Are Tents Allowed On The Beach? Why Not?

Every now and again, campers enjoy a change of pace from wilderness camping and prefer some time soaking up the sun and surf at the shore. For many, seashores aren’t something that you see every day. So, when you travel to get to the beach, you may wonder if you can set up a tent and stay there.

Whether or not tents are allowed on any given beach will depend on the specific laws for that particular beach. Different beaches have different governing bodies, and therefore different laws. Most of the time, coasts will allow tents on the beach during the day, but not overnight. 

The good news is that there’s usually a designated campground nearby, and it’s often within walking distance to the beach. It’s rare to find a beach that will let you stay through the night. Below, we go into detail on why many beaches don’t allow tents overnight and how to know if they are banned.

Can You Put Up A Tent On The Beach?

You may be able to put up a tent on the beach. Most beaches allow various types of shelters on the coast. From umbrellas to pop-up canopies, and even tents. It’s usually not too hard to find a place to pitch your tent on the shore during the day. Sometimes beaches will allow shelters, but not all.

For example, Myrtle Beach has a variety of regulations depending on the part of the beach you visit. North Myrtle Beach only allows umbrellas, whereas Surfside Beach allows tents and canopies as well.

Pitching a tent on the sand might be more than you bargain for, so make sure you are adequately prepared. Sand often gives way to tent pegs, and if you’re not staked down, the high winds might just blow your beloved tent right on down the coastline.

Unless you plan on sitting in your tent the whole time, you’d be wise to invest in some larger and longer tent pegs that will offer you more stability. You could also consider weighing your tent down with something heavy.

As the sun begins to set, however, chances are you’ll be asked to leave. Many seaboards require their patrons to leave the shore at sunset. Most beaches won’t allow camping directly on the coast through the night for safety reasons. Although here and there you might find river camping with nice, beautiful sandy beaches that will allow you to stay overnight.

Can You Go Camping On The Beach?

You usually cannot go camping on the beach. Each state along the coast has its own governing body and therefore has its own laws on the matter, but most beaches do not allow visitors to stay overnight. You should always check the local laws before attempting to camp on the beach.

There’s also a distinction between public beaches and private beaches. You’ll have to check with the governing authorities in charge of your hopeful campsite to answer some of your questions since each location will be different. However, most states don’t allow open camping on the seashore for a variety of health and safety reasons.

Luckily, nearly every beach across the nation has a designated campground with oceanfront access. This means that even if you can’t camp directly on the shore, you can still be within walking distance of the ocean.You can hit the surf as soon as the sun comes up or enjoy a cup of coffee with a beautiful ocean view while you tuck your toes in the sand. 

You get all the advantages of camping on the beach without camping on the beach. Plus, you get all the perks of the designated campsites, which usually include water, electricity, and plumbing, including showers. However, depending on where you travel, some can be more primitive only offering water and porta-potties.

Occasionally, however, for better or for worse, you might run acrossthatdiamond in the roughthat allows overnight camping on their sandy shores. More than likely this will be at a private beach that’s outside the jurisdiction of the local authorities.

Why Some Beaches Ban Tent Use

The biggest reason most states don’t allow for camping on the beach is to protect the natural habitat of the coasts. It’s home to several species and your presence is invasive. Most governing entities work very hard to keep their shores clean and have several conservation efforts to keep their wildlife habitats safe, both in the water and on the coastline.


In addition to protecting the wildlife, there are also many safety reasons to prevent campers from staying on the beach overnight. While not every beach does so, many employ lifeguards that typically go off duty around sunset. The lifeguards will generally attempt to bring all the swimmers in from the water and begin clearing the shores around dusk.

Ocean life during the night is not your friend so most states prefer to deter people from thewaters to avoid careless injury or even loss of life. Winds are generally very high on coastal beaches and tend to pick up during the night. This creates strong and unpredictable ocean currents. 

These currents could pull you further out into the ocean making you disoriented very quickly. In addition, many coastlines, if not all, have a ton of jetties but no lights. With the strong undertows of the ocean, this can elevate into something very dangerous very quickly. Sadly, the best way to ensure that people stay out of the water at night is to make them off-limits.

Beach Cleaning

Another reason that many seasides are cleared during the night is to allow the governing authorities to clean the shore in preparation for the next day’s visitors. Beaches are usually tourist attractions and sometimes people can’t seem to manage their own trash, therefore the sandy dunes tend to become littered rather quickly. 

Often, clean-up crews will sweep the beaches early each morning with machinery. This would not only cause tents to be in the way of the clean-up crews, but the machinery would also pose a risk to would-be campers. 


In some coastal regions, tent bans are also used as a deterrent for the uncontrollable homeless population. In recent years, it’s not uncommon to see homeless camps, often referred to as “tent cities,” popping up on coastlines across the country.

The migration of homeless people in conjunction with the lack of public restrooms has left some beaches an outright mess, turning once beautiful panoramic views into jaunts of human waste and feces.

How To Know If A Tent Is Allowed On A Beach

To find out the regulations for whatever beach you’re thinking about visiting, you will need to do some research. If you know the specific beach that you’d like to visit, then a quick google search will give you most of the information that you need.  

For example, if I knew I wanted to camp at Myrtle Beach, I’d search for “camping at Myrtle Beach.” Scrolling through the variety of options, I’d find Myrtle Beach campgrounds that would lead me directly to the camping options for Myrtle Beach.

Again, just about every state has designated or developed campgrounds on the shore. All you must do is find a campground suitable to your needs and make a reservation. 

Additionally, because most beaches are considered tourist attractions, you could also check out the specific visitor’s bureau pages for the area that you’re interested in. They usually have information directly on their website to guide you along in finding the perfect campsite for your next adventure. You can also use review sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp to browse previous visitors’ opinions.

Also bear in mind that the visitor bureau websites typically have phone numbers that you can call to answer any direct questions that you may have about their featured destinations. It is always better to ask rather than just find out.

Final Thoughts

Tents are not usually allowed on the beach overnight. This is to protect you and the habitat. However, most states offer designated campsites near the ocean where you can stay overnight. Do some research online to see if the beach you’re visiting allows tents and what sites are available nearby.