gaviota state park, beach camping, car camping, california, southern california

Review: Gaviota State Park

By Heather

So as to not bury the lede, I’m going to put this right up front:

Do not camp in Gaviota State Park with a tent.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Gaviota State Park is a punchline in our group, though some of us still have a little trouble laughing. It is, to date, the worst camping experience Darren and I have had and it’s pretty high up on Steve and Regina’s list, too.

The wind

Darren and I pulled up to Gaviota around 4 p.m. on a Friday. As I paid the extra car fee, I took note of the sign on the ranger’s station: No refunds for wind.

If this had been a horror movie, this would have been the part where the audience is yelling “Go home! Go home!”

We did not go home.

Steve and Regina were already there and set up. While they ran out for supplies, Darren and I pitched our tent. That’s when the wind started.

It began in short bursts, lifting the table cloth and toppling some of the condiments. Then it ripped the tent we were setting up from my hands and yanked Steve and Regina’s tent straight out of the ground, stakes and all, sending it rolling into the next campsite.

Don’t believe me?

Ohhhhhh. That’s what that sign meant! Why didn’t we go home?

The night

Also not helping: The cramped arrangements. To wit:

gaviota state park, beach camping, car camping, california, southern california

Well, isn’t this cozy?

All those people were definitely using their outdoor voices, too.

But really, 99 percent of our misery was owed the wind and all the havoc it caused. We had to lay our chairs on the ground when we got up to beat the wind to knocking them over. Our food had the unmistakable crunch of sand. The sand, more of a fine silt, found its way into everything: The tent, our shoes, our hair, our mouths… name it.

The wind raged all night, periodically knocking over stuff on the picnic table. We froze and no one really slept. Our tents survived mostly intact. Good thing we hadn’t been there two nights earlier. One of the employees told Steve that there had been 40 mile-per-hour winds with 60 mile-per-hour gusts.

Why on earth do they let people camp there in tents?! It is at best unpleasant; at worst, all of your things get destroyed.

Please do not come here if you’re not in an RV. It is completely not appropriate for tents and the rangers shouldn’t even allow it. Shame on them for taking money from tent campers when they know that most people will not put up with that for more than one night.

The next day

The wind died down eventually. Just in time for everyone to give up on getting any sleep. Instead, we got up to make coffee and glare at one another. It was pointless, anyway. As soon as the wind stopped, all of the Loudy McGees woke up at the crack of dawn to continue the whooping it up they had started the night before.

After a really terrible breakfast I made, it was official: We and Gaviota were dunz-o. Packing up never felt so good.

The moral of the story

Gaviota was mine and Darren’s fourth camping trip ever, so it was an early but important lesson that not every trip was going to be five stars. The important thing is getting out and having the experience. It’s an entertaining story if nothing else. Heh, heh… Right?

Also, thank god this wasn’t our first trip, because there’s no way we’d have ever camped again.

Because there’s always that person who just has to see for themselves, here are the details about Gaviota:

  • It’s dog friendly. Your poor, poor dogs…
  • The bathrooms are flush toilets with sinks and blurry mirrors, so you can see how you look when you’ve been in a wind tunnel. I’d describe my own look as Manson Family-ish.
  • The beach is just steps away.
  • Some supplies – firewood, water, stakes, canned food – can be bought in the little store next to camp. The prices are fairly reasonable.
  • Seriously; I’m trying to tell you! This place is windy! Why won’t you listen to me?!

If you want beach camping, I hear that Leo Carrillo State Park is wonderful, open year round and, most importantly, not windy!