Galveston Island State Park, located on the west side of the island, is only about a 10 minute drive from the busy Seawall tourist attractions, but it’s quiet, natural setting seems worlds away!
I’ve been camping here since I was a little girl, and have watched it change over the years. Hurricane Ike devastated most of the buildings, beach and campgrounds. The park is still re-building from the storm. In April, 2022 the Bayside reopened after being closed during the winter for repairs. The Beachside is scheduled to open later in 2022.
A very popular state park, and the only one that offers camping on the island, it fills up quickly so be sure and book early! If it’s full, recheck often as people do cancel. Here’s a tip, the Texas Parks and Wildlife website will allow you to be notified if a campsite opens up! On our last trip, Saturday morning at 7am my phone pinged and I was able to make a reservation!
Day Use Area
The Day Use Area is on the east end of the park, and is usually NEVER as busy as other beaches on the island. Parking is not allowed on the beach, but there is ample parking in the parking lot. Day use tables have been set up off the beach, which is great because nothing ruins a sandwich like sand!
There are restrooms, changing areas and outdoor showers available, also.
I recommend taking a wagon to carry your chairs, cooler, sunscreen and sand toys from your car!
During our visit in June, the waves wash up this seaweed called Sargassum. The Sargassum is amazing because it’s an entire ecosystem floating out in the middle of the ocean. We enjoyed picking through it as it washed in, searching for fish, crabs and even shrimp that live their entire lives in the vegetation.
We found lots of shrimp, but not any crabs. You have to work quickly, because the seagulls are looking for them, too!
The sargassum landings are periodic. To learn more about this fascinating ocean feature, click HERE to be taken to Texas A & M Galveston.
Beach Camping *currently closed**
The camping sites at GISP are NOT on the beach, but on grassy areas behind the dunes. They have individual pads, with picnic tables, fire rings and grills. Just to be sure you understand, you CAN NOT camp on the beach at GISP.
If you want to camp on the sand, I suggest going down to Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula (east end of island, then cross via ferry) or the west end of the island just before you cross the bridge at San Luis Pass. Camping on the beach is FREE at both of these locations, but watch for the deep sand at San Luis Pass, we spent a long night stuck in the sand one October, and tow trucks WILL NOT come out to help you!
There are nice bathrooms and showers located in the beach campsites.
Bay Side Camping
What makes GISP amazing is that not only do you have beach access, but just across the highway they have bay access. I prefer camping on the bay side, which is filled with amazing wildlife! It’s also a little quieter. Unlike the beach, the bay more closely resembles a lake.
There are 2 camping circles on this side. One for RVs and another for tents.
** currently closed ** The Nature Center, located on the bay side, has a small display of seashells and sea seeds and pods. There is also a marine mammal skull exhibit, and they are working on living displays of fish and plants, including the sargassum.
Volunteers from Friends of Galveston Island State Park run the center, and even offer summer camps for kids.
On select Saturday mornings, they offer beach and surf exploration under the guidance of Master Naturalist. They will sein (a long net stretched across the water by two or more people) in the surf and even dig in the sand, and name and help you to recognize the findings.
On select Sunday mornings, they offer Discovering the Bay Shore and Mud Flats, seining in the bay and discussing the catches! We really enjoyed walking out to an old oyster bed and having them explain all about it to us.
There are 3 paddling trails on the bay side of the park, the Oak Bayou, Dana Cove and Jenkins Bayou trail. The park does not rent kayaks or canoes, however we rented from K6 Island Sports, and they delivered to the state park. On a cool yet not windy day, it was one of my favorite kayaking trips!
There are several hiking trails around the park, as well as hiking along the bay shorelines. There is always something interesting, from amazing water birds to crabs and other animals. The entrance at Como Lake is one of our favorites.
Don’t forget your bikes, either. The quiet, curvy roads along the bay side offer excellent riding opportunities. Take the bikes back into town to ride along the seawall, or down around the East Beach. Stop and watch them catch crabs with chicken legs! There is so much to see and do if you are willing to go exploring on the island!
Both the beach and the bay side offer excellent fishing! There is a fish cleaning station on the bay side, and the park staff is happy to help you identify the fish you catch if you aren’t sure! My daughter and I carried in buckets full about 4 times during our last visit!
We purchased a cast net at Academy on the island, and had the best time throwing it into the surf and bay. We caught several mullet, crabs and even a jelly fish! It takes a few tries to learn how to throw it, but hours of fun once you do!
To read more about Galveston Island, or about our Girl-cation from the beginning, please click
Arrange a kayak tour in Galveston Bay with Artist Boat! Click HERE to visit their website.
In Galveston, there are plenty of places to grab lunch and dinner, but a good breakfast restaurant is a treasure, and people have been hunting for treasure in Galveston for hundreds of years! Click HERE to visit their website.
Galveston Island State Park
14901 FM 3005, Galveston
Click HERE to visit their website.
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