One thing we love about camping in Texas is the sheer diversity. From region to region there is such change in landscapes and terrain. Camping in the Old Country, Big Bend, or camping in one of Texas’ state parks seems like worlds away from the South Texas Plains or the Gulf Coast.
When you say you are going camping in Texas, it only gives a fractional explanation as to what you are doing. Camping in Texas could mean a night spent in the desert, on the plains, near a lake, in the forest, on the prairies, or in this case - by the beach.
Sometimes all you need for the perfect summer holiday is a little bit of sun, a solid tent, and a patch of sand to pitch it on. Everything after that will take care of itself. There are few getaways in the world that rival a beach camping trip.
For relaxation and tranquility especially, it is hard to top. Camping anywhere symbolizes an escape from the world. When you add the seaside into the equation, how could you be anything but care-free?
A beach camping escape has it all. The soothing sound of waves, the blissful sunrise and sunsets, the abundance of activity and not to forget, the mandatory sunbathing.
Add to that the roaring flames of beach bonfires and the sense of freedom that comes from filling days laying on the beach or playing in the water. Day or night, it’s hard to beat. Days filled with sun, sand, and surf, nights spent under the stars listening to the water’s symphony.
Why Beach Camping in Texas?
Texas is a land of unending diversity. Nothing more represents this fact than the 350 miles of golden beaches along the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. For campers, you’ll find amazing wildlife and some of the best birdwatching in the country. Water sports enthusiasts have a host of options and the Gulf Coast is well regarded as a hotbed for fishing.
Of course, the Gulf Coast isn’t the be-all and end-all of beach camping in Texas. The aforementioned vastness of the state means there is a host of great options. With the help of our community we whittle it down to our most highly recommended.
The list isn’t exhaustive and we would love to hear your input. Nonetheless, in a state full of outstanding camping opportunities, here is ones to beat. The Crua community’s top locations for beach camping in Texas.
Mustang Island State Park
This 18-mile long barrier island has over five miles of beautiful coastline. At the southern end of the island are Padre Island and the JFK causeway which connects to Corpus Christi. There is plenty of sandy beach to enjoy and fun activities to be had here.
These include outstanding bird watching and a chance to paddle along the Mustang Island State Park Trail. Passing through some of the best shallow-water fishing areas in the state, it follows the western shore of the island in Corpus Christi Bay.
You can also go swimming, fishing, and geocaching here. Pack a fishing rod, rent a boat, and try to catch one of the many fish species the island has to offer.
If you want to see nesting sea turtles, plan your trip between April and July. The sand on the beach is clean, and it is nicely consistent, so it's a great place to build a sandcastle.
There are almost 100 campsites to choose from on Mustang Island. There are 50 primitive campsites and 48 campsites with electricity.
The campsites with electricity are about 50 yards from the water. The primitive sites are first-come, first-served. A camping permit will cost you $10 per night.
The beaches of Mustang Island are some of the most beautiful and most secluded in the state, so this one of the best places for primitive camping in Texas.
Aside from drive-up spots, there are RV campsites on the Island. You can access the island via a free ferry service. A campsite with hookups will cost you $20 per night.
Amenities you can find on some of the campgrounds include showers, restrooms, and drinking water. Trash disposal is easy because there are trash cans everywhere along the shore.
The traffic to the island is relatively low. Port Aransas is close by; it’s a great place to enjoy shops and food.
South Beach and North Beach at Padre Island National Seashore
Padre Island is home to some spectacular beaches in the most serene of settings. It is arguably one of the most beautiful scenes in the entire state.
Dark skies, sea breezes, warm nights, and solitude are just some of the reasons which make the Padre Island National Seashore a great spot for beach campers.
Primitive camping is available at South Beach and North Beach. There are no reservations required. You are welcome to pitch your tent just about anywhere on the beach once you have paid for your camping permit at the visitor center.
The Bird Island Basin Campground is an excellent spot for RV camping as well as tent camping. The campgrounds are open all-year-round, so the island can be a good camping spot for every season, but you can check for the best time to camp in Texas.
It’s important to come prepared because the nearest amenities are about 12 miles away from the shore. Showers and restrooms are available at the Malaquite Visitor Center. You will find a large dumpster and a chemical toilet near the entrance of the South Beach.
One unique event that occurs on the beach is the release of the endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle hatchlings. Hatchlings that have been rescued and rehabilitated are released back into the wild.
If you want to learn more about the beautiful camp, you can join one of the ranger-led programs. The park is home to about 380 bird species, so it’s a good idea to bring your binoculars. When you get bored of lounging around, you can hike the scenic Grasslands Nature Trail.
The national shoreline is not to be confused with South Padre Island. South Padre Island is a resort town and popular spring break destination. It is located right next to the national shoreline.
Sea Rim State Park
Sea Rim is a unique and remote state park, where gulf meets marsh, at the far southeast corner of the state. Sandwiched between two wildlife refuges, the Seam Rim State Park allows you to camp right on the beach.
