How To Choose A Gorgeous Beach Campsite On The Texas Coast
Many parks and reserves have their own rules for choosing campsites or designated areas where you can camp.
In that case, always follow the mentioned rules.
However, if there are no rules specified then this is a general guide to choosing the best beach campsite.
This applies mostly if you are tent camping on an open beach like at South Beach on Padre Island National Seashore.
We recommend driving to a really clean and quiet area.
If there are a lot of campers and it is a crowded time of the year, then try to find a spot at least 80 to 100 yards from other campsites for some privacy.
In Texas, beaches are historically designated as state highways.
This tradition continues even today. That means they can get moving traffic, even at night.
As such, make sure your campsite is well clear of the beach.
Driving limit on the beaches is 15 mph. Normal rules of the road apply on the beaches as well. Driving on the dunes is illegal.
In many areas, like in the parks and reserves, the sand dunes are protected geological features and no camping is allowed on the dunes.
Thats why, we recommend finding a relatively flat spot that is away from the beach or vegetation and sand dunes.
In places like Padre Island, you will be somewhere at the base of the sand dunes, away from the open beach.
Always refer to tide timings and check for any signs of high tide before setting up your tent.
If in doubt, look how further back other tents are located to ensure you are out of waters way.
Winter Texans Migrate To Padre Island
As snowbirds, or “Winter Texans” as the locals say, we joined the many Northerners who converge on Texas to escape the cold winter of northern climates. There is much to attract nature lovers to North Padre Island.
The Kemps Ridley sea turtles migrate to the Texas coast and nest from April to August between Galveston, Texas and Tamaulipas, Mexico. It is the smallest sea turtle and also the most endangered. This protected species is the only sea turtle known to nest in the daytime. Its primary nesting territory is the Gulf Coast of Texas.
Camping On Padre Island
Primitive camping is abundant on Padre Island. South Beach is the most popular beach camping destination. Be sure to pick up a high tide flyer at the visitor center if you plan on camping on the beach. We saw tent campers, car campers, large RVs and small RVs all along the beach.
Although there are no amenities on the beach, there is an RV dump station not far from Malaquite Visitor Center. Our favorite spot is North Beach where its less crowded, plus we were able to get Verizon with our weBoost cell signal booster. Read How RVers Stay Connected on the Road.
The funny thing is, I thought beach camping at Rincon Parkway in Ventura, California was awesome until I experienced beach camping on Padre Island.
Note: camping is on a first-come, first-served basis and youll need to fill out a permit at the kiosk. North Beach and South Beach camping is free with paid park admission.
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Padre Island National Seashore
Of all the free beach camping, Padre Island National Seashore provides the best opportunity to get away from it all tune out the world and tune in to nature. At 60 miles long, this beach is the longest, remaining, undeveloped barrier island in the world. The beaches are beautiful and the surroundings all natural. Entry is $10.00 for a one-day pass or $20.00 for seven days.
Once in the park, follow the road past the visitor center to the beach camping area where you can camp for free. You may stay for 14 consecutive days and then leave for 48 hours before returning for a maximum of 56 days per calendar year. Just fill out a registration form for your vehicle at the entry kiosk when you arrive.
The farther down the beach you drive , the farther youll be away from any other people if thats what youre after. Youll need to check beach driving conditions and be aware of the tides. This is true whenever you drive on a beach. Weve camped here several times alongside RVers in large fifth-wheels and even a few motorhomes. Another year the beach was flooded after a storm and closed to traffic altogether.
Bird Watching On Padre Island National Seashore
Many winter visitors come to bird watch as more than half of the bird species in the U.S. are seen on Padre Island during the winter months. The National Park Service offers free birding walks led by knowledgeable volunteers or Park Rangers for those who would like help in spotting and identifying some of the species found here. We particularly enjoyed seeing the tall sand hill cranes that migrate here as well as pelicans, bitterns, skimmers, terns, long billed curlews, sanderlings, herons and other coastal birds at Bird Basin.
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Padre Island National Seashore Will End Day
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas Padre Island National Seashore is beginning to increase recreational access to allow overnight beach camping, officials said on Friday.
While following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local public health authorities, Padre Island National Seashore is increasing recreational access, according to the National Park Service, which is working servicewide with federal, state and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.
Officials said Padre Island National Seashore will end day-use only hours beginning Saturday and open access to:
- Overnight beach camping on North Beach and South Beach.
