Photo: LCRA Parks

The 8 Best Places to Go Beach Camping in Texas

Texas Camping Beaches and Islands
by Jeremy Long Jun 27, 2022

Beach camping in Texas is a statewide pastime. Although there’s close to 400 miles of pristine coastline, finding the perfect place to set up camp and enjoy a beautiful ocean view on the sandy shores can be a challenge. So we’ve done the legwork for you and selected our favorite places, from secluded spots to those providing all the amenities. All you need to do is grab your tent, sunblock, and gear and get ready for an unforgettable camping experience on the Lone Star State’s coast.

Padre Island National Seashore

Any conversation about Texas beach camping usually begins with the picturesque settings at Padre Island. The Padre Island National Seashore is a designated national park and is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. The seasonal sea breeze, dark open skies, and near-complete solitude make the park an extremely popular destination for campers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Padre Island National Seashore has five camping areas:

The Malaquite Campground offers semi-primitive sites where tent campers are welcome to set up on the beach, while RVs and vehicle campers can do so on the paved parking. This campground has flush toilets, cold-water rinse showers, and picnic tables with shade structures and grills available on the gulf side of the campground.

Bird Island Basin is known throughout the windsurfing world as one of the best flat water sailing sites in the continental United States. It’s common to find adventurers from around the world gliding on the water and through the air on any given day at Bird Island Basin. Windsurf equipment and kayak rentals are available at Worldwinds Windsurfing nearby.

The North Beach Campground is popular with primitive camping visitors who want to set up their tents or RVs wherever there’s an open spot. There are no designated camping sites as long as you set up as close to the dunes as possible, so traffic doesn’t get backed up. It’s a beautiful area where the sunrise and sunset hit just a little bit differently and make for incredible lifelong memories.

South Beach is 60 miles of sand and shore open to tent and RV campers.

A mere 15 miles south of the Malaquite Visitor Center is Yarborough Pass, which is accessible only through the four-wheel-drive area of South Beach, or by boating down the Laguna Madre.

Though the Padre Island National Seashore is exquisite, remember that the lands and animals (some 380 bird species) are heavily protected by national laws. Any tampering or unauthorized driving in off-limits areas will result in heavy fines.

Padre Island National Seashore fees and amenities

While Padre Island National Seashore charges a daily entrance fee, a camping permit is free as long as you purchase a seven-day pass. Park entry fees vary from $10 per vehicle, per day to $5 for pedestrians and bicycles, or $7 per motorcycle. Fees and passes are available for purchase online or in person at the entrance station. All campsites are first-come, first-served. No reservations are taken for campgrounds.

The Malaquite Campground is $14 per night and Bird Island Basin is $8 per night in addition to park entry fees.

The nearest amenities from the park are 12 miles away, so you’ll want to come fully prepared. Flush toilets and cold-water rinse showers are only available at the Malaquite Visitor Center.

Where: 20301 Park Rd 22, Corpus Christi, TX 78418

Sea Rim State Park

Near the southeast corner of Texas is Sea Rim State Park which blends 4,000 acres of marshland with 5.2 miles of beach shoreline. This special combination creates an ecosystem that draws travelers from around the world.

At Sea Rim State Park, visitors can camp, bird watch along the Gambusia Nature Trail, swim, fish, kayak along two different coastal trails, and, depending on the season, hunt. Equestrian fans will be happy to know that more than three miles of beachfront lands are yours to enjoy with your hooved friends. They can even camp with you, although there are no facilities and you’ll need to bring a portable pen or tether your horse to a trailer.

The park offers travelers 15 campsites with utilities at Piping Plover Campground, a more modern cabin experience, drive-up primitive campsites on the beach, and a floating (yes, floating) primitive campsite that has to be experienced at least once.

The floating campsite is a 13-by-20-foot wooden platform located in the park’s marshland, nearly two miles from the boat ramp. It is accessible by either a shallow draft boat, canoe, or kayak (which can be rented at the park). You’re required to bring a five-gallon bucket and a solid waste bag with enzymes to help to neutralize your waste. You won’t be building a fire on the wooden platform, so be sure to pack your gas stove.

Sea Rim State Park fees and amenities

Daily entry fees are $3 for adults 13 years of age or older while those 12 years old or younger are free. If you have a Texas State Parks Pass you and your guests are free to enter. Day passes and camping permits can be obtained online.

Campsites that have both electricity and water hookups are $20 nightly, while camping out on the beach will set you back $10 plus entrance fees. The floating platform camping experience is $15 an evening.

Reservations are recommended for campsites with utilities and the Sea Rim cabin, which is $95 per night plus the daily entrance fee.

Primitive beach campsites cannot be reserved and are only available on a first-come, first-served basis. The park is home to alligators, so keep a watchful eye on small pets.

Where: 19335 TX-87, Sabine Pass, TX 77655

Matagorda Beach

Sunset over Matagorda Bay a great spot for beach camping, Texas

Photo: Damon Rushing/Shutterstock

On the Texas Gulf Coast at the mouth of the Colorado River is the quiet community of Matagorda. It’s a small Texas town with a big draw: Matagorda Beach.

Matagorda Beach is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, complete with rolling sand dunes, salty sea air, and sparkling water. The beach is part of the Matagorda Bay Nature Park which consists of over 1,000 acres of beautifully preserved land with beachfront access. The first eight miles of beach, beyond the dunes, are private property, but after that, it opens up with both hiking and kayak guided trails to explore.

Visitors can drive on the beach (best left to the 4WD vehicles because of the soft sands) or park and walk the shoreline while you collect seashells or explore the pier area. Beach vehicle permits are required and can be purchased at local businesses or vendors.

Matagorda Bay Nature Park has many camping options including primitive tent camping on the beach, two Airstreams, 12 sites with full RV hookups, 17 waterfront sites, and 10 beach bungalows.

Matagorda Beach fees and amenities

Family beach camping texas on Matagorda Beach

Photo: LCRA Parks

Standard, full hookup campsites range in price from $40 to $63 per night, while the classier beach bungalows will cost you $275 to $300 per evening depending on the season. Airstreams are around $250 per night with a two-night minimum.

Primitive camping on Matagorda Beach is free but will cost you the $10 beach vehicle permit fee.

The entrance fee to the Matagorda Bay Nature Park is $5 for adults, while children 12 years old and younger are free. There are discounts for seniors (65 and older) and people who are disabled that drop the entry fee to $2.

Amenities include a boat ramp, campground host (for those not staying on the beach), dump station, fish cleaning station, laundry, souvenir shop and nature center, and a fishing pier. Flush restrooms are available in the nature park as well. Pets are allowed as long as they are on a leash, and you should call ahead to check on any pet fees.

Kayaks, beach chairs, and beach wagons can be rented through Geenbelt Outdoors for a fee. Golf carts make hauling ass on the beach more fun and can be hired from Ranch Water Rentals.

Where: 6430 FM2031, Matagorda, TX 77457

Surfside Beach

Surfside Beach at sunset a great beach camping texas spot

Photo: Steven Bullard/Shutterstock

Surfside Beach is a small community that lies outside of Freeport, Texas, about an hour south of Houston. The village is a great alternative to the over crowded beach camping at popular places like Galveston. The community offers miles of accessible beaches, dolphin watching tours on the back of jet skis, boat rides, surf lessons, bird watching, pier crabbing, fishing, and more.

You may drive your vehicle on the beach as long as it’s street legal (no ATVs) and you stay on the beach east of Highway 332. West of Highway 332 is known as the pedestrian beach and vehicles are strictly prohibited. The sand in both areas is usually hard-packed and easy to drive or walk on.

Primitive tent beach camping is allowed, but only in a specific area. Local authorities do not permit camping within the village boundaries. Instead, you will want to head to the Beach Access Entrance #1 which is located roughly four miles east of Highway 332 on Bluewater Highway. There you’ll be set up outside city limits on Brazoria County Beach and you’ll have plenty of space to watch the dolphins and a spectacular sunset.

Surfside Beach fees and amenities

There are no fees for camping on the beach at Surfside. All vehicles driven on the beach must have an annual beach pass which costs $12. This even applies to golf carts.

You’ll be located just outside of town, so while there are no amenities on the beach (besides trash cans), you won’t have to travel far for food or gas. Things like speed limits (15 miles per hour on the beach), open container laws, and campfire laws (no bigger than 3 square feet) are still enforced.

At Stahlman Park nearby, you’ll find flush toilets and showers.

Where: 3312 County Rd 257, Freeport, TX 77541

Mustang Island State Park

Located just north of the Padre Island National Seashore camping area, and minutes from Corpus Christi, Mustang Island State Park is one of the most popular spots for camping on the Texas coast.

The park has nearly 4,000 acres of protected lands and five miles of coastline that allows you to set up your campsite right along the water’s edge. Camping within the state park gives your group access to RV hookups and bathrooms while still offering plenty of space for a peaceful stay on the coast.

The state park gives visitors a chance to connect with nature with over 20 miles of paddling trails that cut through the water. The North Trail, the Shamrock Loop Trail, and the Ashum Trail each offer a unique look at landscape and wildlife that make Mustang Island special.

Spend the remainder of your time fishing, bird watching, visiting some of the nearby coastal cities, surfing, or building a sand sculpture. Whatever you decide to do, you’re going to have a blast at Mustang Island State Park.

Due to it’s popularity it’s vital that you book your stay well in advance.

Mustang Island State Park fees and amenities

Daily entry fees are $5 for adults 13 years of age or older, while children 12 and younger are free. Use your Texas State Parks Pass for free entry into this state park if you have one.

An additional $10 fee per night will give you access to over 50 drive-up primitive campsites along the coast. You’re allowed to have a small beach campfire at these campsites, but these campgrounds are non-reservable. It’s first-come, first-served, so get there early.

There are 48 campsites with electricity and water hookups, but these sites are about 400 yards from the water. You won’t be able to have a campfire here, but you’ll have a picnic table, an outdoor grill, and a shade shelter. You can reserve spots online, which is highly recommended during peak summer months.

