What is the best place for beach camping in Texas?
With Texas not being the first U.S. state that comes to mind when someone mentions beach camping, this may sound like a somewhat weird question. Most people associate the Lone Star State with wide-open spaces, cowboy boots, or even NASA.
However, Texas has 367 miles of coastline and a lot of beautiful beaches. In other words, if you’re interested in beach camping, this U.S. state is undoubtedly a great choice.
In this article, I’ll be taking a closer look at the best places on Texas’s coastline where folks can pitch their tents and enjoy the natural beauty of the Gulf Coast.
Where Can You Beach-Camp in Texas?
The aforementioned Gulf Coast region is made up of five U.S. states, the largest of which is Texas. For that matter, it’s pretty safe to say there are many places where people can engage in beach camping in this state.
No matter which style of camping you prefer – resort camping, boondocking, RV-ing, or tent camping – you are bound to find a Texas beach that will provide you with an unforgettable outdoor experience.
The sites are abundant – from the Brazos Island State Park, which is located only a few miles away from the Mexico border, to the Sea Rim State Park at the Texas-Louisiana border. You only have to choose a place that fits your camping style.
What’s So Great About Texas Beach Camping?
As I said above, opting to pitch your tent on the coastline of Texas allows you to choose the exact kind of camping experience you want to have. There are plenty of different options, and most of them are completely free.
Do you want your experience to be about breathtaking views? Are you interested in nearby towns and their nightlife? Maybe you want to camp all alone, with your only neighbor being the serenity of the waves? It all depends upon your commitment to finding the perfect seaside haven.
Beach Camping in Texas: Developed Campgrounds vs. Boondocking
The first step in finding your ideal camping site is deciding what kind of camping you want to engage in.
Some folks prefer to do everything on their own and to have their tents pitched as close to the sea as possible. Others cannot imagine beach camping without access to a developed campground’s amenities.
If you belong in the first category, your best choice is undoubtedly boondocking. Fortunately, the beaches of Texas provide plenty of opportunities for this kind of camping, with a myriad of boondocking sites being situated in beautiful, sandy areas.
If you decide to go with boondocking, I would suggest doing what most other Texas beach boondockers do – parking higher on the sand. In this way, you’ll be able to avoid the high tide and have your RV stuck.
Another important thing to keep in mind here is that there are a lot of beaches where parking too close to the water is forbidden. Follow any signs or guidelines you find, and if there aren’t any, pay special attention to the water lines on the sand.
One more thing worth mentioning is that there are quite a bit of outdoor enthusiasts who love camping on the beaches of Texas, and this popularity has caused issues with keeping these places protected and clean. For that matter, only a limited number of people can access some boondocking spots.
This is why it’s important to always follow the rules of camping set by these sites, particularly the ones regarding where exactly you can pitch your tent and how long you can stay there.
I would advise paying special attention to keeping your boondocking spot as clean as possible. In case all the trash receptacles are full – or if there are no trash receptacles at all – do your best to pick up all of your trash, pack it, and carry it away to a place where you can dispose of it properly.
Remember – the more these majestic beaches are respected, the longer they will be around for outdoor enthusiasts to spend time on them and enjoy their beauty.
In case you’re more interested in camping on an established campground, whether with your tent or an RV, you’ll be pleased to know that the Texan beaches provide plenty of such options as well. I would recommend basing your choices on how much you’re willing to pay, your desired proximity to the water, as well as on the amenities you seek.
And once you’ve decided whether you’d like to camp on an established campground or engage in the aforementioned boondocking, you’ll be left with the hardest dilemma of them all: which beach to go to.
Have no worries, though – all of the beaches on the Texas coastline have places to experience and wonders to explore. In other words, you can’t really go wrong with any of these beaches.
The Best Texas Beaches for Camping
The Texas Gulf Coast is filled with magnificent beaches from Mexico to Louisiana – there’s no doubt about that. You’ll find unforgettable ocean excursions, delicious seafood, seashells galore, as well as warm waters for swimming and relaxing.
