Campground Review

Beach Camping in Texas ⭐

We’re going back in time to share our 2017 car camping adventure through the Southwest! While our trip ended up being shorter than planned, we had some amazing adventures, including several new national parks and getting to be on one of our favorite TV shows! Thanks for reading along!

A much-awaited highlight of this trip was beach camping on the Texas coast — although our travels ended up not quite going as planned! Our trip from Louisiana took us through Houston in a crazy rainstorm …

Houston | Our Streamlined Life

… but as we turned south, the weather slowly turned to reveal some gorgeous clouds and Texas skyline that stretched on forever.

Texas Sky | Our Streamlined Life

The weather had us undecided on where to stop, and we waffled between powering through to our destination (S. Padre Island) and stopping at one of the many Texas state parks along the way. Eventually, after a long day of driving, we arrived outside Corpus Christi at Mustang Island State Park.

We’d planned to do some primitive beach camping, but as we arrived after dark we were a little hesitant about getting set up on the beach. We couldn’t quite tell where we were allowed to be and how soft the sand was. Finally, we just pulled into the parking lot off the beach and set up there.

Stealth Camping | Our Streamlined Life

We woke up the next morning to find the clouds had cleared and it was a beautiful sunny morning. (We weren’t the only ones camping the parking lot, either!)

Mustang Island Beach Breakfast | Our Streamlined Life

We drove out onto the beach, opened up the hitchenette, and made a delicious breakfast complete with beach views. It sure felt good to be camping again!

Feeling invigorated, we hit the road, once more headed south. We actually debated just staying at Mustang Island for a few more days, but I was determined to get in a little more primitive beach camping experience.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be — and I ended up making a rookie planning error that doomed our beach camping experience to ignominy …

… because, it would seem, Padre Island and South Padre Island are two very, very different places … and it’s a five hour drive to get from one to the other.

I won’t get into the details of the map-reading errors that landed us in this pickle. I’ll just say that when we arrived at S. Padre Island expecting a primitive national park landscape, and saw instead a crowded spring break destination, neither of us were thrilled. It was also hot as heck — the air conditioning in Franklin is out of commission — and we were informed at the county park campground I scrambled to find that car camping was not allowed under any circumstances. Ugh.

After much back-and-forth, and a medium-sized tantrum on my part, we ended up booking a hotel room, taking long showers, and grabbing dinner at the local brewery.

The next morning, we got up and tried again. I was determined to make beach camping happen, and we ended up scoring a spot at Isla Blanca County Park on the tip of the island.

Isla Blanca County Park Beach Camping | Our Streamlined Life

We set up shop and watched a glorious sunset over the bay.

Beach Sunset | Our Streamlined Life

It looked like we weren’t going to be able to check Padre Island National Seashore off our national parks list. But since we were definitely not going to be returning to South Padre Island anytime soon (okay, ever), I was determined to stamp my passport at nearby Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park.

Palo Alto Battlefield | Our Streamlined Life

We visited the visitor center, learned a little about the first battle in a two-year long war between the United States and Mexico that changed the map of North America, and walked the battlefield trail.

Less than impressed with South Padre Island, we opted to head north again … back to Mustang Island State Park, where we probably should have just stayed in the first place. Live and learn.

Mustang Island SP | Our Streamlined Life

Back on the beach, we decided we liked this part of Texas much better than the southern tip. The beach was prettier, it was much less crowded, and it was less hot and humid, too.

Mustang Island Jetty | Our Streamlined Life

It’s so sad to think that this area of Texas (outside Corpus Christi) suffered significant damage during Hurricane Harvey. But we can heartily recommend Mustang Island State Park as a lovely beachfront state park with nice facilities. (And in town, Coffee Waves Coffee Shop is a wonderful place get some caffeine … or gelato! … and do some work.)

While our beach camping experience was definitely not everything I’d hoped for, I’m glad we gave it a try. Next time I’d stay further north — Mustang Island is a good spot, as is Galveston Island State Park where we camped the previous year. I would still love to primitive beach camp on Padre Island National Seashore, although the warnings about the cost to rescue vehicles that get stuck in the sand are a little alarming.

Tell us in the comments: What are your recommendations for beach camping (in Texas and elsewhere)? How do you deal with humidity, bugs, and sand while camping? What are your favorite spots, and how do you find them?

