16 Best South Padre Island Boondocking Spots for Winter

South Padre Island Boondocking spots are not hard to locate. They are all around the island with three major entrance points. North at the Corpus Christi area, in the center it can be accessed traveling east from Raymondville and on the southern end via Port Isabel. The northern section has places for all of types of visitors from boondocking and paid spots for RVs of any length and type to the southern section with no services and where a 4WD may not be enough at times.

You will be alone at the southern areas with days going by between potential help if you are stuck in the sand. There are not cell or internet services of any king on these beaches but they are the most pristine in all of the United States.

Getting There — From Corpus Christi, travel southeast on Tex. 358 (South Padre Island Dr.) across the JFK Causeway to Padre Island, then south on Park Road 22 to the national seashore. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to drive there. You will find plenty of Padre Island boondocking locations in this northern section.

Padre Island National Seashore, P.O. Box 181300, Corpus Christi, TX 78480-1300 (tel. 361/949-8068; www.nps.gov/pais) is the place to go for information. A recorded beach and road-condition information line (tel. 361/949-8175) is also maintained by the Park Service. The park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

An observation deck, a bookstore, and a number of displays, including one on the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, are all part of the visitor center complex on Park Road 22 at Malaquite Beach. Padre Island Park Company (tel. 361/949-9368) hires chairs, umbrellas, body boards, and other beach toys and sells camping and fishing supplies and gifts in the same facility. The visitor center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the rest of the year (closed December 25), and the store is usually open during those hours.

Regulations & Fees — It costs $10 per vehicle (valid for 7 days) or $5 per person on foot or bike to enter for up to 7 days. There is also a $5 user fee in Bird Island Basin. The rules are similar to those at other National Park Service locations, in that visitors must not disturb wildlife or cause harm to the site’s natural features and infrastructure. Pets must be on a leash and are not permitted on the tourist center’s bathing beach. Although driving off-road is permitted on some parts of the beach, all vehicles are prohibited from entering the dunes, meadows, and tidal flats. While there are not a lot of boondocking spots in this section the ones around the Mustang Beach that free and some Permit sites in the Port Aransas area.


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Port Aransas Padre Island Boondocking Fee Information

All About Boondocking
All About Boondocking

From this point north (excluding the free area between 52-58) until the Horace Caldwell Pier, you are in Port Aransas City limits. A special annual pass for RVs parking on the beach is required in the city limits. It costs $40.

The normal $12 permit is required for any vehicle to park south of this point to marker 99. From access Road 2 (Marker 99) to Newport Access Road (Marker 196, no Permit is required with exception of Mustang Island State Development Park which requires an entrance fee.

When to Leave — Summer is the busiest season here, despite the fact that it is hot (highs in the 90s/30s Celsius) and humid. The heat is moderated by sea breezes in the late afternoon and evening. Winters are mild, with highs in the 50s to 70s Fahrenheit (teens to 20s Celsius) and lows in the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit (single digits to the teens Celsius). The temperature rarely drops below 40°F (4°C), and a freeze is extremely uncommon. Hurricane season (June to October) is the wettest time of year, with the highest surf. September through November is a nice time to visit because the weather is still warm enough for swimming but not as scorching or crowded as it is during the summer.

Safety — The Portuguese man-of-war, a blue jellyfish with a nasty sting, should be avoided by swimmers and anyone going barefoot on the beach. In the dunes, grasslands, and mud flats, there are also venomous rattlesnakes.

Programs for Rangers — Throughout the year, a variety of interpretive events are offered, including guided beach or birding walks, talks outside the visitor center, and nighttime campground campfire activities. These lectures normally last 30 to 45 minutes and cover topics such as migrating or resident birds, seashells, the island’s plant and animal life, or beach finds. There’s also a Junior Ranger Program for youngsters aged 5 to 13, in which they can earn diplomas, badges, and sea-turtle stickers by answering questions in a free booklet and talking with rangers about the national seashore.

