The 10 Beaches in Texas You Don't Want to Miss

Mustang Island, Texas
Photo: Olga Melhiser Photography/Getty Images

While Texas is typically praised for its interior offerings—lively cities like Austin, Houston, and Fort Worth, as well as old-fashioned towns like Boerne and Fredericksburg—what's on the outside is worth a look, too. We're talking, of course, about the 350 miles of Texas shoreline snaking along the Gulf of Mexico and dotted with under-the-radar beach destinations. (Under the radar for anyone who doesn't hail from the Lone Star State, that is.) Venture to Texas's underappreciated coastal territory, and you'll find laid-back, family-friendly getaways (like Port Aransas and Galveston), as well as beautiful wildlife and state parks on barrier islands (like Mustang Island and South Padre Island). Throw in endless outdoor activities—world-class fishing and dolphin-watching, anyone?—and you're in for a mellow vacation. So, yes, Texas really does have beaches. Great ones. Choose from among our 10 favorite coastal destinations in Texas, and prepare to rethink everything you thought you knew about the state.

01 of 10

Port Aransas Beach

This beloved family beach town on Mustang Island known affectionately and proudly as Port “A” has done a remarkable job of recovering in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and its 6.3 miles of broad, flat sands remain a great place t
Olga Melhiser / Getty Images

This beloved family beach town on Mustang Island, known affectionately as "Port A," has made a remarkable recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Its six miles of broad, flat sands invite hours-long lounging and elaborate sandcastles, since the grains are rich in clay and silt, making the sand easy to pack. (Time your visit to the annual three-day SandFest to witness competitive castle-building.) The water is enticing, too: It hovers around 84 degrees in the summer, making this island an ideal swimming destination. Since Port A allows vehicles on its beaches, staking out your spot on the sand is a cinch; just make sure to grab a $12 sticker from City Hall or certain local shops.

Beachfront parking: State Highway 361, Markers 0-62, Port Aransas, TX 78373, portaransas.org

02 of 10

Padre Island National Seashore

On the southern Texas barrier island of the same name that separates the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre Bay, the Padre Island National Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. What this means is 70 miles of pristine coa
Sparks Photography / Getty Images

Located on Padre Island, the barrier between the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre Bay, this national park contains the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. Its 66 miles of pristine coastline shelter the rare Kemp's ridley sea turtle and more than 380 bird species, while offering its human visitors ample opportunities for walking, swimming, and birdwatching. Head to Malaquite Beach for a visitor center, pavilion, and wheelchair access to the shore; if you're an early riser, you may be able to witness a sea turtle hatchling release there. Beachcombers should prioritize Little Shell and Big Shell beaches, aptly named for their bounty, while adventurous types will love windsurfing or kayaking on Laguna Madre, one of the planet's saltiest bodies of water.

End of Park Road 22, Corpus Christi, TX, 78480, nps.gov

03 of 10

Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park
Getty Images/Daniel Thibodeaux

At the west end of Galveston Island, just an hour from Houston, this quiet treasure protects 2,000 acres of upper Gulf Coast barrier island ecosystem, including beautiful beaches, lagoons, bay, and salt marshes. While the beachside portion of the park is closed (due to damage from Hurricane Ike), the bayside area is open and offers all the usual enticements: fishing, picnicking, camping, swimming, hiking, and paddling. Keep an eye out for armadillos, marsh rabbits, and even raccoons.

14901 FM 3005, Galveston, TX 77554, tpwd.texas.gov

04 of 10

Rockport Beach

With a passion for clean waters and sands, this beach in the historic small city of the same name on Aransas Bay was the state’s first Blue Wave Beach—an environmental certification granted by the Clean Beaches Coalition. With no vehicles, dogs, beach bon
jerryhopman / Getty Images

With a passion for clean waters and sands, this Aransas Bay beach in the historic city of Rockport was the state's first Blue Wave Beach, an environmental certification granted by the Clean Beaches Coalition. With no vehicles, dogs, beach bonfires, fireworks, or overnight camping allowed, this spot is meant for simple pleasures like playing in the surf and fishing from its pier. The line of thatch-roof palapas lends a Caribbean vibe you don't often see on the Texas coast. Book a rental in Rockport to stay just steps from the sand.

