Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are at Padre Island National Park in Texas. It is permissible to drive out on the beach and camp. I can see other large RVs out there, but my husband refuses to go. I even saw a big oil tanker truck drive down the beach for miles. My husband thinks we will sink in the sand, have the tide come in on us and get our rig all salty. I think it would be an experience that isn't possible in too many other locations.
Do you think he is being over cautious, or am I being irresponsible insisting we try it?
--Wanting near the porpoise in Corpus
Dear Porpoise Corpus:
You are in an area where thousands of people drive for miles along the beach to fish, camp, beach-comb, go birding etc. There is a need to be cautious, but over-all it is perfectly safe if you use common sense.
There are a few things to consider. If you do become stuck, a tow truck will be expensive. Once you are off the beach it would be a good idea to thoroughly wash down your rig. Treat it the same way you would an ocean going fishing boat and motor. Even if you camp in the National Park campground up in the dunes, you will still get salty sand invading your rig when the wind blows. It is no different than driving south along hundreds of miles of salt covered roads. It needs to be cleaned and rinsed.
You need to stay on the hard packed sand. You can see tire marks from other vehicles. There is plenty of wide area to drive, turn around, park parallel, or back in and have your biggest picture windows facing the ocean.
The Park Service visitor center can help you with tide information. A clue to leave would be waves washing under your rig. Rangers patrol the beach and will advise campers to leave if they see possible problems.
As enchanting as the beach can be, it needs to be respected. You can enjoy wildlife right out your RV window, from coyotes to sea birds. Fantastic sunrises and great surf fishing are right out your door. You will save a few bucks, because beach camping is free.
If you can come to some kind of compromise, you might want to slowly get your feet wet (pun intended). You can camp right at the bottom of the road ramp down to the beach. You will be less than a hundred yards onto the beach and get the full effect of beach camping, the feel of the wheel on the hard packed sand, and experience the wave and wind action that you need to monitor.
Walk the beach and talk to other campers. Most are more than happy to share their collective experience with you.
The beach can look pristine one day and have the feel of a landfill the next, depending on weather and tide. But overall it is a wonderful place and beach camping can create wonderful memories if done properly.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink