Beach Camping in Carlsbad?
This is part 1 of 3 posts sharing our 2008 birthday activities down in San Diego. Yay! It also shares some valuable and hard-to-come-by information about camping at South Carlsbad State Beach for those of you who are interested.
Tim wasn’t feeling too well on his birthday (apparently, 30 really got to him…), so we were pretty slow with planning. We eventually set our sights on San Diego: close enough to get there quick, far enough to feel like we’re away from home. Plus, the water’s warmer there, which is a major plus. After a very late start (unusual for us), we headed down in an attempt to find a walk-up campsite by the beach. Ha. Ha. We must’ve been feeling really lucky (or been in denial). You see, supply doesn’t quite meet demand for beach campsites down here in So. Cal. Since no one answers their phones, information is practically impossible to get unless you take a chance and just go. So that’s what we did.
Finding the Place:
We have this nifty book called California Coastal Access Guide It lists coastal access, by county, all the way down (or up) the coast of California. It lists the available facilities, as well as the beach environment, phone number, and location. Here’s the listing for South Carlsbad State Beach. It’s one of the few with a campground right on the beach. We decided this was our first choice for Saturday night.
The book also provides a general map of each area. Here’s the map of the Carlsbad area:
We stopped at other campsites along the coast on our way down, and they were all full to the brim. This wasn’t very encouraging, but we still had hope, because reserveamerica told us that there were some walk-up sites in Carlsbad. When we showed up, the rangers were very apologetic as they told us that they were completely booked. They told us that all the campgrounds open at 8:30am, and that’s the best time to look for walk-up sites. We thought this would be good information to give over the phone, but apparently their phone-phobia is even worse than mine. We also sighed, admitting that we really knew that we should’ve left much earlier than we did. So, Tim called the motels close by, and the only room we could find was a double-bed smoking room at Motel 6. Yuck-o. We have no problem "roughing it" out in the wilderness with no bathrooms or running water, but I tell ya, this really tested us and our abilities to "rough it." We opened the window,blasted the A/C, and spent as much time out of the room as possible. Here’s a picture of the colorful and smoky blankets awaiting us in the room. Tim felt it was necessary to take them off immediately and stuff them under the beds. They cramped his style, threw off his groove.
Checking out the campground:
In the morning (my birthday!), we left our stinky smelly smoky room and ate breakfast on the beach. Then, we headed over to check out the campground, which sits up on a bluff overlooking the beach. There are stairs every so often leading down to the ocean, and it seemed like a nice place. I liked that there wasn’t a big city on the other side of the road. We talked to the rangers around 9am, and they let us know that there were sites available! Too bad that didn’t work with our plans for the night. But, now we had maps and information and knew that you could probably get a site or two, even in peak season, if you just showed up early in the morning. (Then again, it was Sunday…) We didn’t get any pictures of the campground, but here’s a view of the bluff from the beach.
The beach below the bluffs is mostly sandy, with some rocky areas. It’s good for surfing, body/boogie boarding, skim-boarding, and playing around in the shallow water. If you stand around in ankle high water while the waves are hitting, there’s a good chance you’ll get smacked by a few rocks, but it’s pretty easy to find spots without lots of rocks. The rocks make a wonderfully soothing sound after the waves have crashed and are receding again. Ahh, it was strangely calming.
Beach & Park Information:
Here’s some information for those of you who want to know more about the campground. These are the maps we got from the rangers. The first two will help you find the campground, and the second two will help you find/choose the individual sites:
Other useful links for planning a trip to South Carlsbad State Beach:
It seems like you have to reserve online as soon as you can if you need to guarantee certain days or sites for more than a few people. If you’re willing to risk a trip there without reservations, you might be able to get a site by showing up when they open, at 8:30am. From reading the reserveamerica website, it sounds like you lose between $7-$15 if you cancel a reserved site. That loss just might be worth planning a tentative trip to ensure the sites!