Padre Island National Seashore : Exclusive Guide to TX Beach Haven

Labrador Retriever watching the sunrise at Padre Island National Seashore.

If you’re planning to visit Padre Island National Seashore, let me first start off by saying you’ve made a wise choice.

My two week stay while camping on the beach near Corpus Christi, Texas, was an unforgettable adventure that I believe everyone should get to experience at least once in their life.

Contrary to popular belief, Padre Island National Seashore is not located at the well-known and rowdy spring break destination, South Padre Island. Don’t worry, I thought the same thing. The name is straight-up trickery.

In this blog post, I will cover all the exclusive details you need to best prepare yourself for an amazing beach-camping experience at Padre Island National Seashore.

I will uncover the location of the park, directions to help get you there, fees, campsites, things to do, and how to best plan for your stay so that you are fully prepared to kick your feet up and enjoy some fun-in-the-sun upon arrival.

Let’s dive right in.


Main park entrance sign of Padre Island National Seashore.

*Disclosure: I only recommend travel products and/or services I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.



FAQ:

What’s the difference between Padre Island National Seashore and South Padre Island?

Padre Island National Seashore is a national park of beaches that stretches for approximately 70 miles and is located near Corpus Christi, Texas.

South Padre Island is a well-known spring break destination located near Brownsville and approximately three hours South of Padre Island National Seashore.

What is primitive camping?

Primitive camping is remote sites that generally don’t have cell service, WiFi, electricity, toilets, and running water.

Is it dangerous to camp there?

Campgrounds are likely as safe as the area they’re located in. I felt extremely safe during my entire stay as a solo female traveler (aside from the time I thought I was being followed by some scary guy and turns out it was an undercover cop lol. After having a conversation with the park rangers there is a daily and nightly police undercover presence at the park which made me feel even safer).

I also made sure to setup my campsite within the first few miles of South Beach and near other campers. Sleeping in your car with your doors locked isn’t a bad option either. If you ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe, trust your gut feeling and go elsewhere.

What items should I bring for beach camping?

Tent, Air Mattress, Camping Grill, Cooler, Solar Phone Charger, Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker, Beach Tent, Bikini, Beach Towel, Folding Table, Sunscreen, Zero Gravity Chairs.

Shop more of my favorite travel products by clicking here.

What if I just want to visit for the day and don’t want to camp?

You can definitely visit just for the day. If you aren’t wanting to camp I put together a list of recommended accommodations in the area.

Trina Thomas working on her MacBook Pro laptop and her Labrador Retriever dog, McCoy, sleeping on the hotel bed during their hotel stay at Quality Inn & Suites on the Beach at Corpus Christi.
McCoy and me during our last night in the Corpus Christi area. We stayed at Quality Inn & Suites on the Beach for under $100/night.


🐾Dog Friendly🐾 – La Quinta Inn by Wyndham

👩🏻‍🍼Family Friendly👨🏼‍🍼 – Embassy Suites Corpus Christi

💃🏻Budget Friendly💃🏻 – Quality Inn & Suites on the Beach

💅🏼Luxury💅🏼 – Omni Corpus Christi Hotel



🐾Dog Friendly🐾 – Vasaca Texas’ Dog-Friendly Condo With Pool and Free WiFi-Walk to the Beach

👩🏻‍🍼Family Friendly👨🏼‍🍼 – Michael’s Ashlandia, your home away from home

💃🏻Budget Friendly💃🏻 – Alexandra’s Beach & Bay Bungalow

💅🏼Luxury💅🏼 – Sundal Luxury Oceanfront Retreat – Padre Island


Buzzing Facts About Padre Island National Seashore


  • Padre Island National Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier land in the world.
  • The Spanish shipwrecks of 1554 in the park are some of the oldest historically documented U.S. shipwrecks of all time.
  • No reservations accepted. Camping is first-come, first served.
  • Camping is limited to 14 days at a time, with 56 days total per year.

How To Get To Padre Island National Seashore


Address: 20420 Park Road 22, Corpus Christi, TX 78418

The park is located approximately 25 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas. Allegedly, navigation systems can lead people to the wrong location but I didn’t have an issue using Google Maps.

If your maps gives you trouble, head east on Highway 358 through Corpus Christi. After you cross the JFK Causeway onto Padre Island, Highway 358 transitions into Park Road 22. Take that road approximately 10 miles driving south on Park Road 22 until you reach the entrance to the park.


Things To Do During Your Visit to Padre Island National Seashore


Hiking

The Nature Trail sign at Padre Island National Seashore.

There is a .75 mile trail that goes through grasslands and dunes. You can find the trail almost immediately after you get through the entrance of the park. Once you pass the entrance, you’ll see an area on your right-hand side with parking spaces where you can hike.

Boating

Man kayaking out in Middle of ocean near Corpus Christi, Texas.
Photo Credit: Noah Rosenfield/Unsplash

A boat launch located on the Bird Basin on the west side of the park. Boats must have the ability to drive through shallow water levels and no jet skis are allowed. You can also find kayaks and windsurfing concessions there.

