Our First Time Beach Boondocking

Our First Time Beach Boondocking

Bolivar Peninsula is a rare find - 27 miles of Gulf Coast, beach-front, free camping in south Texas.  We arrived at Bolivar Peninsula in the late afternoon after driving 5 hours from the New Orleans area. The sun was beginning to set and a storm was rolling in- not the conditions we typically like to be in when trying to set up a new campsite.

There were other factors weighing on our minds as well- we've never driven or parked on sand, we've never had to check tide charts to make sure we don't flood our rig...But despite the fading daylight, the incoming storm, the sand and the ocean tides, we had no trouble at all parking and setting up camp. The GPS coordinates we used took us down an easy beach-access road directly to a long section of beach front camping.


We had about 30 minutes to pick our spot and get the rig level before this gorgeous dark thunderstorm washed over us. It was just enough time to let Jane run and put her paws in the Gulf of Mexico before the sky opened up. Our first night was nerve-wracking. It was windy like we had never experienced. The RV rocked all night, not soothing lullaby-type rocking, but the kind of swaying that had me googling RV tipping and what wind speeds a 5th wheel can sustain. I also obsessively checked the tide charts because once the sun went down, we couldn't see the ocean any longer and I was convinced it could be just feet from our home. I made Alex go outside and walk to the water's edge during high tide around 11pm that night. All good-the tides weren't even close to us.

After the first night, we weren't nearly as nervous. The winds died down and we became used to checking the tide chart. For most of our stay, we had the beach largely to ourselves. A few campers would come and go but the beach is so large that we never felt crowded. Local residents would also fish or catch crabs during the day. One night there was also a loud beach bonfire party that woke Alex up but I completely slept through.  While I didn't see many people, there was evidence of their visits everywhere. Plastic bottles, food wrappers, cigarette packs, every piece of litter imaginable was scattered along the beach. Every time we walked the beach, we collected armfuls of garbage which we then threw away in the bright blue, convenient and plentiful trash cans placed every 50 yards or so along the dunes. It was sad and disheartening and infuriating. 

I don't mean to make it sound as though we were camping on a landfill. The trash was noticeable but didn't stop this from being one of the most beautiful places we've boondocked. I collected seashells every day and we looked forward to the sunset every night. We loved watching the huge ships take off from Galveston Island and then disappear over the horizon. From our living room windows, we watched shore birds eat fish and our front door opened up to the protected sand dunes where cows and horses grazed.

When we arrived on Bolivar Peninsula, we still had a broken refrigerator. We ordered the replacement cooling unit and had it scheduled to be delivered to the Bolivar Post Office but it was a 10 day wait time before delivery. We used coolers to keep a few perishables around for meals but we also drove 5 miles to The Big Store (a grocery/tourist gift shop/Ace Hardware/small cafe) almost daily to pick up fresh food and a bag of ice to use in the coolers. When the part was finally delivered, it was too large for the post office to accept. The delivery driver called Alex and then offered to deliver it to us personally after his normal daily route was complete. Sure enough, around 8pm that evening, a delivery truck pulled up next to us on the beach. The next day, Alex began the long process of removing our refrigerator from its cabinet in the wall and then removed the old cooling unit and installed the new one.  It took him all day, most of which was watching videos and reading step-by-step instructions, but when he was done our fridge immediately began cooling. By the next morning we were able to put away the coolers and place the few salvaged food items back into the fridge.

We also took a couple day trips over to Galveston Island. There's a ferry that goes back and forth from Bolivar to Galveston every 30 minutes. It's easy and free to use. We just drove our truck right onto the ferry. It's about a 15 minute crossing and you're allowed to get out of your vehicle if you want to look around and watch the seagulls dive at all the fish being churned up by the ferry. I did this only once as I quickly learned that seagulls will shit all over you if you stand under them. A few times we saw dolphins jumping in the distance. 

In Galveston, we explored the island a bit but it seems really geared towards tourists that get off the cruise ship ports so we didn't fall in love. One of the best things we did while there was meet up with another RVing family that we know through Instagram. They were staying at the Galveston State Park so we met for dinner on the island and quickly learned that we had a lot of shared interests. Laci and Brian are full-time RVers that also homeschool/unschool their 6-year- old daughter, Hadley, while on the road. They usually camp at State Parks for the reliable wifi so Brian can work on the road. Since they stay places for a few weeks at a time, they really get to know an area and have the time to explore all the interesting places. Every traveling family we've met has a different lifestyle on the road and we like hearing how different travelers make it work.  We really loved hanging with them and were excited to hear that they planned on being in Austin around the same time as us so we all agreed to try to meet up again.

In addition to fridge repairs, the other thing that kept us busy was exploring workamping opportunities. As I've mentioned before, we were trying to figure out what to do this spring- return to Indianapolis or try to continue traveling a while longer. I kept my eye on workamping jobs and applied for ones that seemed promising. We had several interviews with a sustainable coffee house and resort in California before ultimately turning down the job due to complete lack of internet service at their location and the idea of being in California, 32 hours away from our family and friends through at least September. And then, we received an email from an employer that we'd phone-interviewed with almost two weeks prior. It was a workamping job that we really wanted and thought the interview had gone well but when we didn't hear back from them for over a week, we thought perhaps they'd moved on and hired someone else.  The email offered us the jobs beginning in March and lasting through the summer and early fall season. We said yes without hesitation.

So that was our time on Bolivar Peninsula. We could have happily stayed longer but we had reservations at a State Park north of Houston. Alex would be flying out of the Houston airport for a DJing gig and I would be staying in the rig by myself and wanted full hook-ups while he was out of town. So near the end of January, we hitched up, waved goodbye to our beautiful beach camping spot and drove north.