Last updated on May 26, 2023 by Wandering our World
Situated just 25 miles south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay offers year-round camping for Bay Area city-dwellers and tourists alike and is famous for the stunning Half Moon Bay State Beach.
With a population of just over 12,000, this small town has the best of both worlds. Both residents and travelers get to experience the charm that only smaller towns can produce, while it also happens to be located on the famous Highway 1. Between this scenic highway and the popular walkways along the beaches here, this town gets its fair share of action.
While there are many beaches located in Half Moon Bay, the Half Moon Bay State Beach in particular is known in the camping communities as the place to be.
And if you’re planning your own Half Moon Bay camping adventure you’re in the right place!
That’s because we know this area well, and right here we share with you all the knowledge that we’ve gained over the years.
We show you the best Half Moon Bay campgrounds and RV parks, information on dispersed camping in Half Moon Bay, tips for things to do, and even have a free camping game you can enjoy.
So read on to begin your Half Moon Bay camping adventure!
- A Little History About Half Moon Bay
- The Best Campgrounds for Views, Fun & Adventure
- Dispersed Camping at Half Moon Bay
- The Best Time to Visit and Camp at Half Moon Bay
- Fun Activities When Visiting
- Free Scavenger Hunt Game
But First: A Little History About Half Moon Bay
Formally called Spanishtown, Half Moon Bay may just be the oldest settlement in San Mateo County.
The town’s name changed in 1874 due to its crescent-shaped harbor, and in recent years Half Moon Bay has put an emphasis on preserving its rich history, so tourists can still see farms from the 1800s or even the jail that dates back to 1911!
Half Moon Bay even has a free app available for travelers called iCoastside. The app contains information about food, shopping, historical landmarks, and anything else you could want to know about this charming town. It’s well worth checking out.
Our Favorite Campgrounds At Half Moon Bay For Views, Fun & Adventure!
The best way to experience a beach is by camping on it, or as close to it as possible!
That’s why we’ve made a list of our favorite campgrounds and RV parks to stay at when visiting Half Moon Bay.
1. Francis Beach Campground
This is the main campground in Half Moon Bay and is part of the state beach. With nearly four miles of beach, Half Moon Bay State Beach has a lot of coastline to offer those that end up staying at this campground.
Expect gorgeous seaside views, access to fantastic beaches through wildflower strewn paths, and the sound of waves day and night.
Francis Beach Campground has 52 sites in total that are suitable for both tents and RVs. There are three sites dedicated solely to tents, but all other areas accommodate trailers, RVs, and tents. We’ve found the campsites to be quite spacious, while there’s plenty of open space around the campground too. So there’s lots of privacy as well as space for kids to run around.
This campground is open year-round, and pets are welcome as long as they remain leashed at all times.
With the exceptional sunset views at Francis Beach (some of the best in the area), and the great stargazing you get here, this is easily one of our favorite Half Moon Bay camping options.
Amenities and Facilities
Campsites at Francis Beach Campground come with a picnic table, fire ring, and food locker.
The campground itself offers flushable toilets, tap water, WIFI, and a campfire center. There are also quarter-operated hot showers available for use.
Some sites offer electric hookup, but there are no water or sewer hookups.
Their dump station can be used for an additional $10, and there is a water filling station.
Reservations are highly recommended but not required. But if you are camping with an RV it is best to make a reservation, as spots are first come, first served.
Reservations can be made 6 months in advance.
To make a reservation, either:
- Use this portal
- Call (800) 444-7275 between 8:00am and 6:00pm
Standard campsite: $35 per night
Electric hookup: $50 per night
Premium with electric hookup: $65 per night
Hike and bike: $7 per person
All: $8 reservation fee
Address: Kelly Ave, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
2. Sweetwood Group Campground
This group campsite is for tent camping only, and is located between Venice and Dunes beaches. That makes it perfect for campers looking to feel the ocean breeze.
There’s space for 50 people and 12 vehicles on this group campsite. But due to its proximity to popular beaches and hiking trails, this campground is not secluded and it is common for there to be pedestrian traffic walking by the campground and even through it.
Still, you get fantastic sunset views and great beach access here. And with the level ground and ocean views, it’s a wonderful place for big BBQ group dinners.
Amenities and Facilities
The site contains multiple picnic tables, and there are even wind-protected cooking tables.