The following is a list of the 7 best beaches on the coastline of Texas where you can pitch your tent or park your RV and have the time of your life:
A national seashore, Padre Island stretches for 113 miles along Texas’s southern coast. Due to its aforementioned national seashore status, you can expect to pay a park entrance fee.
There are five campgrounds on Padre Island in total, allowing you to choose between primitive or developed sites. And because of its genuinely unique shape and location, the island provides all of its visitors with truly breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as easy beach access.
Those wishing to pitch their tents or park their RVs right on the sand should check out Yarborough Pass, North Beach, and South Beach primitive campsites. And while you’ll have to register while staying at these places, the entrance is completely free – there are no charges of any kind.
The North Beach stretches for miles before it’s closed to vehicles, and can be easily accessed by most rigs. The Yarborough Pass, on the other hand, can be accessed only by 4WD vehicles. If you don’t have such a car or RV, make sure to camp somewhere within the first five miles. Finally, the South Beach stretches for some 60 miles and is also meant for 4WD vehicles.
If you’re into windsurfing, make sure to check the Bird Island Basin Campground. However, to boondock here, you will have to pay $8 a night. The Bird Island Basin Campground has portable chemical toilets.
The next Padre Island campground you may want to check out is the Malaquite Campground. Offering spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico, this place is tucked away in the dunes and offers paved parking, cold water showers, and flush toilets. Parking your RV or pitching your tent here will cost you $14 a night.
On Padre Island campgrounds, there are no hookups, but there is an RV dump site and a water fill station just outside of the aforementioned Malaquite Campground.
The closest town with other amenities is about 10 miles away from the entrance to the park. For that matter, make sure to come here fully prepared – once you’re on Padre Island, you will not want to leave until your outdoor adventure is over!
Next up is Mustang Island, which is situated just north of Padre Island described above.
Here, outdoor enthusiasts can find several different beach camping options, one of which is a campsite equipped with electrical hookups. Those who’d like to spend some time in Mustang Island State Park should know that the area offers two paid camping options.
One of these is located only a couple of hundreds of yards from the sea, with the dunes standing between the campers and the water. All of the 48 campsites here have electricity, water hookups, as well as access to showers and restrooms. To enjoy this excellent ocean access and the aforementioned amenities, you’ll have to pay $20 a night.
The other campground in Mustang Island State Park stretches for 1.5 miles along the beach and is more primitive than the one described above. However, next to the park’s headquarters, you will find a full beach bathhouse, as well as drinking water and cold water showers. Spending a night here will cost you around $10.
Those who don’t want to pitch their tents in Mustang Island State Park can boondock just north of it. Most RVs can be easily parked directly on the sand. However, keep in mind that the weather is quite unpredictable there – be aware of the inaccessible locations and changing tides.
This beach camping spot is on the other side of Texas, not far from the Texas/Louisiana border.
The beach itself is situated next to Sea Rim State Park and the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge. Those on a budget will be pleased to know that boondocking on McFaddin Beach is completely free – you can just park your RV and listen to the sound of the waves right from your rig’s door.
While it’s true that it can take some time to get to these camping spots, most vehicles can access them without much effort – the sand is hard-packed and easy to drive on.
If you’re looking for amenities, or a bit more beach to wander on, I recommend you check the nearby Sea Rim State Park and its campgrounds. For only $10 a night, you’ll be able to enjoy the many options offered by the East and West Beach primitive campgrounds.
Another option is the Piping Plover Campground. It has easy access from the dune boardwalk and it’s situated just off the beach. For $20 a night, you’ll be able to use the campground’s convenient water and electrical hookups. And, more importantly, you’ll be able to explore more than 4,000 acres of fabulous marshlands located within the Sea Rim State Park.
