Cars and RVs posted up along the beach to take in the offseason. Photo by Joe Lanane

After months of quarantining, my wife and I finally bought an RV.

We knew exactly where we wanted to take our 19-foot Class C RV: Port Aransas. There are plenty of traditional accommodations in “Port A,” but beach camping is our preferred method of lodging and the only way to gain direct ocean access. Beach camping is a something we’ve been doing as a couple since we started dating almost eight years ago.

The weekend after our RV purchase, we were down in Port A, soaking in the summer sun while navigating the crowded beach in June. Shortly after that, beaches shut down the rest of the summer due to COVID-19. We didn’t go back until early October, but the wait proved worthwhile. In fact, heading down to the coast during the off-season might be our new go-to. With fewer crowds, more space, and a decidedly “locals only” vibe, it felt like we were really getting away from it all.

Here are some pro tips for beach camping during the off-season in Port Aransas:

We left Friday evening from our home in Austin, and when we arrived at the famed Port Aransas Ferry, it wasn’t very busy. If it’s your first time visiting the island, purchase a beach parking permit at most any convenience store or the visitors center in Port Aransas. The $12 permit is good for a whole year and applies to every vehicle, RVs included.

Having never been in Port A during the off-season, we could immediately tell the difference in crowds upon pulling onto the beach. We easily found a parking space that became our home for the next few nights.

Overnight campers must set up south of Horace Caldwell Fishing Pier, and you can use the beach markers to track your location. We like this area near the pier because it’s walking distance to stores, surf shops, and golf cart rentals on Avenue G. This area draws a lot of daytime visitors as well as a second wave of nighttime revelers, making it a great spot for those who enjoy people-watching.

Renting a golf cart is a must when visiting Port A—it’s the easiest way to get around. A few options for rentals include Port A Beach Buggies, which has competitive multiday prices, and Sly Customs, which offers golf carts that look like characters from Cars as well as classic hot rods.

When we visited Port A Beach Buggies at noon on a Saturday, every four-seat golf cart was already rented out. But the next day, after weekend travelers thinned out, there were plenty of options to choose from.

Drive your cart over to Port A Beach Lodge. As the only bar or restaurant located directly on the beach, it has great atmosphere.

Wooden posts keep motorists from parking too close to the ocean through beach marker 19, at which point tent camping is no longer allowed, per city law. Surprisingly, there were very few tent campers in early October despite the cool evening weather.

RV campers begin to space out starting at beach marker 45. Just remember that high tide can sneak up on your RV, so be sure to leave plenty of dry sand between your rig and the water. Once your spot is established, start setting up your pop-up tents and foldout chairs. Many campers fish throughout the day.

Campfires are allowed anywhere on the beach as long as they are contained and don’t get too big. Before the pandemic, we liked to crash other campfires and make new friends for the night, but this time around we brought our own wood for a personal bonfire.

Now, we have a new family tradition the next time we go beach camping in Port A.

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