When you visit Texas you probably make it to one of the large cities, maybe to Big Bend or one of the national parks or to discover Texas Hill Country. You may not know there are also lots of popular beaches situated along the gulf coast. Within a few hours’ drive from any of the major cities, you can dine on seafood and go boating in the Gulf of Mexico. Here is your guide to the top beach towns Texas has to offer, so you can pack up the car for a beach day or stay for an extended trip.
» Don’t miss our guide on things to do in Austin, Texas
The Best Beach Towns in Texas
1. Galveston Beach
There isn’t just one beach in Galveston Island, there are actually 32 miles of Gulf coast sandy shores for you to explore.
Starting with East Beach and running all the way down to Galveston Island State Park, there are seven beach areas. Galveston has the world’s longest continuous sidewalk which is well used by joggers, cyclists and skaters.
Things to do at Galveston Island
- Watch a concert at East Beach
- Enjoy cool alcoholic beverages too – the only beach which allows this
- Get judgy at the annual sandcastle competition
- Jump on a ride at the Pleasure Pier
- Set sail on a paddlewheel boat tour
- Scoot along on a segway
- Dress up for Mardi Gras at Galveston
- Watch the July 4th fireworks
- Bike around the bay
- Birdwatch or go fishing
- Catch a wave surfing
- Sail the waves kayaking
- Watch a 3D movie at Moody Gardens
- See a show at The Grand 1894 Opera House
- Tee off at the golf course
- Sail the skies on the zipline
- Relax on the Lazy River at Palm Beach
- Have a nosey at the Galveston mansions
So which is the best beach in Galveston? Younger visitors like the alcohol laws and concerts at East Beach while families love the award-winning Stewart Beach. Which is your favorite? Tell me in the comments below.
There is so much accommodation to choose from on Galveston Island. From Texas beach resorts to private holiday rentals, there’s something for every type of trip and visitor.
2. Bolivar Peninsula (Crystal Beach)
Another one of the popular beaches near Houston is Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula. It is a relatively quiet beach which allows beach camping which is great if you are keeping costs down during your vacation.
Boasting of 27 miles of sandy beaches and plenty of activities for guests, it’s not just its location at the Southeast of Houston that is an appeal.
For nature-lovers, this area is full of wildlife and is a popular bird-watching destination.
The peninsula is part of the Great Coastal Birding Trail, where you can observe spoonbills and blue herons in their natural habitats.
History enthusiasts can visit Fort Travis, which was built in 1836 to protect Port Galveston.
After a day of exploring, enjoy some seafood on the water at Stingaree Restaurant or Hardheads Icehouse and Grill for live entertainment with your meal.
While in the area, you can stay at Boardwalk Resort. It provides guests with easy beach access and plenty of on-site activities.
There is a pool, as well as a splash area for children. Enjoy a game of mini-golf or foot billiards with your family. If you feel like relaxing, hop into a hammock or hot tub overlooking the water.
Houston to Crystal Beach takes just over 1 hour 30 mins by car.
3. Freeport (Surfside Beach)
Freeport is just an hour south of Houston. You will find a quiet town where you can drive your car right up to the waters.
You can also go jet skiing in the nearby Old Brazos River.
Stop by the Freeport Municipal Golf Course for a few rounds of golf.
In Surfside Beach, dining options include Red Snapper Inn for fresh seafood and Kitty’s Purple Cow Cafe for family-friendly dining.
The Ocean Village Hotel is located right on the sand in Surfside Beach, so you won’t have to walk far to get your feet wet.
You may not think of Texas for its beach destinations, but there are plenty of beaches that are perfect to add on to a trip if you are in the area.
4. Rockport Beach Texas
Rockport Beach is a just under three hours from Houston and San Antonio and just over three hours from Austin.
It is Texas’ first Blue Wave beach making it the cleanest in the state.
Rockport has BBQ grills and picnic areas for beach meals by the sea.
You can walk along a designated path to visit the Little Bay Shores.
No dogs are allowed on the beach.
5. Port Aransas
This small beach town is located at the end of Mustang Island, just outside of Corpus Christi.
While it is quieter than other locations, there are still plenty of things to do.
Some people call Port Aransas the fishing capital of Texas, with fishing competitions happening almost every weekend during the summer.
After exploring the 18 miles of beaches, stop by the Port Aransas Art Center, which features work from local artists.
Irie’s Island Food is popular with locals while The Crazy Cajun provides tasty Cajun dishes such as jambalaya and shrimp boil.
The best event of the year is SandFest, the largest native-sand sculpture competition in the USA.
For a place to stay check out Plantation Suites and Conference Center located right in the heart of town and is just a short walk to the beach. You can start your day with a free continental breakfast before heading out.
6. North Padre Island
North Padre Island is located just north of the Padre Island National Seashore and is completely different from South Padre.
It is only a 20-minute drive from Corpus Christi making it easily accessible, allowing visitors to take advantage of the attractions in the city with ease.
At North Padre Island you will find world-class fishing, fun shelling, and local events and festivals throughout the summer.
From late June to mid-August you can witness baby turtles make their way from hatching on the shore till they enter the waters.
For some family-friendly fun, you can hop aboard the USS Lexington.
Located directly on the beach, Gulfstream Condos are perfect accommodations for families or groups.
Each condo has two bedrooms and hideaway beds, giving room for up to 6 people comfortably in each room.
7. South Padre Island Beach
Located right on the southern border of Texas. South Padre Island is a very popular spring break destination with plenty of entertainment for more laid-back vacationers.
The Island is known for its clean waters and tropical climate.
Expect not only white sand beaches in Texas at Padre Island but also blue water beaches.
In fact, it is located at the same longitude as Fort Lauderdale.
You will find swimming easier here since the Laguna Madre Bay is a “hyper-saline” bay, meaning it has a lot of salt in the water.
South Padre is the furthest beach from the big cities located about 5-6 hours from Austin or Houston.
Being so far south is what makes it a great destination.
If you are looking for high-adrenaline fun when you aren’t relaxing on the beach then give windsurfing a try.
For family-friendly fun check out Schlitterbahn Waterpark, home to dozens of waterslides or enjoy the fishing opportunities both from the shore and deep sea.
After a long day in the water, enjoy the Mexican influence in the many restaurants. You cannot eat enough tacos, nachos or ceviche.
If you are looking for a place to stay, La Copa Inn Beach Hotel is the perfect option and is located just steps away from the sand. Many local attractions, such as the Sea Turtle Rescue Center and the Port Isabel lighthouse, are a short drive or walk away.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Does Texas have beaches?
- Yes! I know that is a surprise to many as think of Texas a desert and cities but there are a number of great beaches beach towns in Texas.
- Which is the cleanest beach in Texas?
- Rockport Beach was awarded the first Blue Wave Beach status.
- What are the bacterial levels in Texas beaches?
- Texas Beach Watch runs lots of tests to evaluate the levels of bacteria in the sea. Check out daily results here.
- Is beach camping allowed in Texas?
- Yes, at specific beaches like Crystal Beach.
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About the author – this guide to the top Texas beach destinations was created by Two Scots Abroad and Honeymoon Always.