Traveling with a Disability — At the visitor center, free fat-tire wheelchairs suited for usage in the sand and even in the sea are provided. They do necessitate the use of a pusher.

Padre Island Camping

16 Locations For Free Padre Island Boondocking

Northern Section



1. South Padre Island Boondocking Spots – Walmart Corpus Christi

Portland, Texas
GPS: 27.877364, -97.323989
Elevation: 30′

Retail Store (Unofficial)

The road in is Paved. Walmart 5460 is open year round. The maximum RV length at Walmart 5460 is unlimited. You may stay overnight at Walmart. While a long way from the beach it is a perfect place if you arrive late. You dont want to be looking for spots on Padre Island at night.

2. Padre Island Boondocking – Cracker Barrel Restaurant #321

4229 South Padre Island Dr.
Corpus Christi, Texas
GPS: 27.71962, -97.39589
Elevation: 30′

Retail Store

The road in is Paved. You may stay a couple of hours at Cracker Barrel Restaurant #321. RV parking lot on restaurant property. Staff at restaurant was superb! Lot clean and well lit. Next to other businesses, including a hotel behind the property. Highway noise as to be expected, but good for a free night! Also a long way from the beach it is a perfect place if you arrive late. You dont want to be looking for spots on Padre Island at night.

3. South Padre Island Boondocking Spots – Walmart South Corpus Christi

1250 Flour Bluff Dr
Corpus Christi, Texas
GPS: 27.6744, -97.3003
Elevation: 20′

Retail Store

The road in is Paved. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 45 feet. You may stay 24 hours at Walmart South Corpus Christi You may stay overnight at Walmart. While a long way from the beach it is a perfect place if you arrive late. You dont want to be looking for spots on Padre Island at night.

4. Padre Island Boondocking – Mustang Beach

Corpus Christi, Texas
GPS: 27.638474, -97.18979
Elevation: 3′

State Park (Official)

This is a narrow beach and caution is advised. 4×4 is recommended. Keep an eye on the weather. An extremely high tide or storm could cover this beach in water. The road in is 4×4. Mustang Beach is open year round. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited.

While all beaches on the Texas Gulf coast are considered highways. Parking usually requires a permit. To park on this specific beach, you must obtain a $12 annual permit.

Permits are sold at the following locations: Stripes stores, local H-E-B stores, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Central Cashiering at Corpus Christi City Hall, Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Center, Nueces County Padre Balli Park Headquarters Office and Texas Star (on Padre Island).

5. South Padre Island Boondocking Spots – North Packery Beach

Access Road 3A-1
Corpus Christi, Texas
GPS: 27.616167, -97.202278
Elevation: 4′

County Park (Unofficial)

The road in is Dirt and 0.1 miles from a paved road. The maximum RV length at North Packery Beach (JP Luby Surf Park) is any.

While all beaches on the Texas Gulf coast are considered highways. Parking usually requires a permit. To park on this specific beach, you must obtain a $12 annual permit.

Permits are sold at the following locations: Stripes stores, local H-E-B stores, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Central Cashiering at Corpus Christi City Hall, Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Center, Nueces County Padre Balli Park Headquarters Office and Texas Star (on Padre Island).

6. Padre Island Boondocking- Mustang Island

Port Aransas, Texas
GPS: 27.7039, -97.15324
Elevation: 3′

State Park (Official)

The road in is Dirt. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited.

While all beaches on the Texas Gulf coast are considered highways. Parking usually requires a permit. To park on this specific beach, you must obtain a $12 annual permit.

Permits are sold at the following locations: Stripes stores, local H-E-B stores, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Central Cashiering at Corpus Christi City Hall, Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Center, Nueces County Padre Balli Park Headquarters Office and Texas Star (on Padre Island).

7. South Padre Island Boondocking Spots – Port Aransas City Limits

Port Aransas Beach Road
Port Aransas, Texas
GPS: 27.749089, -97.118808
Elevation: 3′

County Park

The road in is Dirt. Port Aransas City Limits is open year round. There are 30 or more campsites at this location. You may stay 3 days in 3 weeks at Port Aransas City Limits.

