5 Ways To RV The Oregon Coast For FREE! (Or Almost Free)
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!
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!
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!
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.
4/ Volunteering/Workamping -> FREE!
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:
- Volunteering On the Road Part I – Why Do It?
- Volunteering On The Road Part II – Where To Look For Openings
- Volunteering On The Road Part III – 4 Steps To Securing Your Dream Job
- Volunteering as Lighthouse Hosts -> What Do You Actually DO
- Volunteer Hosting At Cape Blanco Lighthouse
5/ Special Discounts -> DEALS!
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!!