- Yarborough Pass 4WD road.
- Overnight boat trailer parking at Bird Island Boat Ramp.
With public health in mind, officials said the following facilities remain closed at this time:
- Malaquite Visitor Center.
- Malaquite Campground.
- Bird Island Basin Campground.
Officials said a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited.
We will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID- 19, and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health, the National Park Service said in its release.
Bring Your Swimming Gear
South Padre Island is a notoriously essential spot for swimmers. Enjoy everything from swimming to fishing to kiteboarding, as well as personal watercraft rentals. The water is regularly tested for bacteria levels and the beaches, though rocky and muddy, are well taken care of.
Visitors can also enjoy a turtle hatchling release if timed correctly, but there are also a ton of other wildlife to view along the shore.
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Padre Island National Seashore Camping
Padre Island National Seashore Camping is one of our favorite summer activities.
The national park has 4 campgrounds and you can camp on the beach at 2 of them.
You can choose a campsite tucked besides the sand dunes and have fun sleeping under the stars at night.
Camping at Padre Island is really an amazing experience: the water is pristine and if you time it right, you can attend a Turtle hatchlings release.
Visitors need to pay the national park entry fees but the campsites are free.
You can pick really secluded campsites, making Padre Island one of our favorite camping destination in Texas.
Beach camping on Padre Island is the perfect relaxing getaway as there is no cell service near many of the camping areas and you can enjoy a digital and social media detox.
Heres your complete guide to beach camping at Padre Island National Seashore.
North Beach is our recommended camping area if you dont have a 4WD vehicle.
The beach area is just 5 miles long but less popular so it is easy to find a spot on here.
While having a 4WD vehicle to drive on the beach is highly recommended, if you are going to try with a 2WD then North Beach is your best bet.
We have seen many sedans driving and camping in this part of Padre Island National Seashore.
The access road to the campsites is by the entrance / near the only cell tower in this area.
Then you can just drive along the beach road and select a campsite.
South Beach is our personal favorite camping area.
What Is It Like To Camp On The Beach
Camping on the beach is generally much simpler than camping in extreme conditions like cold weather or in the mountains in a remote location. For a more relaxing style of camping where campers can take in views from around the campfire without unneeded exertion, camping on the beach cannot be beaten.
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What Is The Difference Between Padre Island And South Padre Island
While North Padre Island is picturesque, its more of an urban vacation spot than a tropical one. North Padre Island is not as pedestrian friendly as South Padre Island. Visitors to South Padre Island regularly opt to leave their cars at home and walk, bike, or ride the Free Island Metro to get around.
Is Camping On The Beach Allowed On South Padre Island
Campers will be happy to know that, yes, they are allowed to camp right on the beach in certain places on South Padre Island. All the Islands beaches are public, so many spots along the 27 miles are fair game. Just be sure to pack everything you will need for a great beach camping trip as there are no stores or restaurants located directly on the beach.
If you are looking to camp on the beach, you should keep a few things in mind. First of all, camping on South Padre Island beaches is allowed at Beach access #5 and northward on the beach. This access is close to Edwin King Atwood Park.
The positives of camping right on the beach are that you have easy access to the water and can enjoy the sounds and smells of the ocean. In addition, you can find your own spot it doesnt have to be a designated campsite. Another benefit is that its pet-friendly, so bring your pet along with you.
The downsides are that it can be windy, there is no shade . If you want to drive down the beach, you will need an AWD or 4×4 car with plenty of clearance to get down the beach without getting stuck.
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When To Go Camping On The Beach In Texas
Coastal Texas is too hot and humid in the summer.
We personally love beach camping even in the summer since the water is perfect and we prefer to spend the entire day splashing around.
However, if you hate being out in the hot Texan summers the weather on the Texas Coast is perfect for the rest of the year.
Winter camping on the beaches is quite popular.
Winters can get slightly windy on the coast and the water can be too cold to swim for some, but you will still be warmer than the northern states.
Weekends and long holidays are busy times of the year and it will be hard to find a secluded campsite.
If in the national park, you will have to drive further on South Beach to find a really good beach campsite.
On the other hand, if you can go on a weekday, there will be very few people camping on the beach and you will have the entire area to yourself.
Try to time your visit with a full moon night.
The moonlight makes the beach look gorgeous at night and is incredibly romantic.
You can take a hand in hand stroll along the beach with your loved one and sleep under the stars.
