Texas has a lot of attractions: big cities, natural parks, and small hidden gems. However, while not among the most popular beach destinations in the United States, it also counts 600 km of coastline, largely wild and unspoiled, with golden sandy beaches, lapped by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
We have selected 10 for you, each with its own peculiarities. Some are located in protected natural areas, and are therefore suitable for nature lovers; others in lively seaside resorts, perfect for those looking for a bit of nightlife.
Here are the 10 most beautiful beaches in Texas, choose the one that's right for you, prepare your swimsuit and flip flops, and go now!
- Where are
- When to go
- The 10 most beautiful beaches in Texas
- Padre island national seashore
- Crystal beach
- Rockport Beach
- San Josè Island
- Boca Chica
- Mustang Island
- South Padre Island
- Surfside Beach
- East Beach (Galveston)
- Port Aransas
- Where to stay near the beach
- Where to eat with a sea view
Texas beaches they are found along the Gulf Coast, characterized by the “barrier islands”, ie islands of dunes and sand that form in front of the mainland coast. For this reason, there is no single road that connects them all.
Indicatively, the state road TX-35 it connects the main locations between Houston and Corpus Christi, while from there and going down towards South Padre, you will have to use the Highway 77. For detailed information on each beach, refer to the individual paragraphs.2 useful articles to prepare your trip to Texas
- What to see in Texas: all the places of interest of the Lone Star State
- Texas cities: the most interesting to visit
When to go
The climate of the Gulf Coast is tropical, let's see in detail what it means:
- winter, for being mild, still records temperatures between 10 ° -20 °, not exactly ideal for sunbathing and swimming.
- the spring is hot and dry, with temperatures exceeding 20 °, and scarce rainfall.
- summer is hot, it exceeds 30 °, with peaks of even 40 °. It is also the wettest season and, above all, hurricane risk (particularly between August and September).
- autumn is very similar to spring. Precipitation decreases, and temperatures are pleasant until late November.
The best time to visit Texas beaches is therefore half seasons, between April and June, and between October and November.
In the second half of March there is the traditional spring break, the holiday period for university students. This corresponds to the peak of the very high season for all American seaside resorts, from California to Florida, with consequent crowding and a generalized increase in prices.
The 10 most beautiful beaches in Texas
So let's find out which are the most popular beaches in the Lone Star State!
Padre island national seashore
At the top of the 10 most beautiful beaches in Texas is Padre Island, which is not just a beach, but also a National Park and protected natural area.
Getting there is very simple, but do not use the address indicated on the GPS, because it will take you somewhere else.
From Corpus Christi, take TX-58, also known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Causeway. Cross the two bridges, and you will arrive on Padre Island. Now simply follow Park road 22 to the national park entrance turrets. The total journey is 50 km, for about 35 minutes.
Padre Island is the longest barrier island in the world, separating the Gulf of Mexico from Laguna Madre, one of 6 hypersaline lagoons in the world.
The beaches are accessible by car, and it is allowed drive on the shoreline, with a speed limit of 15-25 mph (25-40 km / h). The only car-free beach is Malaquite Beach, the one behind the Visitor Center. But keep in mind that, of the more than 110 km of beach, only the first ones 25 km are accessible to all vehicles. Beyond this point, the dunes become too high, and a 4X4 drive car is needed to continue. Remember that any recovery maneuvers are the responsibility of the driver.
Along this strip of sand, dunes and grasslands, you can swim, fish, kayak, windsurf and kitesurf, but of course also just relax and sunbathe. The best beaches for water sports are North Flats and Holly Beach, while for a swim in the sea I recommend Malachite Beach, which is equipped with toilets and showers, and accessible to people with motor disabilities.
When you get tired of living by the sea, Padre Island National Seashore also offers other activities and attractions.
The trekking path Grassland Nature Trail it is 1,3 km long, flat, and crosses a grassy area where it is possible to spot many species of birds, including seagulls, herons and pelicans.
