Explore America's Campgrounds
Texas’ Gulf of Mexico coastline stretches 624 miles from the Louisiana border to the Rio Grande. Not far from the northern border, highway 87 bisects the Bolivar Peninsula, a spit of land where seven miles of sandy beach in the small town of Crystal Beach lures sun worshippers from nearby Galveston. The town has camping accommodations for all tastes, including primitive beach camping and RV parks with all the bells and whistles.
On the Beach
Camping is allowed anywhere on the beach on Bolivar Peninsula. Being able to drive on the hard-packed sand makes it easy to just pick a spot and set up your tent or deploy the jacks on your RV. A handful of porta-potties serve as bathrooms, and the Gulf Coast Market, also known as The Big Store, has public restrooms. It’s typically breezy on the beach, but if higher winds are predicted, bring extra-long tent stakes. Insects are a problem at certain times of the year, and the beach is usually crowded during the summer.
Crystal Beach is home to two traditional campgrounds. Bolivar Peninsula RV Park caters to big rigs, with pull-through and back-in sites on an inland lake. The park, 10 miles from the ferry, has a pavilion, a laundry and modern bathhouses. Pet-friendly Paula’s Vineyard, a gated RV park a few blocks from the beach, has paved RV sites, a laundry room and Wi-Fi, as well as modern bathhouses. The park also rents fully-equipped travel trailers for use on-site. Both RV parks have nightly, weekly and monthly rates.
Stingaree Marina has two dozen canal-side RV sites with electric, water and sewer hookups. Campers with boats are invited to launch from the marina’s docks or settle in at water’s edge for an afternoon of fishing. If you’re traveling the Intracoastal Waterway and camping out on your boat, you can reserve a slip. Stingaree has a full-service restaurant serving fresh-caught seafood, and they’ll be happy to cook your catch. The attached bar, Down Under, serves casual food and has live weekend entertainment.
If you’re headed to Crystal Beach from Galveston, hop on the 24-hour ferry, which moves cars, motor homes and travel trailers on the short trip between Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula. Ferries are added to the route if vehicular traffic is heavy. You’ll need a beach parking permit if you intend to stay on the peninsula in areas other than those marked “free beach area.” They’re available from the County of Galveston website, from local shops and from crews that patrol the beach.
Native New Yorker Meg Jernigan stayed in Washington, D.C. after attending the George Washington University, and worked in the tourism industry with the National Park Service for many years. She has extensive experience in tent and RV camping, hiking, backcountry exploration and cycling.