Beach Camping (Tent and RV) in Port Aransas, Texas

By Joshua Davis •  Updated: 06/08/22 •  15 min read

In the great state of Texas, when it comes to beach camping, Port Aransas is a summertime Mecca.

Heather and I are veteran campers; however, it wasn’t until our firstborn, Luke, was 3 years old that we first went tent camping on the beach.

We packed our 2003 Mini Cooper (hilariously considered our family car … meep, meep) with all of our tent camping gear and made tracks for Port Aransas, TX near Corpus Christi.

Fast forward from 2011 to now: we’ve added a travel trailer to our camping inventory to accommodate a bigger family (4 people and a dog) and more gear. We’ve been tent camping and RV camping at Port Aransas for over a decade now, making it an annual tradition.

Needless to say, with all this experience, we’ve got some nuggets of wisdom to share about the best places for beach camping in Port Aransas, Texas.

So, let’s get beachin’.

When To Go Beach Camping in Port Aransas, TX

Summer: Hot Sun, Warm Water, Higher Prices, and LOTS of Beachers

Summer is peak season when the beaches are packed, but it’s also the ideal time of year to soak up the sun and even out that farmer’s tan!

The temperatures are typically pleasant, although they can average in the 90s. The gulf water is warm and inviting, making it ideal for a variety of water activities like surfing, jet-skiing, sailing, and more.

Fall: Mild Weather, Smaller Crowds, More Affordable Rates

If you want your holiday to be more exclusive, the fall season is a good time to go because of mild weather, fewer people, and affordable rental rates in Port Aransas.

The temperature will be mild and comfortable throughout October, owing to the humidity and wind. The fall temperatures are perfect for attending all of the beach festivals that take place in October.

Winter: Cold Water, Less Swimming, More Beach Combing

Although the water is colder this time of year, the weather is perfect for ambling along the beach or on one of the nature trails.

Mustang Island is a popular winter getaway for residents of North Texas, owing to the numerous special events that visitors may participate in. As a result, reservations are still strongly advised.

Spring: Tourism Kicks Off, Long Days, Bright Sunshine

The springtime is a pleasant and warm time to visit Port Aransas, thanks to the high humidity and changing temperatures. Spring is a beautiful season in Port Aransas, with long days and bright sun.

Unlike other areas of the country, however, it does not typically bring a lot of rain, making it an excellent opportunity to go outside and explore the area.

It’s a wonderful time of year to visit because it is right around the start of tourist season, inspiring the local attractions and shops to kick things into high gear.

Just beware of Spring Break. I shudder at the thought.

Day Parking on the Beach in Port Aransas

If you’re just visiting for the day, there are a few things you need to know about parking on the beach.

First, the beach is the parking lot. Don’t go looking for one.

Second, green beach markers (63 in total) are posted along the beaches in Port A every tenth of a mile. As you drive along the beach looking for a place to park, you’ll need to refer to these markers to know where you can park for free and where you will need a permit.

Free Beach Parking

Beachers can enjoy free parking on the beach within city limits between beach markers 52-58. Along this 0.6-mile stretch, visitors will find public restrooms, showers, and picnic areas with grills.

While any vehicle can easily traverse the hard-packed sand of the driving lanes, be cautious about pulling your vehicle too close to the surf. The tides can quickly change and the shifting sand can swallow a vehicle’s tires quickly.

If you’re a newbie beacher, pay attention to others who have backed their cars along the beach: you’ll be able to discern a definitive line of rear bumpers that will help you determine a safe distance (typically considered 50 feet away from the tide).

Permit Required Beach Parking

Outside of mile markers 52-58, you’ll require a beach parking permit sticker for your windshield. These can be purchased as you arrive in Port A before you head to the beach.

Drop by any convenience store, grocery store, select vendors, the Chamber of Commerce, or City Hall to grab one.