Campground: Mustang Island State Park

  • Address: 17047 TX-361, Port Aransas, TX 78373
  • Our site: Primitive (Drive-up) Campsite
  • Available sites: Campsites with Water and Electric
  • Cost: $10 (plus $5/person entrance fee)
  • Pros: Beach camping, decent hot shower & restroom facilities. Conveniently located outside Corpus Christi.
  • Cons: Texas state parks, man. The facilities are just never nice enough to justify the relatively heavy price tag. That addition of the entrance fee gets us every time.

Campground: Isla Blanca Park

  • Address: 33174 State Park Rd 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597
  • Our site: Tent Site
  • Available sites: A range up to full hookups with cable
  • Cost: $15
  • Pros: Convenient location to S. Padre Island. Lots of amenities, and prime beach-front location.
  • Cons: Possibly the most crowded campground we’ve ever stayed in. Tent sites near the water were buggy and humid. The bathrooms were old and astonishingly dirty.

One Night in Nashville

I was very curious to explore Nashville on our way from Chattanooga to Kentucky … but my wife was not so convinced. She had actually been to Nashville in college for a journalism conference, and felt ambivalent about returning. But I’d never been, and we were driving right past it — so we decided to spend just one night there, and poke around the city a bit to see what was up.

Some quick research brought us to our first Army Corps of Engineers campground, Seven Points Campground. With only a few hours to travel from Chattanooga, we arrived so early, our site wasn’t even ready. (That was also due to the very late checkout times — 2pm! — which we actually loved. There’s nothing worse than having to rush out of an epic campsite by 9am! ) So, we parked the camper in the public beach-front lot, and spent some time exploring the campground.

Honestly, there aren’t enough good things we could say about this campground. If the bathrooms had been just a little nicer, it would probably be on par with our favorite campground of all time (Mount Desert Campground in Maine)! The grounds were really well kept, the sites were wooded and spacious, there was a swimming beach, a great playground, and the lake was beautiful.

We loved it! And apparently lots of other people did, too … we snagged one of just a couple of remaining campsites. (If we ever head back that way, we’ll be sure to plan in advance so we can snag one of the gorgeous waterfront sites; the odd numbered sites 13-23 were some of the prettiest, largest, and most private campsites we’ve ever seen.)

The people in the site we were waiting for finally left (at 2pm on the dot!) and we parked and set up the camper. We also realized we desperately needed clean laundry — so we found a local laundromat, and took care of business. After that bit of housekeeping we were ready to roll, and drove in to downtown.

Guys, Nashville is pretty.

Not only that, it was tremendously clean. We parked downtown, and walked towards the water, enjoying the bridges and waterfront views. We arrived just in time for sunset, and that only magnified the views.

We made our way back downtown, and spent some time just walking up and down the streets. We saw street performers, recording studios … even the Johnny Cash museum! Sadly, it was just closing up as we walked by, so we didn’t get a chance to explore it.

We walked down Broadway, which is the street absolutely littered with bars. Many of them had open fronts, and there was music spilling out of them all. It was a really fun scene — and I say that as someone who isn’t a country music fan!

However, I AM a Connie Britton fan. For the uninitiated, she is a lovely actress who we first discovered as Jack Bauer’s girlfriend in one of the later seasons of 24. Since then, she’s been in Friday Night Lights, which Rebecca adores and is currently rewatching. Most recently she is starring in Nashville, a popular show centered around country music. And much to our surprise, we stumbled upon a filming location where Connie Britton was actually filming while we were there!

So, we ended up spending about an hour across the street from where she was doing an outdoor shot in front of an actual country music record label, and we got to see her film a scene! Totally unexpected and fun. (Between the bright lights of the film crew and the darkness on the street, the pictures didn’t come out at all. So you’ll just have to take our word for it that we saw Connie Britton’s hair in person.)

After that, we called it a night, and headed back to camp. We hit the road the next morning, but Nashville is definitely a city where I could spend some more time exploring!

Have you been to Nashville? What are your favorite things to do? Please let us know in the comments — we’ll be passing that way again in January!


Our Visit to Pipestem State Park


After another awesome weekend rafting the Gauley and spending time with friends, we left Fayetteville again and headed toward a new destination that Rebecca in particular was very excited about — Pipestem Resort State Park in West Virginia. Way back, before she was even a twinkle in her parents’ eyes, they had honeymooned at one of the park’s two lodges. They had always told her about how beautiful it was, and we were excited to check it out!