Another very popular activity is collect the shells, of course, only if empty, and with a limit of one bucket each (5 gallons, or 18 liters). The richest beaches from this point of view are Little and Big Shell Beach, both in the southern area of the park, and the best time to find as many as possible is after a storm.
Between mid-June and August you will then have the opportunity to attend the turtles hatch Kemp Ridley, an endangered protected species. The cubs are released into the sea early in the morning, around 6.45am, at Malaquite Beach. Since the hatching calendar obviously depends on Mother Nature, if you are interested in participating in a release you should keep an eye on the park's Facebook page, or call the Hatchling Hotline at +1 361 949 7163.
Padre Island National Seashore is open every day, 24 hours a day. The Malaquite Visitor Center is open from 24 to 10.00, from Wednesday to Sunday.
These are the entrance fees, valid for one day:
- $ 10 per car
- $ 7 per motorcycle
- $ 5 each for pedestrians and cyclists
Inside the park there are no services or equipment. You will therefore have to arrive stocked with gasoline, food, water, and everything you need to spend a day at the beach.
The second best beach in Texas is Crystal Beach, which is located on the Bolivar Peninsula northeast of Galveston.
There are two ways to get to the beach:
- drive from Houston take I-10 east to Winnie. From here, turn right onto TX-124 to the end of the road, then turn right again onto Highway 87, and follow the coast for another 25 km. The total journey is 156 km, for an hour and a half.
- da Galveston, in ferry, a much more efficient system. The ferry, which you can also embark by car, is active 24 hours a day, at varying times based on turnout. It is free, and the journey takes about 24 minutes. Once on the Bolivar Peninsula, continue on Highway 20 for 87 km.
Access to the beach is free, but if you want to park directly on the coast, you need a $ 10 pass, which can be purchased in most shops along Highway 87, or at the Chamber of Commerce, at number 1750.
Crystal Beach is approx 11 km and, despite being surrounded by houses, it is a lot wilderness, in fact, it is the ideal destination for nature lovers, who can devote themselves to fishing and birdwatching. Furthermore, being uncrowded, you will be able to enjoy a day of complete relaxation. The possibility of lighting bonfires, and the presence of many restaurants and clubs, also make it a very popular destination among young people.
One last attraction worth noting is the Bolivar Point Lighthouse, the 1872 lighthouse that survived several hurricanes.
The best time to visit Crystal Beach is in autumn, when the algae that settle on the beach in summer disappear due to the currents.
The last place on the podium of the 10 most beautiful beaches in Texas goes to Rockport Beach, certified among the cleanest beaches in the United States by the Clean Beaches Coalition, the equivalent of our Blue Flag. A recognition that, however, requires us to respect some more restrictive rules compared to other seaside resorts in the state. Here it is in fact forbidden to access the beach by car, bring dogs, light bonfires and camping.
Rockport Beach overlooks the Port Aransas Bay, and can be reached from Corpus Christi in about half an hour. Take TX-35 N to leave town, and continue to Rockport. Turn right on W Market Street, then take E Liberty Street on the left, and continue to the end of the street.
Parking costs 10$ for one day, while access to the beach on foot or by bike is free.
This beautiful crescent-shaped beach is very different from other Texas beaches. Thanks to the palms and the straw umbrellas scattered here and there, you will feel like you are in the tropics. The umbrellas are available for free, but you will have to be able to win one!
As the beach overlooks a bay, the water is very calm, and there are no strong currents. These characteristics make it the ideal destination for families, even with small children. Adults and children can try their hand at the volleyball courts, have a picnic or prepare a good barbecue thanks to the grills available.
Take one walk to the pier, where you can watch the fishermen at work, and admire the beautiful colonial-style houses that populate the islet of Key Allegro. End the day in pretty Rockport, filled with shops, restaurants and art galleries. The city also hosts various events, such as the oyster festival Fulton Oysterfest, which takes place in March, and whose proceeds subsidize the firefighters.
