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Old 01-27-2020, 07:12 PM   #1
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Beach driving/camping (TX) recommendations?

We're planning a month-long road trip, with the Texas Gulf Coast being our likely finale and turnaround point. We're mainly in to nature, wildlife, and solitude, so I'm trying to weigh the pros and cons of spending a few days at Padre Island, Mustang Island, or maybe the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and South Padre Island area. Any thoughts on which are the most "nature-y", or other destinations to consider?

Also, we're in a 2017 4WD Sprinter, but aren't hardcore off-roaders. No winch, no on-board air compressor, no sand ladders. Any tips, warnings, or must-have gear for beach driving, assuming we're quite risk averse and don't actually enjoy getting stuck? Would you air down even without on-board air, and then just fill up again at the first gas station on the way out?
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Old 01-28-2020, 07:13 PM   #2
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We've been to all those....and we didn't air down at all....the Texas beach is pretty rock hard in MOST places...though in retrospect, and reading again and again on here, Senior Members all say AIR DOWN!

Padre Island Natl. Seashore: Can easily drive down beach a few miles before you reach the 4x4 only sign...we drove down another 5-6 miles to camp...we locked in but never used/felt we had to use it...though a short patch of soft sand made us both pucker a little! But talk about private!!! GREAT!!

Mustang Island: is even easier to reach...trouble spots will be marked with a "Soft Sand" warning sign....I like Mustang b/c getting into town was a very short drive, not really good for shelling etc...but shallow quite a bit out (in the Gulf) so swimming is great if its warm enough!

Galveston: Hit that if you can...great restaurants, tours, tales of being a very haunted place (1900's hurricane/storm surge went over island...tales of the haunted are sad, but spectacular) not far to the West till Padre, you can find townships where you can also camp on the beach....

You are going to LOVE IT!!

Ps Mosquitos can be devastating (especially early am and at dusk/after sunset till dark) during that season which may be all year too...it was early March last time we went (3/2019)
pic 1 Padre Natl. Seashore
2 Galveston Campground (there are private in town this was around 5miles W of town)
3same
4&5 Mustang Island
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Old 01-28-2020, 07:51 PM   #3
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Ooh, thanks for the warning about skeeters. I think of them as a warm-weather scourge, totally forget about them in winter, but then again, that's why we're headed south!

I should have said our timeline puts us there in late Feb. I'm just reading now about the whooping cranes being in the area then, so might have to make sure Aransas Nat'l Wildlife Refuge makes the cut. We've never had a bad experience doing those self-guided auto-tour loops at other Refuges, they're always great for birdwatching, and uncrowded.
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Old 01-28-2020, 09:18 PM   #4
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I'll share some of my experience from a few trips to Padre Island National Seashore (PINS). Past the 4x4 only sign is where its all at. I'd recommend this highly. We usually camp 20-30 miles down the beach, basically just drive until we find a nice spot and can't see anyone in either direction.

While the sand can be firm all the way down the 60-mile stretch, I would suggest taking some basic recovery gear, and at a minimum being able to air down. I've seen conditions change over the course of a day or two. It can be firm for the drive in, but then conditions change and its soft for the way out. With a heavy van 4x4, aired down tires and a little confidence should be plenty to navigate even soft conditions. But I'd also recommend at least 2 maxxtraxx as cheap insurance.

Mosquitos can be real bad, but usually there's a strong breeze on the beach that keeps them manageable. The little blood suckers are real bad further back in the dunes.
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Old 02-02-2020, 09:28 AM   #5
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Thanks for the advice. I had looked at getting some MaxTrax earlier, but we don't have any good spot to store them inside or out, and they appear to take up a lot of space. I'm sure they're nowhere near as good, but I just bought 2 Bunkerwall traction mats that have the benefit of rolling up into much more stowable shapes, and we'll have a shovel and snow chains with us as well. Our build is on the lighter side, only about 7500# loaded, so I'm hoping this is sufficient due diligence.
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Old 02-02-2020, 10:13 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndrewInSeattle View Post
Thanks for the advice. I had looked at getting some MaxTrax earlier, but we don't have any good spot to store them inside or out, and they appear to take up a lot of space. I'm sure they're nowhere near as good, but I just bought 2 Bunkerwall traction mats that have the benefit of rolling up into much more stowable shapes, and we'll have a shovel and snow chains with us as well. Our build is on the lighter side, only about 7500# loaded, so I'm hoping this is sufficient due diligence.
Any traction device should be a big help in the case you get stuck, definitely doesnít have to be maxxtrax.

Main thing is to not get stuck in the first place! Momentum is your friend.

Shovel is also key. And I canít recommend airing down enough.
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Old 02-06-2020, 11:55 AM   #7
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We've done the TX Gulf and never needed to air down, either.

I don't mean to start a war here, but our friends with 4x4s and MaxTrax and onboard air compressors and all that, they're just flexing their muscles 99% of the time.

The other 1%, they're towing us out of places we got stuck.

Are you leaving from Seattle, as per your name? When is the trip?
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Old 02-06-2020, 11:58 AM   #8
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Airing down is your friend. Driving to a gas station to air back up shouldn't be a problem, I've done it many times instead of breaking out the compressor.

The first time I got the van stuck it was to the floorboards before I realized I was going down a half inch for every 6 inches of forward progress I was making (this was at 35 psi). After digging and airing down to 10 psi the beach was no problem.

There is a wide range of sand types and grain size that you can encounter. It sounds like the beaches you're looking at are the fine-grained sand that packs down nicely. The sand that sunk me was large grained and mostly made up of tiny smooth shells. That loosely packed big-grained stuff really lets you sink in...

Have fun, looks like the kind of place I like to be!

-Mark
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Old 02-06-2020, 06:18 PM   #9
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If you make it to Galveston, on the north end you may consider taking the Ferry to Port Bolivar...we found the Beaches there to be a lot of fun as well - you shouldn't encounter much company during the time period you're traveling.
https://www.crystalbeach.com/camping.htm
https://www.galveston.com/trip-plann...alvestonferry/
https://travel.usnews.com/rankings/b...ches-in-texas/

Campfires are allowed on some beaches (Crystal beach I know for sure), just plan on bringing wood ahead of time!

As others have mentioned, suggest you be proactive from the onset and air down before you hit the sand...it does change.

If you have the opportunity, on the way back try make a stop in San Antonio and stay on the Riverwalk. Fun place & some of the best times I've ever had were spent in Durty Nelly's pub.
Durty Nelly's Pub | Genuine Irish pub in the heart of San Antonio

If you happen to pass a Pappadeaux Restaurant (Seafood) or a Pappacito's (Tex Mex) you will not be disappointed!!!

Enjoy your trip!
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Old 02-10-2020, 07:43 PM   #10
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Thanks all, for all the feedback. We head out tomorrow, but are taking our sweet time, so we'll probably get to the Gulf Coast in 2 weeks or so. I'll try to post a trip report of some kind when I get a chance, as long as there's anything interesting to say, or at least some attractive photos.
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