A beach bathhouse with full restrooms is near the park headquarters for all visitors.

Where: 9394 TX-361, Corpus Christi, TX 78418

Crystal Beach

Pelicans on Crystal beach camping spot in Texas

Photo: Wilfred Marissen/Shutterstock

Crystal Beach is a small community near the center of Bolivar Peninsula near Galveston. Most of the residents are seasonal, and during hot summer months, the population swells as vacationers descend on the area.

While you can choose from hundreds of beach homes to rent, the best camping experiences are right on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Camping is free along the 27 miles of shoreline in Crystal Beach and Bolivar Peninsula, with the only requirement being an annual Bolivar Beach Parking Sticker for your vehicle.

You and your group can access the beach, pick a spot, set up camp, and even start a small campfire with unobstructed views of the waters, and at night, the stars.

Fishing on Crystal Beach is second to none while soaking up the sun and watching the various species of birds that call the peninsula home could fill an afternoon. Dolphins are common residents of the waters at Crystal Beach, so you’ll want to be on the lookout as they play and jump in the air.

Crystal Beach fees and amenities

Access to Crystal Beach as well as camping are free minus the $10 for an annual Bolivar Beach Parking Permit. There are restrooms and showers at the Bolivar Beach Pavilion (on Crystal Road, behind the fire station), but the beach itself has no amenities. You’re close enough to area stores, restaurants, and gas stations that if a need arises, you won’t have to travel very far to get what you want.

No reservations are needed for this camping experience, but summer weekends means summer crowds so you’ll want to get there early to claim your spot.

Where: Bolivar Peninsula, Texas, 77550

Magnolia Beach

Located on the shoreline between Port Lavaca and Port O’Connor, close to the western-most shores of Matagorda Bay, Magnolia Beach is nearly two miles of drivable, camp-friendly beach.

In non-peak summer months, Magnolia Beach is as peaceful and relaxing as any beach in the world, where you can park your RV just a few feet from the water and let the gentle waves of the ocean lull you off to dreamland. The sand is hardpacked with sea shells which makes it easy to drive up and pick a spot, but bring your shoes because those shells aren’t easy on delicate feet.

Campsites are primitive, no hookups are available, and there’s only one store nearby, so you’ll want to make sure you have all of your supplies (like drinking water) with you or you may have to make a 15 minute drive back to Port Lavaca.

Magnolia Beach can get crowded in peak summer season, especially on weekends, so plan accordingly. The mesmerizing sunsets and sunrises over Matagorda Bay are worth any potential hassles.

Magnolia Beach fees and amenities

Beach camping is free at Magnolia Beach, as well as pet friendly, so feel free to bring your furry friends along with you just make sure they’re on a leash. Public grills and picnic tables are closeby, as well as well-maintained public restrooms and showers.

There is a boat ramp for launching your water vehicle close by. Unlike most other Texas beaches, you don’t need a Beach Parking Permit to set up camp here.

No reservations are required but for the latest information on camping restrictions or usage it’s best to call the county commissioners office.

Where: 485 N Ocean Dr, Port Lavaca, TX 77979

Galveston Island State Park

An hour south of Houston is a 2,000 acre state park that provides miles of hiking and biking trails, canoe and kayak trails, fishing areas, and a host of campsites. Galveston Island State Park is a popular destination for sun worshippers and is the only place on Galveston Island where overnight camping is permitted.

The Galveston Island State Park offers both beach and bay sides, with overnight camping allowed on the bay side of the island. In years past, the beachside portion was an extremely popular overnight tent camping option, but this side of the state park is currently closed, with a reopening date so far unannounced.

If your guests absolutely refuse to sleep on the ground for some reason, then you’ll want to consider the park’s Ranch House or Stewart House options. They both have all the modern comforts of home including airconditioning, fireplaces, and most importantly, private bathrooms.

Its proximity to both Houston and Galveston make this park extremely popular and chances are you’ll be sharing the sun with visiting travelers. The campgrounds can get full so nearby RV parks such as Jamaica Bay, which offers a lazy river and mini-golf for the kids, is a fun option.

Galveston Island State Park fees and amenities

Daily entrance fees are $5 for adults while children 12 years and younger are free. Your Texas State Parks Pass will take care of any entrance fee plus give you a discount on camping, park store purchases and equipment rentals.

Bayside tent campsites with water are an additional $15 per night plus the daily entrance fee. They come with a picnic table, shade shelter, fire ring with grill, and restrooms with showers are nearby.

RV campsites with water and electricity hookups are $20 per night plus the daily entrance fee. These sites are for RV and trailers camping only and come with a picnic table, plus access to close by restrooms with showers.

Campsites are highly sought after in summer months so you’re advised to go online and make reservations before heading out.

There is a store within the park where some equipment and goods are available. Fish cleaning stations, and canoe and kayak launch sites are open to public use. Swimming is done at your own risk as there are no lifeguards present.

Where: 14901 FM3005, Galveston, TX 77554

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