From this point north (excluding the free area between 52-58) until the Horace Caldwell Pier, you are in Port Aransas City limits. A special annual pass for RVs parking on the beach is required in the city limits. It costs $40.

The normal $12 permit is required for any vehicle to park south of this point to marker 99. From access Road 2 (Marker 99) to Newport Access Road (Marker 196, no Permit is required with exception of Mustang Island State Development Park which requires an entrance fee.

No matter where you park, you are limited to 3 days within a 3 week period.

8. Padre Island Boondocking – Port Aransas Beach

Port Aransas, Texas
GPS: 27.813074, -97.067474
Elevation: 4′

City Park

The road in is Dirt and .25 miles from a paved road. Port Aransas Beach is open All Year. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is Any. You may stay 3 Days in 3 Weeks at Port Aransas Beach.

While all beaches on the Texas Gulf coast are considered highways. Parking usually requires a permit. To park on this specific beach, you must obtain a $12 annual permit.

Permits are sold at the following locations: Stripes stores, local H-E-B stores, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Central Cashiering at Corpus Christi City Hall, Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Center, Nueces County Padre Balli Park Headquarters Office and Texas Star (on Padre Island).

9. South Padre Island Boondocking Spots – Harbor Island Rd @ Aransas Channel

Harbor Island Road @ 361, 2 miles before Port Aransas Ferry
Port Aransas, Texas
GPS: 27.857593, -97.080345
Elevation: 3′

Public

The road in is Paved. Harbor Island Rd @ Aransas Channel is open 365. There are 1-5 campsites at this location. You may stay See Notes at Harbor Island Rd @ Aransas Channel.

While all beaches on the Texas Gulf coast are considered highways. Parking usually requires a permit. To park on this specific beach, you must obtain a $12 annual permit.

Permits are sold at the following locations: Stripes stores, local H-E-B stores, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Central Cashiering at Corpus Christi City Hall, Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Center, Nueces County Padre Balli Park Headquarters Office and Texas Star (on Padre Island).

10. Padre Island Boondocking – Port Aransas Free Beach Parking North

Port Aransas Beach Road
Port Aransas, Texas
GPS: 27.83479, -97.04581
Elevation: 3′

County Park (Official)

The road in is Dirt. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited.

While all beaches on the Texas Gulf coast are considered highways. Parking usually requires a permit. To park on this specific beach, you must obtain a $12 annual permit.

Permits are sold at the following locations: Stripes stores, local H-E-B stores, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Central Cashiering at Corpus Christi City Hall, Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Center, Nueces County Padre Balli Park Headquarters Office and Texas Star (on Padre Island).

11. South Padre Island Boondocking Spots – North Beach PINS

Corpus Christi, Texas
GPS: 27.477709, -97.273679
Elevation: 2′

National Park Service

The road in is Dirt and 0.1 miles from a paved road. North Beach PINS is open year round. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 35 feet. You may stay 14 days at North Beach PINS.

Free camping within the Padre Island National Seashore. Located on the left right before the park entrance. You must fill out a free permit at a self check station. Soft sand so don’t drive down it if you’re not sure you can. We stayed for three days and left when a thunder storm and the tide started rolling in. We didn’t leave a minute to early. As we made it to the pavement, we looked behind us and the beach was nearly covered in ocean.

There are cold showers, trash, and additional campsites within the park proper, but going inside requires a fee.

12. Padre Island Boondocking – Padre Island National Seashore

Address
Corpus Christi, Texas
GPS: 27.41522, -97.301964
Elevation: 13′

National Park Service (Official)

The road in is Dirt. Padre Island National Seashore is open Year Round. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is Any. You may stay 14 Nights at Padre Island National Seashore.

