Happy Camper: Beachcombing in an RV
By Claire Ferguson
Ever daydreamed about getting away from it all, packing up your home, and moving it to the beach? Now more popular than ever, whether for weekend trips or full-time living, RV life offers the freedom and flexibility of being mobile, with the conveniences and comfort of a home. For beachcombing enthusiasts, the perfect way to visit your next beach destination could be by turning a dream spot into your backyard!
What would it be like? Seasoned beachcomber Kass Cazier, who travels up and down the California coastline in an RV with her partner, Terry, might have some answers. Currently on their third RV, it all started 20 years ago when they bought a used 1987 Winnebago Class A motorhome. “As soon as we made our first trip to Seacliff (a few miles south of Santa Cruz, California), we were hooked,” Kass says. They didn’t, however, love all the repairs and maintenance required of an older model RV, so they decided to switch to a truck and trailer. That way, they could park the trailer, and have a separate vehicle to drive around in. After about five years of escapades, they decided to upgrade to something bigger and better with a layout that maximized the beach experience. They settled on a mid-level, 35-foot Forest River Heritage Glen with a “rear living” floor plan (a big back window for views), two pop-out slides for extra room, and a bed they no longer had to climb over each other to get out of. “We aren’t getting any younger,” Kass laughs. Now they enjoy one to two weeks at a time, comfortably living in a “fifth wheel.”
There are RVs for every lifestyle, whether you need a big-rig trailer, a teardrop camper, a travel trailer, or a toy hauler. A good idea for a newcomer is to try renting before buying. There are many different sizes, shapes, and styles to test so you can find what works for you. Renting is also a good solution for travelers and campers who don’t get out as often. Traditionally, renters would head to dealerships or chain services, but now there are sites like Outdoorsy and RVShare that connect you to a network of owners renting out their RVs. Starting with a two-to-three-night trip is great for a first-timer as it can be overwhelming.
Most rentals come with the essentials and Kass recommends packing light. “The more stuff you unpack, the more you have to clean, and pack before check-out time,” Kass explains. This can get very hectic rushing to clean a pile of dishes in the morning after a late-night gathering. Now, when with friends, Kass orders take-out to eat at the campsite and keeps things simple with a campfire and some nice lighting. “I love solar string lights at night, battery operated candles, fires, s’mores—all the glowy, cozy stuff,” says Kass. She keeps her sea glass in a Ball Jar with a lighted lid that shines down on the assortment of treasures.
So, once you have your RV packed and ready, where do you go? There are lots of ways to learn about beaches that are not only good for beachcombing but are RV accessible through social media, internet searches, word of mouth, and Google Maps. Some RV companies have blogs that customers use to share their experiences, travel knowledge, and places they’ve been. “YouTube has videos and photos of actual campground sites and spaces which is really helpful,” adds Kass. There are apps for finding places that allow free overnight “boondocking,” usually on public lands or campgrounds, but sometimes on fellow RVers’ private property. Lastly, there’s always the option of just hitting the open road and finding good beaches and RV spots along the way!
Kass has taken her RV on many beachcombing trips on the California coast from Morro Bay to Monterey to Mendocino, but her favorite and most frequent place to take the RV is Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, California. “It’s hard to get any closer to the beach in an RV than at Seacliff,” Kass says. Scoring a spot here can be difficult and time-consuming, but worth trying as often as possible. It’s generally easier to find reservations at RV parks in the winter, and it’s also a good time of year to go beachcombing when the storms stir up sea glass, seashells, fossils, driftwood, and other unique finds. “Since the weather is colder and the waves can be more dangerous, following a schedule can be helpful for finding those last precious hours of low tide and clear skies,” says Kass.
The best part of traveling in an RV is being able to drive to your location, set up, and immediately hit the beach. It’s cheaper than paying for a flight and an ocean-front hotel stay, plus you have the comfort and privacy of your own home away from home. The trade-off is that it takes a lot more preparation and cleanup. “Leaving a hotel room is MUCH easier,” says Kass. “It can take us all morning to pack up by check-out time.” Depending on your arrival time and whether the site has power/water/sewage hookup, set up can be a long process as well. Arriving late at night could mean waiting until morning to get started. While a familiar place becomes routine and easy, it still takes at least a half-hour to plug into power and water, put out the slides, set up furniture, test the water pressure, lights, toilet, etc. RVing to new places can take a lot of planning and even if you’re boondocking, it’s best to try to plan a safe space to park for the night.
A typical day when you’re RV beachcombing might be waking up, walking out the door, and being on a great beachcombing beach within seconds. You can make breakfast and coffee on-site or go out to a restaurant if low tide is a ways off. If it’s too cold or rainy to go outside, cozying up by the window with a warm coffee is a great option. “We sit at the big back window with our coffee and watch for dolphins, seals, otters, sharks, and best of all, the constant parade of dogs and their humans that walk by,” Kass says.
After beachcombing, Kass likes to spread out her finds and take photos before putting them in a display or container to take home. Beachcombing again at sunset is a must, and then enjoying dinner and the rest of the night. You can head off to bed, or maybe pack up to head out for the next day’s adventure at a whole new spot.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2022 issue.