Prior to camping on the Texas coast, I had never thought of Texas as a place with beaches. In fact, I had never even really thought of Texas as a camping destination. With that said, my experience camping on the Texas coast with my partner, Luke, at Port Aransas and Magnolia Beach has absolutely changed my mind. Both Texas beaches provide desirable beach camping experiences and should be on everyone’s list to visit!
Camping on the Texas Coast – Port Aransas
Camping near Port Aransas is an inexpensive and laid back camping experience. The parking/camping permit is only $12 and gives you you three days of camping. You can purchase the permit at most local gas stations. We picked ours up at a Stripes outside of Corpus Christi.
What to Expect
As you can see in the photo below, the beach was pretty barren of other campers. I’m not sure if it was the time of year or the bad weather, but we had a lot of space to feel a sense of privacy on the open beach. It’s also important to know that—for the most part—the sand is densely packed and makes for an easy drive into your camp spot.
The beach is also dog friendly and we saw several dogs and dog owners on the beach each day. Everyone was generally polite with their animals by either using a leash or holding their dogs collar when we passed by. We were traveling with my in-laws and their two large dogs and we did not have any problems with their dogs or anyone else’s.
While there weren’t any formal restrooms with plumbing available for campers, there are plenty of porta potties. Based on our experience, I’d say they refresh the porta potties about every other day. They were generally clean and left us without complaints. There are also large trashcans nearby for trash. While they filled up quickly, those were also emptied every other day and made it easy to dispose of our trash and keep the beach clean.
Things to do
The overnight parking for camping is fairly close to the fishing pier, which made for a nice walk up the pier for us. We didn’t do any fishing off the pier, but it is well known for Shark, Spanish Mackerel, Pompano, Red Snapper, Speckled Trout, Red Drum, Black Drum, King Fish, and Catfish.
We did, however, make it all the way down to the jetty where Luke cast a line. We were there in late November just after a pretty serious storm, so the jetty was FULL of washed up jelly fish, and the waters were pretty rough the whole time. While Luke didn’t catch any fish, we had a great time looking out at the open water as we walked the jetty. We even saw a couple folks reeling in some hardhead catfish. Generally, however, folks are fishing for Red Drum and other more desirable catches.
While we didn’t get the best weather while we were there, the sand was lovely to walk on. The beach was mostly clear of sharp shells, but we did run into some neat sea-life artifacts, including star fish and sand dollars that washed up from the big storm. We, of course, had to bring some home for souvenirs, but there were plenty left for other visitors to enjoy. I unfortunately didn’t get any photos of them, so you’ll have to take my word for it!
We weren’t at the port during any of their big events, but we did get to learn about one in particular from a local we ran into during a walk down the beach. That event is Texas Sandfest. Each year, Port Aransas hosts Texas Sandfest, the largest native-sand sculpture contest in the US. From what the local woman said, the town easily triples its tourist-season population during this flagship festival. The festival welcomes people from across the world in the ten-of-thousands! Depending on what you want from your time in Port Aransas, Sandfest could be a great time to visit.
As you can likely tell from the photos, and from my comments on the storm, the weather wasn’t the greatest during our visit to Port Aransas. With that said, it did clear up a bit on our last day there, enough for me to get some beach yoga in (peep the mid-vinyasa action shot below). Even with the bad weather, we enjoyed every day spent at Port A, and would definitely recommend it for camping on the Texas coast!
Camping on the Texas Coast – Magnolia Beach
Camping on Magnolia Beach was a totally different experience from Port Aransas. First, the beach was much busier, likely because the camping is completely free and campers can stay for up to 14 days at no cost. There are also public restrooms just a short walk away, which is great for those who either don’t have a toilet in their rig, or would prefer to only use theirs in an emergency.
What to Expect
When we arrived, we saw campers parked next to one another, all perpendicular to the water. We scouted the area with a short drive down the beach, and quickly found a spot to set up camp. The weather had started to clear up by the time we made it to Magnolia, beach, so we were glad to utilize the outdoors for some extra gathering space with my in-laws.
The beach is well-known for its corse, seashell-dense sand. While it doesn’t make for great barefoot walks down the beach, it does make for a nice view of the waves crashing in. Unlike Port Aransas, which is truly on the coast, Magnolia Beach is inland on a bay just adjacent to some marshy, freshwater lakes. Visitors are warned to keep their eye out for alligators that inhabit the lake because they sometimes make their way onto the beach. We—thankfully—did not have any alligator sitings while visiting,
Things to do
We had some windy days while camping on Magnolia Beach, but the fishing was much better. While Luke did not catch any desirable fish, he did hook several hardhead catfish. These fish are thought of as a nuisance fish in the area, but it is good enough if you are just fishing for fun while camping on the Texas coast. Needless to say, we didn’t get to fry up any freshly-caught fish while camping.
The weather was also nice enough for me to go on my first beach run in perhaps a decade! Ocean drive is a great road for a nice drive, walk, or run toward the coastline. It’s a bit far to make it all the way out to the coast and back by foot, but there is plenty of beach along the way to appreciate. There are also some public docks nearly by to set as a destination for a leisurely walk along the shore.
While camping at Magnolia Beach, you’re sure to see several heavy cargo ships and tankers passing by in the distance. On one such occasion, the ship forced a heavy wave toward the shore and actually washed up a huge red drum. I am not exactly an expert, but the fish was probably in the 40 pound range. Red drums the fish people are typically trying to catch at Magnolia Beach, but I was only able to see one that had washed up.
Final Thoughts on Camping on the Texas Coast
While you may not think of Texas as a destination for beach camping, or even camping more generally, the two beaches we had the opportunity to explore were a sure highlight of our time in Texas. As with most beach towns, you have access to delicious seafood restaurants, ocean views, and great saltwater fishing. If you are planning a trip down to the Texas coast, be sure to check out both Port Aransas and Magnolia Beach, whether you’re camping or just popping in for a beach day!
While you’re in the area, we also highly recommend a visit to the USS Lexington Museum in Corpus Christi!