Beach camping, so be prepared to clean salt off the rig afterwards. Maximum stay is 14 days at a time. After 14 consecutive days, you must leave the park for at least 48 hours. You can stay a total 56 days per year. A vehicle admission pass costs $10 for 7 days or $20 for an annual pass. Admission is free with an America The Beautiful pass. Once admission is covered, primitive RV and tent camping on the beach is free.

13. South Padre Island Boondocking Spots – Yarborough Pass PINS

mm 15.5 Park Road 22
Corpus Christi, Texas
GPS: 27.20433, -97.388168
Elevation: 4′

National Park Service (Official)

The road in is 4×4 and 15.5 miles from a paved road. Yarborough Pass PINS is open Year Round. You may stay 14 days at Yarborough Pass PINS.

Located within Padre Island National Park / Seashore. Camping is free but you have to pay to get through the gate. A vehicle admission pass costs $10 for 7 days or $20 for an annual pass. Admission is free with an America The Beautiful pass.

Primitive camping. No facilities at all. Boondocking 25 miles from the nearest store. Beautiful view of Laguna Madre. The camping area is near the intercoastal side of the now defunct Yarborough Pass. The pass open in 1967 and has since filled in with sand. Only a dry trace of it remains.

Central Section



1. South Padre Island Boondocking Spots – Big Shell PINS

Port Mansfield, Texas
GPS: 26.565048, -97.276855
Elevation: 1′

National Park Service (Official)

The road in is 4×4 and 60 miles from a paved road. Big Shell PINS is open year-round. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay 14 nights at Big Shell PINS.

A vehicle admission pass costs $10 for 7 days or $20 for an annual pass. Admission is free with an America The Beautiful pass. Once admission is covered, primitive RV and tent camping on the beach is free.

Maximum stay is 14 days at a time. After 14 consecutive days, you must leave the park for at least 48 hours. You can stay a total 56 days per year.

2. Padre Island Boondocking – South Padre Island Boondocking Spots – Fred Stone County Park & Pier

Port Mansfield, Texas
GPS: 26.568879, -97.428983
Elevation: 3′

County Park (Official)

The road in is Paved. Fred Stone County Park & Pier is open All year. There are 6-15 campsites at this location. You may stay 72 hrs at Fred Stone County Park & Pier.

You can stay 2 nights (72 hrs) here. It’s at the end of town by the Laguna Madre bay. There’s a fishing pier, a dozen awnings with fire pits, trash cans, a bathroom, water spigot. One weird thing is deer all over the place. I mean, there’s more deer in this town than rats!

3. South Padre Island Boondocking Spots – 186 Creek Crossing

Port Mansfield, Texas
GPS: 26.503692, -97.489186
Elevation: 7′

Parking lot (Unofficial)

The road in is Paved. There are 1-5 campsites at this location. There’s paved public parking on both sides of the bridge over this creek. It’s mostly for fishermen, I think. No signs say you can’t park overnight, though. The road is busy. Not the nicest spot, but seems okay to catch a few winks. Great Verizon 4G.

Southern Section



1. Zapata Memorial Boat Ramp

Brownsville, Texas
GPS: 26.002535, -97.298363
Elevation: 3′

Fish and Wildlife Service (Official)

The road in is Paved. Zapata Memorial Boat Ramp is open year round. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay not specified at Zapata Memorial Boat Ramp.

Paved boat ramp parking lot with good lighting and covered picnic tables. Part a Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. No bathrooms, but I seen port-a-potties in the past. There’s another parking lot a bit east across the street. If ya got a rig upta it, ya can drive out on the nearby sand and mud for more privacy. 3 bars on Verizon 4G.

2. Padre Island Boondocking – The road in is Sand. Padre Island National Seashore is open Year Round.

There are unlimted sites at this location and the maximum RV length is Any. You may stay 14 Nights at Padre Island National Seashore.

Be prepared for this type of South Padre Island boondocking, it can be brutal. It was a bit of a chore just to get onto the beach with my 4Runner. The sad is 3 feet deep just getting onto the beach. The sand away from the water is also deep but to close to the water and you will sink in high tide. This is the best beach camping in the United States but only if you come prepared.

