Texas Beach Driving and Camping

March 2, 2023
Categories: AdventureCamping
Tags: Texas

The State of Texas has 367 miles of open Gulf shoreline.  All but about 87 miles of the Gulf beaches are accessible to the general public.  For us 4WD and Overland enthusiasts, we are in luck because you can drive on over 240 miles of beach.  That is just over 65% of the public beach area open for exploring in your rig. 


Camping is wide open along most beaches; however, you will want to be mindful of the tides and not camp on any vegetation.  All beaches tend to attract different crowds when it comes to camping; certain areas cater to a louder crowd, while others are much more remote and subdued.  Read each trail guide below for more in-depth camping information on each beach. 


When enjoying these beaches, please keep a few considerations in mind. 

  • Pack out more than you pack in
  • Texas beaches are considered Texas highways, so all on-road rules apply.  The posted speed limit is 15mph.  Driving on or between dunes or vegetation is illegal and will result in fines and potential vehicle impoundment.
  • Driving conditions on Texas beaches can and do fluctuate heavily due to recent rains, seasons, and major weather patterns.  Areas that may be packed sand one weekend may be deep, loose sand the next.  Further, waves may reach the vegetation lines during high tide with strong southern winds, effectively rendering the beach impassable – potentially stranding you. 
  • Last but not least – Sargassum seaweed season, ranging from May through summer, has often covered the beach in 1-2 feet of seaweed rendering the beach impassable.  Always be sure to check local conditions and tide tables when planning your trip.

The Beaches

South Padre Island Beach


South Padre Island Beach arguably provides visitors with the greatest diversity of activities of any beach in Texas.  Whether travelers are looking for extremely remote sections of beach to camp or fish, or travelers are looking to merely dip their feet in the water while still being a stone's throw away from a myriad of tourist activities, including but not limited to deep-sea fishing, dolphin watch tours, parasailing, boat, and jet ski rentals or even renting a beach golf cart for the day, South Padre Island Beach is sure to please.

Sargent Beach


Sargent Beach provides an excellent combination of ‘remote beach’ within a reasonable travel distance to major metro areas such as Houston.  Having a special appeal to fishermen, the cuts at either end are typically hotspots for the locals.  At the same time, off-road enthusiasts can enjoy driving along the lesser-traveled beach sections in Texas.  Near the entrances to the beach, signs of heavy erosion can be seen along the coast – causing one to ponder just how long this and similar beaches may be available for off-road enjoyment.

Padre Island National Seashore


Without a doubt, the run on Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) is one of the most iconic overland runs in Texas.  Sixty miles one-way, completing this out-and-back beach route of 120 miles will require a solid 7-8 hours, leading most to set camp along the beach. Blue water, beautiful dunes, countless bird species, sea turtle spotting, and awesome fishing are just some of the lures drawing visitors to experience the park.  Be prepared for soft sand, as even 4WD vehicles have been known to get stuck in the softer sections.

North Padre Island Beaches


North Padre Island is uniquely positioned to provide travelers a beach experience ranging from the most civilized to the most remote beach experience in Texas. Whitecap Beach, along the northern end of North Padre Island, is easily accessible and provides all the amenities worthy of a beach near a metro area.  Transitioning quickly, however, the beaches along North Padre Island transition quickly to the primitive and remote beaches associated with Padre Island National Seashore.  Of particular note in this transition is North Beach – that section between Whitecap Beach and the national park that offers a unique blend of remote access near a metro area.  Soft roaders looking to dip their feet into the more remote aspects of off-roading may wish to experience these Texas beaches to determine if they wish to dig deeper into the wonderful world of off-roading.

Mustang Island Beaches


Mustang Island brings a rare diversity of experiences along its beaches.  Unlike any other beach in Texas, the northernmost section of Mustang Island, maintained and managed by Port Aransas, attracts RVers looking to safely enjoy a weekend of RV camping along a Texas beach.  Southward spring break enthusiasts can enjoy fun in the sun along the well-maintained beaches of Corpus Christi.  For those new to the off-road community, either segment is an extraordinary opportunity to take virtually any vehicle off the concrete and begin enjoying the off-road community's wonders while still having civilization's safety.

Matagorda Beaches


Popular with fishermen, shell collectors, kayakers, paddleboarders, 4WD 4x4 off-road enthusiasts, and beachcombers, Matagorda Island offers up to 23 miles of accessible beach with a wide variety of sand and shell terrain.  Whether you’re looking to lounge in the sun with a large group of friends or find a secluded spot to camp for the weekend, you’re sure to find just the right spot on the island.  Notable gathering and fishing spots include the large, sandy area at the Three Mile Cut, the western edge of the island out on the jetties, as well as the eastern edge of the island at the Intracoastal waterway cut.  Be sure to note the abandoned ruins of the destroyed piers along the way, random items washed up after a large storm, and who knows what you'll see along the 'nude beach' stretch.

Follett's Island Beach


Follett's Island Beach provides beach lovers and overland excursionists an opportunity to enjoy a 10-mile stretch of beach within close proximity of services and amenities, all within a reasonable drive from the Houston major metropolitan region.  Unlike the neighboring beaches, Follett's Island Beach permits year-round camping, and of course, sunbathers, fishermen, and kayakers also enjoy recreation along the beach as well.  Those exploring Follett's Island Beach will also appreciate the relative quiet of the mid-sections of Follett's Island Beach, compared to the heavily populated neighboring beaches during peak season times.

Bolivar Peninsula


Rarely can one find a destination that appeals to such a wide variety of personalities and interests as the Bolivar Peninsula.  On the western end of the peninsula, Port Bolivar hosts the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, easily accessible from the drivable beach's western end.  Some may even choose to camp the night on the beach and walk through the sanctuary during twilight hours.

For those partygoers looking for an energetic atmosphere, the beaches along the centrally located Crystal Beach portion of Bolivar Peninsula are sure to please.  Plan to camp the night at the Crystal Beach washout and let the party begin!

Moving eastward through Caplan, the remnants of Rollover Pass – a manmade pass through Bolivar Peninsula - earned its name as smugglers used this narrow strip of land between the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay, to “roll” their barrels of goods across to awaiting recipients up through the Prohibition Era.  (In 2019, the pass was completely filled in, making way for an upcoming park area and fishing pier.)

Gilchrist and High Island on the western edge show the effects and ruins of past hurricanes, notably the most recent Hurricane Ike, and provide cause for a moment of reflection.

Boca Chica Beach


Boca Chica Beach offers two unique experiences to visitors willing to make the journey.  First, as visitors approach the beach, travelers will be provided up-close views of the SpaceX control center and launch pads. Once on the beach, the southern tip of the beach provides access to the Rio Grande River as it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.  So whether you’re in the Brownsville area and looking to fish or merely catch some rays, you’re a space fan and are hoping to get a glimpse of the latest SpaceX rocket, head down to south Texas and check out Boca Chica Beach.

User Avatar
Todd Taylor
Todd is the Founder of Trails Offroad and an avid wheeler who loves to explore new trails whenever and wherever possible. They say necessity is the mother of all invention, which is true for Todd. His want and desire to find passable trails and new nooks and crannies of the Great American west to explore were his reasons behind starting Trails Offroad. On any given day, you can find Todd on an obscure 4x4 trail, curating Trails Offroad guides, or using his legs to hike to an alpine lake.

More Articles

Trails Offroad is Now on CarPlay Blog Image
Trails Offroad is Now on CarPlay
Read More
The Best Tips to Experience the King of the Hammers Blog Image
The Best Tips to Experience the King of the Hammers
Read More