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The Gulf of Mexico Offers a Warm Welcome to Campers
By Rick Hazeltine
Camping along the Gulf Coast of Mexico is one of the best kept secrets in adventure travel. The region —which includes the west side of Florida, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana — boasts many unique opportunities to find a Gulf of Mexico beach campground.
Here’s a look at the best choices in finding a great Gulf of Mexico beach campground.
Although Texas has 600 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, there are not a lot of choices for a Texas beach campground. The state park system has three beach front locations that offer camping, and Padres Island National Seashore features four areas where you can find a Texas beach campground.
In the Texas state park system, you will find Galveston Island on the eastern part of the state. Galveston Island covers 2,000 acres. Although the park was damaged by Hurricane Ike, beachside camping is open and offers bathrooms and showers.
Another state park is Goose Island. Although it has camping spots, no swimming is allowed. Goose Island is also home to “Big Tree,” the largest live oak in Texas. The tree is estimated to be more than 1,000 years old.
The last spot is Mustang Island at the eastern side of the state. Mustang Island is 4,000 acres and has five miles of beach front, making it easy for visitors to find a Texas beach campground.
Padre Island National Seashore has campgrounds open year-round, and four of the five offer RV sites although there are no hook-ups. All camping is first-come, first-serve so there are no reservations. The primary camping area is at Malaquite, where there are showers and bathrooms. Bird Island Basin, North Beach and South Beach only have chemical toilets.
For more information on Texas beach camping, visit the
Texas state park website
Grand Isle State Park is the primary location for Louisiana beach campsites. The park is at the southern tip of Cajun Country. Grand Isle also has complete hook-ups for RVs, as well as tent camping sites on the beach. The only other state park that has access to the beach is Cypremort Point, which has just six cabins and no camping allowed.
If you can compromise with a beach campsite on a lake, there’s Fontainebleau State Park on Lake Pontchartrain, near New Orleans. For more information on Louisiana beach camping, visit the
Louisiana state park website
For those in search of an Alabama beach campground, Gulf State Park, located in Gulf Shores, is the only real choice. Among its many amenities are two miles of white sand beaches among its more than 6,000 acres. Gulf State Park offers everything from primitive camping to cottages. There’s also an 18-hole golf course and a 900-acre lake for fishing. Regardless of your hobby, you will likely find Gulf State Park a good location for an Alabama beach campground.
The only other state park near the water is Meaher on the wetlands of Mobile Bay. A recent renovation features more than 50 new campsites, along with electrical service up to 50 amps. There is also a new bathhouse and laundry facilities. Given the few options in the state, Meaher makes a great consolation prize for an Alabama beach campground.
For more information on Alabama beach camping, visit the
Alabama state park website
Buccaneer State Park has been under reconstruction since Hurricane Katrina leveled all facilities in 2005. Although the park will be completed until 2011, it still offers camping spots for tents and RVs. When the park is completed, it will have more than 200 campsites with full hook-ups, including some with sewer.
For more information on Mississippi beach camping, visit the
Mississippi state park website
On the west side of Florida’s coast, the majority of beach campgrounds are located in the Northwest District, in the panhandle area. Here you will find full camping accommodations at St. George Island State Park, St. Joseph Peninsula, St. Andrews, Grayton Beach, Topsail Hill, Henderson Beach and Big Lagoon.
Farther down the coast, you will find more limited opportunities for Gulf of Mexico camping. Anclote Key Preserve and Waccasassa offer primitive camping only, Cayo Costa only has cabins and just boat camping is allowed at Caladesi. For more information on Florida beach camping, visit the
Florida state park website
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