Tent Camping on Port Aransas Beach

In short, camping is permitted virtually anywhere on the beach provided you have a beach parking permit. There are, however, some limitations you should be aware of:

  1. Camping is not allowed within 25 feet of the beach road or landward of the bollards that mark the beach’s driving lanes. Not that you would pitch your tent in an obvious roadway. You’re not one of those people.
  2. Keep a 50-foot distance from the water’s edge when selecting a campsite. Otherwise, high tide will take you to meet Davy Jones in the middle of the night.
  3. Don’t pitch your tent south of the last city-approved beach restroom (near marker 234). In other words, Port A authorities try to discourage unauthorized pooping or other unsavory messes that some campers tend to deposit on beach property.
  4. Camping fires are allowed; but, must be kept to 3′ x 3′. Large fires + Beach Winds + Groups of Tents = Bad Juju
  5. Beach campers are limited to 3 nights during any 3-week period. Don’t be a squatter and try to understand that others want to enjoy camping on the beach, too. Sharing is caring.
  6. Pack it in. Pack it out. Please don’t leave your residual presence on the sand for someone else to encounter. Just don’t.

Tent Camping At Mustang Island State Park

For those who enjoy beach tent camping but prefer a bit of respite from the tent-camping free-for-all during peak season, we recommend staking your claim at Mustang Island State Park, one of only two Texas state parks with beachfront property.

Located on the southern end of the island away from the more popular municipality of Port A, the park offers 50 primitive sites stretched out along 1.5 miles of beachfront.

The designated campsites protect your elbow room from nearby campers and the beach is better maintained as a part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife.

The downside is the only restrooms and showers are near park headquarters, leaving those in the furthest sites with a 1.5-mile trek to the loo and showers.

Pack in a solar shower, trowel, and wet wipes. You’ll be happier.

Also, primitive sites are non-reservable and first-come-first-serve. Call ahead and get there early!

Tent Camping at Padre Island National Seashore

A 30-minute drive south along the Gulf of Mexico from Mustang Island State Park will bring you to a lesser-known beach camping oasis.

Padre Island National Seashore is a 66-mile stretch of undeveloped barrier island, the largest in the world! Abundant wildlife fills the park from hatching sea turtles to 380 species of birds.

Campsites are non-reservable and are claimed on a first-come-first-serve basis. While 3 of the 5 designated campgrounds are for primitive camping, 2 are more developed with picnic tables, shade covers, and grills.

Check the park’s website for more info.

RV Camping on the Beach in Port Aransas

There are not many places in the U.S. that allow you to drive your RV directly onto the beach ANYWHERE and camp. Welcome to the city of Port Aransas!

Just make sure you have your beach parking permit first!

Whether you’re driving a Class A rig or hauling a fifth-wheel, you’ll have no difficulty getting traction on the hard pack of the beach.

That being said, the same limitations apply to RV campers as tent campers (see the previous section).

There are no hook-ups or dump stations on the beach so you’ll essentially be boon-docking for the duration of your stay.

Practice Good Beach Mojo

If you are running a generator, please be courteous of those nearby who are not. While you may be curled up in front of your big screen, they may be trying to enjoy the sound of the ocean. What a novel idea.

Finally, do your best to avoid parking your RV next to tent campers who have already set camp. Find a spot next to other RVers or away from others in general. It’s just the Texan thing to do.

Again, it is your responsibility to clean up after yourself. Pack it in. Pack it out.

RV Parks Near the Beach in Port Aransas

Even if you have one of those patented weave-design beach rugs in front of your RV entry, sand gets EVERYWHERE when you’re camping on the beach. While preventative measures can be taken to minimize it, you will inevitably be detailing your rig when you get back home.

Fortunately, in Port A, there is no shortage of RV parks within close proximity of the beach for those who want easy beach access, but deplore the clean-up that follows camping directly on the sand.

Check out some of these top-rated parks:

On the Beach RV Park (short private walk to the beach)

It’s hard to get full hookups this close to the surf!

One of our personal favorites for a simple, inexpensive getaway, On the Beach RV is located on Beach Acess Road 1-A near mile marker 17. The park has its own private access walk to the beach enabling campers to leave everything parked and walk from their door to the sand.

Complete with full hookups, cable, WiFi, bathhouse, and clubhouse, the park provides the essentials of a basic stay.

Our only complaint was the tight quarters within the park and snug sites. We haul a 32-foot travel trailer and felt a little tense making our way to our pad site.

Still, we enjoyed the easy beach access and nearby restaurants and shops.

Mustang Island State Park (short walk to the beach)

While separated from the beach by dunes, the RV sites at Mustang Island State Park are a mere 400-yard walk from the water’s edge.

We recommend purchasing a big-wheeled beach wagon to haul your beachin’ stuff to the water and back. If you prefer to drive, a parking area sits just opposite the dunes right on the beach.

The sites are equipped with full 50-AMP and water hookups, grill, picnic table, and shade shelter. Restrooms and showers are nearby.

One downside is that the dunes block the ocean view from the RV sites. Oh well. The poor dunes need some love, too.

Gulf Waters RV Resort (private boardwalk to the beach)

Impeccably manicured and large 40′ x 80′ sites nestled around four ponds, a heated pool, a deep spa, and a boardwalk to a private beach.

And there’s a LOT more. Just LOTS.

I’m not sure this classifies as camping. No, this is glamping.

If you want a little more posh in your beachin’ plans, make your way to Gulf Waters and prepare to chillax. It is perhaps the best of the RV parks in Port A!

Pioneer RV Resort (private boardwalk to the beach)

In our estimation, it’s less a resort and more a well-equipped RV park. But enough splitting hairs.

Situated among sand dunes around natural seaside ponds, Pioneer is a BIG park complete with a pool, hot tub, convenience store, bath and laundry houses, fish cleaning station, Wifi, cable, game room, and a long boardwalk to soften the walking distance to the beach.

Like I said. Well-equipped.

Surfside RV Resort (1 block from the beach)

A tiny thing with only about 45 sites, and, again, more of a standard park than a resort.

Also, it’s not really surfside. To get surfside, you’ll need to hop in the car, rent a golf cart, or just hoof it half a mile to one of the nearest beach access roads.

The bright side is that all the sand will fall off on your way back before you climb back into the RV. Also, being a little further inland brings it closer to restaurants and shops when the occasion arises.

Plus, it has a pool … so, it’s kind of resort-ish.

I.B. Magee Beach Park (on the beach)

I.B. Magee Beach Park is located near The University of Texas Marine Science Institute and Horace Caldwell Pier and is a popular choice for RVers.

Although a municipal park under the care of Nueces County, the fully equipped RV sites are well maintained, pet-friendly, and boast Wifi to boot. It’s just a hop, skip, and sandy jump to the water’s edge and Keeper’s Grill when you get a hankerin’ for a good burger.

Port A RV Resort (2 blocks from the beach)

Now, two blocks from the beach and we are increasingly aware that the term resort is a very fluid term.

All the same, this resort-ish park is mere 1 mile away from the nearest beach access along Access Road 1-A, near the afore-mentioned On the Beach RV Park.

The park is conveniently located near all the fishing, dining, and various other activities Port Aransas has to offer.

Then, again, everything in Port A is close to everything in Port A. It’s a small town.

What To Bring to Camp on the Beach in Port Aransas

Whether you’re tent camping or RV camping, you’ll want to bring all the usual camping gear. Except for the invasive onslaught of sand grains into every crack and crevice, you won’t need to prepare for anything unusual.

Still, in addition to the standard camping fare, you’ll want to make sure you have the following fun-and-comfort-enhancing items:

1.) A good, heavy-duty cooler:

Preferably on some fat wheels to traverse the sand. You’ll be bringing a lot of food and drinks and you’ll want to keep them cold in the Texas heat.

