This has to be one of the best beaches on the Texas coast. The hurricane was devastating but the locals really made an amazing recovery! The beach stretches for 18 miles, it's so huge that it does not feel crowded even during holidays, although it is much nicer on weekdays (Monday to Thursday), when it's almost deserted.
Soft sand, amazing views, this beach was well maintained and clean for the majority of the time we spent there. A few times we arrived before the cleaning team and saw a lot of small litter such as bottle caps and cigarette butts. I am not sure whether the beach is maintained every day or not, but usually, it was very clean, can't complain!
Driving on the beach
It is one of the few beaches in the U.S. where you can still drive your car – yes, you can drive close to the waters and park right there! Although many locals are accustomed to this, not everyone finds it to be a comfortable feature. If you find the idea of having all kinds of vehicles on the beach next to you unpleasant, you can use the patch near the entrance – there is a car park and people don't drive on the beach near it.
To enter with your car you will need a permit. You can stop by any Stripes store and for just $12 you will get a parking pass that will last for a whole year. You will need this pass even if you are going in for one day. Parking close to where you set up your beach chairs is a good option since it's a long walk from any of the parking areas off the access roads. Campers, tents and all types of RVs are parked on the beach.
Other places where you can buy a parking permit include:
- Port Aransas City Hall
- Port Aransas Visitor Center/Chamber of Commerce
- IGA Family Center (local grocery)
- Other locations around town and on the beach (during peak season)
A nice option some visitors go with is renting a golf cart in town and driving it on the beach. There are a few golf cart rental places and they range from $100 to $170 for a 4 seater for a day of rent. It's totally worth it to take one on the beach and ride for miles along the water. The beach is filled with wildflowers and there are plenty of seagulls, pelicans, and other birds to watch along the shore. A nice bonus is that if you are renting a golf cart, you don't have to buy a permit and drive right on the beach without it. You can then use the cart to ride all over the town and drop by a pub or a restaurant. More carts and fewer cars on the road on this island!
Free beach parking is allowed between Markers 52 to 58 and between the jetties and Horace Caldwell Pier.
Camping on the beach
Camping on the beach is permitted for a few days at a time (3-night limit during any 3-week period), and campfires are also allowed. The recommended place to camp is at "I.B. MaGee Beach Park". The huge, 170 acres-big state park is located on the northernmost point of Mustang Island in Port Aransas on the ship channel and is open all year. There are 75 campsites with water and electric hookups and a dump station. The camper’s bathhouse is available to campers using W/E sites and a freshwater rinse shower located next to the park office. They also have a beach bathhouse with coin-operated showers and a first-aid station.
For safety reasons, your campsite must be positioned 50 feet away from the waters. Additionally, you are also advised to camp within 200 feet from any beach access road.
Finally, camping is not allowed within 25 feet of the driving lane.
Beach rules and amenities
The beach is dog-friendly.
Public toilets (porta potties) and rinse showers are available. There's also a guy who gives lessons on how to build sandcastles.
Good fishing, good seafood. Lots of good restaurants in the city, however, we found the wait time to be extremely long during peak times.
There are few services on the beach itself: the city does not allow food trucks and there are few places to eat nearby, so bring a picnic basket and enjoy your day.
Getting to Port Aransas can be accomplished by taking the free car ferry or by Corpus Christi bridge.
The ferry to the island is a short, but quiet ride. You can occasionally spot a dolphin or two.
The lines to get on the ferry are REALLY long during summer months and especially on Fridays, so if you can adjust your trip to come and go on a weekday, you are likely to miss the lines.
- 4 hours from Houston, TX
- 4 hours from Austin, TX
- 3 hours from San Antonio, TX
Places to stay
If you are planning a few days' stay you can rent a beach-facing condo and enjoy the lovely views.