Explore America's Campgrounds
The Bolivar Peninsula, off the east end of Galveston Island, has 30 miles of sparkling beaches accessible by motor vehicle, horseback, bicycle or foot. The most popular -- Crystal Beach -- stretches along the peninsula's southern shore. You can set up a tent or park your RV anywhere along its 7 miles of white sand.
The Bolivar Peninsula is accessed from Galveston Island via a free public ferry. If you're coming from the Port Arthur area, you can drive across the Rollover Pass that connects High Island to the peninsula. Crystal Beach runs along much of the southern side of the peninsula facing the Gulf of Mexico. Highway 87 runs along its length, giving easy access to the beach. Crystal Beach is widest on its western end at an area known as "the flats," just 3.7 miles from the ferry. It tapers to its narrowest point along the eastern end, but there's still plenty of room to camp.
Setting Up Camp
You can drive along the sand and set up camp anywhere you desire. Portable restrooms are spaced along the beach for public use, and no shower facilities are provided. There is no shade, so bring canopies to give your tent or picnic area respite from the sun. Build a small, contained campfire when fire restrictions are not in force, and be sure to bring your own firewood. Giant beach bonfires are not permitted.
What to Pack
Crystal Beach's mild climate makes year-round camping by the sea inviting. Temperatures in the summer months soar into the 90s, with sunny skies and humidity about 80 percent. A dip in the Gulf's waters -- usually about 10 degrees less than the outside temperature -- make an ideal pastime for a summer afternoon. The most rainfall comes during late summer afternoons, when tropical storms dominate weather patterns in the Gulf. Winter days stay in the 60s, with water temperatures nearly as high and nights dipping barely below 50 degrees.
To park your car at your camp, you'll need to obtain a Bolivar Beach parking sticker, available from beach parking attendants, local stores and real estate agencies. You can also order a sticker by mail from the Galveston Parks Department. The sticker is valid for the entire year in which it is purchased, and the nominal fee helps fund beach maintenance. If you plan to fish in the surf along Crystal Beach, you'll need a Texas saltwater fishing license.
Indulging her passion for wide open spaces and outdoor fitness through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, author Jodi Thornton-O'Connell takes the mystery out of outdoor skills and guides readers to discover fun ways to physically connect to natural surroundings.