Camping at Texas Beaches

From family RV trips to pop up campers to backpacking down a primitive beach, tent and ration strapped to my back, I've done it all and on various coastlines around the country. For beauty, friendliness, variety and accessibility, however, my preferred spots are still along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Camping on The Beach, Gulf Coast - Texas Gulf Coast Fishing

While the entire Texas coastline is a beach lovers dream, the section from the Louisiana border south to Matagorda Bay is an easy drive from Houston, which makes it ideal for Houstonians like us to make spontaneous weekend trips.

Since we've taken up bird watching, Sea Rim State Park in Port Arthur, with 4000 acres of marshland adjacent to the beach, has become a favorite roost for us. We've camped on the beach there before, but on our last visit we arrived early enough to get one of the 15 campsites with utilities.

After beachcombing and body surfing, we grabbed our binoculars and took a short stroll to the Gambusia Marsh Boardwalk, an ideal viewing platform for wildlife. In the marsh, we saw a rabbit, a river otter and because Texas is the central flyway for migratory birds, we were able to spot a snowy Egret, a great blue Heron, and a flock of pink plumed roseate spoonbills.

Intrigued by the amount of wildlife we'd seen, we rented kayaks the next day and using the trail map we picked up the park headquarters and embarked on what was deemed a Moderate Trail, a 4.5 mile paddle up to the Marsh around a small lake. The bird watching was phenomenal. We saw several egrets, a White Ibis, to double-breasted cormorants, and both a blue and green winged teal. Time flew by and an opportunity for another beach trip presented itself. Friends who just bought a new airstream invited us on the inaugural venture and I suggested Matagorda Bay. Less than two hours from Houston it is one of the prettiest and most welcoming beach cities on the coast. At the campsite we chose the RV facility at Matagorda Bay Nature Park. At this facility the park offers a Tackle Loaner Program, which is like a library except you borrow fishing equipment instead of books (see Saltwater Fishing Gear). With the fishing, just a short walk away, we put angling on the agenda. The Beachside of Matagorda Bay is clean and not crowded and ideal for collecting seashells. It's a drive on beach, so we found a spot that suited us and settled in for the day.

The next day we explored the nature Park itself, renting kayaks from the campground and paddled into the extensive wetlands. We kept an eye out for alligators while we caught sight of deer, river otters and a Peregrine falcon. The last day brought our trip to the fishing. We were amazed at the variety of fish that people were landing. Spotted trout, gray snapper, southern flounder, red and black drum and Crevalle jack all made an appearance (see Texas Gulf Coast Fishing).

There are 10 barrier islands along the Texas coast, from Galveston to South Padre Island, most of them flat, sandy and perfect for camping. Padre Island National seashore is the longest stretch of under developed barrier island in the world, a nesting ground for the endangered Kemps Ridley sea turtle and our choice for a long Easter weekend trip.

There were RV hookups, restrooms and cold water showers at the Malaquite Visitor's Center at the north end of the island, and it look like a popular spot for families. On our quest for solitude however we drove down to South Beach, a 60-mile stretch that's open to primitive camping (see here for camping reservation). While there we went wade fishing and caught two redfish, a black drum, and a pompano. Per Park rules, we dug a pit in the sand that night and built a fire to cook our catch. The next morning we saw windsurfers skittering across the water. Later we went for a swim and then had a sand castle building contest. It was a very relaxing trip. Each day we took long walks along the flats, spotting butterflies, squirrels, and coyotes, along with flocks of birds.