With wonderful weather and a long stretch of coastline, Texas is a beach-goers dream. But for those who want a vacation rather than a day trip, what are the top options for beach camping in the state? Is there much choice, and what are the locations and facilities like?
Texas offers diverse beach camping options along its beautiful coastline. From barrier islands like Padre, Mustang, and Galveston to mainland sites like Sea Rim State Park and Magnolia Beach. Choose from primitive camping or well-equipped campgrounds, and make unforgettable memories.
But exactly are the unrivaled beach camping spots in Texas? Read on to learn about the location, accessibility, cost, and facilities of Texas’s best beach camping spots.
Best Beach Camping Texas Spots
With over 350 miles of coastline, it’s unsurprising that Texas has some excellent beach camping spots, made all the more pleasant by the mild climate and hot summers.
Wide, sandy beaches are not hard to find, and although Texas is famous internationally for its big cities, those seeking sunshine and sand are also in luck.
The beach camping areas we’ll look into today can be divided into barrier island beach camping spots and mainland coastal beaches.
Running down the majority of the length of the Texas coastline, you’ll find seven long barrier islands (including the world’s largest – Padre Island) that are fantastic places for wildlife watching, kayaking, or walking and getting away from the crowds if you find your way to the more remote parts.
Of course, they make fantastic beach camping spots, too, and on these islands, you’ll find the best beach camping in Texas.
We’ll look at four of these (Padre Island, Mustang Island, Bolivar Peninsula, and Galveston Island) as some of the best places to camp in the state.
On the mainland, you’ll be blessed with facilities and entertainment galore with beachside towns and cities to meet all your eating and amusement requirements, but there are also more remote spots to be found here.
1. Padre Island National Seashore
Padre Island National Seashore (known affectionately as PINS) is the number one recommended spot for beach camping in Texas.
This National Seashore is located on Padre Island (the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world) in the Gulf of Mexico. It is known for its never-ending white sandy beaches, dunes, calm waters, and wildlife.
With plenty of activities, such as windsurfing, there’s no chance of getting bored on your camping vacation.
There is a mixture of primitive and campground sites available on the island.
While the primitive camping areas have no designated spots and either no facilities or just a chemical toilet, the campgrounds have cold showers, bathrooms, picnic tables, and grills.
The park entrance fee is $25 for a 7-day pass for your vehicle. And if you choose to stay at a campground, it will set you back between $8- $14 nightly, depending on the campsite you choose.
You can access the campgrounds and North Beach by car. However, you will need a 4×4 to get out to the primitive camping spots on the island’s South Beach.
If you’re planning a visit, always check the weather conditions before you go since the beach can get treacherous in inclement conditions.
Be aware that the island can get busy during Spring Break, so try and plan your trip around these dates.
Mustang Island has 5-mile stretches of clean and well-cared-for beach in the Gulf of Mexico, and camping is available on 1.5 miles of this.
You can kayak, swim, surf, fish, or bird watch to your heart’s content in this remarkable location, which, like Padre, is another barrier island.
There are campsites with electricity available, but they are not on the beach.
Those seeking a true beach camping experience must do so in primitive-camping style, where you can set up camp at a spot that suits you, but you must remove any trace of your site when you leave.
If you aren’t familiar with primitive camping, my beginner’s guide on primitive camping will help you get started.
Restrooms are available 1.5 miles from the camping spots, and further, fuller facilities are available at the park headquarters.
It will set you back $10 a night for a primitive beach-camping spot (non-reservable) but $20 for a site with an electric hookup at the campground.
Regardless of where they stay, all campers must pay an entrance fee of $5 per person (children under 13 are not charged).
Access is simple. Just drive straight onto the beach and choose your desired spot.
Compared to other, busier beaches in the region, it should be easy to find your own private spot of sand to enjoy with your family or companions.
With beaches that total 27 miles of sand and total freedom to camp where you like, Crystal Beach and Bolivar Peninsula are a beach camper’s dream.
To top it off, campfires are permitted, so you can make the most of this idyllic spot.
With shops and restaurants on hand, there’s a lot more going on in terms of amenities than on North Padre and Mustang Islands.
However, the toilet facilities available are pretty basic for campers, with bathrooms and rinse-off showers available at the Bolivar Beach Pavillion and portable toilets dotted.
Don’t expect the height of luxury when you choose Crystal Beach or the Bolivar Peninsula as your beach camping destination, but you will find trash cans available so you can leave the beach as you found it once your holiday is over.
You’ll need a Bolivar Beach Parking Sticker visible on your vehicle when you park on the beach. However, these are as little as $5, making this lovely spot very affordable.
You just drive up onto the beach and choose where to set up camp. There are no restrictions other than your desire for proximity to your neighbors.
Just remember that Crystal Beach can get very popular, particularly on weekends during summer.
On yet another of Texas’ famed barrier islands, Galveston Island State Park is a remarkable place with plenty of exciting activities.
You can take your pick from kayaking, hiking, biking, swimming, or bird watching.