Beach camping, so be prepared to clean salt off the rig afterwards. Maximum stay is 14 days at a time. After 14 consecutive days, you must leave the park for at least 48 hours. You can stay a total 56 days per year. A vehicle admission pass costs $10 for 7 days or $20 for an annual pass. Admission is free with an America The Beautiful pass. Once admission is covered, primitive

History

Padre Island has remained largely untouched wilderness for virtually its entire existence and is. Because Padre Island is preserved in its original state by the National Seashore, visiting the island is like stepping back in time. Visitors can now see Padre Island as it has existed throughout much of its history and as it is described in the few remaining reports by early explorers, with a few exceptions.

Padre Island has been owned by four nations at various times. Spain was the first to own Padre Island, which it did from its arrival in the New World until the Mexican Revolution of 1820. Mexico controlled Padre Island following the revolution from 1821 to 1836, when the newly established Republic of Texas claimed the land between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Padre Island was owned by the Republic of Texas until the United States took over its territory after the War with Mexico in 1845-1848. The island has been known by numerous names over the years, the most recent of which being Padre Island. It was also known as “la Isla Blanca” (White Island) and “Isla de los Malaguitas” (Island of the Malaguitas) (Island of the Malaquites, a band of the Karankawa people).

Padre Island Boondocking Spring Break

The Historic Novillo Line Camp’s Bunkhouse

On the eastern edge of the park, across from Bird Island Basin Road, the Novillo Line Camp and bunkhouse can still be seen. This was the site of the first real South Padre Island Boondocking visitors.

On the island’s southern tip, the first permanent colony was established. Padre Nicolas Balli, a Spanish priest, founded this place in 1804 and named the island after him. Prior to that, nomadic hunter-gatherers Native Americans, Spanish troops or ships, and survivors of three shipwrecks on the island’s shore in 1554 were the only people known to have inhabited or visited the island.

The island was nearly entirely used for livestock from 1804 to 1970, after the National Seashore opened in 1962. The tourism business (which included the establishment of the town of South Padre Island and the National Seashore) began in the early 1920s, and the exploitation of the island’s oil and natural gas deposits began in the 1950s.

This To Do While Padre Island Boondocking

National Seashore No. 1

To get to the Malaquite Pavilion, drive 5 km over grasslands (mile marker 0). Typical National Park Service activities such as ranger talks, guide books about local flora and fauna, as well as gifts and souvenirs, can be found here. From the Pavillion, there is a lengthy boardwalk that leads to the ocean. Alternatively, you can drive directly onto the beach and south.

Aside from the beach, the National Seashore is working on a number of habitat preservation initiatives, including one for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. This well-known effort has been quite effective in reintroducing this species of turtle to the area. The beach’s nesting places and the hatchlings’ march to the water are protected by the staff and volunteers. During the summer, going early in the morning to witness the researchers release the turtle hatchlings and protect them as they waddle through the beach to the water is a popular activity. You can find plenty of permit Padre Island Boondocking spots along the seashore but bring the bug spray.

2. Take A Beach Drive

If you plan on driving down the beach away from the ranger station while visiting the National Seashore, you must be self-sufficient and have a sand-worthy vehicle. Once you exit the pavilion, there are no petrol stations, snack stores, or drinking water stations. Before you leave, make sur This offers the best Padre Island Boondocking but beware and make sure you have the right vehicle there is not WiFi or phone service if you need help. You must have everything you’ll need for these spots. For the first 5 miles, you can drive a standard two-wheel-drive car. Then you’ll need a four-wheel-drive truck or jeep. The further down the shore you go, the less likely you are to receive cell service, so be prepared to drive on sand and get yourself unstuck if you hit a sandstorm. Be aware of the tidal times. You don’t want to be inundated at high tide because the beach is narrow in certain places. Allow for the possibility of having to turn your vehicle around to return north. You won’t be able to turn around once the sand gets wet and the water rises.

Consider hiking along the south beach as far as you like; that may be the best way to avoid getting bogged in the sand while avoiding the crowds. If you do go, make sure to pack some shade because there are no trees to sit under. A beach umbrella is a must-have item.

On the Island, you can go camping, hiking, and boating.

There are fantastic camping alternatives in the Seashore if you wish to stay in a less dangerous location. The first is the Malaquite campground, which is located just beyond the sand dunes. Tents and RVs are both welcome. There are flush toilets and cold showers, as well as a disposal station and water fill station. What more could you want when you’re only a hundred yards from the beach? You are permitted to park an RV or pitch a tent on the beach. The area around the pavilion is sufficiently large to allow you to turn your RV around during low tide or pitch a tent without fear of flooding. On the beach, you can even have a campfire.

There are no sanitary facilities on the beach, so remember to pack out what you brought in. It’s backwoods camping. On the west side of the island, near the Bird Basin, there is a second campground. The waterway has multiple islets in a shallow saltwater area. This Intracoastal waterway connects the mainland to Padre Island, and you may rent windsurfing equipment and kayaks to enjoy. Bird watching is particularly popular due to the large number of birds that migrate to the flats.

A paved and accessible trail loop is available for hikers. The grasslands and dune areas that make up the majority of the island are 75 kilometers long. Keep an eye out for insects, as is the case in many Texas beach regions (bring your bug spray). The rangers manage grassland fires in the winter, and the landscape naturally turns brown. It is lush green in the spring and summer. You’ll witness deer and rabbits, as well as reptiles and hundreds of bird species. You might hear coyotes at night. Sea turtles will be seen in every body of water.

Saltwater fishing is, of course, a year-round sport. Fishing is permitted on both sides of the island, and a boat launch is available at the Bird Basin on the west side for boats capable of navigating shallow waters. Jet skis are not permitted. The South Packery Channel Jetty is located on the island’s northern tip. To get to the hard-packed beach, take the 3a Access road. For fishing, you can go out to the extreme end of the jetty (like a pier) or cast your line from the jetty rocks. There will be a lot of turtles swimming by, and you’ll be competing with the many birds that troll the waters. Even if you don’t fish, it’s a terrific spot to hang out. On the hard-packed beach adjacent to the jetty, there is ample of parking. Just keep an eye out for the soft sand patches, which can be difficult to detect. While I was there, I watched several people become stranded. Fortunately, it appears that individuals are willing to help you or contact a tow truck for you.

4. Additional Exciting Activities

Even the most lonesome guests may like to partake in some other forms of entertainment while at the Seashore. The National Seashore’s entry drive is slightly over 5 miles long, with all the eateries and entertainment you could want at the end. Bob Hall Pier and Mikel May’s Beachside Bar & Grill are the most well-known attractions. Unfortunately, both were devastated by the hurricane in 2019, and they are now closed indefinitely. The Angry Marlin Restaurant and Cool Water Bar are two additional fantastic seafood and drink spots on the island. You can also take a trip across the JFK Causeway to Corpus Christi for a delicious lunch. You can visit the USS Lexington, which is anchored in Corpus Christi Bay, the Texas State Aquarium, or the Texas Surf Museum while you’re there.

If you don’t want to travel to the mainland, proceed north to Mustang Island State Park. There is a hard sand beach where you can camp or explore. You can drive and park at Port Aransas Beach, which is further north. There are numerous eateries and pavilions for refreshments. Packery Channel Park (west of the Jetty) and the Texas Sealife Center are both located on Padre Island, near to the Jetty. One of the most unique adventures you can have is to take a horse ride on the beach. Horses on the Beach is located on the island’s north end and offers an hour-long horseback ride to riders of all skills and ages. They even have a fantastic beach sunset ride.

Padre Island’s National Seashore is a hidden gem and a step back in time before condos and hotels took over the beaches. The tide line is dotted with seashells, but it is also home to jellyfish, so be cautious. Take advantage of this one-of-a-kind, unspoiled setting.


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