South Padre Island Beach Camping
South Padre Island camping on the beach is as good as it gets!
From here you can experience stunning sunrises and sunsets and have a relaxing time on the beach.
Tent camping on South Padre Island is our favorite activity but there are also many RV parks which are perfect for all types of equipment.
Some of the top South padre Island RV parks on the beach include Isla Blanca Park and Andy Bowie Park.
From Beach Access #5 to any place north of the island, camping is free.
You will need to pay for a permit to drive on the beach.
The first couple of miles is good for 2WD vehicles while only 4WD vehicles are safe the further north you go.
You can have bonfires here too.
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Are Jellyfish Bad In South Padre Island
Beware the blob! Moon jellyfish are making a comeback on Padre Island. Regardless, if you see one of these jellyfish on the beach, they are mostly harmless. However, if you do come into contact with one, their stings can still cause some minor skin irritation if handled, according to PINS officials.
Port Aransas Camping On The Beach
Port Aransas beach camping is a great option for those looking for free beach camping right on the sand near the waters edge.
The beaches here are some of the widest we have seen on the Gulf Coast and hence, make for excellent tent camping in Port Aransas.
You can drive in front of the dunes and camp in their shade.
One of our favorite places to camp is the I. B. Magee Beach Park. It is located on the northmost edge of Mustang Island.
The stay limit is 3 nights. There are also several on the beach RV parks in Port Aransas.
Camping in Port Aransas Texas is definitely fun and offers a true get in touch with nature experience.
Just get a $12 annual permit to drive/park on the beach and you are good to go!
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Mustang Island State Park Camping
Mustang Island State Park is one of the best places to camp on the Texas Coast.
The primitive campsites within the park are all located at the waters edge.
The park has 50 primitive campsites right on the beach in a 1.5 mile area.
The best part of camping on Mustang Island State Park is that this is one of the few places where small beach campfires are allowed.
Thats right, you can roast marshmallows right by your tent and enjoy a romantic night camping on Mustang Island!
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Image from The Dyrt camper Jimmy R.
Many of these campgrounds are located close to town, so youll have no trouble getting to restaurants and shops from your RV or tent. The town is walkable so you dont need to rent a car unless youre interested in exploring the outer communities of South Padre Island. The Island Metro is a convenient option to hop around town.
If youre more interested in spending your days in South Padre Island along the beach, there are also a plethora of water-sport activities, including kiteboarding, dolphin watching, beach horseback riding, fishing and of course, just lounging and reading a book is always encouraged. Check out these 4 campgrounds to help plan your idyllic South Padre Island camping vacation.
Image from The Dyt camper Angie F.
Located on the southern tip of the island, South Padre Island KOA offers free wifi to campers and RV/tent sites with a view of Pier 19. Youll find a pool with the chance to take an aqua Zumba class at the on-site pool or regular zumba class for the terrestrial. Kids can play and build sand castles at the playground, or the whole family can dine at nearby Pier 19 Restaurant and Bar. Dogs are welcome, so bring your pets. You can also enjoy a soak in the hot tub after a long day. There are 50 max amp for RVs and a 98-foot max length for bigger vehicles.
- RV sites w/ hookups: $45/night $60/night
- RV dry sites: $20/night $25/night
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Off The Grid Rv And Tent Camping
Ocean front and On the Beach: North of town at beach access 5 you can drive onto the beach and park and camp overnight. Long term camping is discouraged but short term is no problem. Find a flat spot behind high tide line and before vegetation / dune line. Fires are ok , just keep it clean!
On the Road up North: An alternative to parking on the beach itself is simply to park along the side of the road anywhere North of beach access 5 is ok . Keeps the car cleaner than parking on the beach and is easier in general .
In the Flats: Its probably not technically ok to park and camp in the flats, so dont. However if you were to look you would find many nice flat, quiet, private, out of site spots from which you could let your dogs run and enjoy great peaceful camping. Anywhere North of SPIW North Flats would be where you might find such a spot if said spot was ok to camp at
Gps May Give You Trouble
North Padre Island National Seashore camping sites are easy enough to get to but dont trust your GPS. Many campers have noted that the parks default address is really miles away from the actual location. Play it safe by taking Park Road 22, which ends right at the entrance of the park.
Just as well, it has been reported by many visitors that cell phone services can be unreliable on the island. This really doesnt have to be a bad thing, either. Padre Island is a great place to detox from social media.
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