July 13, 2009

Beach Camping On Padre Island

Padre Island Camping

This past weekend, my girlfriend and I had an awesome time beach camping on Padre Island. It was a great experience and something we plan on doing often.

This was the first time I’ve ever camped right on the beach before. I’ve slept on the beach a few times in the past but never in a tent or on purpose. We literally setup camp right above the high tide line and slept under the stars.

It’s an amazing feeling waking up to the sound of the ocean. The only downside was the fact that the inside of our tent was like 100 degrees. But it was a small price to pay for hanging out on the beach.

Where Is Padre Island?

padre-islandPadre island is located along the southern coast of Texas. It’s over 130 miles long and is the second largest island in terms of area in the US (Long Island is the largest). It’s also the largest barrier island in the world.

Click on the image to the right to see a map of island and a glimpse at how long it is. It runs down a good portion of the Texas coast.

I’ve heard of the island in the past, mostly South Padre which is the more developed section of the island located at the southern tip. It’s a popular place for spring breakers.

What I did not know is that the majority of the island is sparsely populated. However, I was a little surprised when we first got on the island and saw fast food restaurants, liquor stores, and gas stations.

How Do You Get There?

One of the things I was wondering was how to get to the island. I used to think a ferry or something went there but it turns out there are a few bridges that take visitors there. For the most part, it’s a regular looking highway you would expect to see anywhere else.

Here’s a quick clip of our drive over the bridge to the island:

It didn’t take very long to cross the bridge since the highway has a normal speed limit and a few lanes of traffic.

Beach Camping

The island has a ton of places to camp which is awesome. I’m always disappointed when no camping signs are posted on beaches because it’s the perfect place to camp.

There is a free section of camping on North Beach, which is where we went first. There are no facilities but you are free to pitch a tent anywhere between the dunes and the water.

We ended up passing on this section since the beach was full of day visitors and there weren’t many places to setup camp. We ended up entering the actual park, which costs $10 for each vehicle. I believe it is more if you have an RV or camper but you’ll have to double check.

There is a campground available in the park for an additional 8 bucks but we tend to avoid them. There’s something about dispersed camping that makes it more fun. The good news is there is plenty of space to setup camp.

Here’s what you can expect to see when you get to the beach:


Just be warned that there will be a lot more vehicles there during the day so you might want to get there early. A lot of people come to the beach for the day and then leave once the sun goes down. Also, keep in mind that there is NO shade on the beach. If you’re going right now, it’s going to be HOT. So plan on bringing a tent or some sore of umbrella to hide under during the day.

The other thing is to check with the park rangers to see if there are any burn limits. Texas is in a drought right now so we weren’t able to have any fires this time.

Go Check It Out

If you’re ever in Texas, I highly recommend checking this place out. For far less than the cost of a hotel you can go sleep right on the beach and relax. It’s a great change of pace from staying in the city.

We plan on going back in two weeks or so since it’s only a 3 and a half hour drive from Austin.

You can check out the rest of my photos in my Padre Island photo album.

12 thoughts on “Beach Camping On Padre Island

  1. Lori Luza

    I’m glad you found a good place, Justin. I’m not much of a fan of the beach (sand all over everything), but you now have me intrigued about camping on the beach. That would be a different experience, for sure. I can’t believe you went in all this heat, however. You’ll like it a lot more in ~October.

    1. Justin Wright Post author

      Yeah it was definitely HOT. Especially during the day since we didn’t bring anything for shade. Luckily the ocean was cool enough though it was much warmer than I would of expected.

  2. Pingback: Back From Beach Camping

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  4. Sarah

    I am planning on going camping this coming weekend and was interested in going to Padre. I was wondering what the actual name of the place you went camping is and if you know there phone number or anything or directions on getting there???

  5. airstream

    That looks like a beautiful site there. I’d love to go camping on Padre Island. I’ll have to see if I can work that in as one of my next vacation destinations. Fantastic Beach!

  6. Sandra

    Camping on Padre Island is our favorite weekend thing to do. We live in Austin and it is only a 5 hour drive to the beach!

    We usually go about a half mile out on the stretch of beach so that it is away from the others. But that also means primative camping – no electric/water or restrooms. For convenience, Bob Hall Pier that stays open 24 hours that is close to restrooms and wash off showers.


  7. Vicki Zumwalt Suttle

    As a child growing up in the 60’s our family of 7 used to tent camp on Padre all the time because we didn’t have money for a “real” vacation. I have the most awesome memories of spending hours floating in the gulf on an inflated car innertube, burying each other in the dunes, campfires, breakfast as the sun was rising, hunting for sea shells, helping people whose cars were stuck in the sand, going to sleep with the sound of the waves. I never realized how blessed I was to get to experience this until I grew into adulthood. I’m hoping me and my siblings can all return this summer with our children and grandchildren and make new memories.

  8. Vicki Zumwalt Suttle

    A couple of things to note: Back then we didn’t have to pay any camping fee and could camp anywhere we desired. We’d often camp at Little Shell or Big Shell so dad and my brothers could fish. That’s also where we found the most sea shells. At that time there was a draw bridge and often we’d have to wait for ships to pass through and then the bridge would be lowered again. At some point the JFK Causeway was built and for a long time there was a toll booth where we had to pay about $1 to cross over. There was a little store near the causeway where we’d always stop and buy bait, supplies and get our inner tubes filled. The store had a parrot and a chimpanzee. I can still remember the smell of the ocean air. Bob Hall Pier holds some scary memories for my brother who came close to drowning when his surf board (tied around his ankle) became wrapped around on of the poles at the end of the peer. I don’t think he ever skipped school again to go surfing. 🙂
    Great memories that every kid should experience…not the near drowning but the camping.


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