There’s also a nature center where you can learn about the park’s nature, history, and ongoing programs, so there’s plenty to keep everyone occupied if you want a break from relaxing on the beach.
Shallow waters and sediment can lead to the water being somewhat murky, however, so bear in mind that you might not get a picture-perfect turquoise ocean but rest assured, this has nothing to do with the cleanliness of the water.
On Galveston Island, you can pick from various camping options and facilities. You can opt for primitive camping if you’d like to get disconnected from everyone and everything.
Alternatively, you can head to a campsite with an electricity hookup, showers, water, a ring for your campfire, and a picnic table.
Depending on the level of service you’re after, a different price bracket will apply. Primitive camping spots are as little as $15 per night. After this, prices range from $15 to $35 for the spots with the most facilities.
In addition, there’s also a $5 daily entrance fee for every person over 13.
As with other beach camping sites, you can drive into Galveston Island State Park, making access very easy, especially as it’s only an hour’s drive from Houston.
Note that the park tends to close if there are warnings of bad weather, so be prepared to change your plans if bad weather arises.
You’ll find this fascinating seaside park at the furthest southeastern edge of Texas.
It has over 5 miles of shoreline and thousands of acres of marshlands, giving you far more than just the beach to explore through walking trails, kayaking, or canoeing.
If equestrian sports are your thing, it’s also possible to go horseback riding on the beachfront if you can access a horse.
You’ll find both primitive and facilitated camping in Sea Rim State Park, although the primitive sites are far more numerous.
If you opt for the campground, you’ll get electrical and water hookups, an outdoor grill, and a picnic table. There’s also a floating primitive campsite accessible by boat if you’re adventurous.
As you’d expect, prices vary depending on how many facilities you have.
While the standard primitive camping sites cost only $10 per night, the boat-in varieties are $15, and the sites with hookups are $20 per night each.
As with other state parks, there’s a daily entrance fee of only $3 per person over 13 daily.
You can drive up to most primitive and campsite spots. However, as the name suggests, the floating sites are only accessible by boat, kayak, or canoe.
Although it doesn’t have the longest stretches of shoreline (it’s 1.5 miles long), Magnolia Beach, on Matagorda Bay, is interesting for the fact that it is where two rivers, the Lavaca and Colorado, meet the sea.
Tranquil and restful, this beach is for those who savor something away from the resorts and amenities of beach town life.
You won’t find hookups at this beautiful sport, but luckily, there are both flush restrooms and showers available, meaning you’ll be able to wash off after you’ve had a dip in the ocean.
You’ll need to bring drinking water and any other supplies you need since there’s only one small shop nearby that isn’t likely to stock everything you’ll need for a great trip.
Amazingly, it’s free to stay at Magnolia Beach. There’s no charge for overnight camping (or RV parking).
With hard-packed sand, it’s simple to drive your way along the beach and find a site that suits you and your camping companions.
However, if you’re an RV driver, note that a bridge with a weight limit of 10,000 lbs may restrict your access to part of the beach. Tent campers, however, can pick their spot with complete freedom.
Stretching along the Gulf, Bryan Beach has wonderful dunes to explore, or you can relax on the beach and star-gaze during your multi-day trip.
Only an hour’s drive from Galveston or Houston and close to Freeport, this beach is as easy to get to as it is to enjoy.
Part of the beauty of this beach is that it is undeveloped, which means there are no amenities.
You’ll have to bring everything you need and be prepared to clear away waste so that you leave no trace in this lovely spot.
The good news is that Freeport is just a couple of minutes away should you need to stock up on any provisions.
Camping on the beach is completely free, so you won’t need to drop a single dollar for this wonderful experience.
You can just drive straight onto the beach and choose your spot. However, off-road vehicles aren’t permitted, and you must respect the 15 mph speed limit and be aware of others enjoying the area.
Look out for the tides, particularly in stormy weather, as you don’t want to find your tent or belongings floating away in the middle of the night.
Within the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge and on the upper Texas Gulf Coast, McFaddin Beach is the perfect spot for those seeking privacy and isolation, with 20 miles of relatively un-peopled sand.
With no facilities, you’ll need to come prepared with all your equipment and everything you need to take home your own waste.
Alternatively, the Sea Rim State Park is nearby (around ¼ mile away), where you can either stock up on water (and dump waste on your way out) for a small fee or opt to stay at a site with hookups available, also on the beach.
While McFaddin Beach is free for campers, if you stay at the Sea Rim State Park, it’s also pretty affordable, as we’ve covered above.
The beach is hard-packed, making it fairly easy to access, although do note that the entrance gate opens at sunrise and closes at sunset, so you’ll need to make sure you plan your arrival and departure within this time slot.
Always keep an eye on the tides so you’re not caught unawares.
With easily accessible islands and great coastal cities, there’s plenty available for beach-goers in Texas who want to spend a night or more on the sand.
Whether you want a primitive camping experience or something with a few more facilities, pick from our list of excellent locations above and prepare to set your tent up at a spot with a perfect ocean view.