Just a couple hours north of San Francisco, Salt Point State Point is a fun weekend getaway and perfect for a camping trip with your friends or family.
Where to Stay, Camping in Salt Point
There are a number of beautiful spots along the coast but my friends and I stumbled upon this place while researching available camping sites (a very difficult task during a pandemic where everyone also wants to go outside!).
There are two main camping grounds to choose from: Gerstle Cove Campground which is closer to the beach, and Woodside Campground which is across the road further inland. Some comments online said the beach side was much windier & colder so we went with the latter. I can now confirm, even that side is cold so I can't imagine staying by the beach! Make sure to bundle up for the early mornings and evenings (and honestly in between).
My friends and I booked two campsites next to each other and was pleasantly surprised to see how each campsite had dense trees and bushes for a sense of privacy all around. Each was equipped with a fire-ring, picnic table, and food locker. There is drinking water and restrooms, but no showers.
Make your reservations early, as weekends fill up fast once the weather warms up!
What to See and Do at Salt Point
At Salt Point you'll find a variety of ecosystems: grasslands, open prairie, and pygmy forests, rocky coasts, tide pools.
There are a number of hiking trails to pick from but it you are staying for one day I recommend hiking down to Gerstle Cove (one of the first underwater parks in California) to see tide pools. Check for low tide times for the best view.
There you'll see a variety of wildlife like star fish, sea anemone, hermit crabs, small crabs, and sea urchins. We also spotted a seal bobbing their head in and out of the water! Between the months of December and April, it is possible to see gray whales migrating south to Baja California for breeding.
This park is named for the salt crystals that form in the cracks and crevices of the rocky coastline, which is mostly sandstone. In fact this is the very site they quarried for San Francisco's streets and buildings in 1850s. You can still see the drill holes into the sandstone and the eyebolts used to anchor the cargo ships. Walk along the shoreline for a up-close look at the sea cliffs and the unique honeycomb-like formation of sandstone called tafoni.
Have fun hiking, camping, fishing, tide pooling, picnicking, kayaking, and scuba diving.
What's in my Carmel Backpack
- Water Bottle
- Bug Spray
- Cards / Cash
- Hand Sanitizer
- Tissue / Wet wipes
- First Aid Kit
- Neosporin /Antibiotic
- Dramamine (for motion sickness)
- Acetaminophen (like Tylenol or Ibuprofen)
- Antihistamine (Benadryl)
- Antacid (Pepcid)
- Blister bandages
- Bug bite / Itch relief (Bite MD or hydrocortisone)
- Electronics / Misc
- Hand Cream
- Cough Drops
- Eye Drops
- External Battery
- Wireless ear buds
What to Eat
While camping, we brought our own groceries to cook over the fire as well as our two camping stovetops that we brought. The fire pit comes with a grill top so we wrapped potatoes in foil and nestled them in the coal while corn got wrapped in foil and grilled over the fire.
Menu revolved around using most of our same groceries in different ways: cheese, salsa, chicken, avocado, corn, sour cream on top of or inside potatoes, tortillas, chips, bread. And of course you've gotta have s'mores and hot cocoa. Have fun with it!
Make sure to lock up any food in your locker or car before heading to bed. Raccoons can even break into ice chests!
Where to Eat On the Drive back down to San Francisco
Check out of your campsite by 11am, and time your drive for a delicious seafood-filled lunch stop. Or if you're ambitious like us, multiple stops! For a scenic drive along the water, you can drive on Highway 1, just be prepared to for twists and turns.
Jenner - the closest town to Salt Point. There are a few places you can dine there, but we didn't since we brought our own groceries. If you're in a pinch, there are also two convenient stores within a 15min drive of the campsite to restock on wood and pick up hot coffee/ breakfast.
Marshall - The Marshall Store is a great place to pick up grilled or raw oysters with a pretty view of the water. Or go DIY by booking a picnic table at the Hog Island Oyster Company. There you can buy oysters and clams by the pound and grill them and shuck them yourselves. We decided to pick up oysters at Tomales Bay Oyster Company (bring cash). There aren't picnic tables here but we stuck the bags in our ice box and drove down to Stinson Beach. Bring your own oyster shucking knife and gloves or buy them at the counter with your oysters.
Stinson Beach - There are picnic tables and grills where we had a great time shucking oysters and finishing up left over groceries from the camping trip (ie chips and drinks). We even brought lemons, shallots, and red wine vinegar just for this occasion. Afterwards we stoped by the Parkside Snack Bar for a chocolate dipped soft serve dessert. Use the restroom at the beach before departing for your final leg of the drive.
Karin is the co-founder of Arden Cove and co-creator of the Anti-Theft Waterproof Crossbodies - bags created for women who want all the practicality and safety features without compromising in style. Shop ArdenCove.com.