Turns out that if anything, they undersold it. This place was phenomenal. Trails and interesting things to see all over, and everywhere you turned, another gorgeous vista! We got in mid-afternoon, and were immediately impressed with how quiet and pretty the campground was, and with how nice the bathrooms were! We picked a great spot, set up, and decided to do some quick exploration before it got dark.

The first thing we went to see was the Bolar Lookout Tower. Only a 5 minute walk up a mostly-paved path from the parking lot right inside the park entrance, the tower commanded some amazing vistas.


Seriously amazing. We could see for dozens of miles in just about every direction.


From there, we gave ourselves the driving tour of the park, stopping to check out some of the sites and attractions. Probably the most amazing was this gorgeous overlook, right across from the gorgeous rental cabins that we’re totally going to come back and visit one day. It was the kind of place you could stay all day with a book and maybe some binoculars.


Unfortunately, I woke up the next morning fighting some kind of illness, so we spent the next 2 days pretty well inert. Rebecca used it as an opportunity to get ahead on work, and I did a lot of sleeping and reading.


By the second afternoon, however, I was getting antsy, so we decided to go take advantage of one of the highlights of Pipestem — the tram down to the valley resort!

This part of the resort was where Rebecca’s parents had stayed on their honeymoon, and it was easy to see why. The lodge had a beautiful dining room with 20 foot windows looking at the river and up the mountain (which you can see below on the left).


The river was very beautiful, and seemed very tame after our time on the Gauley!


Tame enough that the Yoga Queen was at it again.


After we finished exploring and took the tram back up, we decided to end the day with a hike out to Heritage Point, a beautiful overlook less than a mile’s steep hike from the Canyon Rim Center parking lot. It was a beautiful and challenging hike, and we were rewarded with even more tremendous views.


Overall, we spent four days in Pipestem, and loved our time there!

Have you ever been to Pipestem Resort State Park? What did you love about it? Let us know in the comments!

On the Road Again: Our Visit to Morgantown

After an absolutely amazing vacation in Maine (which you can read about here and here), we headed back south toward Harpers Ferry to grab the camper and get ready to hit the road! Over the summer, we had planned out a six week trip that would allow us to do a lot of rafting on the Gauley (Class V, baby!), and explore a number of states and areas we hadn’t seen much of before. Included on our plans were southern and western West Virginia, western North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

We spent a few days back in Harpers Ferry getting the truck and camper ready, and helping the Adventure Center get through Labor Day weekend, and by Tuesday we were ready to hit the road. We received a Monday night sunset sendoff in true Harpers Ferry style: a fiery sunset over the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.


We headed almost due west, shooting first for Morgantown, West Virginia, and our campground, Coopers Rock State Forest. This was my first experience hauling the camper into the mountains, and it was definitely a learning experience. Lesson number one: don’t haul your camper to the top of a steep pass, then shut the engine off before it’s had time to cool down. The engine cools itself off much more effectively than simple heat dissipation.

Luckily, nothing bad happened, and we arrived safely. The forest and the campground were absolutely beautiful, although all the camper sites were oriented strangely, and I had to drive the wrong way down a one-way loop in order to back in properly.  Other than that, though, it was an awesome campground — small, quiet, well-maintained, and hot showers!


However, as I was unhooking and leveling the camper, I found that the lower front of the camper, including the hitch, was absolutely covered in some kind of oil. I looked under the truck, and found my spare tire and much of the back end of the truck were also covered in oil. Only slightly panicking, I quickly checked all the fluids, and was surprised (and a little comforted) to find that they were fine.

I climbed back under the back of the truck to have a closer look, and realized that whatever the oil was, it was pooling under the rear axle. That was outside my realm of vehicle experience, so after a few hasty picture messages and phone calls with my buddy Eric, I found out that it was gear oil, leaking from what was only a year-old differential gasket.


It was late in the day, and we decided to just leave it for the night, since we were planning a quiet night of dinner and a campfire. The next morning, we spent several hours hiking around the forest, ultimately ending up at an incredible view at Raven’s Rock overlook.


Far in the distance is Morgantown, obscured in this photo by the storm that we watched blow in down the valley. It was absolutely stunning. We spent quite a while up there, taking pictures, chatting with a couple who was there as well. Rebecca even decided to do some yoga!


Eventually, the rain caught us, and we hiked a few miles back to camp. After showers, we decided to go into Morgantown, get what we needed for the truck, and check out the downtown and get some dinner.

