We've spent at least a month at three different Texas campgrounds this winter. We've enjoyed -- and recommend -- all of them. I compare them here because each has a different "feel" from the others.
What it is like to spend the winter RVing in Texas? Well, that depends on the campground. We had three very different RV park experiences this winter in Texas. All were good. But the parks themselves, as well as the other RVers there, and the communities where they are located varied greatly. Here are the three campgrounds I'm comparing:
Port Isabel Park Center, Port Isabel, Texas; Galveston Island RV Resort, Galveston, Texas; and Route 82 RV Park, Savoy, Texas.
Port Isabel Park Center, Port Isabel, Texas, is a destination resort for winter Texans. It's a large park. Spaces are close together. If you are in a middle row, your view is largely the RVs on either side of you. (That's the case with many big parks.) If you have a water front site, the view is much better -- the channel filled with shrimp boats, pelicans and other birds, and fisherman.
It doesn't take long to make friends here. Many of the RVers at the park return year after year. There's an activity calendar, with regularly scheduled get-togethers, entertainment, outings, and activities. The office and rec hall have a lot of traffic. RVers stop in for an ice cream bar, to pick up mail, check the lending library for a new magazine, or to add a few pieces to the group jig-saw puzzle. It's a gathering point, whether for happy hour, card games, or just to see who is there for visiting. There's a swimming pool and an exercise room.
The entire Port Isabel community is Winter Texan friendly. HEB, the grocery store, has Tuesday morning bingo and snacks -- free -- and hands out coupon books. (We got about $20 in free groceries each week using the coupons.) Restaurants feature specials designed to pull in groups of seniors.
We first went to Park Center the winter of 1996. We don't go back every year, but go often enough that we have friends there. As soon as we show up, there's a feeling of familiarity, and a group to go with for breakfast. Group trips to Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, are a regular part of life there, for inexpensive dental work, Mexican souvenirs, and just a fun day out. Flea markets are a regular part of life in the Rio Grande Valley, too, for fun outings and for cheap, fresh produce. There's the beach and fishing, and RVers with boats invite Bob to go along.
The Port Isabel Park Center staff is primarily local residents, workers who show up to do their jobs. I wouldn't know the park owner if I saw him, and the manager worked another job outside the park. The park is older, and the maintenance staff are friendly as we see them out continually doing repairs and maintenance.
Community wise, Port Isabel is a mid-sized town, where when out to eat or grocery shopping, it was likely to run into some we knew or at least recognized.
Port Isabel Park Center is the park we go to for experiencing the snowbird or Winter Texan camaraderie. We know there will be friends. There will be activities. The community will welcome us as winter guests.
Galveston Island RV Resort, Galveston, Texas, is a fun place to visit. It's a fantastic place to experience island life. There are always cultural events, beach events, and something happening. Restaurant dining in Galveston is awesome, but can be expensive.
The resort is newish, having opened about two years ago. It has wide, paved sites. The washers and dryers take credit cards -- no cash. The pool is great for sunning. Newly planted palm trees decorate the park. Staff, including the owners and manager, live on site. They are busy, but friendly; the owner took time to hand draw us a map with his favorite eating spots. The park is immaculate, with grassy areas neatly trimmed, and red rose bushes blooming. WiFi is available throughout the park. This park was by far the most modern and the fanciest of the three I'm comparing.
Like most structures near the beach, the resort building is on stilts. In the office, you'll find groceries and souvenirs. The bathrooms and showers are residential style -- modern, clean, and comfortable -- but up a flight of stairs. Located at the far end of the park, and up the stairs, the office and rec area are used for function, not for casual gathering.
Guests at the park come for holiday and vacations. We, as did others at the resort, spent our days at the beach, dining out, going to tourist attractions and local museums, and exploring. While friendly, resort guests had their own plans, and went about their own life. We had a regular stream of neighbors coming and going, with little more than a "Hello," or "Good morning!" shared.
To visit the island for a weekend, a few weeks, or to spend the winter, this park is the perfect base. You have all the modern conveniences, are walking distance to the beach, and a short drive to restaurants, shopping, and culture.
Community wise, Galveston is a city. Even after a month, we recognized, and were recognized by, no one other than those who worked in the parked.
The view? Gorgeous sunsets and high-dollar rigs.
Route 82 RV Park feels like home. You know how a new pair of jeans feels stiff and your old pair feels soft, broken in, and just fits comfortably? Although this park is the newest of the three, it feels like that pair of broken in jeans -- comfortable and relaxed.
RVers here are a mix of overnighters, seasonals, and workers. Workers are employed in construction, in the oil industry, at hospitals, and at Walmart. It's routine for RVers here to get up and go to work in the morning and come back in the evening.
People here watch out for one another and help one another. We were immediately taken into the fold. A neighbor banged on the door to wake us at three in the morning, to let us know we were under a severe weather warning and that tornadoes had been sighted. We were gone one day to take our dog to the vet; we had barely returned when a neighbor stopped by to see how NeeMo was doing. Various times, someone has stopped by to give him treats. This morning, an RVer showed up at our door with a plate of pastries.
The park is so new (officially opened January 2017) that some things are not yet done -- they are working on site improvements, the landscaping, and the showers. WiFi here is good. Sites are graveled, with grassy lawns, and with natural cedar shade trees. Bob went fishing in the stocked pond, and had a good time, but the fish haven't had time to get very big!
Community wise, Savoy is a tiny town. At morning coffee, the liar's club greets as though we've lived here for years. The cook asks if we want our regular breakfast order. We missed a day, and the next time we went for breakfast, the cafe owner checked to make sure everything was okay. Although the campground owner does not live at the park, he stops by on weekends. The manager and other staff are RVers, residing at the park.
Living here is typical of small-town life. Walking around the 50-site park in the evenings, we can point out who lives in which RV. We know something about their lives -- who got a new dog, who drinks Mountain Dew and who drinks Seven-Up, who has pet ducks, who enjoys cooking out on the grill.
The view? Rural -- longhorn Texas cattle grazing in the adjoining field, squirrels in the trees, and cardinals at the feeder.
Which do we like best? It depends. Vacations: Galveston Island RV Resort. Winter destination: Port Isabel Park Center. Home park: Route 82 RV Park.