Perfect reflections at low tide

Just another great coastal sunset

We’re coming to the end of yet another fabulous summer on the Oregon Coast. This place has so much to offer -> uninterrupted miles of 100% public (and dog-friendly) beaches, cute coastal towns and consistently cool summer temps. We LOVE the coast and we LOVE the State Parks, but coming here in the summer can get spendy. State Parks, while still very reasonable by national standards, run $20-$26 a pop and in summer you really need to book ahead (= additional booking fees) to make sure you get a spot. This got me thinking into ways to RV the Oregon coast without bookings and on and the cheap. Could you do it for free, or almost free? Is it possible?

Thanks to tips from other bloggers and sites like freecampsites.net I discovered it was indeed possible even for “beast size” like us. So in the spirit of sharing and love, here are some ways to make your Oregon Coast dreams come true, on the fly and for very little out of pocket costs indeed:

1/ Casino-Docking -> FREE!

Driving by Mill Casino dry camping area (left) in Coos Bay

Driving by Mill Casino dry camping area (left) in Coos Bay on Hwy 101 S

The absolute best way to “see” the coast for nothing is by taking advantage of free parking at Indian Casino’s. Many casino’s offer this service nation-wide (we’ve made use of them in San Diego, for example) and, as it so happens, ALL the main casino’s on the Oregon coast offer this possibility too. The only thing that limits you is length of stay which is up to the discretion of the individual casino and can be anywhere from a few days to 1 week. You may not be in the most scenic spots or for as long as you’d like, but you could certainly cover a good portion of the coast this way…and honestly, the price can’t be beat. From North to South:

  • Chinook Winds, Lincoln City (distant ocean views, unknown limit)
  • Three Rivers, Florence (quiet location off highway, 7 night limit)
  • The Mill Casino, North Bend/Coos Bay (slight bay views, 7 night limit)

2/ BLM Camping – CHEAP!

Edson BLM Campground. Nothing fancy here, but for $8/night it's a deal!

Edson Creek BLM Campground. Nothing fancy here, but for $8/night it’s a deal!

There is really no good dispersed BLM camping on the Oregon Coast, but there are 2 semi-developed campgrounds not that far from Cape Blanco State Park (along the Sixes River) that allow dry camping for $8/night ($4/night with Senior Pass) which is quite the deal. I would be happy driving “the beast” the 4 miles to Edson Creek (just about spacious enough to fit us), but would not do the longer 11-mile trek to Sixes River (narrow 1-lane road in last 2 miles followed by even narrower dirt road). The latter would be nicely suited for smaller rigs however.

3/ Marina & Airport Camping -> WATER FRONT!

Our Front RV view at Winchester Bay (D section)

Our Front RV view at Winchester Bay (D section)

Aerial view of Brookings Harbor

Aerial view of Brookings Harbor

One of the unique things about the Oregon Coast is that several of the marina’s offer RV parks and dry-camping areas. These are not “free” by any means (some even run quite pricey), but in a few select cases you can snag prime water-front camping from $11-$18/night with even more savings if you pay by the week or month. We discovered just such a gem at Winchester Bay (Salmon Harbor Marina $11-$18/night) and have since found other reasonable dry-camping rates at Newport (Port Of Newport $18/night), Waldport (Mckinleys Marina $16.50/night), and Brookings (Brooking Harbor Beachfront $17/night). The best thing is these dry-camping marina sites seem to be rarely used so availability is almost always high. Anyone know any good ones I missed?

And airports??? Yes, I’m not kidding. There is a wonderful little gem of a campground right by the old Tillamook Airport for $10/night. Quiet, green, spacious and almost no-one goes there. Plus you’ll be steps from the museum and cheese.

You can camp within sight of the lovely Tilamook Air Museum for only $10/night

You can camp within sight of the lovely Tilamook Air Museum for only $10/night

4/ Volunteering/Workamping -> FREE!

The volunteer couple in the lighthouse tower

Posing at our volunteer spot in the Coquille River Lighthouse tower, Bandon OR

While your truly goes to work...

