The best places to visit in and around San Diego on a campervan vacation
San Diego is a buzzing coastal city on the southern edge of California, famous for its perfect sandy beaches and stunning parks and nature reserves. This fast-paced metropolis is an ideal location for a campervan road trip, as the leisurely drive to San Diego is as beautiful as each fascinating neighborhood within ‘America’s finest city’.
Best things to do in San Diego
If you want to dive straight into the heart of cultural San Diego, then head to the historic Gaslamp Quarter. This downtown district, where the streets are lined with Victorian-era townhouses mixed with modern skyscrapers, has quickly become the place to be to enjoy the city’s active nightlife. The picturesque Seaport Village is also a must-see on any visit to San Diego. Here, you can walk along the waterfront as you browse through the boutique stores or listen to live music while you sample the city’s famous fish tacos.
Beach lovers will enjoy spending an afternoon at La Jolla Cove or Coronado Island. La Jolla Cove is known for its massive underwater preserve where the extensive marine wildlife is best viewed by snorkelling around the clear waters. Around the cove, you may also spot leopard sharks, harbor seals, and California sea lions. The beaches of Coronado Island stretch out over 15 miles and the soft sand is ideal for swimmers, surfers, and sunbathers who want to relax under the warm spring sun.
Anyone looking for a natural scene within the buzzing city can head to the vast Balboa Park. Alongside long walking trails through perfect gardens, the park is also home to many museums, performance venues and art installations. You can also view some amazing architectural delights like the Spreckels Organ Pavillion. On top of the native birds and small animals that nest there, Balboa Park also contains the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
Scenic Campsites near San Diego
Campland on the Bay, Pacific Beach Drive, 9210
Located along the suitably named Fiesta Bay, this waterfront campsite prides itself on its exciting range of leisure activities. Campers can enjoy views over San Diego and the sunny bay while playing beach volleyball, basketball, or skating. There is also a spa and swimming pool on-site and the camping facilities include hot showers, a laundry room, and WiFi. Pets are welcome.
Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, Fanita Parkway, 92071
This beautiful lakeside campsite is a natural haven that focuses on climate-friendly camping. Electric hook-ups and basic free WiFi are available, alongside showers, laundry facilities, and a BBQ area. Swimming is not allowed in the lakes, but fishing there is encouraged, and there are pools and an 18+ spa in the park where you can relax. Pets are allowed but must be registered for a small fee.
Best Driving Routes and Nature Parks around San Diego
59-Mile Scenic Drive:
This relatively short route winds around coastal San Diego before exploring the downtown area. Starting opposite Coronado Island and heading north, the first half of the route is highlighted by its views of Mission Bay, Mount Soledad, and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, after which it twists around the best of La Jolla. The second part of the route goes south and features Balboa Park, Seaport Village and the Gaslamp Quarter. For anyone who wants to experience the best of San Diego from their campervan, the 59-Mile Scenic Drive is the way to go.
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park:
This sprawling state park to the east of San Diego is the perfect place to get lost in nature. From rolling hills that offer views over the countryside to grassy plains with streams meandering around clusters of pine trees, Cuyamaca Rancho park has something for everyone. Springtime fills Cuyamaca with wildflowers and you can spend hours walking through fields of bright yellow goldfields and soft white Mariposa lilies. The park’s wildlife also comes out to play in the spring sun, and you might spot deer, rabbits, hawks and woodpeckers along your walk.
Route 101 and I-5:
A subsection of the famed Pacific Coast Highway, this spectacular route stretches along the captivating coastline between Los Angeles and San Diego. While most of the drive can be done on the historic 101 highway, a small segment necessitates switching to Interstate 5. Although driving through the stunning Californian landscape is reason enough to take this route, great stopping points along the road include the wild and wonderful Torrey Pines State Reserve, the Seaside Market in Cardiff-by-the-sea, and the Los Rios Historic District in San Juan Capistrano.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park:
Standing proud as the largest state park in California, the astonishing Anza-Borrego Desert park is famous for the rainbow of colors that emerge across its valleys each spring. If vibrant wildflowers aren’t your thing, then you might enjoy the cacti and other succulents that lounge around the desert plains. There’s even a dedicated Cactus Loop Trail you can hike! Tall metal sculptures depicting dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals elude to the rich primordial history of the region. Indeed, countless marine fossils have been unearthed around the park, which date back to a time when the desert floor used to be a seabed. The dry park isn’t known for its wildlife, but bighorn sheep may be spotted along the foothills and coyotes roam the land when it’s the dark. Anza-Borrego also contains a few campsites where you can spend the night under an ocean of stars. The desert plains offer natural protection against light pollution and the entire area has been designated a ‘Dark Sky’ zone.
Your San Diego vacation awaits!
San Diego is a vibrant Californian city, containing many fascinating districts and surrounded by memorable scenic drives. Start planning your San Diego road trip now by looking through our available campervans and motorhomes to find a vehicle that’s right for you. If you’re interested in earning some extra money by renting out your camper when it’s not in use, then please send us a message. Join us here at TB Outdoor Rentals on Friday to discover the best phone apps for a campervan adventure.