Some Texas beaches are better than others. One of the best along Texas’ Gulf Coast is off the mainland near Corpus Christi.
The name of this state park conjures images of wild stallions and mares galloping across the sand and marsh.
Let’s find out if that’s the case as we explore a Texas treasure, Mustang Island State Park.
Where Is Mustang Island State Park?
This gorgeous seaside state park doesn’t extend down to Texas’ southern tip, but it may seem like it does. It’s a drive to get there, but that’s the reality of traveling through Texas. Mustang State Park is along State Highway 361 on the eastern shore of Corpus Christi Bay.
It’s about 15 miles from the city of Corpus Christi and 165 miles from San Antonio. Brownsville, the southernmost city in Texas, is 160 miles away. Houston is about a three-hour drive to the northeast.
Pro Tip: Want to go hiking and camping in Texas? Check out these 7 Amazing State Parks in Texas.
Are There Still Wild Horses on Mustang Island?
Sadly, the wild mustangs that gave the island its name are a thing of the past. The history of the place is uncertain, but there are two popular theories about how the horses got here.
Most believe the Spanish intentionally brought them here or that they swam to the island from a wrecked ship. They roamed for around 300 years until the late 1800s.
Can You Drive on the Beach at Mustang Island State Park?
One of the unique characteristics of Texas’ beaches is that they allow vehicular traffic. This may take you by surprise at first, especially if you’re hoping for solitude while lounging on the beach. It’s possible to work it to your advantage. You can drive to a more remote area, finding your perfect spot for beachcombing or saltwater fishing. You can also roll up to your campsite just yards from the lapping waves.
What Amenities Does Mustang Island State Park Have?
The public beaches in the nearby town of Port Aransas are bare-bones places, with hardly any improvements. Mustang Island State Park offers a more comfortable experience with nearly 100 campsites. There’s a picnic area, park store, restrooms, and showers.
They even have beach wheelchairs you can use for free if you need one. In addition, here are a few of the fun things you can do at this excellent Texas beach.
You don’t have to leave the park when the sun goes down. There are 50 primitive sites along the shore and 48 others farther inland with water and electricity.
There are portable toilets along the beach, and the campground with partial hookups has restrooms with showers. It’s about 400 yards from the shore.
Fishing, swimming, and windsurfing are popular here, and others like to explore the coastline by canoe or kayak. The Mustang Island Park Paddling Trail follows the island’s 20-mile western shoreline.
It’s a fantastic opportunity to observe wildlife, including the diverse bird population and fish in productive shallow waters.
The rangers at Mustang Island State Park offer regular programs with various activities. Topics include birding along the beach or bays, nature walks, beachcombing, and stargazing. One recent program had an interactive game to see who could survive a shipwreck on the island. It is tied to the history of the many historic shipwrecks nearby.
Pro Tip: Check out these other 7 Best Beaches in Texas (and Awesome Nearby Campsites).
What Animals Can You See at Mustang Island State Park?
You won’t see any wild horses that give the park its name, but there is ample wildlife. People have documented more than 400 species here, from graceful wading birds to colorful songbirds and predatory raptors.
You’re likely to spot small mammals on your hikes, including raccoons, opossums, marsh rabbits, and armadillos. There are also coyotes and white-tailed deer among the coastal dunes. The waters offshore hold some 600 species of fish and shellfish. You should also watch for one of five kinds of sea turtles.
When Is the Busy Season for Mustang Island State Park?
Like other Texas beach communities, summer is the peak season at Mustang Island State Park. One reason is that being on the beach is a refreshing way to beat the infamous Texas heat.
To avoid crowds, you may want to schedule your visit to Mustang Island for another time. We love visiting the Gulf Coast in late spring or early fall. These are times when the bigger crowds have moved on and, hopefully, the water’s still warm enough to enjoy.
Is Mustang Island State Park Worth Visiting?
When you mention beaches in Texas, many people may think of South Padre Island or Galveston, south of Houston. Those are busy spring break destinations, and the quieter, quainter Rockport and Port Aransas also have their loyal fans.
The lesser-known Mustang Island State Park exists outside the spotlight and has a particular charm. It’s hundreds of miles from Texas’ most famous cities but just a short drive over the bay from historic Corpus Christi. This makes it a sweet Texas beach getaway that’s remote but not too much. We think it’s worth checking off of your bucket list.
Have you ever visited Mustang Island State Park? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
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