Volunteering at gorgeous Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Paul poses on the original staircase from 1870

Paul poses on Cape Blanco Staircase

What if you want to be ON the beach ALL summer IN the State Parks WITH full hookups and not pay a dime? Well, how about volunteering or workamping? Most people don’t consider this option, but for very moderate hours (around 15-20 hours/week) there are endless possibilities all along the coast, and OR State Parks offer a wonderful program. We just spent 3 whole months in magical beach spots without shelling out a single campground fee. Not only did this reduce our camping expenses it reduced our overall budget by around 40% (!) because we found ourselves driving less and buying local produce. I honestly think there are few things you can do to reduce RV expenses more effectively than this, and if you choose your spots carefully they can be a fabulous experience.

Want to learn more about volunteering? Click on these:

5/ Special Discounts -> DEALS!

How d'ya like them apples? View from one of the many coastal trails at Cape Blanco

If you’re a disabled veteran you could stay 5 days at Cape Blanco for free!

Although the State Parks along the coast don’t support the Senior Pass there are several National Forest sites that do and can provide 50% discount for those “of age” to qualify. This can drop your camping fee from $20-$24/night (= typical rates for NFS campgrounds by the beach) to $10-$12/night. Some of these (e.g. Tilicum Beach) are right on the water and have beach views! Most of the National Forest sites have no hookups and limited big-rig spots, but if you search around you’ll find possibilities.

Also, for those who’ve served in the Military the State Parks do offer 5 consecutive nights (total 10 nights/month) FREE camping via a Special Access Pass for veterans with disabilities & active Military on leave. If you’ve served, it’s worth looking into this.

A quick note on “stealth” camping -> The vast majority of towns, rest stops and big box stores (e.g. Fred Meyers, Walmart) on the coast do NOT allow overnight camping, but we’ve seen smaller rigs “stealth” camp on side-streets or by some of the lesser-known shops. This is not something we could do with our “beastly” size, but for smaller campers or vans it’s a definite possibility. We’ve spied folks do this in Bandon, Port Orford, Astoria and other popular stops.

That’s my list folks. If you’ve found any good spots I missed DO add these to the comments! Share & enjoy!!

Map of Free & Low-Cost Camping Stops on the OR Coast

Map of Free & Low-Cost Camping Stops on the OR Coast

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the product links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. That said, I only ever recommend products or services I personally use and love! Wheelingit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

55 Responses to 5 Ways To RV The Oregon Coast For FREE! (Or Almost Free)

  1. Interesting to see that you’ve adopted the Oregon vernacular “spendy”:)
    I’d say the need for reservations at coastal state parks is more of an issue than cost, which I think is very reasonable. It’s not too soon to start reserving for next summer since they allow 9 months ahead. For those prepared to dry camp the casinos are an excellent suggestion. I know The Mill Casino in Coos Bay is very popular. There is also an adjacent full service RV park right on the waterfront. It’s quite a hike to the business district, but would be easy by bike. We were in Astoria recently and saw a full size motorhome parked overnight on Marine Drive. I’m sure you’d get kicked out of the Maritime Museum parking lot.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, I’ve noticed people start reserving coast sites quite early. We did our June reservations a couple of months ahead of time, but most of the best sites were already gone. July and Aug are even more popular. I’m sure happy it’s fall!
      Nina

  2. Donna K says:

    Great post Nina and helpful tips. As you enter Port Orford from the north, there is a street painted with a arrow that says “Ocean View” (I think that’s what it says!). Can’t remember the exact wording but at the top there is a gravel lot and you can park there for a donation. Not sure how many nights you can stay. There is room for 5 or 6 rigs – even biggies. I took a picture of another Lazy Daze we saw parked there. It was foggy but there is an ocean view when the fog lifts!

    • libertatemamo says:

      I think I know exactly the spot you’re talking about! The lot is on the left of the road that heads down to the Marina (dry dock). Great views! I saw a rig there when we passed by last month. I was also told (unofficially) from a lady in the Marina that you can park for free there. Thanks for the tip!!
      Nina

      • Dave'n'Kim says:

        Many thanks for this ‘campsite’ tip! We’re there now (19Oct13) and – it’s fabulous!
        A notice asks for ‘donation $20 or whatever you deem appropriate’. We made a donation and could hardly get it into the fee slot, I guess they seldom empty it!
        As stated, it’s a simple gravel car park with plenty of space for 5 big RV’s, at junction of 5th St. and Harbor Drive and top of Dock Road, Port Orford. GPS : 42.742427, -124.495559. And to clarify: it’s up on a cliff edge with a fantastic view down over a half-moon ocean bay and beach and working harbor (fog permitting!!). It’s almost as beautiful as Salmon Harbor Marina! THANKS for this timely tip!
        Beware though my online Dump research failed: NO dump at Chevron station in town (“dump closed years ago”), NOR Pt Orford RV Village (“only by paying $28 for FHU!”). Been told “State is shutting many dumps, too overused”, and nearest is “down the coast at Humbug”.. We’ll see…

        • libertatemamo says:

          So glad you enjoyed the spot and reported back on the details! Thanks for sharing. I think this will be a good stop for us in the future.
          Nina

  3. Steve says:

    Oregon State Parks are less expensive in the winter.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, very good point! The price here at Harris State State Park just dropped from $26 to $21 starting Oct 1st. All the State Parks go first-come-first-serve too (great for fulltimer flexibility). Late fall and early winter can be a great time to RV the coast.
      Nina

      • Dave'n'Kim says:

        Nina do you know if they have a dump (open!!) and what is the fee? We’re heading there next!

        • libertatemamo says:

          Do you mean Harris Beach State Park? Yes, they have a dump. Humbug Mountain State Park (further north) should also have a dump. Pretty much all the State Parks on the coast have dumps…the only one that doesn’t (because it’s broken) that I know of is Cape Blanco.
          Nina

  4. Diana says:

    Very helpful-thanks so much!

  5. Tom O'Neill says:

    Great post and very useful information not to say anything about your fabulous pictures. One other resource that I would like to mention would be the RV Parks offered by the Elks. They have many spots along the Washington and Oregon and California coast. They do require you to join them but they are also a wonderful charitable organization with a long tremendous history for our Veterans. Some of the Elks lodges have some very nice full hook up RV parks associated with them from $10 to $20 dollars a night which varies by lodge. Check them out.

    • libertatemamo says:

      The Elks Lodges are a good recommendation. We’ve never had the opportunity to join (I gather you have to be sponsored in) so they’ve never figured on our travel plans, but I do know many fulltime RVers use them extensively.
      Nina

      • Tom O'Neill says:

        The next time you find yourself in a area work camping for awhile, check out the local elks lodge usually someone will be glad to start you down the path to joining. My home lodge is in Port Townsend Wa and my home of record is SD. It takes just three Elk members to sponsor you, a orientation and then a initiation. This process can happen within a thirty day period in most places..Again you do a great job with your blog and I have really enjoyed your photography.

  6. You bet ya, will be there and take heed of this Free camping tips. It might take a couple years until we come back to the West for Oregon is beckoning us again. Another great recommendation, thank you.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Glad you like the tips! Enjoy those East Coast fall color changes! Can’t wait to see your pics of them on your blog.
      Nina

  7. Larry says:

    I really like that you guys provide so much good info for other RVers.

  8. Mister Ed says:

    U say (Thanks to tips from other bloggers and sites like freecampsites.net )
    Hi guys I’m thinking I have found some SITES
    would u share the ones besides. The onesFreecamp lists

  9. This is terrific, Nina. Thanks!

  10. It does get pricy, oceanside camping, and crowded on weekends for sure. Aside from the money issue, we had good luck monday thru thursdays…but then had to get “creative” on weekends. Forth of July? Forget about it and go inland…you’ll have it all to yourselves.
    Box Canyon Mark

    • libertatemamo says:

      Going inland is a very good tip. In fact just around 10-20 miles away from the coast you’re likely to find cheaper NFS sites as well as more availability at State Parks.
      Nina

  11. Thanks so much for your insightful references to free/cheap camping on the Oregon Coast. I especially like the Edson Creek BLM location and the Air Museum in Tillamook. Also love the marina/rv parks with dry camping. Will keep your references handy for our next trip up/down the coast.

