The Best Texas Beach Campgrounds

The Texas Gulf Coast is home to lovely gold and white sand beaches where you can pitch a tent or hook up your RV.

With 367 miles of Texas coastline, there’s a range of beaches to camp at. Some draw kitesurfers, others are nests for baby turtles, but all offer wild and raw views of the ocean, especially when the sun rises and sets. 

Here are 11 of the best beaches with campsites to experience and explore in the Lone Star State.

NPS Photo

Padre Island National Seashore

On a narrow barrier island on the Gulf Coast of Mexico is Padre Island National Seashore. It attracts travelers of all backgrounds interested in exploring its 66 miles of beaches, coastal prairies, and tidal mudflats full of wildlife.  

North Beach Campground

  • How to book: First-come, first-served; at the entrance of the beach, there’s a kiosk where you fill out the free self-issued camping permit 
  • Amenities: None

Why you should camp here: Enjoy primitive camping along 1.5 miles of beach teeming with wildlife and grassy dunes. Expect lots of sun, and hope for wind to keep the mosquitos at bay. Although you can access this beach with two-wheel drive vehicles most of the time, four-wheel drive is always best. 

South Beach Campground

  • How to book: First-come, first-served; at the entrance of the beach, there’s a kiosk where you fill out the free self-issued camping permit 
  • Amenities: None

Why you should camp here: Go tent camping between mile 0 and mile 5 on South Beach. The farther you drive on South Beach, the less packed the sand is, so you may need a four-wheel drive vehicle. This is a great spot for direct water access and to explore the coastal prairie dunes. 

Yarborough Pass Campground

  • How to book: First-come, first-served; at the entrance of the beach, there’s a kiosk where you fill out the free self-issued camping permit 
  • Amenities: None

Why you should camp here: You’ll need a high clearance four-wheel drive vehicle to access Yarborough Pass, a primitive campsite along Laguna Madre. The access point is near the 15-mile mark on South Beach. Due to its location near Laguna Madre, you’ll get the best of both worlds—beach and lagoon. Laguna Madres is one of six hypersaline lagoons in the world and is home to protected species and the most wind tidal flats and clay dunes in North America. 

Malaquite Campground

  • How to book: First-come, first-served; upon arriving at the entrance, fill out a camping permit and pay the camping fee at the self-registration kiosk
  • Capacity: 48 sites, 6 are tent-only
  • Amenities: Dump station, toilets, showers, amphitheater, potable water, picnic tables (some with shades), charcoal grills

Why you should camp here: Malaquite Campground has the most amenities of all the Padre Island National Seashore Campgrounds. RV and tent campers will have to cross the dunes to reach the water, though they’re welcome to pitch a tent on their site and/or on the beach in front of the campground. 

Bird Island Basin Campground

  • How to book: First-come, first-served; fill out a camping permit and pay the camping fee at the self-registration kiosk at the entrance
  • Capacity: 35 tent sites, 10 tent-only sites
  • Amenities: Vault toilets, picnic tables

Why you should camp here: While this campground is a great jumping off point for fishing, birding, windsurfing, and kayaking, there are sharp rocks between the campground and the water. It’s a short walk to the water from the day use parking area at the north end of the campground. Only the tent-only sites are on sand flats and thus closest to the water. 

Mustang Island State Park

Just a 30-minute drive from Downtown Corpus Christi is Mustang Island State Park, which offers 5 miles of coastline perfect for swimming, fishing, and paddling along the 20-mile Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail. It’s a hot spot during the spring and fall for birdwatchers.

Mustang Island Campground’s Primitive Campsites

  • How to book: First-come, first-served
  • Capacity: 50 primitive drive-up campsites, 8 people maximum per site
  • Amenities: None

Why you should camp here: Small campfires at the beach are allowed, no matter which site you book. The primitive drive-up campsites are steps from the water. With Corpus Christi so close, you can experience the city and check out some of the other beaches in the area.

