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Byline: Janet Zimmerman Staff Writer

When temperatures really get fired up and turning on the air conditioner could cost you big bucks, the beach sounds pretty darned appealing.

You can bask in the cool ocean breezes, take a dip in the refreshing Pacific and enjoy a snooze in the shade. It will feel so good, you won't want to leave.

The good news is, you don't have to.

Beach camping is a snap in Southern California. Here along the golden coast, we have the pick of the lot, from rural and deserted to citified with plenty of amenities.

``We really have the best campgrounds in the state,'' said Roy Stearns, spokesman for California State Parks. ``We have camp sites that are well-spaced, they're clean, they're well-patrolled by rangers. You can go there and have a clean, safe vacation - and cheap.''

Most coastal campgrounds are under the auspices of the state park service. Some of the exceptions are Newport Dunes in Newport Beach, which is a commercially run camping resort, and Santa Rosa Island, which is part of Channel Islands National Park off Ventura.

There are tent and RV sites for groups and families, usually adjacent to the beach or on an overlooking bluff.

This summer is expected to be one of the busiest at state parks, thanks to the energy crunch and a drop in fees, Stearns said.

In January, the state reduced the cost of overnight camping to make it more accessible to families. It went from as much as $37.50 per night to a maximum of $12 per night for tents, $18 per night with RV hookups.

Overnight stays at state parks already have increased 22 percent, and we're just starting the second month of the prime beach camping season - June, July and August.

Officials also are expecting an increase in campers who want to escape the heat but don't want to run their air conditioners.

To avoid frustration at not finding a spot, campers should plan ahead, Stearns said. Make reservations, be flexible in your choice of parks, camp on less busy days and avoid holidays.

``The popular coastal places are probably going to be full on the big holidays. July Fourth will be sold out; same with Labor Day,'' Stearns said.

There are cancellations, however, so keep checking.

State park camping reservations can be made up to seven months in advance through Reserve America at (800) 444-7275; or visit the Web site at

Reservations for the federally managed Channel Islands National Park can be made three months in advance through Biospherics, (800) 365-2267; or visit the National Park Service Web site at



The five islands - Anacapa, East Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Barbara and Santa Rosa - off Ventura have primitive campgrounds with pit toilets and picnic tables. At all but Santa Rosa, water must be packed in. For more information, call (805) 658-5711.


Bolsa Chica State Beach is popular for surf fishing, grunion runs and bird watching at the adjacent Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. A bikeway connects Bolsa Chica with Huntington State Beach seven miles south. The beach is on Pacific Coast Highway, between Golden West Street and Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach. Information: (714) 536-1454.

Doheny State Beach has camping in the southern area (with some camp sites only steps away from the beach) and a day-use area with picnic facilities and volleyball courts. The beach is on Del Obispo/Dana Harbor Drive, about a mile north of Interstate 5 and about three miles from San Juan Capistrano Mission. Information: (949) 496-6172.

San Clemente State Beach offers swimming, body surfing, surfing, skin diving and hiking on the bluffs. It is near the south end of San Clemente on Interstate 5 (Basilone Road). The park entrance is reached via the Avenida Calafia exit. Information: (949) 492-3156.

Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort is situated on 100 acres along Newport Bay. The private resort offers swimming, a playground, boating, rentals of sailboats, kayaks, pedal boats and windsurfers, a market and restaurant. 1131 Back Bay Drive, Newport Beach. Information: (949) 729-6863.


Leo Carillo State Park has 1 1/2 miles of beach for swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing and beachcombing. The beach also has tide pools, coastal caves and reefs for exploring. Giant sycamores shade the main campgrounds. The park is 28 miles northwest of Santa Monica on Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). Information: (818) 880-0350.


Carpinteria State Beach offers a mile of beach for swimming, surf fishing, tide pool exploration and camping. The park is on Highway 224, off U.S. 101, 12 miles south of Santa Barbara. Information: (805) 684-2811.

El Capitan State Beach offers visitors a sandy beach, rocky tide pools and stands of sycamore and oaks along El Capitan Creek. A stairway provides access from the bluffs to the beach area for swimming, fishing, surfing and picnicking. A bike trail connects the park with Refugio State Beach, 2 1/2 miles away. Information: (805) 968-1033.

McGrath State Beach is one of the best bird-watching areas in the state, with the lush riverbanks of the Santa Clara River and sand dunes along the shore. A nature trail leads to the Santa Clara Estuary Nature Preserve. Two miles of beach offer surfing and fishing, but swimmers should beware of strong currents and riptides. Camp sites are near the beach. The beach is five miles south of Ventura off Highway 101 via Harbor Boulevard. Information: (805) 654-4744.

