Boondocking on Padre Island

Trip Planning

Boondocking on Padre Island National Seashore

Embrace these fun boondocking activities along the shores of Padre Island!

What is boondocking and why would you do it? Boondocking is when you camp without any hookups like water, power, or sewer, and is also known as dry camping or dispersed camping. We love boondocking because it allows us to really immerse ourselves in nature with all the comforts of home with our RV.

One of our favorite boondocking trips was Padre Island National Seashore. This barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect place to experience true off-the-grid camping. With 66 miles of totally undeveloped beach, you can tow your trailer right out on the hard packed sand to camp! Keep reading for details on how to get there, what to do, and boondocking tips.

Getting There

We camped at the South Beach Primitive camping area. To get to this area you’ll drive right through Corpus Christi, TX on Highway 358 and across two large bridges. Once you’re on the island, Highway 358 turns into Park Road 22 and that road will actually take you directly to the beach.

You’ll want to get fuel before heading out to the park because once you’re out on the beach there are no services and no fuel for 14 miles. There is a free water fill and dump station located on the left side of the road after you pay and pass the ranger station. You can fill up your tanks, and dump there when you leave. Luckily there are restrooms and outdoor rinse off showers at the visitor center.

You can stay for up to 14 nights at a time and fees range from $15/day or $45 for an annual pass. If you have an America the Beautiful or Military/Veteran pass you can stay for free. Check the National Park Service website for current pricing.

Beach Boondocking Tips

The first 5 miles of the beach is hard packed sand and appropriate for driving and camping, of course always check the weather conditions first. This stretch of beach is technically part of the Texas highway system, so make sure to obey the 15 and 25 MPH speed limits.

You’ll want to set up close to the dunes, but avoid stopping in the soft sand, which can result in a pricey tow truck bill. We had no cell service on the beach, but you can get a tide book from the Visitor Center and always pay attention to the flags indicating the water conditions.

Be prepared for lots of sand, everywhere, but trust us it’s worth watching the sun rise over the ocean every day. To keep the mess to a minimum, we used a large outdoor rug and a small bucket of water outside your door to rinse your feet and keep some of the sand outdoors.

If you’ll be using an external generator, it’s a good idea to try to elevate your generator and cover it when it’s not in use. This helps to reduce overheating from sun exposure and reduces the amount of sand that can blow and creep into crevices causing potential issues later on.  After leaving the beach you’ll definitely want to give your rig a good wash to remove all the salt moisture and reduce any rust accumulation.

Beach Activities & Wildlife

Padre Island is an ideal location to unplug, relax and settle into beach mode. Enjoy sunrise views over the Gulf of Mexico and daytime activities like fishing, birdwatching, and boogie boarding.

Padre Island is a popular fishing destination for all kinds of fish from red drum to small sharks and even sting rays! In order to fish you’ll need a Texas fishing license. These can be found at several of the nearby gas stations, or grocery stores, and make sure to get your saltwater stamp too! We enjoyed watching fisherman reel in sting rays, drum and even a shark during our stay.

If being in the water is more your speed, you can swim or boogie boarding in the waves. You can get boogie board fairly cheap from one of the many local surf shops or get into kid-mode, for marathon sandcastle building sessions. When playing in or near the water make sure to steer clear sting rays and the blue vibrant, Portuguese Man of War, their tentacles can reach up to 60 feet and deliver a painful sting. Keep vinegar handy to lessen their nasty sting if you do step on one.

There is an abundance of wildlife to watch on the beach. If you come in the spring, or summer season, you might even be lucky enough to get to watch the sea turtles hatching on the beach! We loved watching the birds from herons to sandpipers and pelicans diving into the water to catch fish throughout the day. In the dunes behind you there is a whole other ecosystem with wildlife ranging from coyotes, rodents, deer, yes, even rattlesnakes. Keep a close eye on pets and kids after the sun goes down and don’t enter the dunes area.

After dark, get ready for stargazing and the moon reflecting in the water while you enjoy beach fires in the sand. Roasting marshmallows with your toes in the warm sand is an epic experience you should not miss during your stay. We enjoyed almost nightly beach fires listening to the waves crash until we were ready for them to lull us to sleep.

We loved our time at Padre Island National Seashore, and will cherish the memories forever, even long after we’ve finally gotten rid of all the sand!

Kestra Bronneke


Kestra is a lover of the outdoors, sunshine, and her little family. She has two kids, that keep her on her toes and a husband who you can often find her gazing at, wondering how she won the marriage lottery.

Since 2021, Kestra and her husband have explored 40 states (and counting!) in their fifth-wheel RV.

If you are into RV DIYs, travel tips and a good dose of humor you can find the ‘Boundless Bronnekes’ on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.