The day you've been waiting for is here: we've braved the park rangers and potholes to try out McFaddin Beach, the 'unofficial' nude beach of the Texas Gulf Coast, and we're here to report back on the intricacies of skinnydipping on the Bolivar Peninsula.
Essential supplies for the nude beach: sunglasses
Getting there is the first step. McFaddin Beach is at the intersection of Highways 87 and 124. TX 87 used to go all the way to Sabine Pass, but has been closed since 1990, when Hurricane Jerry washed out the road for the last time. Access has become more and more difficult since then, but as of this spring a sand and gravel road extends several miles east of High Island, and is passable without 4WD under some conditions. Other beach-goers told us that with an off-road vehicle it's possible to drive all the way to Sabine Pass, but we wouldn't recommend it. If you get stuck, there's not likely to be anyone to help you out.
Near High Island, you'll encounter fishermen, families, and locals out enjoying the beach. If you don't plan to get naked, you can stop here. There's plenty of sea glass, shells, and driftwood, the fishing is great, and even compact cars can navigate the first mile or so of road. If you plan on skinny-dipping, however, you'll want to go at least three miles from the paved road - we've been told this is where Galveston County ends and the beach becomes officially topless, but we can't find any proof for this idea. It's likely that this is just the point at which the beach becomes so sparsely visited that it's not worth the trouble to constantly patrol for nudists. Again, the road is rough and the beach is narrow in many places. We recommend biking in if you're not sure your car will make it.
Compact cars beware - the road is rough and nearly impassible in some places.
Since McFaddin beach is not officially nude, and public nudity carries a fine of approximately $300 dollars in Texas, you'll want to get naked at your own discretion. If nobody else is around, keep an eye out for approaching vehicles and be prepared to cover up. You may also want to park near others who are nude; like a pack of meerkats on watch for predators, the nudists we met were taking turns watching for official vehicles and other dangers. Everyone we met was friendly and helpful, and despite reports of 'creepiness' (likely from people who didn't expect to encounter nudists), we didn't feel at all threatened.
Water shoes are a must for McFaddin Beach.
There's a fair amount of debris on the beach, ranging from shells and rocks to broken glass and other trash. Much of it is sharp, so we recommend that you wear water shoes (even if nothing else). There's no shade whatsoever, so you'll want to bring an umbrella, awning, or at least some sunscreen and a hat. You'll also need to bring all the snacks and drinks you'll need for the day; there's nowhere within easy driving distance to get lunch or restock your cooler. Come prepared to be self-sufficient for as long as you want to enjoy the beach.
BYOB: bring your own beer. There's nowhere to buy snacks or other supplies at McFaddin Beach.
You can see that we enjoy beer (you've heard us talk about Shiner Ruby Redbird
before!), but few words of caution: first, beer will dehydrate you, especially out in the hot sun. If you plan to drink at any beach, be sure to alternate alcoholic beverages with water, and be alert for signs of heat stress or dehydration. If you have an emergency out here, you're more than an hour from the nearest hospital. Second, the nudists who use McFaddin beach include families with kids, and broken beer bottles are a major hazard. Be careful with your bottles, and if you break one pick up ALL the pieces right away. Again, you're more than an hour from the nearest hospital and stepping on broken glass is sure to ruin someone's day.
Now for some nude beach etiquette:
1. Don't stare. Nobody likes a creeper, and most people don't go to the nude beach to be seen. If you're new to this and can't control your wandering eyes, put on some sunglasses and try to be cool. Which brings us to...
2. Act normal. If you wouldn't do it at a regular (non-nude) beach, don't do it here. That means no peeing, masturbating, sex, etc.
3. Don't be a nuisance. Some well meaning first-timers commit a faux pas we call 'excessive friendliness' - if you approach someone and they don't explicitly invite you to join them, don't. If they're smiling, nodding politely, and making non-committal replies to what you're saying, leave them alone. Some people do come to the beach to make friends, but many don't. Respect their privacy and solitude, and find some other way to entertain yourself.
4. Don't take photos of other people. Just like at any other beach, you may want to document your fun afternoon for Facebook, Instagram, or your travel blog. We do plenty of that. Just make sure other people aren't identifiable in the background of your photos, and NEVER take pictures of other people without their invitation.
That's all there is to it. If this is your first time visiting a nude beach, relax and have a good time. It's not scary - we promise!