Refugio State Beach offers excellent coastal fishing, trails and picnic sites. Palm trees planted near Refugio Creek give a distinctive look to the beach and camping area. A bike trail along the beach bluff connects the beach with El Capitan State Beach 2 1/2 miles east. The beach is 20 miles west of Santa Barbara off Highway 101 at Refugio Road. Information: (805) 968-1033.

Emma Wood State Beach has moderate ocean temperatures that make it an ideal spot for swimming, surfing and fishing. Wildlife can be seen at a nearby freshwater marsh and the beach offers a view of Anacapa Island and, occasionally, dolphins. The beach also features the crumbling ruins of a World War II coastal artillery site and a grassy area. The beach is two miles west of Ventura, via Highway 101. Information: (805) 654-4936.

Point Mugu State Park features five miles of ocean shoreline with rocky bluffs, sandy beaches, sand dunes, rugged hills, river canyons and grassy valleys. The beach offers swimming, body surfing and surf fishing. The beach is 15 miles south of Oxnard off Highway 1. Information: (818) 880-0350.


San Elijo State Beach offers swimming, surfing, snorkeling and picnicking. The beach extends along Old Highway 101, about 3/4 mile north of San Elijo Lagoon's entrance channel, near the community of Cardify-the-Sea. Information: (760) 753-5091.

San Onofre State Beach features 3 1/2 miles of sandy beaches with six access trails cut into the bluff above. The beach is popular with swimmers and surfers. Whales, dolphins and sea lions can occasionally be seen from shore. The campground is along Old Highway 101, adjacent to the sandstone bluffs. The beach is three miles south of San Clemente on Interstate 5 (Basilone Road). Information: (714) 492-4872.

Silver Strand State Beach features extensive beaches on the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay. It offers swimming, surfing, boating, water skiing, volleyball, picnicking and fishing. The beach is located 4 1/2 miles south of the city of Coronado on Highway 75. Information: (619) 435-5184.

South Carlsbad State Beach features swimming, surfing, skin diving, fishing and picnicking. The campground is on a large bluff with stairs leading to the beach. It is three miles south of Carlsbad on Carlsbad Boulevard. Information: (760) 438-3143.


Achieving total relaxation on a camping trip requires proper technique, equipment and planning. Here are some tips from the Coleman company for maximizing your tent camping experience:

1. The early bird gets the best camp site. Arrive as early as possible, walk or drive around to check out all the options, and find the best spot.

2. Pack items that have multiple uses. A light poncho, for example, packs easily and can be used as a rain jacket, a windbreaker, a ground cloth or a mosquito shield.

3. Save the canisters that film comes in. They're the perfect size for keeping essentials like aspirin and matches dry.

4. Wear comfortable shoes. That short hike to the top of the hill can turn into an endless journey back to camp if you're fighting a blister.

5. Pack a pair of polypropylene long johns, even in summer. They don't absorb moisture, they dry fast and wick water and sweat away from the body. Pull them on if a sudden storm blows in or if you get cold sleeping.

6. Dress in layers. You can peel them off or pile them on as the temperature rises or falls or your physical activity increases or decreases.

7. Pack clothing in trash bags. The bags keep clothes dry in wet or humid weather and can double as laundry bags or makeshift ponchos.

8. Plan a menu and bring premeasured items to save time and space. For example, measure all the dry ingredients for pancakes into a covered container. When you're ready to cook, add the wet ingredients, put the lid on and give it a shake to mix it up. Remember to label the containers.

9. Pack insulated mugs with lids. They keep hot beverages hot, cold beverages cold, and insects out of everything.

10. Invest in a solar-heated camp shower, which can double as a faucet and is ideal for dish rinsing and hand washing.

11. Partially unzip an upper window in the tent to remove unwanted moisture and condensation from perspiring sleepers. On muggy nights, also zip open a lower window to draw cooler air through to create a chimney effect.

12. Take firewood with you to the camp site.

13. Even if you forget everything else, remember the can opener and the toilet paper. The rest is secondary.

14. Clean up when you leave.


8 photos, 2 boxes


(1 -- 2 -- color) Gary Pene, left, of Brea is hoping for a bite at Refugio State Beach, known for it's fishing. A leafy, shaded bike path connects El Capitan State Beach, above with Refugio.

(3 -- color) Campers and RV's park along a rock bluff overlooking Emma Wood State Beach.

(4 -- 6 -- color) Picknickers enjoy lunch at Carpinteria State Beach, right which offers a mile of beach for tent camping, above, and playing the shore, below.(7 -- color) A wide sweep of shoreline dotted with palm trees give Refugio State Beach a distinctive look.

(8) A lifeguard station and a lone tree stand over the dunes at Carpinteria State Beach in Santa Barbara County.

Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer

Box: (1) Turf By Surf (see text)

(2) Ahead of the Pack (see text)
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 1, 2001

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