ABOUT PADRE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE
Padre Island National Seashore, near Corpus Christi, Texas, is a national park site on Padre Island consisting of undeveloped, natural seashore habitat. The vehicle entrance fee is $10 for a seven day period; the fee is $5 for a pedestrian or bicycle for seven days. The Bird Island Basin area has an additional day-use fee of $5 per day per vehicle. A Padre Island annual pass is $20 and a Bird Island Basin annual pass is $10.
Padre Island National Seashore has two campgrounds, Malaquite Campground and Bird Island Basin, and also allows primitive camping right on the beach. No reservations can be made; all camping is first come-first served. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Bird Island Basin campground has been closed. The area is still open for day use.
When we visited in May, we had no trouble getting a campsite at Malaquite. It was late in the evening when we arrived, but with a flashlight we were able to self-register at the pay station near the entrance. The campsites are separated from the beach by dunes- we couldn’t see the water from our campsite, but we could certainly hear it. After so long away from the coast, it was incredibly soothing to fall asleep to the roar of the surf.
Our site, on the side nearest the beach, had a grill and a picnic table with a shade ramada. Sites on the other side had only tables, no shade structure, but the sites seemed a little bigger. There are no hookups, but there is an RV dump station and potable water filling. There are flush toilets and unheated freshwater rinse showers.
You’ll need to stock up on supplies before you go, because no groceries or fuel are available in the park. Corpus Christi is about 40 minutes away, and there you’ll find firewood and charcoal, groceries, and just about anything else you’ll want or need.
Primitive camping on the beach is free, though you still have to register for a permit. We didn’t want to drive on the beach with our 2WD Suburban, so Malaquite campground was a good fit for us.
THINGS TO DO
Malaquite Visitor Center, a short drive from the campground, has educational exhibits, a short video, and a gift shop. Junior Ranger workbooks can be obtained here. One activity prospective Junior Rangers can do is picking up rubbish on the beach, and the staff at the visitor center has trash bags available for this purpose.
Bird Island Basin has a boat ramp, kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, windsurfing lessons and rentals. Lessons are booked in advance, but kayak and SUP rentals are first-come, first-served.
Though there are no lifeguards, swimming at your own risk is permitted. Fishing is also allowed in accordance with applicable regulations. By and far, the best part of our visit was simply being on the beach! I don’t even know how many miles we walked, picking up trash, picking up shells, and just watching the sunrises.
The affordability of Padre Island National Seashore and opportunities for birding make this a favorite.