There are over 15 campsites with electricity and other amenities. These amenities include picnic tables, outdoor grills, and lantern posts.
While these sites require a reservation, there are over 75 primitive campsites that do not. You can also pitch a tent on one floating campsite, but it is only accessible by boat.
Again there is ample opportunity for fishing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and other water activities. There are plenty of paddling trails laid out to really get a taste for what the area is all about.
Campers can also enjoy a stroll along the Gambusia Nature trail. Located next to the beach, it is a unique boardwalk through the marshy lands.
Matagorda Island State Park
Matagorda Bay is a 1600 acre park and preserve at the mouth of the Colorado River on the Matagorda Peninsula. The park has miles of Gulf of Mexico coastline, river frontage as well as a mixture of acres of unspoiled dunes and marshy areas. It is one of the best birding areas in the nation.
Like Padre Island, Sea Rim State Park and Mustang Island mentioned previously, Matagorda Bay has plenty of beachside activities to enjoy and campsites are mostly primitive. The state park is a great place to stargaze, so make sure you peep out of your tent when the night falls.
Each campsite includes an outdoor grill pit and a fire ring. The Sunday Beach, a beautiful 39-mile stretch of the island, is only accessible via boat. The ferry runs from Thursday to Sunday, so plan your visit accordingly.
The island offers untouched natural beauty and seclusion. There are no restrictions, permits, or fees on the use of the Sunday Beach area, but you will need to bring all necessary supplies with you.
When there are scheduled events on the island, the toilets and showers near the dock are available for public use. While you can’t drive motorized vehicles on the island, you can hike and bike freely. There’s a lighthouse from 1852 located on the northern end of the park, so make sure to check it out.
Galveston Island State Park
Located just an hour’s drive from Houston, the Galveston Island State Park is a great place to splash in the waves or stroll the beach. With both bay and beach sides, the state park offers activities for every camper.
You can bring your kayak or canoe and paddle one of the three beautiful paddling trails in the park. The Galveston Island State Park is also a great place to fish from the shore—no license needed.
The island offers four miles of hiking and biking trails. They are a great way to explore the varied habitats of the area. You can also charter a boat at the Galveston Yacht Basin.
If you want to bird watch, make sure to stop at the observation platform. During the winter, you can catch a glimpse of the famed sandhill cranes.
The Bay Side campground has plenty to offer. Most sites include a fire ring with a grill, shade shelter, lantern post, and picnic table. Near the camp, you will find flush toilets and showers.
On the beachside of the park, there are about 20 spots for RV camping. The sites that are not on the beachside are for tent camping only.
Next to the park, you will find the Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid. Home to seahorses, sharks, and other animals, it’s well worth a visit.
Planning Ahead for Beach Camping in Texas
In terms of campsites, there is a lot of variety on the beaches of Texas. Nonetheless, in a lot of the locations mentioned above, the campsites would be considered primitive. Amenities can be limited in these areas. In a lot of cases, you are miles from any service stations or other stores at which you can restock on supplies.
For that reason, it is always advised to plan ahead. Bring plenty of water, your own stove, lighting, and other equipment. There are also the elements to contend with. Wind speeds can pick up at the beach and temperatures can get extremely hot in the summer.
Because insects like to seek shelter in the dunes, make sure to bring insect repellent. Ask park headquarters or rangers about current conditions before you go swimming. Some campsites are not open when the tides are extremely high or when the weather is poor, so it’s always a good idea to call your campground prior to arriving.
What are the best Tents for Beach Camping?
It depends on the weather, comfort level, and how many people you want. Likely the best if it is only for a few people then the first below is quick to put up.
- Inflatable tents
- Modular tents - if you have a lot of people
- All weather tents - if it is windy
- 4 Seasons tents
- Waterproof tents
Is it legal to camp on the beach in Texas?
Yes, there are many beaches in Texas where you can camp legally. The Sea Rim in Port Arthur, Mustang Island State Park, and Padre Island National Seashore are some of the most popular Texas beach campgrounds.
Where can you camp for free in Texas?
There are places in Texas where you can camp for free, but not many of them. Some of the most popular places that allow free camping on the beach include:
- Bolivar Flats
- Haterius Park
- Matagorda Jetty Park
- Magnolia Beach
- Port Aransas
- Padre Island
May I build a fire on a Texas beach?
There are some Texas beach campgrounds where you can build a ground fire on the sand. These include Padre Balli Park, Boca Chica Beach, North Beach, and Mustang Island Beach.
However, local burn laws dictate when and under what conditions you can build a fire, so you should always check with the park’s superintendent first.
Once you plan ahead, it’s hard to beat a beach camping adventure in the Lone Star State. However, if driving all the way to the coast is too big of a hassle, but you still want to camp near water, river camping is also an option in Texas.
Be sure to check out this ultimate guide if you are interested in all other camping opportunities you can find in the Lone Star State.