Travel Blog

Where to Camp in Santa Cruz County

With an enviable Mediterranean climate and a natural splendor the stretches from the redwoods to the bay, Santa Cruz is a remarkable place to pitch a tent. Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-flannel-wool outdoorsy type or won’t bed down without a mattress, there’s a campsite that’s right for you.

KOA Santa Cruz
Minutes from Manresa State Beach, this Kampgrounds of America surf-themed campground is a wonderland for families. Its 230 sites sport a wide range of accommodations from tents to luxury cabins to shiny new Airstream trailers. Each site is equipped with a picnic table and firepit to gather around and stargaze come nightfall. Kids do what kids do best at a miniature golf course, coconut climbing trees, pool and gigantic outdoor bouncing platform. Grown-ups take five in colorful Adirondack chairs nestled in sandy patches scattered throughout the property. Forget sunblock or marshmallows? A convenient general store stocks goodies and essentials to supply your base camp.
Operating Status: Open

Santa Cruz Harbor RV Park
RV parks may not call to mind the most inspiring scenery, but this hidden spot along the Santa Cruz Harbor is a pleasant exception. 12 RV sites rest along the scenic North Harbor, bobbing with watercraft, just minutes from the coast and bayfront restaurants like The Crow’s Nest.
Operating Status: Open

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
This wonderful campground is situated not beneath mighty redwoods, as the park’s name might lead you to guess, but under the tall, fragrant ponderosa pine trees found in the biologically unique Santa Cruz Sandhills at the park’s eastern end. After a good night’s sleep, explore the many treasures that Henry Cowell has to offer: a marvelous wheelchair- and stroller-accessible stand of old-growth redwood trees (including a rare albino redwood!), the San Lorenzo River, and some of the largest Western sycamores in the world. Plus, the grocery store is just a few minutes’ drive away if you forget any of your s’mores ingredients.
Operating Status: Seasonal (Call for reservation availability – Henry Cowell is typically open April – November)

New Brighton State Beach
New Brighton is the perfect mix of sun, shade and beach. 114 campsites — both tent and RV — are perched on a wooded bluff of Pine and Cypress trees overlooking the magnificent Monterey Bay. The view from the amphitheater and large picnic area will take your breath away. Meander the path that leads from the campground down to a large sandy beach to join families, kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders all enjoying the calm waters of the Monterey Bay.
Operating Status: Open

The SS Palo Alto - aka The Cement Ship - is an iconic landmark at Seacliff State Beach. Many years, waves, surf, and storms have battered the SS Palo Alto, but she remains visible from the shore.

Seacliff State Beach
The campground at Seacliff State Beach rests along the same beautiful stretch of coastline as New Brighton but with more immediate access to the beach. Seacliff is famous not just for it’s grand fishing pier that juts out into the bay, but what you’ll find at its end: the ruins of a concrete ship! Originally constructed as a tanker for World War I, The Palo Alto was brought to Seacliff and used as a seaside recreation spot before it fell into disrepair. Today, you can still walk the pier, enjoy the beachfront picnic area or just frolic on the driftwood-scattered beach before recapping the day ‘round the campfire.
Operating Status: Open

This list is just a handful of our Santa Cruz County favorites. Find a great south county gem and more on our website!

Updated 2022

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