7 RV Campgrounds Near Padre Island National Seashore

Jun 23, 2023 | Campgrounds

7 RV Campgrounds Near Padre Island National Seashore

Here’s where you can park your rig beachside while exploring the longest undeveloped barrier island coastline in the world.

By Samantha Lechlitner-Lewis

Located between the Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico, Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) offers nearly 70 miles of protected coastline in Texas. Managed by the National Park Service, this wild barrier island offers a myriad of water activities, camping, beachcombing, and off-roading opportunities for those traveling with capable four-wheel drive vehicles. 

Whether you’re looking to watch sea turtles scurry to the water or reel in the catch of the day, PINS is the perfect spot to break away from the crowds and enjoy the wild beauty of the world’s longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island coastline.

With four RV campgrounds within the national seashore and several nearby, here are seven RV campgrounds perfect for visiting Padre Island National Seashore.

Related A Guide to All 10 National Seashores In the U.S.

Padre Island National Seashore RV Campgrounds

Multiple RVs parked at a paved campground near a beach with sand dunes
Malaquite Campground at Padre Island National Seashore. | Photo: Campendium User

1. Malaquite Campground

Just north of the visitor center on the gulf side of the island you’ll find Malaquite Campground. It’s the perfect place to camp if you’re looking for a short walk to the beach and don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle or off-road capable RV. Tucked between the dunes and beach access, this year-round campground offers 48 first-come, first-served sites with a mix of paved and gravel pads. 

While there aren’t hookups at Malaquite, there are bathroom and shower facilities, a dump station, potable water, and some sites that have barbecue grills and shade structures. Paved sites are 40 feet long and 18 feet wide, accommodating a variety of RV sizes. Fires are permitted in designated areas as long as a burn ban isn’t in effect. Camping permits are required for all PINS campgrounds and are available at each campground entrance.

2. Bird Island Basin Campground 

Another great option for RVers and tent campers without four-wheel drive is Bird Island Basin Campground resting alongside the Laguna Madre. It’s an ideal basecamp for anglers, kayakers, windsurfers, and bird watchers alike. What this campground lacks in amenities, it makes up for with stunning waterfront views and easy access to recreational activities.

With 34 RV and tent sites and 10 tent-only sites, Bird Island Basin is open all year, and sites are on a first-come, first-served basis. Most sites are on gravel, while the tent sites are located in the sand. Vault toilets can be found on-site, but there aren’t hookups, shower facilities, or dump stations in this area. The campground can accommodate RVs up to 45 feet in length. Camping permits are required for all PINS campgrounds and are available at each campground entrance.

Silver Airstream travel trailer parked on a beach with a red truck nearby
North Beach Campground at Padre Island National Seashore. | Photo: Campendium User

3. North Beach Campground 

Located in the northernmost area of the park, North Beach Campground is open to RVers and tent campers, however, four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended as conditions can change unexpectedly, causing vehicles to become stuck in deep sand. This is a free, primitive camping area, but permits are required and can be obtained at the park entrance or the self-service kiosk. 

There aren’t shower or restroom facilities in this area of the park, but both are available at the Malaquite Visitor Center. There aren’t designated sites, but you should set up camp closer to the dunes as this section of the beach is used by visitors traveling to a nearby fishing area. Campfires are permitted in contained barbecue grills or pits dug into the ground as long as there isn’t a burn ban in effect. 

4. South Beach Campground 

Spanning from Closed Beach to the Mansfield Channel, South Beach offers nearly 60 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. RV and tent camping is permitted along this stretch, however, four-wheel drive is needed after the first 5 miles. All driving is on the beach, and there aren’t amenities in this camping area outside of a chemical toilet at the South Beach entrance. 

While a camping permit is required, South Beach offers free, primitive camping, accompanied by epic gulf views. Like North Beach, there aren’t designated sites and you should set up your camp near the dunes to avoid disrupting traffic on the beach. Campfires are permitted in contained barbecue grills or pits dug into the ground, as long as there isn’t a burn ban in effect. 

You can also tent or car camp at Yarborough Pass at PINS. This primitive camping area can only be accessed with a four-wheel drive vehicle or by boating down the Laguna Madre. A camping permit is required to stay here, and you should call the visitor center prior to your trip for the latest driving conditions.  

Other RV Campgrounds Near Padre Island National Seashore

A fifth wheel RV parked at a campground with a paved site
Padre Balli County Park Campground near Padre Island National Seashore. | Photo: Zamia Ventures

5. Padre Balli County Park Campground 

Managed by the Nueces County Coastal Parks, Padre Balli sits just outside PINS along the Gulf of Mexico in Corpus Christi, Texas. Enjoy beach activities during the day and listen to the waves crash along the shore at night. It’s a great spot for tent and RV campers looking for ocean views at a budget-friendly price.

There are more than 140 sites with partial and full hookups, concrete pads, and picnic tables. This campground can accommodate larger RVs, with shower and restroom facilities on-site. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 361-949-8121 or submitting an online form.

6. Mustang Island State Park Campground 

North of PINS, you’ll find Mustang Island State Park near Port Aransas, Texas. Featuring miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, this park is ideal for fishing, swimming, boating, and more. The park offers 48 sites with water and electricity and 50 drive-up primitive sites for tent camping. 

Related Why Texas State Parks Are Great for RVers

The RV sites are only 400 yards from the water and each comes with a picnic table, shade shelter, and outdoor grill. While you can’t have campfires at your site, you can make one on the beach. There are restroom and shower facilities, and both RV and tent camping reservations can be made online

Large fifth wheel RV parked at a paved campsite
Corpus Christi KOA in Texas. | Photo: Catodude

7. Corpus Christi KOA Journey 

For a more upscale stay near PINS, head to the Corpus Christi KOA Journey campground. Located along the Laguna Madre, guests can choose from RV and tent sites or beach cottages when staying at this park. Campers can also enjoy a wide range of amenities like a general store, WiFi, kayak rentals, laundry facilities, a birdwatching deck, a playground, and more. 

There are 60 RV sites with full hookups and concrete pads. Some of the premium sites offer a concrete patio area as well. The campground can accommodate rigs up to 65 feet long, and pets are allowed at all sites. Reservations can be made online but should be done so in advance, as this is one of the most popular campgrounds in the area.