    • libertatemamo says:

      You would like both of those options. Tillamook park is particularly nice. They just re-did the camping spots so you have a good, solid place to park.
      Nina

  12. You can park an RV overnight in the marina at Port Orford. We were told it cost $20, but “only if you got caught.” We saw an RV parked there when we went for lunch. Great info as always!

  13. Leigh says:

    Useful post! How’s cell service at Edson BLM?

  14. Gunta says:

    Thanks for providing an answer to why the Mill Casino is always full of RVs. Don’t know how many times I’ve driven by wondering why on earth anyone would choose to park there! ;)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, it’s all the free-loaders LOL. Mill Casino does also offer a developed (hookup), paid campground, but if we were to stay there we would just opt for the free area.
      Nina

    • Dave'n'Kim says:

      The free area was almost empty when we stayed there 17 Oct 13! Great weather then too! ;-) Great free place to stop en route.

  15. LuAnn says:

    So much great information in this post Nina…thanks bunches! :)

  16. Kentster says:

    Nina. Wonderful ideas. We are tonight on Winchester bay. Wonderful spot at marina. One comment. Tho not free, the county parks are less expensive then state parks. We’ve stayed in several. Many had some flavor of hookups great locations.

    • libertatemamo says:

      The County Parks are a good tip. We often stay at these in CA and we did stay at one on the OR coast in Florence (Harbor Vista), but it was around the same price as the local State Park. I have to admit I haven’t found any County Parks on the coast that were less than $20/night, but I’m sure I haven’t seen them all. Do you have any gems you really like? Thanks for sharing the idea!
      Nina
      P.S. glad you’re enjoying Winchester Bay. We love that spot!!

      • kentster says:

        Nina. Good point. prices range around $20-23 from what I have seen with hookups. We have stayed out at Bastendorf county park near Cape Arago. Quiet, clean. We dry camped at Barview Jetty near Coast guard view station out in Garibaldi for $10. ($15 in summer). Certainly an option. We also dry camped at the Newport Marina as you suggested. Quite nice next to aquarium

        • libertatemamo says:

          Outstanding tips! I did not know about the dry camping on the Barview Jetty. Thanks very much for the feedback.
          Nina

  17. gypsyvinrose says:

    I just discovered your blog today, and very much enjoy your lists. : ) We are currently ‘Full Time Caraving-It’ on Galveston Island while we restore the engine and a few other mechanical issues in our VW Van.
    Being a family of 3 nomadic road ramblers, we find our little campervan to be right for us! Thanks for sharing your experiences! We are still a bit wet behind the ears when it comes to traveling the globe. So many miles to cover and places to enjoy…so little time!
    Blessings and Safe Travels!

    Nico, Penny, Nixi & Blanca…and Peniki too!
    (Gypsy Vin Rose)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Lovely to “meet” you and have you along for the ride!! We’ve never been to Galveston, but it’s on our list.
      Nina

      • gypsyvinrose says:

        Lovely to meet you too, Nina. : ) Any time you guys make it down this way, please let us know. If we’re not on the road, we’d be glad to show you around.
        Happy & Safe Travels!
        .V..

  18. Davexxx says:

    Hi Nina, As said before, GREAT tips from you, useful timing as we’re coming down the OR coast (Oct 2013)! We ‘did’ and can confirm: Tillamook Airport ($10); Chinook Casino (free; half-busy but OK); McKinleys Marina $16.20 Prim – no free wifi for non-FHU ;-( – their dump is $5, she thought a “free dump on Starr St” in Waldport but it’s $3..
    We are now at Salmon Harbor Marina (Winchester Bay/Reedsport), and DO agree, this is perhaps the nicest waterside place ever! Stayed 2 nights, and wish we had time for more! We chose ‘Park B’ on east shore for best angle for our 5th wheel, 5ft from waters edge, rear-view onto fishing boats etc. NOTE they must have just increased the Dump (“Max 20 dumps per day”!!) from $5 fee to $10 (ouch) but thanks to your tip, the host can give a voucher reducing it back to $5..
    Next stops: Mill Casino, then, Cape Blanco – hope staff there might know if Edson Creek is ‘open’…
    Dave and Kim

