The Best Free Campsites in Morro Bay, CA

What You Need to Know

Is Car Camping Legal in Morro Bay?

Unfortunately camping in your car, van, or RV is illegal on the streets of Morro Bay and carries with it a $250 fine. Like most popular towns and cities, on the California coast, Morro Bay sees quite a few travelers coming through each year. As a nomadic lifestyle becomes more and more common Morro Bay and other coastal towns have had to put laws in place to make sure their beachfront and streets don’t become parking lots for vans and RV’s. It’s the line, of welcoming tourism while keeping residents happy, that each town has to straddle.

Fortunately, even though parking in your vehicle is illegal, you still have some very good options to “camp” for free near Morro Bay. In addition to your free camping options you can also pay to camp right on the beachfront. Morro Bay has embraced van lifers and nomads by creating designated spaces or “campsites” that we can access for a fee.

With that said you aren’t here for pay sites so let’s get into your best options for a few free nights of camping in Morro Bay.

Our Favorite Hiking Shoes

 

The Best Free Campsites Near Morro Bay

In our experience, the best free campsites in Morro Bay are the Old Creek Road Pullouts and 1st Street Dirt Lot. Others have had success on the Highway 41 Pullouts as well.

1. Old Creek Road Pullouts

There are pullouts here all along Old Creek Road. This was one of our favorite spots to stay based on the proximity to the beach and the town of Morro Bay. This location is a short 5 minute drive down the hill to the Morro Bay State Beach Day Area. This is a small free lot on the beach that is great to spend quiet days at. We would wake up with the sun and then drive down to this beach area and back into a spot right up to the sand. A perfect spot to set up for the day and then watch the sunset at night before heading back up the hill to the pullout. Not only is the day area only 5 minutes but the center of Morro Bay is only a 12 minute drive from this “campsite.”

During our 10 nights, or so, here we had 3-4 other vehicles spending the night along the pullouts. In the evening there would be some traffic, at times louder than we would like, but most nights were pretty quiet. We encountered no knocks or warnings from the police or locals.

Coordinates: 35°27’27.9″N 120°51’42.6″W

Cell Service: No. This site is just out of reach of great service even with an extender. If you drive a couple minutes toward the ocean, you should have close to 4 bars.

Bathrooms: No

Picnic Tables: No

Fire Pits: No

Water: No

Vehicle Access: All. This is perfect for RVs, buses and other large vehicles.

2. 1st Street Dirt Lot

This is a lot that has unfortunately just made its way onto iOverlander. Before it did, we tried our luck and stayed here for one night without issue. It’s right in town and literally steps to the beach. It is an ideal spot if it wasn’t so nerve-racking to get a knock at night. There were no “No Overnight Parking” signs posted when we visited but that could’ve changed by now.

This is a day use lot and there are a number of locals around. If you do stay here, then make sure to get in late and leave early. Morro Bay seems more relaxed than other California beach towns but don’t push your luck and ruin it for everyone else!

Coordinates: 35°19’39.3″N 120°50’32.1″W

Cell Service: Yes. 2-3 bars of LTE from Verizon

Bathrooms: No

Picnic Tables: No

Fire Pits: No

Water: No

Vehicle Access: This is perfect for Vans and Cars.

Other Community Picks

These are sites you’ll find on the iOverlander’s of the world and have the least sketchiness to them. For us they were a little too far away, not needed or just didn’t give the same access as the Old Creek Road Pullout.

1. Highway 41 Pullouts

Highway 41 Pullouts seem to be a popular spot for overnight parking near Morro Bay. The vicinity of the “campsites” take you out of the Morro Bay fine, $250, range. The spacing seems similar to the Old Creek Road Pullouts and the access to town is actually a little closer. We drove by one night in the evening after dark and there were 2-3 vehicles already settled in for the night. As with all “campsites” in Morro Bay or elsewhere make sure you do your due diligence before the night sets in.

Coordinates: 35°23’08.0″N 120°50’50.2″W

Cell Service: Yes. 2-3 bars of LTE from Verizon.

Bathrooms: No

Picnic Tables: No

Fire Pits: No

Water: No

Vehicle Access: From the reviews there is space for all types of vehicles here including RV’s

2. Street Parking

There are a number of success stories with scattered street parking in Morro Bay. You can take your chances and likely have success for a night or two. Keep in mind though the effect you’ll be having on others in the community. The more vehicles that the Morro Bay police have to knock on the more likely that they will become extremely strict in the future. This could result in a situation similar to San Diego where we have almost completely worn out our welcome.

Don't Miss a Workout While Camping or on the Road

What We Would Do

Home Base: Old Creek Road Pullouts

This provides a very easy option that’s 5 minutes from a quiet beach and fairly quiet after 9pm. You also don’t have to worry as much about that dreaded knock as you are further from the action in Morro Bay. If you are looking for a quiet week at the beach and still want access to the downtown area, then this will provide the perfect spot to sleep.

1-2 Night Stay: 1st Street Dirt Lot

As mentioned this one has started to hit the interwebs as an almost too good to be true spot to spend the night. Do so knowing that 1-2 nights should be fine, but anything passed that will be pushing it.

Supplements for Hikers and Campers

 

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Head over to Free Campsites page for an entire list of sites including a map of all the locations we've stayed at.

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