beach camping, cardiff by the sea, san elijo state beach

Beach Camping in Cardiff, California: Surf, Food & Fun

As a seasoned camper I usually scoff at the idea of “Glamping.” The whole point is to escape into the wilderness and feel like you’re living off the grid. However, beach camping in Cardiff, puts glamping into a whole new perspective.

beach camping, cardiff by the sea, san elijo state beach
Beach Camping

Cardiff, ‘formally known as Cardiff-by-the-Sea’ is a beach community in the city of Encinitas located just 24 miles north of San Diego. It’s home to San Elijo State Beach Campground. The campground is tucked right behind the Pacific Coast Highway, meaning humanity is less than a hop skip and a jump away. It’s not considered “glamping” by definition but I generalize it in that same arena due to it’s proximity to many amenities. It’s not exactly the rugged camping experience I’m used to but it certainly has its perks.

What to know about Beach Camping in Cardiff

San Elijo is great for swimming and there is even a reef nearby that offers great snorkeling. However, surfing is the main attraction here. This beach hosts both experienced and novice surfers. But there is a catch, trying to actually snag a campsite is a sport in itself.

Wanderdreams Tip: You’re able to reserve up to 6 months in advance online here. Let me tell you these sites go FAST.

The campground offers spaces for tents and RVs. There are restrooms and coin-operated shower stalls. Additionally, each site comes with a picnic table and fire pit. With the town center just across the PCH, you can wake up and surf in the morning, grill up some lunch at your campsite, go for an afternoon swim, wash up at the showers, take in some of Southern California’s most incredible sunsets, walk into town for a nice dinner, grab some drinks and then finish off the night with late night s’more roasting all before falling peacefully asleep under the stars. I know, that was a mouthful. To put it frankly, camping on the beach is an amazing and versatile experinece.

Where to Eat in Town

I recommend a healthy balance of grilling at your campsite and dining in town. If you are going to camp in Cardiff, you might as well explore the town and take advantage of the great restaurants.

Trattoria Positano is a family-owned restaurant that boasts some of the best Italian food you can get outside of Italy. It is owned by the Di Luccia sisters who grew up working in their father’s restaurant on the Amalfi Coast. Trattoria Positano has been a Cardiff mainstay since 1997 and is now being passed down to the next generation.

I highly recommend VG Donut and Bakery for a pastry fueled breakfast. Their cronuts are the real deal and it shows. Every weekend there is a huge line hanging out the door. If you’re like me and can’t fathom waiting in a line before having your morning coffee, swing by Bump coffee. It’s in the same Plaza as VG so you can sip on your organic, sustainably farmed coffee while you wait in line for your cronuts.

For lunch, you absolutely must check out Lourdes Mexican Food. Their California burrito is one of the best I’ve ever had. Not to mention, it’s the size of a small child for a mere $6.50.

Now that I’ve done my fair share of food gushing, I can circle back to the main subject. Overall, beach camping in Cardiff-by-the-Sea is a wonderful balance of old school camping and charming weekend getaway. I definitely recommend taking advantage of this unique camping experience. You get to enjoy the outdoors while still having a little luxury.

↞ Keep Dreaming ↠

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