Padre Island, Texas

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We arrived at Padre Island, Corpus Christi, Texas, on Saturday not knowing what to expect. We had done a fair amount of reading about boondock camping on the beach and heard various reports. (Again, boondocking is when you rely completely on what you have on board (water from tank, power from batteries, etc.) Mostly, we read that taking a class A motorhome on the beach is very easy because the sand is so hard-packed, but you have to know when the tide’s coming in and how high it will be. Imagine the tide coming all the way up to your motorhome and the wheels under this 20,000 point beast sinking into the sand! Also, we didn’t know how the government shutdown would affect the goings on at this National Park.  

First a little history. Padre Island has been inhabited by native Americans, Spanish explorers, and cattle ranchers. The barrier island used to stretch all the way up along the Louisiana shoreline, but it’s believed that overuse by ranchers caused the island to erode to it’s current length of 113 miles. It is the nesting place of the endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, and was declared a United States National Park in 1968. It is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world.

We drove about 12 miles down the access road to the last public beach on the island, Malaquite Beach, and checked for any signs of National Park employees who might give us a permit to camp on the beach, but the office was shuttered. We spoke to a couple from Quebec who were camped out in the parking lot and also a woman who had been camping there in the lot for the past three weeks (with the government shutdown, camping there is now free so she was planning to stay as long as she could) and asked why they weren’t camping on the beach. The fellow from Quebec said that we would not be able to take a rig as large as our motorhome out there as we’d get stuck in the sand. The Kansas woman said sure, we could take our motorhome out, but she had been on the beach for a couple of days but there were too many people and the mosquitos were fierce. We decided to unhook the car and venture out to see what this beach looked like. 

Needless to say, we don’t know where the woman had been camping, but the National Seashore beach on Padre Island is very hard-packed sand and is almost deserted. We drove a mile or so down the beach and saw a couple of motor homes and a few pickup trucks parked for fishing. The beach “road” (no road is visible, just tire tracks on the sand) is considered a legal roadway in Corpus Christi, and you are to follow the rules of the road as elsewhere, there are even speed limit signs of 15 mph. We decided the beach would be OK for The Beast and went back to get him. A few minutes later, we were positioned on the beach, up against the dunes with our closest neighbors about 1/4 mile away!

We were surprised to see a National Park Ranger pickup truck drive by, so we flagged him down to ask if we needed a permit. He was a very nice young man who said that, despite the shutdown, he was continuing to work for the love of the park (because he’s not getting paid). He also said that no permits could be issued during the shutdown, so we should just know that we’re on our own out there. Despite that warning, we continued to see park rangers patrol the beach and even stop one driver for speeding on the beach!

We met some lovely and interesting people on Padre Island. One couple from Minnesota, Charlie and Wendy, own a farm with a few hundred head of angus cattle. They also have a tractor trailer which they use to do contract hauling in the winter to get away from the cold, which is why they were in Corpus Christi — they were delivering parts for a wind farm that’s being built nearby. We chatted for quite some time; they were really nice folks and we exchanged contact information before parting ways. 

Another couple from Quebec, John Paul and Christine and their standard poodle Lily Rose, pulled in last night and were our neighbors a few hundred yards down the beach. Our dogs played together this morning, running in the water, rolling in the sand. They are on the road until  mid-February, then heading back to Quebec where she runs a home for mentally challenged people. 

A fellow named “Road” came by last evening on his electric bicycle and stopped to chat.  He and Bob had a conversation about the bike, camping, etc., and he ended up giving us his business card. He is an “off-grid vanlife adventurer & teacher,” according to the card. He has quite the set-up with an elaborate pop-up trailer with awnings and solar panels.

We met great people on San Padre Island, saw beautiful sunrises and sunsets, listened to the waves all night, and even saw an amazing Cannonball Jellyfish wash up on shore this morning.  It was a quick visit, but an amazing one. We’ll be back!

You can see Venus, which was really bright in the morning sky, with Mercury below to the left. If you have really good eyes, you might see the star Antares to the right of Mercury, forming an upside-down V.

I guess this is where Sea Scallops come from. These shells are all over the beach. (Foot is for size reference.)

Tessa was happy that she was able to dig holes without being corrected.

Venus again, Mercury barely visible due to clouds.


Cannonball Jellyfish that washed up. Foot for size reference. Yes, it was dead.

3 thoughts on “Padre Island, Texas

  1. Wow!!!! What amazing pictures! It sounds like a great time. I’m glad you were able to have that experience. Consider me ultra jealous! Love you!

  2. Padre Island and your time on the beach looks like so MUCH FUN! I’m so jealous. I feel for (and appreciate) the park rangers who continue to work during the shutdown. Looking forward to your next blog post.

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