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RVing on the Texas Gulf Coast

Texas Gulf Coast RVing: Consider The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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From Port Arthur at Sabine Pass on the Texas-Louisiana border, to South Padre Island, and inland to Brownsville, Texas you’ve got about 475 miles of Texas Gulf Coast speckled with camping and RV parks. For six to eight months of the year much of this route is home to thousands of “Winter Texans”, or Texas-style snowbirds.

In addition to Winter Texans, these coastal RV parks also have a summer following. Some RVers are year-round residents. Other RVers are Texans who come for weekends and vacations. A third group are college kids who come from all over to spend spring break at one of these coastal retreats.

The consistencies around the Texas Gulf Coast are hot summers, and year-round high humidity and breezes (the fast moving kind of around 10-15 knots with gust up to 30 and sometimes even 60 knots.) The rest varies, especially in winter, from Sabine Pass to South Padre Island.

The Good

I finally gave up trying to count how many RV parks were within 25 miles of the Gulf Coast. I came up with somewhere between 80 and 100. None of the “directories” I looked at seemed to have a complete list, nor listed exactly the same parks, and they probably couldn’t. New ones get built, old ones close, and sometimes they just change hands–and names.

For instance, the new Texas Lakeside RV Resort in Port Lavaca will open in October 2011. From their website, it looks absolutely beautiful with its own, private fishing lake, heated pool and hot tub, gym, kitchen, showers, laundry rooms, 94 spacious sites and much more.

The Texas Gulf Coast climate in winter is milder than most of the US. It ranges from subtropical in the South Padre Island area to colder near Sabine Pass. The winds off the gulf are cooling in the summer and cut the chill in the winter. Though considered semi-arid, it is more humid than not. The continuous breeze blowing off the Gulf dries the land even when the air feels damp. It rarely gets snow, and when it does, it’s generally just a dusting.

The Texas Gulf Coast is known for its excellent fishing, boating and water sports. Make sure you have a salt-water fishing tag on your fishing license. There are limits and restrictions that vary from place to place and your catch is likely to be inspected. Most people fish from boats, but if you don’t own one you can take a chartered fishing trip from most of the ports.

For history buffs, there’s no shortage of great historical sites, museums and landmarks to keep you intrigued in this history-rich strip of Texas.

The Bad

Despite the number of RV parks on the Texas Gulf Coast they fill up fast, especially in winter. MAKE RESERVATIONS! It would be a long and disappointing drive if you got all the way down there and there were no RV sites available.

To say south Texas is hot in the summertime is a massive understatement. Even without the 2011 drought, it’s hot there anyway. Now add 100% humidity along the Gulf Coast and you get what my four-year-old daughter summed up in two words... 

“SOAKIN' HOT!”

I don’t think summer gulf coast weather could be described any more accurately than that!

The Ugly

Hurricanes are always ugly, but you’ll at least get several days warning if you watch the news, or use a NOAA weather radio. A bit of hurricane preparedness planning for RVers will ease your worries, should one be headed your way.

Thunderstorms can result in flooding because the winds tend to dry the land making it slow to absorb water.

So, don’t wait too long. We once evacuated Galveston a day before a hurricane hit. The roads were already flooded up to the top of our wheel-wells. Traffic was bumper to bumper, and we all but held our breath hoping no one would make waves (literally) and flood our engine.

The winds on the coast blow pretty much all the time. If you get used to this, it’s not a problem. But many people can’t.

The humidity Is high, and constant. We spent only one month in Port Mansfield, and in that short time the legs on our DTV satellite tripod corroded. If you stay much longer than that, you should take steps to prevent corrosion that can take root in your RV, often in places you can’t see.

If you like to wade out to fish you can practically walk out to where the boaters are nabbing the best catches. Fishing between the shore and sand bar takes some planning. While you can wade out 500 to 1,000 feet from shore in many places, some areas have small jellyfish that sting. Make sure you have the proper wading equipment.

As much as you don’t want to be stung by jellyfish, the “really ugly” is the danger of rip tides. To quote a report from the National Weather Service in Brownsville, “rip currents are powerful channels of water flowing quickly away from shore...which occur most often at low spots or breaks in the sandbar and in the vicinity of structures such as groins, jetties and piers.”

Rather than try to swim against them, swim across them. These tides tend to be long (from gulf to coast) and narrow in width. Swimming parallel to the shoreline will take you to calmer waters where you can swim or wade to safety.

Stay tuned to NOAA Radio Weather, WeatherBug or another emergency and weather alert systems to get reports on hurricanes, tornados, riptides, heat, humidity, wind, flood and other warnings.

As a retiree and full-timer, I’ll list this last concern under “The Ugly,” although younger generations might prefer it come under “The Good.” South Padre Island, Galveston, Corpus Christi and some of the more popular coastal areas are magnets for college-age party-goers. Spring break is a notorious time for youth to come from all over the country. This can be a bit rough for those of us who are thirty or more years past this kind of entertainment. To ensure your vacation is all you plan it to be, find out when and where spring break vacationers may bring an unexpected ambience to your vacation.

RVing the Texas Gulf Coast

With all this in mind, just do a little research about weather, safety, and park availability for whatever time of the year you plan your Texas Gulf Coast vacation. There’s always something to do, see, learn and enjoy and each area of the coast is unique.

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