    • libertatemamo says:

      Outstanding! Thanks so much for reporting back on all the spots you’ve tried. It’s really great to see the positive feedback! Enjoy your travels south.
      Nina
      P.S. Edson Creek should be open. Just got notice today from a ranger here in Bishop, CA that the BLM campgrounds are open again. Yeah!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Just re-checked the BLM website and actually looks like Edson Creek is CLOSED for the season. So, even tho’ the BLM campgrounds have re-opened elsewhere this one looks completely closed. The listed season dates are 5/23 – 9/30. Sorry:
      http://www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/site_info.php?siteid=42
      Nina

      • Dave'n'Kim says:

        Hee hee, luckily it’s Ok, thanks to the ‘Port Orford car park’ tip so we gambled and went there instead!
        Where’s our best source of BLM campgrounds info for down CA north coast?
        Dave’n’Kim aka Davexxx

        • libertatemamo says:

          Ah, that one I can’t help you with. Don’t know much of anything about CA coast camping except for around San Diego. I would suggest checking out freecampsites.net and see what they have listed there. We plan (maybe) to do the CA coast next year.
          Nina

  19. Caryl says:

    Nina: I have been following your current adventures as well as catching up on your last couple of years….. You are both an inspiration to us who are still trying to keep the dream alive while we wait for life to catchup to the dream. We are currently living in Milton Fla. We have a 32 Allegro and CRD Jeep Liberty toad…… plus house, stuff, and family we are encouraging in every way possible to find a life of their own! Plan is to sell everything by mid year 2014…. Maybe sooner but in the meantime I will continue to be inspired by those of you who are living the dream! Great info that we will follow soon .. I hope!

  20. gary Causer says:

    I want to thank you for the info on Oregon. Wish I had found your blog last summer when I was there. But, I’ll be back.

    I would like to suggest that there are thousands of free boondock sites across the country and the best place to find them is at gold mining or treasure hunting club sites.

    These fine people have claims all over the country where we can park and camp for weeks at a time and all you need is a small yearly fee and you get maps, driving directions and parties.

    You might even hit it rich, lol.

    I plan my whole itinerary using these…….

    Just Google any state out west and look them up….check out Gold Prospectors Association of America and The New 49’ers for starters.

    Molon Labe…

  21. Tiger says:

    Kelly’s Marina (Brighton), is a bit of a splurge at $25, but a fun place to camp/ kayak/ crab. Right on the edge waterfront. $ incl. electric (20/30), water, wi-fi & crabbing pier, (no dump). Just south is Jetty Fishery with same $ camping. Both charge $10/ pot to crab from their dock (even if I use my own gear) or $10 to launch kayak from their boat ramp. Check max rig length.

  22. Walt says:

    Question for you about camping along or near the coastline. My wife is worried about the salt air causing or speeding corrosion. How serious a concern is this, and what if anything do you (or your readers) do to prevent that from happening?

    • libertatemamo says:

      To be honest the salt problem is not as bad as it might seem. You’ll get a lot more direct rust issues from road-salting (in the east and colder climates) than you will from the coastal air. However I can’t discount it completely, and the air will corrode over longer periods. Your best bet to prevent this is washing/waxing the rig before you go, rinsing off the rig after leave the coast and oiling (or using silicone spray) on exposed metal parts while you’re there. It’s not perfect, but it does help.

      Nina

  23. Ed says:

    Hi Nina and Paul,
    Love your blog. We are purchasing our RV this month Class A 40′ Alfa SY40SS. We are from South Florida and will be fulltime RVers by years end.
    Hope to catch up with you.

    Teresa and Ed

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