Pit toilets are available for use.
Reservations aren’t necessary, although it is strongly recommended to make them. They can be made here.
$135 per night
Address: 2158 CA-1, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
3. Pillar Point RV Park
If you don’t mind a walk or a quick drive to the beach, this RV park could be the perfect Half Moon Bay camping option. It’s four miles outside of Half Moon Bay itself, but with ocean views and lots of space it’s a great option for those with large RVs.
Located just north of Miramar Beach, this RV park offers 49 sites with full hookups. Some even come with ocean views! Not only that but many of the sites are big-rig friendly, and this RV park is within walking distance of some great seafood restaurants.
This park is child friendly, and is also one of the most dog friendly RV parks and campgrounds in Half Moon Bay too.
Try and get the ocean view campsites if staying. The views are fantastic and the sunsets spectacular.
Amenities and Facilities
All of Pillar Point’s sites have electrical, water, and sewer hookups, and they even throw in complimentary WiFi and cable.
The campsite has a garden with ample seating, so you and your family can watch the sunset over the water even if you didn’t snag one of the coveted ocean-view campsites! That’s a big bonus and a great feature.
However there are no restrooms, showers, or laundry facilities.
Reservations are not taken – each site is on a first come, first served basis. Check-in begins at 8:30, so it’s best to arrive as soon as you can.
Standard: $80 per night
Ocean View: $110 per night
Address: 4000 Cabrillo Hwy. Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
4. Pelican Point RV Park
Pelican Point is located at the southern tip of Half Moon Bay and is special because it grants campers both ocean and golf course views! There are also rolling grass hills surrounding the area for camper’s viewing pleasure. You’ll feel right in nature here, but still close to town.
The beach is just a short walk away, Half Moon Bay is a two minute drive, and there’s a few nice coastal walks close by. too This RV park’s neighbor is actually the Ritz, so if you fancy a posh dinner one night why not head on over!
Each of its many sites offers full hookup, but the sites may be a little tight for RVs over 35′.
If you can squeeze into one of the sites the rewards are worth it though, as this peaceful Half Moon Bay camping option is a fantastic friendly base for exploring the area.
Amenities and Facilities
Pelican Point is located next to the scenic Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail, so campers don’t need to travel far to start this easy yet scenic trek.
And better yet, it is just a 5 minute walk from the RV park to the beach!
Water, sewer, and electricity is included at all sites, and they also offer cable. There are free showers and restrooms too, and they also have multiple washers and dryers available.
Pelican Point is also dog friendly, and they even have a special dog area for your furry friends!
Fire pits and BBQ grills are available to rent as well, and they sell wood bundles for $10.
Reservations are required to stay at Pelican Point. To make a reservation, call (650) 726-9100.
$88 per night
Address: 1001 Miramontes Point Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Is Dispersed Camping At Half Moon Bay Allowed?
DISCLAIMER: Below we give general advice, but we always recommend staying in an official campsite. If you choose to go dispersed camping, then make sure you do so with someone who already knows the area where you’re planning on camping for your own safety.
Dispersed camping happens when you camp on land that is outside of a designated campground.
While the only camping allowed on the beaches at Half Moon Bay are at Francis Beach Campground and Sweetwood Group Campground, dispersed camping is allowed in other areas. In particular in areas controlled by the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Areas under the control of the USFS and BLM include many state and federal forests along with a range of other areas. So while you can’t go dispersed camping on the beaches at Half Moon Bay, away from the coast there are some potential free camping spots. (Recommended: Dispersed Camping in California). Just look out for areas under USFS and BLM control.
Most dispersed camping doesn’t require camping permits, but there are rules that must be followed, including:
- Don’t camp near trailheads, recreational areas, or developed campgrounds
- Keep your campsite as small as possible
- Use existing campfire or fire ring areas
- Build your campsite in an area without vegetation
- Don’t camp within 200 feet of a water source
- Dispersed camping in the same area is usually limited to 14 days within 30 days.
- Take away whatever you bring to the campsite
On top of that, if you wish to have a campfire outside of a designated campground then you must have a campfire permit. This is due to the issues California has with wildfires.
In addition to campfires, a permit is required for any barbecue, lantern, or stove that will be used outside of developed recreational areas like designated campgrounds or picnic areas.
You can apply for a permit here – Submit your California Campfire Permit Application.
By obtaining a campfire permit, you also agree to terms around their use and your management of the fire. Those terms include:
- Clearing a space at least 5 feet around the campfire from any flammable materials.
- Have a shovel and water available to help build and extinguish the fire.
- Have a responsible adult watching the fire at all times.
- Extinguish the fire with water every night
- You also need to follow specific campfire building and extinguishing procedures.
The Best Time For Camping At Half Moon Bay
Camping at Half Moon Bay is available year-round, but each season offers its own perks.
It is often said that the best time to visit the area is in July, August, or September. That’s the area’s busy season, but for good reason. The warm weather rarely approaches “hot”, but instead is a warm 66°F (19°C) during peak temperatures in August.
The temperature cools until winter arrives in December, but even the winter lows are bearable for many. The coldest season occurs from December until March, and temperatures often reach a maximum of 55°F (13°C). The low is 45°F (7°C).
The Pacific Ocean is cold even in the warmest summer months, so visiting the area in the winter does not mean you miss out on fun in the water. It isn’t common for people to go swimming in the ocean, unless they’re decked out in a wetsuit though.
On top of that, annual events occur throughout the year. You may want to consider when they take place if you wish to tie some local culture into your Half Moon Bay camping trip.
Beginning in April, Half Moon Bay hosts a weekly coastside farmer’s market that showcases local produce and vendors. This occurs every Saturday until the third week of December, and runs from 9:00am until 1:00pm.
There is a 4th of July parade and block party, and the Kings Mountain Art Fair is held over Labor Day weekend. The area is also famous for its pumpkin festival in October, so that is another reason to visit during the shoulder season!
A list of Half Moon Bay’s events can be found here.
Fun Activities To Do When Visiting Half Moon Bay
If you aren’t yet sold on a beach-front camping experience, let’s delve into a few more reasons why Half Moon Bay should be your next destination.
Half Moon Bay is famous for its coastal beauty and small-town charm. The area has a beautiful blend of seaside and agriculture that makes it a unique destination when visiting California.
After you’ve pitched your tent or parked your RV, here are a few of our favorite activities to check out:
1. Hiking the Coastal Trail
Already mentioned previously, this 4.5 mile long trail is famous in Half Moon Bay. The most popular section starts at Pillar Point and works its way into Half Moon Bay, passing through Surfer’s Beach, Dunes Beach, Venice Beach, Half Moon Bay Beach before stopping at Poplar Beach.
This section of the trail is paved and mostly flat, making it a great option for cyclists or families with strollers.
There are many sections of the Coastal Trail, so pick the one that works best for you. And if you have the time, try them all!
2. Enjoy the Beaches
There are many beaches that make up the coastline of Half Moon Bay. Some must visits include:
Half Moon Bay State Beach
This beach is four miles long, making it the largest in the area.
It is the only one to offer camping, and it is easily accessible from Highway 1. Both of these factors make this a popular option for beachgoers when visiting the area.
The most crowded area tends to be where the Francis Beach Campground is, but there are other less crowded beaches that are a part of the State Beach system.
If you’re camping at Francis, consider taking a shoreline walk to Dunes Beach or Venice Beach, as both tend to be less crowded.
Unfortunately, dogs are not welcome on Half Moon Bay State Beach.
Located just south of the State Beach, Poplar Beach is a great choice if you want to bring the whole family along.
This pet-friendly beach has coastal trail access, and is also a sandy option for those looking to relax in the sun.
If you’re looking for seclusion, take a few minutes to walk away from the entrances. Areas farther from the gates have fewer people laying around.
3. Explore Downtown Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay isn’t all sand and water. The downtown area offers historic, small-town charm and many great dining options.
Half Moon Bay Brewing
This craft brewery is one must visit in the town and has been in the game since 2003, making it one of the first to open on the peninsula.
They have all the food you’d expect, and they even have a large patio that overlooks the harbor. Their fire pits make this a great dining option year-round.
Half Moon Bay Camping: Free Scavenger Hunt Game!
If you’re looking to keep kids amused while camping at Half Moon Bay – or you fancy having some fun for yourself – then we’ve created a printable scavenger hunt game!
Save the image and print it out, then tick off what you find and achieve during your camping holiday.
The game encourages players to get out and discover wildlife and nature, as well as make new friends and do fun camping activities. Enjoy!