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Cheap Beach Camping

When looking for a get away, sometimes you don’t want to have to break the bank to find some place of serenity and peace.   I tend to find that beaches make me the most at happy when looking for somewhere to just unwind but landlocked for the most part in Northern Texas it makes it a bit of a challenge at times to find that beach oasis which I desire. 

So often I have found that when searching for a perfect location I prefer somewhere a bit more removed from crowds, unfortunately the main areas of Texas coastline I have come to know throughout the years have always been a bit more crowded or require a rental of a hotel or a beach house.    Not wanting to spend a large sum just to enjoy a week away, I started exploring the road less traveled in way of beaches, seeking out beach side camping options for those in a tent.   What I found would change my outlook on beach camping forever!

The National Park Service offers an annual pass called the America The Beautiful Pass.   This pass grants visitation to each of the nations parks at a single annual price.   With this pass I have been to some 15 locations already and my search for a camping destination in Texas led me right back to this pass and its access.

Most Texans I have met are familiar with South Padre Island, however few are familiar with the northern borders of Padre and the Padre Island National Seashore.    As a part of the National Parks Service lands, this area contains some 60 miles of untouched beaches, prime and ready for those seeking a get away less traveled.   Offering both improved and unimproved camping sites the Seashore lines the Gulf of Mexico with no interruption of businesses or loud traffic.    Miles and miles of coastline offer a more intimate experience for those wanting to try something a bit different either solo or with the family, a perfect destination for someone like myself.

Unimproved sites offer beach side camping on the soft drivable beaches, however I will say I was a little hesitant to drive on the loose sands in a small car.    They do recommend a 4-wheel drive on these areas and smaller vehicles to limit their visits to the more improved areas of the campgrounds and guest service area.

An average night at South Padre Island, accommodations alone can range from mid $50s to almost $200 per night, while at the Seashore improved camping areas are only $8 per night, accessible by tent or RV and unimproved camping facilities are free.  It just made sense for me on a trip where I just wanted to relax and enjoy the water, to actually be in a location where water and solitude seemed to be more abundant.

I would easily call this one of Texas’ best-kept secrets, as in all my years I had never heard of it before this time.   A great way to just enjoy sandbar fishing, swimming or even just basking with a good book, the site offers a quiet and serene get away for those looking for a day away or a week. 

In fact, little known fact, you can spend up to 52 days at the beach at this location in one of the improved sites.    All accommodations do require payment for time stayed in advance at the entry kiosk to assure your stay for extended stays.


  • Weekends are the busiest times at this location for obvious reasons, make sure you arrive early in the day to secure your camping spot on these days, otherwise camping is abundant during the week.  

  • Be aware of wind, winds coming off the coast are strong but do provide a relief from the heat during the summer months.   If you are tent camping make sure you secure your tent carefully and keep heavier items inside to give additional weight.

  • Do not try to drive on the sand unless you are in a 4-wheel drive.   Though you can in any vehicles the signs are posted for very good reasons, towing in this area is very expensive so obey the warnings.

  • Visit the visitor’s center to find out more about programs and wildlife.   Not only do they have programs designed for education of children but also adults.   In addition, they do have baby sea turtle releases held during certain times of the year for public viewing.  The visitor’s center is the best way to find out about wildlife in the area including the jellyfish which sometimes are in the water and should be avoided.

  • Drive slowly, while I was there I had a deer run out in the road near dusk, since this is a more untouched lands area you will see a lot of this so be aware and be safe.

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