoor Is Home, we like to say that skimming through the preview won’t do you any good. There’s your reason to read the whole text!

Table of Contents

Where is Pismo Beach?

If you were to follow the Californian shore from Los Angeles all the way to San Fran, about midway through, you’d have to pass through Pismo Beach. We’re talking about a little coastal town in San Luis Obispo County, CA. Pismo Beach has a population of about 8K residents. According to some sources, it’s one of the best places to live in Cali. Here’s why that’s so:

  • The whole town has a suburban feel to it, and most Pismo Beach residents own the homes they live in. Folks planning a family here will enjoy the fact that Pismo Beach has one of the highest-rated public schooling systems in the whole state. There’s something for adults, too: in Pismo Beach, you’ll find a lot of bars & restaurants we’re sure you’d enjoy if you were a resident. 

Okay, before you get all suspicious about us working for the local let’s-promote-our-cozy-town organization, we might want to see why would Pismo Beach be a place of interest for many outdoor enthusiasts.

Camping at Pismo Beach and related information

Here we’ll discuss some basic information concerning camping at Pismo Beach. First of all, let’s tackle the most obvious of issues.

Are you allowed to camp on Pismo Beach?

Here’s the thing: you’re only allowed to camp and make beach bonfires on State Beach which is regulated by California State Parks. And where you’ll find this piece of land you’re permitted to set up tents on? You can reach it via three entrances: you’ll pick between the southern, central, and northern entrances:

  • You’ll find the south entrance to Pismo State Beach on Pier Avenue in the town known as Oceano. 
  • You’ll find the central entrance to Pismo State Beach on Grand Avenue in the town known as Grover Beach. 
  • You’ll find the northern entrance right next to the North Beach Campground in the city that shares the same name as the park – Pismo Beach. 

Why is camping at Pismo Beach so special?

Let’s discuss just why would anyone want to camp at Pismo Beach State Park. In other words: why’s camping at Pismo Beach so special?

Pismo Beach State Park is well-known for its clams, butterflies, birds, and fantastic natural imagery. Also, if you’ve got the correct clamming permit, you’ll be able to dig up the Pismo clam (here’s some trivia: Pismo was once a so-called clam capital of the world). During the winter months, you’ll get to enjoy seeing colorful monarch butterflies. Oh, and here’s a little digression: since we’re speaking of fantastic natural imagery, check out our take on hiking in Ireland.

Lastly, here’s a fact that you can associate with the title of this article: Pismo State Beach is one of only a couple of beaches where you can drive your car right onto the sand, without any legal obstructions. It’s the only beach in California where you do this! That being said, this might be the moment when we can kick-start our today’s main section. Let’s see whether you can sleep in your car at Pismo Beach!

The beach and the ocean at the Pismo Beach State Park

Can you sleep in your car in Pismo Beach?

Now that we know that you can actually ride your vehicle on the sand at Pismo Beach State Park, let’s see if you’re able to sleep inside it too.

Okay, unfortunately, it seems like sleeping on any beach outside a campground facility is not so legal in California. The same rules apply to sleeping inside your car on the beach. If the police catch you, they’ll cite you or “suggest” you leave the beach. However, since certain portions of the beach at the Pismo Beach State Park are located inside the campgrounds, you’ll have a chance to sleep inside your vehicle and, that’s right, on the sand. For instance, the aforementioned Oceano Dunes SVRA (State Vehicular Recreation Area) offers its visitors primitive beach & dune camping without any designated campsites on the sand.

So, all in all: you’ll be able to sleep inside your car in Pismo Beach, but only within the boundaries of the campsite. Now that we’ve made that one clear, it might be good to see if there’s anything else we’d like to add. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of sleeping inside your car, here’s whether you’re able to sleep inside your vehicle in Ireland. That’s right, Ireland out of nowhere once again.

How much is camping at Pismo Beach?

Since you’re only allowed to sleep within the campsite’s boundaries, it’s only natural you’d ask: okay, and how much does camping cost at Pismo Beach? We’ll tell you that in just a little bit, once we’re done introducing you to some basic info associated with the Pismo State Beach Campgrounds!

Anyway, you’ll want to know that the Pismo State Beach Campgrounds are divided between two locations:

  • North Beach Campground. You’ll find it right off Highway 1, just behind the dunes close to the ocean beach. It’s home to 103 campsites in a couple of loops that surround Carpenter Creek. All 103 campsites are able to “welcome” RVs, tents, and trailers.
  • Oceano Dunes Campground. You’ll find this one near the Oceano Lagoon, and just a couple of blocks from the beach. It’s home to 80 campsites. Numbers 1-42 are reserved for RVs and trailers only, and they’ve got electric and water hook-ups. Additionally, you’ll find the aforementioned Oceano Dunes SVRA in its close surroundings.

What about the people? Well, visitors to these campgrounds are well-known to enjoy swimming, ocean fishing, surfing, clam digging (as we’ve already noted), bird watching, and lots of other beach-related stuff one can think of, or can’t think of such as driving a vehicle. Anyway, if you’re wondering how to wash your dishes while car camping, visit this page.

Okay, so how much is camping at Pismo Beach?

Without further ado, let’s see those numbers! If you want to camp at the standard campsites at both campgrounds, know that you’ll have to cough up $35 ($25 during off-season) a night. The hook-up sites at Oceano Dunes are a bit costlier. They’re $50 ($40 during off-season) a night.

Other pieces of info that you should know about camping at Pismo Beach

Here we’ll show you other pieces of information that you’ll find quite useful if you plan to camp at Pismo State Beach Campgrounds. First of all, let’s see some of the most important rules and regulations of the campground:

  • Planning to camp with your four-legged buddies? If so, you’ll want to know that you’ll have to keep them on a leash that’s no longer than six feet. Also, your doggies will need to be under adult supervision at all times. During the night, they can’t stay outside, you’ll have to take them inside your vehicle or a tent. 
  • Don’t want to ruin the good neighborly vibes? Know that the quiet hours are from 10 PM to 6 AM. 
  • Lastly, you’ll need to know that you’ll be able to operate the generators only between 10 AM and 8 PM. 

A couple of recommendations

If you’re camping at Pismo Beach, it would be a darn shame to miss some of the most scenic attractions San Luis Obispo County has to offer. Therefore, here we’ve gathered some of the finest locations near Pismo Beach that you’ll definitely want to visit. Here’s a list of sites you’ll want to check out:

  • The famous tide pools at Shell Beach.
  • Prove yourself that you’re an agile hiker at Valencia Peak Trail. 
  • What about watching elephant seals at Piedras Blancas?
  • You don’t want to miss visiting Montana de Oro State Park. 
  • Heard of the Hearst Castle? It’s not that far from Pismo Beach. 
  • If you’re camping with kids, check out the animals at Charles Paddock Zoo in the nearby Atascadero. 
  • Lastly, if you’re an avid paddleboarder, visit Avila Beach at Morro Bay. 

Of course, this ain’t even close to being the full list of attractions you’ll be able to see in the area. However, the format of this article doesn’t allow us to mention them all, so please don’t mind. Anyway, all that’s left is to say a quick goodbye until next time!

Final thoughts on the subject of car camping at Pismo Beach

Okay, so that should’ve done it on the can-you-sleep-in-your-car-in-Pismo-Beach topic. Now you’re well aware that you can only sleep in your car within the campground’s boundaries. Also, keep in mind that Pismo Beach is the only place in Cali where you can ride your vehicle on the sand, without any legal issues. For more tips on various topics related to enjoying the outdoors, click right here.

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