Beach Driving

An RV pulled behind a camper parked on the Beach at Padre Island National Seashore.
Photo Credit: NPS.gov

You need a vehicle with the ability to drive on the sand. Word on the street is that 2WD vehicles are safe to drive the first five miles of the beach and anything greater than that you will need 4WD. Understand the daily tide times to prepare yourself.

Swim & Soak Up The Sun

Trina Thomas and her Labrador Retriever dog, McCoy, staring at each other while at the beach of Padre Island National Seashore.

The beaches at South Padre Island National Seashore were so clear and warm. Just know that there are no active lifeguards on duty and always be careful and aware of the tide.

Fishing

Man fishing with several fishing poles in the sand at the beach of Padre Island National Seashore.
Photo Credit: NPS.gov

Visitors can salt water fish year round. You can do so by boating or walking right into the ocean from the beach.

Star Gazing

Stargazing at night at Padre Island National Seashore.
Photo Credit: Michael/Unsplash

At the Malaquite Visitor Center there is a star-gazing space between the picnic pavilion area and the restrooms. I always star gazed out of my Ozark Trail tent every night, though.

Watch The Sunrise & Sunset

A Labrador Retriever dog looking out at the sunset on the beach at Padre Island National Seashore.

This is by far my favorite thing to do while traveling to any destination, and not much can beat watching the sun rise in the east or set in the west than viewing it from a beach.

Nearby Excursions

Camp

A tent set up in the sand for beach camping at Padre Island National Seashore.
Photo Credit: Ivan Rohovchenko/Unsplash

Padre Island National Seashore has two campsites and three primitive camping locations. Campers: There are no RV hook-ups located anywhere in the park. There is an RV dump station and water filling station that is available for all park campers staying in the park.


Campgrounds


Bird Island Basin Campground – $8

Bird Island Basin Campground with picnic table and ocean at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas.
Photo Credit: NPS.gov

Located next to the laguna, Bird Island Basin has 40 campsites.

Malaquite Campground – $14

Campsites with picnic tables and the ocean at Malaquite Campground at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas.
Photo Credit: NPS.gov

Located on the gulf side of the island, Malaquite has 48 campsites.

North Beach Primitive Camping– FREE

A beach camping registration area at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas.
Photo Credit: NPS.gov

Located on the North part of the beach, North Beach has one mile available for camping and the rest of the beach is for driving.

South Beach Primitive Camping – FREE

Located on the South side of the island, South Beach has 60 miles of primitive beach camping. This is the site I stayed at and be aware that it is very windy.

Yarborough Pass Primitive Camping – FREE

Vehicle tire tracks in the sand on the beach between dunes at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas.
Photo Credit: NPS.gov

Yarborborough Pass can be found 15 miles down South Beach and provides access to the laguna for 4WD vehicles.



Amenities


The Malaquite Visitor Center sign with the building and parking lot in the background at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas.

Malaquite Visitor Center– Malaquite provides free rinse-off showers that I used for my daily shower. Not having a heated shower didn’t bother me because it was blazing hot outside. They also provide a pet rinse off station, a public restroom, a picnic area with tables, a star gazing observation deck, and it’s the only place in the park I could get any cellular service.

There is water and ice available for purchase at the Visitor Center but it’s EXPENSIVE. I would drive to Corpus Christi every few days because I found a cool place called Mango’s Car Wash that has a water filling and ice station as well as vacuums so that I could rid my vehicle of sand. It was also located next to a Walmart. The address to Mango’s is located at 1529 Waldron Rd, Corpus Christi, TX, 78418.

Bird Island Basin – At the Bird Island Basin, visitors can utilize the boat launch and find windsurfing and kayaking concessions. Not to mention, Bird Island Basin is one of the top windsurfing destinations in the United States.


Fees


Padre Island National Seashore park entrance.
Photo Credit: NPS.gov.

On top of camping fees, whether you are paying for a campsite or primitive camping for free, visitors are required to pay for beach access.

Park Entrance Fees:

  • $10 per vehicle for a one-day pass.
  • $25 per vehicle for seven-day pass.
  • $45 for a one-year pass.
  • $15 per person for pedestrians and bicyclists for a seven-day pass.
  • $7 per motorcycle for a one-day pass.
  • $20 per motorcycle for a 7-day pass.

Multi-Vehicle One-Day Fees:

  • $25 for vehicles with the capacity of 1-6 persons.
  • $40 for vehicles with the capacity of 7-25 persons.
  • $100 for vehicles with the capacity of 26+ persons.

Padre Island National Seashore Exclusive Guide Summary


I recommend that you visit Padre Island National Seashore at least once to get the full experience in the Lone Star State.

Where is your favorite location in Texas to be a beach bum? Share with me in the comments and then pin this article to save for later.

Happy travels, Y’all 🙂


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