Next up is Matagorda Bay – a sensational 60-mile long Texan beach lying between Corpus Christi and Galveston. One-third of Matagorda Bay can be accessed by vehicles, while the rest of it can be reached by water crafts such as kayaks and keels.
On this one-third (20 miles) part of the beach mentioned above, you will be able to park your rig pretty much anywhere for up to three days. RVs and tents are allowed as long as you avoid parking your rig or pitching your tent on the soft sand.
Although there are no camping fees at Matagorda Bay, you have to obtain a special permit for driving on the beaches. It’s a yearly permit that costs only $10, and it’s called Matagorda County Beach Vehicle Permit. Fortunately, getting this license is as easy as it gets, as you can purchase it at the entrance to the beach or from the local stores.
At Matagorda Bay, you will find RV parks, campgrounds, and some of the best free camping spots in Texas. Some of the aforementioned RV parks and campgrounds have walking piers, covered picnic tables, outdoor showers, and bathrooms.
The most popular out of all beaches in this region is undoubtedly Magnolia Beach, which stretches for about 1.5 miles. It’s a perfect option for tent or RV camping as there’s not much tide and the sand is hard-packed and easy to drive on.
There, you will find trash receptacles, cold showers, and restrooms. In other words, free Texas beach camping with amenities – what more could one want?
Named after the famous “El Libertador” of South America, Bolivar Peninsula is among the most popular beach camping areas in Texas.
One of the best places for parking your rig in this region is Crystal Beach, which has plenty of RV parks that match all styles of boondocking – from basic to luxurious. Almost all of these parks provide visitors with easy access to water.
Fortunately, however, the Bolivar Peninsula also provides a lot of options for those who’d rather camp right on the sand. You can do so anywhere along the 27-mile-long beach as long as you have a parking permit, which can be easily obtained from local merchants and which costs only $10.
The Bolivar Beach Pavilion deserves a special mention. Located on the aforementioned Crystal Beach, it offers port-a-potties, restrooms, and rinse-off showers. It’s a particularly great choice for folks looking to beach camp somewhere adjacent to civilization – it’s quite close to dining and shopping.
An important thing to mention here is that this is among the most popular sites for beach camping in the entire state. Make sure to get there early if you want a good spot!
Another excellent place for beach camping is Surfside Beach, which is located only a few miles from the city of Freeport.
While it’s not possible to camp within the coastal town of Surfside itself, one can pitch a tent or park an RV just outside the town limits, on the Brazoria County Beach. This is a very popular spot with Houstonians and one where camping is completely free.
To reach this place, you will have to drive down County Road 257 (Bluewater Highway) and take Beach Access 1. Driving down this highway provides some spectacular views and the beach itself features hard-packed sand that’s very easy to walk on.
Here, you’ll be able to camp for up to two weeks at a time, right on the water’s edge. Unfortunately, there are no facilities at Brazoria County Beach, but one can use the showers and toilets at the nearby Stahlman Park. You will also be able to engage in horse riding, kayaking, fishing, and crabbing on this beach.
A quick and easy getaway from the big city, Galveston Beach is situated only 50 miles away from Houston – it takes only an hour of driving to get there.
While there’s not a lot of free camping in this area, the Galveston Island State Park and its RV parks have a myriad of places where you can stay overnight for a small fee and enjoy stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico.
There are two bayside campgrounds located within the aforementioned state park. Camping at the one that has only water access costs $15 a night. Camping at the other one, which also has electrical hookups, costs $20 a night. You’ll have the most important amenities while being only minutes away from civilization – what’s not to like?
No matter what kind of beach camping you prefer – staying on a developed campground or boondocking – your time on the Gulf Coast of Texas will be nothing short of unforgettable.
With endless miles of extraordinary beaches to explore, delicious food to savor, water-related activities to enjoy, and wildlife to view, you’re bound to have the time of your life.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you in determining which one of these astonishing beaches best fits your personal needs and interests.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.