Photo by Hipcamp Host Kandas Graham at No Moss Island

No Moss Island

At Moss Island, you’ll enjoy a more low-key RV camping experience nestled on a small piece of land right between Sargent beach and the Intracoastal Waterway. The fantastic and unique location aside, it’s a great area for fishing, birdwatching, and swimming.

  • How to book: Reserve on Hipcamp
  • Capacity: 3 RV sites, 8 people maximum per site
  • Amenities: Electric hookups, water hookups, potable water

 Why you should camp here: This is probably the closest you’ll find an RV site to a Texas beach. Most are 50, 100, or even 400 yards away from the beach. This is a rare find.

Sea Rim State Park

Sea Rim State Park is located in the southeast corner of Texas, not too far from the border of Louisiana. The 5.2 miles of shoreline and 4,000 acres of marshlands offer an exceptional camping experience that can include kayaking and canoeing through a marsh full of alligators to horseback riding on the beach. Fishing, swimming, paddling trails, and even hunting in-season are all popular activities here.

Piping Plover Campground

  • How to book: Reserve online
  • Capacity: 15 tent/RV sites, 8 people maximum per site
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, grills, tent pads, water hookups, 30- and 50-amp hookups

Why you should camp here: If you want to be near the beach, but don’t want to forgo electricity and water, book a stay in the Piping Plover Campground. It’s right next to the beach access and dune boardwalk so you won’t have to carry your beach gear very far. 

East Beach Primitive Camping Area

  • How to book: First-come, first-served
  • Amenities: None

 Why you should camp here: Set up your tent on the East Beach primitive camping area and enjoy your own swimming and fishing areas. When looking at a map, it appears as if the East Beach camping area is larger than the West Beach Primitive Camping Area. 

West Beach Primitive Camping Area

  • How to book: First-come, first-served
  • Amenities: None

Why you should camp here: This primitive campsite is on the far west side of the park’s beach. It has its own designated swimming and fishing areas, away from the general day use beach. 

Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area

Those looking for a remote and secluded camping experience, should look no further than the Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area which is 56,688 acres offshore barrier island and bayside marshes. 

The island is 38 miles long, full of birds, deer, alligators, and other wildlife. Salt-water fishing, hunting, birding, and picnicking are popular activities, as is visiting an 1852 lighthouse on the north end of the island.

  • How to book: First-come, first-served
  • Capacity: 13 primitive sites
  • Amenities: Some shade, BBQ pits, and fire rings

Why you should camp here: This untouched piece of land and the campsites can only be reached by hiking or bicycling and has no drinking water or electricity, making for a truly off-grid camping experience.

Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park is only a 24-minute drive from Galveston and an hour from Houston but it might as well feel like a world away. This state park is an island with a bay and a beach side, for a full coastal experience of swimming, fishing, 4 miles of hiking and mountain biking, paddling, and birdwatching.

Galveston Island Beach Side Campground

  • How to book: Reservable online
  • Capacity: 8 campsites with electricity (beachside); 50 campsites with electricity (beachside); 7 tent only campsites with electricity (beachside); 15 tent only campsites with water (beachside)
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, restrooms with showers, water, 50-amp hookups, electricity

Note: As the name implies, these campsites have beach views and easy beach access. All sites, except for the beach side campsites with water, have either concrete slabs or wooden platforms to set up your RV or tent. None of these campgrounds are actually located on the sand. 

Galveston Island Bay Side Campground

  • How to book: Reservable in advance
  • Capacity: 20 campsites with electricity (bayside) – 8 people capacity; 10 tent only campsites with water (bayside) – 8 people capacity; 10 primitive campsites – 8 people capacity
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, restrooms with showers, water, 50-amp hookups, electricity

Note: These bay side campgrounds are 1.5 miles from the beach, but the grassy areas around the campground appear to be lush and green and the facilities are nicely appointed. 

