If you’re looking to camp in your van, it’s likely that we’re either best friends or enemies.
Well, not really, but if you’re trying to camp the Oregon coast in a $150k Spring van then we’ll probably be at odds when we pull up in our 30-year-old $800 Club Wagon.
So, in the interest of keeping your trust fund campers as far away from me as possible, I’ve decided to share a few of the best places to sleep in your van in Oregon, specifically on the coast.
I figure that the more options you have, the less likely it is that we run into each other!
Now, the reasons that someone is sleeping in the van can be pretty diverse. We’ve slept in non-camper vans when we had no choice and we’ve gone on expensive road trips with the sole intent of sleeping in our van to keep costs down.
So, no matter what end of the spectrum you’re on, we’ve got a spot for you!
Where To Van Camp On The Oregon Coast
Now, despite Oregon’s reputation as being friendly to alternative lifestyles and people who have different types of sleeping/home situations, you can’t just go park your van anywhere.
Well, you can, but you’re risking a knock on the window in the middle of the night.
So let’s start with what I consider to be the safest option for most people.
Oregon has well over 100 state parks and most of them have a campground of some variety. Add in private campgrounds and there are literally hundreds of places in Oregon where you can rent a van spot for the night, without or without hookups.
The main drawback here is that you’ll be set back $50 a night or more and you’ll need to reserve a space well in advance (usually a couple of months).
However, if you can get a spot a dedicated campground gives you lots of amenities (such as shower access), proximity to people and stores, and a spot that you are entitled to be…at least until 11:00 the next morning.
South Beach State Park – Located just south of Newport in Waldport, South Beach State Park offers full hookups and showers for RV camping. The park itself is also in a super convenient location that offers access to miles of shoreline, dune trails for hiking, beachcombing, and tons of wildlife.
Cape Lookout State Park – This state park is located near Tillamook and offers 57 full-hookup sites as well as tent camping options. Cape Lookout State Park has miles of pristine coastline along with trails that make it a great spot to spot whales and other wildlife in the area. It’s also one of the best places to watch sunsets on the Oregon Coast!
Carl G Washburne Memorial State Park – This park is situated between Yachats and Florence and features 35 full-hookup sites for RVs as well as tent camping options. Carl G Washburne Memorial State Park is known for its towering trees and scenic views of Cape Creek Bridge. The park also has plenty of trails ideal for either biking or walking and access to the perfect beach for fishing or swimming.
If you’re into the van life to avoid people who aren’t into the van life, then boondocking probably holds a lot of appeal for you.
Boondocking, also known as dispersed or free camping is simply a term used to describe parking your van anywhere in the wilds and spending the night. Think of it like putting up a tent in the middle of the woods next to a backpacking trail.
For most people, it’s the most enjoyable form of camping. Especially if they have a shower in their van or RV or simply want to embrace a “naturey” smell of their own.
While Oregon is a great place for boondocking, it’s not as wide open as you might expect.
The coast of Oregon is lined with state parks where dispersed camping and boondocking in a van/RV is not allowed.
You can, however, park your rig in many places in national forests, on BLM land, or even in national parks.
The best way to find out where you can park is simply to find the website for the park you’re interested in or call ahead.
Can I Drive My Van On The Beach?
Oregon is unique on the west coast because, unlike Washington & California, all beaches are publically owned and are required to be accessible to the public.
However, public access does not include your van or car.
In general, Oregon beaches are not accessible to vehicles, including camper vans, and driving on them will earn you a ticket.
There are, however, a few spots that are accessible. The longest stretch of beach with vehicle access is the 10-ish mile section between Gearhart and Warrenton. This stretch is commonly driven on and includes famous beaches such as Sunset Beach and Del Rey.
However, its popularity kind of ruins the isolated beach vibe that most van campers are going for.
Depending on the season there are a couple more options in the Gearhart area but you should also be safe and just call ahead before you go.
Rest Stops & Truck Stops
The majority of rest stops offer free overnight parking which makes them a great spot if you’re trying to put in some miles on a budget.
If you’re super lucky (or a great planner) you can also find a rest stop that has coin-operated showers and some rad vending machines.
Many truck stops also offer overnight parking spots that are free or relatively cheap depending on the location.
While truck stops tend to be noisier (and feel sketchier) than other places due to all of the trucks coming and going at all hours of the day and night, they’re usually safe places with plenty of spots available.
Just make sure you park away from other trucks so that they can get out easily when they need to leave.
Parking Lots & Side Streets
If you’re trying to stealth-camping you’ll have lots of company in Oregon. Homeless people and tourists are all crawling all over the state with the same goal: a decent place to sleep where they won’t get harassed.
I will say, if you have a vehicle, your best option is to find a business that will allow you the spend the night in their parking lot.
The lighting and presence of cameras are usually enough to keep you and your van safe.
As far as finding a parking lot, this is one of those things where, if you know you know.
Businesses don’t advertise whether they allow overnight parking or not so you’ll often have to go in and ask (which you should probably do anyway).
While you won’t have access to a shower in a parking lot (unless you can park at a county rec center) you’ll at least have some bathroom facilities.
Walmart – Walmart is one of the most popular places for those who need a cheap place to overnight in their van or camper. While Walmart does not advertise it, they typically allow people to stay in their parking lots as long as they don’t cause any disturbances or block other vehicles from entering or exiting the lot.
However, it’s also a good idea to check with the store manager first before settling into a space for the night.
I will also note that, just because you have permission, doesn’t mean that you won’t get harassed by cops during the night. Unfortunately, this is just a perk of van-life anywhere but in a dedicated campground.
Best Cities For Van Camping In Oregon
Roadtripping the coast might honestly be one of the most expensive places in all of Oregon to try and spend your nights in a van.
If you can get away from the coast and into some small towns you’re much more likely to be left alone if you want to pull off to the side of a random street and park for the night.
Portland itself is quite a van-friendly city if you know where to go (and don’t look too rich).
For many people who are afraid of living in a “gray area,” you’ll end up spending all of your time on the coast in a dedicated campground.
And who goes camping with a van for that?
Whichever place you choose, camper vans are a great option for those who want to travel through Oregon while straddling the distance between price and comfort.
Now I just need to save for a van with a shower…