210 Seabreeze Dr, Rockport, TX 78382, rockportbeach-texas.com

05 of 10

Mustang Island State Park

Mustang Island, Texas
Olga Melhiser Photography/Getty Images

You'll find this nearly 4,000-acre gem toward the southern end of the 18-mile-long Mustang Island. With stunning sand dunes, some of the best fishing on the Texas coast, and over 400 species of birds, this place is ideal for a quiet escape. Set up camp at one of the 50 primitive sites right on the beach, and enjoy a couple days of beachcombing, swimming, and paddling. (There are campsites with water and electricity about a third of a mile from the beach.) Also located on Mustang Island, Port Aransas is the closest town, but Corpus Christi is doable, too, with just a short drive from the nearby bay.

9394 State Highway 361, Corpus Christi, TX 78418, tpwd.texas.gov

06 of 10

South Padre Island

A classic beach destination for every age, SPI does swell with Spring Breakers during peak season, but it has hidden riches from one length of its 34 miles of pale, soft sands to the other. With strong and steady winds, SPI is a kite surfing destination,
YinYang / Getty Images

SPI swarms with Spring Breakers during peak season, but don't let that deter you: This island offers 34 miles of pale, soft sand, with hidden riches from end to end, making it a suitable destination for all ages. Strong and steady winds draw kite surfers, while pet-friendly beaches attract those with four-legged family members. At the southern end of the slender barrier island lies Isla Blanca Park, offering more than a mile of pristine sand along the Gulf. Head there for surfing, fishing, and dolphin-watching; for a quieter day on the Gulf, opt for the island's north end.

Isla Blanca Park: 33174 State Park Road 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597, cameroncountytx.gov

07 of 10

Surfside Beach

Surfside Beach Tx

Southwest of Galveston, this little beach town is an under-the-radar treasure with clean waters and four miles of beaches. If you venture north of Welk Street, you can drive your vehicle onto the beach (just make sure to grab a pass first), and during certain times of the year, horses are allowed on the sand, too. Other activities include surfing, fishing, or crabbing; head to the crabbing pier across from Stahlman Park for your best shot at a fresh catch.

Stahlman Park: 2211 Bluewater Highway, Surfside Beach, TX 77541, surfsidetx.org

08 of 10

Seawall Urban Park

It doesn’t get beachier than these 10 miles of Gulf-facing sands on charming and historic Galveston Island. Named for the seawall that runs along the low-lying shoreline (and the boulevard that bears its name), this park has every kind of beach experience
Galveston Convention & Visitors Bureau

It's hard to argue with these 10 miles of Gulf-facing sands on historic Galveston Island. Named for the seawall that runs along the low-lying shoreline, this park has every kind of beach experience, from quiet stretches to beachfront restaurants, bars, and resorts to the colorful Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park. Leashed pets are welcome, so bring your pup along to explore the country's longest continuous sidewalk.

801 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston, TX, 77550, galvestonparkboard.org

09 of 10

Bolivar Peninsula

With 27 miles of beachfront, this slender peninsula that lies between Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico is home to broad, tawny sands that are all about beachcombing and birding (the whole peninsula is part of the Great Texas Birding Trail), and also a
WMarissen / Getty Images

With 27 miles of shoreline, this slender peninsula between Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico is home to broad, tawny sands that are all about beachcombing and birding (the whole peninsula is part of the Great Texas Birding Trail). Add to that beach camping, bonfires, driving on the sand, and the freedom to shoot beachfront fireworks on the Fourth, and it's no wonder Texans flock to Bolivar. There's easy shore access through neighborhoods (including the lively community of Crystal Beach), as well as a free ferry that runs all day, all year long, between the peninsula's westernmost end and Galveston.

Beach access: Most crossroads off Highway 87, Port Bolivar, TX (zip codes vary), bolivarpeninsulatexas.com

10 of 10

Boca Chica Beach

Boca Chica Beach
westtexasfish/Getty Images

Nestled in the embrace of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge on the southernmost stretch of the Texas coastline, this pristine beach spans the spot where the Rio Grande River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. These miles of quiet shores are one of the few nesting spots for the Kemp's ridley sea turtle, the world's most endangered variety, and they also provide rich terrain for a broad variety of birds. There's excellent beachcombing and surf fishing, too. A bit more remote, this beach is a popular day trip from nearby South Padre Island.

End of Boca Chica Boulevard (Highway 4), Cameron County, TX 78521, fws.gov

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