Why you should camp here: This state park offers the most diverse campsite booking options among Texas beachside state parks, including the ability to camp on the beach, camp bayside, or rent one of two lodges.

Photo by Hipcamp Host Emily Arthur at Camp Nadur

Camp Nadur at Sargent Beach

You won’t have to deal with traffic or crowds when camping on the little slice of Sargent Island at Camp Nadur at Sargent Beach. The beachside community of Sargent Beach is laid-back, which is the highlight of a stay at Camp Nadur’s 8,000-square-foot privately owned oceanside lot. Only mid-sized RVs and most wheeled campers are accepted (vehicle-mounted tents are also welcome).

  • How to book: Reserve on Hipcamp
  • Capacity: 1 site
  • Amenities: Electricity and water (no sewer or septic), picnic tables, public restrooms and trash 1.5 miles from the site

Why you should camp here: You get the chance to experience a Texas beach more like a beachside local when you stay at Camp Nadur at Sargent Beach. Don’t expect a ton of tourists here, only the spray of the ocean and great sunsets at night.

Matagorda Bay Nature Park

  • How to book: Reserve online
  • Capacity: 10 beach bungalows, 4 Airstream campers, 34 RV campsites, 17 campsites (waterfront), 5 campsites (pull through)
  • Amenities: Restrooms, showers, ice machine, boat ramp, mini golf, picnic tables, kayak and beach chair rentals

Why you should camp here: Matagorda Bay Nature Park is a family-friendly outdoor beach destination for all to enjoy. Located where the Colorado River meets the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find everything from beaches to wildlife, a mini golf course, and wetlands perfect for kayaking. Bring your RV or book a stay in an on-site bungalow or Airstream and enjoy all that Matagorda Bay Nature Park has to offer. 

Photo by Hipcamper Imelda Ray at BayRock Retreat

BayRock Retreat at Copano Bay

  • How to book: Reserve on Hipcamp
  • Capacity: 1 RV site
  • Amenities: Outdoor shower, picnic table, Wi-Fi, kayaks, grill, fish cleaning station, firewood, potable water

Why you should camp here: Skip the crowded RV park and park your camper at this waterfront Hipcamp that has a privacy fence and RV hookups. Although it’s not on the beach, you have direct water access from the dock. Kayaks are available for guests to use and there is even a fish cleaning station and a grill to cook your catch of the day. 

Magnolia Beach Dispersed Camping

  • How to book: Free and first-come, first-served
  • Amenities: Bathrooms with showers and toilets

Why you should camp here: Port Lavaca, Texas, is home to the 1.5-mile-long Magnolia Beach, which allows folks to set up their tent or camper on the hard-packed sandy beach just 15 feet from the ocean. Did we mention, it’s free? This is an ideal beach to boat, fish, swim, kayak, or go birding. 

Crystal Beach Dispersed Camping

Why you should camp here: Enjoy free camping on this 27-mile long beach along the Bolivar Peninsula, a short drive from Galveston. With your parking permit, you can drive right onto the sand with your RV or car and get your beachfront stay started. 

How to leave it better at Texas hot springs

Overcrowding is real concern—let’s keep these places beautiful and better than we found them. Always respect others’ space and avoid playing loud music so as to not disturb your neighbors. And with any camping trip, especially one to the beach, follow the seven Leave No Trace Principles.

Can you camp on any beaches in Texas?

You can camp on some beaches in Texas but regulations vary based on the location.

Can you camp for free on Texas beaches?

There are some free dispersed camping beaches in Texas but note that other permits, like parking, may be required.

What is the open beach law in Texas?

The Texas Open Beaches Act guarantees public access to beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. This law ensures that the public has the right to access and use beaches up to the natural high tide line, regardless of private property ownership. 

More ways to cool off this summer

 

Alex Temblador is an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in the likes of National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside Magazine, Texas Highways, among many others. She is also an award-winning author of three books: Half Outlaw, Secrets of the Casa Rosada, and Writing an Identity Not Your Own.

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