What followed was a really frustrating few hours that involved pulling over at a gas station on our way to AutoZone because I could hear the gears starting to grind, Geico and AAA being unwilling to help us, missing the 5pm delivery deadline for all local car parts stores by minutes, and finally, getting a ride with one of the only two Uber operators in the entire city.

However, all’s well that ends well. I was able to fill the gear oil reservoir there in the gas station parking lot, and we continued on to our evening’s destination: The city of Morgantown, and more specifically, Morgantown Brewing Company.


Now I don’t say this lightly, because it was a pretty stressful few hours, but nonetheless: Morgantown Brewing was worth the hassle. I got a flight of 9 beers, all of which were tremendous. My absolute favorites were the Eighty Schilling Scotch and Coal City Stout. If you’re ever in northern West Virginia, be sure to give them a try! The Beer Pretzel sticks were delicious, and my IPA Jack burger was awesome, and actually cooked to order, which so few restaurants actually do. We left feeling much better about life in general, and our trip in particular.

The next morning, Rebecca had one more spot she wanted to visit before we hit the road — the actual Coopers Rock for which the state forest was named. Unlike Raven’s Rock, which was only reachable by a very rocky trail, Coopers Rock is right off the road, with paved paths and fenced overlooks. The view, while not quite as good, is very lovely, and some kind fellow tourists even offered to take a picture of us together.


With our sight-seeing finished, we hitched up the camper, and headed south to Fayetteville for some high adventure rafting on the Gauley!

Awesome Acadia, Part II

After kicking off our first week in Acadia with a bang, we made a concerted effort to enjoy the perfect August-in-Maine weather and some needed rest and relaxation.

For Ryan it looked a lot like this …

Hammock Camper Our Streamlined Life

… while I spent plenty of time in my chair with a book contemplating the trees.

Mount Desert Campground Lounging Our Streamlined Life

But our second week in Maine wasn’t all lounging! One sunny afternoon we took the Tahoe out for a spin on the Park Loop Road, a gorgeous scenic drive which included a detour to the top of Cadillac Mountain.


While Ryan had previously enjoyed the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain — the tallest mountain along the North Atlantic seaboard of the United States — I had never been before. The panoramic view of Schoodic Peninsula, the Porcupine Islands, Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, and Eagle Lake was absolutely stunning! We could even see a cruise ship in the harbor … one of those amazing New York to Halifax cruises I’m dying to do!

Later in the week Ryan went for a bicycle ride which took him past one of the amazing bridges for which Acadia National Park is famous.


The Carriage Roads and stone bridges in Acadia National Park were financed and directed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to allow visitors to enjoy the park’s natural beauty, free from motorized vehicles. The 17 stone-faced bridges on Mount Desert Island are each unique, and designed to blend seamlessly with their surroundings.

Another Acadia National Park must is visiting Jordan Pond. We hiked the Jordan Pond Shore Trail — an easy 3.3 mile loop around the pond. The western side of the loop is a rough-hewn log path with pleasant pond views and lots of shade.


Of course, the best way to follow up a hike around Jordan Pond is with popovers at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant. You’ll need reservations to get in (we didn’t have them this time around), but enjoying tea and popovers smeared with fresh blueberry jam while relaxing on the lawn is quintessential Acadia.

We spent another extremely pleasant day touring the “quiet side” of Mount Desert Island, which includes Bass Harbor and Southwest Harbor. We made a stop at the Bass Harbor Head Light, and even clambered out onto the rocks to stick our toes in the chilly water.



If you’ve been to Acadia, you know that a very serious component of the experience is choosing The Best Blueberry Pie. We’ve tried a few, but our favorite is found in Southwest Harbor at IslandBound Treats. Mary Musson works tirelessly all summer long lovingly making, from scratch, what is indeed The Best Blueberry Pie Ever. They’re fresh, packed with fruit, and just the right amount of sweet. In fact, they’re basically Maine in a pie.


Acadia National Park BEST Blueberry Pie Our Streamlined Life

I half wondered if we’d have enough to do to stay busy for two weeks in Acadia National Park, but as it turned out the days flew by and we didn’t even accomplish everything on our list. Next time we head that way, we’d love to:

And that, folks, concludes the story of our two beautiful weeks in Maine! We know a lot of our traveling friends spent time in Acadia this summer and fall … so tell us, what are your Acadia musts and insider secrets? We’d love to hear them, because we’re definitely going back!