2.) Ice or reusable ice packs:

‘Cause warm beer is yucky.

3.) An umbrella or beach canopy:

‘Cause the sun is your friend … until it begins to melt your skin off.

4.) Sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses:

‘Cause sunburns give everyone the grumps.

5.) Water shoes or sandals:

‘Cause that sand is hot, hot, HOT!

6.) Beach chairs, towels, and blankets:

‘Cause you might make a pearl if you sit in the sand for too long.

7.) A portable Bluetooth speaker.

‘Cause the beach is better with some boomin’ tunes.

8.) Beach Toys:

Admit it. Digging tunnels in the sand and building sand castles isn’t just a kid thing.

8.) Games, cards, and books:

Be prepared for both rainy days and down times between beach activities.

And that’s it! With these things in tow, you’ll be all set for a fun-filled beach camping trip to Port Aransas.

About Port Aransas, Tx (A Little History)

Port Aransas is a small town of about 3,000 townsfolk located on Mustang Island off the coast of Texas. It’s about 2.5 hours from San Antonio, a 4-hour drive from Houston, and a 5.5-hour road trip from Dallas.

The island is home to several beaches, including the popular Port Aransas Beach, as well as a variety of shops, restaurants, resorts, coastal cruises, and fishing, fishing, fishing!

The area was originally home to the Karankawa Indians when Spanish and Jamaican explorers began mapping the Gulf Coast in 1519. It was that year that an inland waterway or pass was identified.

For the next 200 years, the passage was forgotten by European explorers until rediscovered in 1720 by a Frenchman. As Texas was then a territory of Mexico, the Spanish governor Prudencia d Orobio Y Basterra christened the pass Aránzazu Pass as it served the Aránzazu Fort.

Do you like mysteries?

Now, for some mysterious pirate lore! From 1800 to about 1820, Mustang Island was the preferred haunt of some infamous pirates, one of which was the notorious Jean Lafitte and his buccaneers. It is said that pirate treasure is still buried on the island, just waiting to be discovered!

For the interested parties, it is said that the location of the treasure is marked by a silver Spanish dagger laid on its side with a spike driven through the hilt to hold it in place. Good luck!

In 1833, the name was altered to Aransas Pass on the map of one Captain Monroe of the Amos Wright. It stuck!

In 1850, the first European settler established the El Mar Rancho, which was a cattle ranch. The island soon became a cattle-ranching community with the first post office opening in 1878.

In 1886, a hurricane blew through, damaging most of the structures on the island and killing many of the livestock. It wasn’t until 1888 that permanent residents began rebuilding. In 1916, another hurricane leveled the entire community and a horrific infestation of rattlesnakes took over.

But, this is Texas. We’re stubborn. Residents rebuilt the city and it reemerged as a magnet for anglers, tourists, surfers, and vacationers.

The Port Aransas Ferry was established in 1927, providing service to Aransas Pass. It wasn’t until 1946 that a bridge was built connecting the two communities, making Port Aransas more accessible to visitors.

The population of Port Aransas began to grow in the 1970s as retirees and vacationers were drawn to the small-town charm and beautiful beaches. The town was incorporated in 1978 and has been growing steadily ever since, even though hurricanes continue their attempts to level the joint periodically.

Let’s Get Beachin’

If you’re looking for a place to beach camp in your RV or tent, Port Aransas is the perfect spot. With miles of coastline and plenty of places to set up camp, you’ll be able to enjoy everything the Texas coast has to offer.

And if you find that pirate’s treasure, remember who told you about it!

Now, get out there!

Joshua Davis

Being outdoors is freedom! Being outdoors with my wife and two boys is LIVING! Whether in my backyard or getting lost in a National Park, there’s nothing I’d rather do than explore, discover, and experience the paradise that surrounds us. Give me my family, a backpack, and a trail and my life is full!