San Josè Island
San Josè Island beach, affectionately referred to as St Jo, is particularly secluded, as it is located on a private island, accessible only by ferry from nearby Port Aransas.
The rides depart from Fisherman's Wharf in Port Aransas, with varying times depending on the season. To plan your excursion, I therefore recommend checking the updated timetables on the official website. The cost of the return trip is $ 18 for adults, $ 9 for children between 6 and 12, and free for children.
You will find waiting for you 33 km of unspoiled coastline, over 300 species of birds, including herons and spoonbills, and thousands of shells, to take home as a memento. Housing free e prohibited to cars, is an authentic natural paradise, where you can spend a day of pure relaxation, away from everything.
Since it is a protected natural area, you will have to limit yourself to the beach, in fact you will not be able to go beyond the vegetation line. Furthermore, there are no services, so bring everything you need for your day in nature.
Among the things to do, if you really don't feel like sunbathing and swimming, there are fishing and bird watching. Walk along the dock, and you may be lucky enough to spot the Kemp Ridley turtles, which come to these shores to lay their eggs.
Quiet Boca Chica Beach is located at the southern tip of Texas, just north of the Mexican border. In stark contrast to the nearby South Padre Island, it is a quiet place, located within the natural park of the same name.
To reach it, from Corpus Christi take the UD-77 S towards Robstown / Kingsville for 220 km, up to Olmito. From here, take TX-550, then after 5,5 km take TX-551 to the town of Reid Hope King. At this point, turn left onto TX-4 / E Boca Chica Boulevard, continuing for another 29 miles. They are in total 300 km, for a travel time of about 3 hours.
In the last stretch of the road, just before the beach, you will have the chance to see it Space X Launch Facility, a space rocket manufacturing site.
Boca Chica Beach is 12km long, and is a wild and underdeveloped beach, perfect for fishing, swimming, surfing and snorkeling. However, you will need to be equipped, as there are no rental companies or toilets.
Here you can also explore the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refugee, a protected natural area at the mouth of the Rio Grande. Access is free, and you will be able to walk some trekking paths, do bird watching from the observation platforms, and even spot the ocelot, elusive "cat" belonging to the leopard family.
Adjacent to Padre Island, Mustang Island is another barrier island, named after the herds of horses that once grazed the area.
From Corpus Christi, take TX-58, also known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Causeway. Cross the two bridges, and you will arrive on Padre Island. From here, turn left onto TX-361, and continue for approximately 12 km. The total journey is 47 km, about 32 minutes.
Along its 29 km of coastline and White sand you can spot dolphins, turtles, and over 400 species of birds, including waders, herons, seagulls and spoonbills. Here too it is allowed to collect shells and, if you want to organize an evening in perfect American style, too light a bonfire. Mustang Island is also a dog-friendly beach, so you can bring your 4-legged friend.
Part of the beach is located in the Mustang Island State Park, a protected natural area under state jurisdiction. The park is the realm of sportsmen: there are trekking and mountain bike trails, but they are above all lovers of kayak who will find bread for their teeth.
Il Mustang Island Paddling Trail it is a 32 km long route, which winds its way through the thick vegetation of the lagoon, with excellent opportunities to spot wildlife. If you want to try this adventure, but don't have kayaks, there are plenty in the area rental agencies. On the official website of nearby Port Aransas there is a list of some companies, but you can also ask directly on site. Often they also offer a shuttle service to the boarding point.
The park is open every day, from 8.00 to 17.00. Admission is subject to charges for ages 12 and up, and costs money 5$.
South Padre Island
Not to be confused with the aforementioned Padre Island, South Padre is among the most touristic areas Texas, a favorite destination for college students during their spring break. But not only that: thanks to the many accommodation facilities and the mild climate, it is also very popular with retirees, who move there in the winter months.
All this, despite being in a logistically unfavorable position. It is in fact located a few miles north of Boca Chica, in southern Texas.
From Corpus Christi, take UD-77 S towards Robstown / Kingsville for 220km, to Olmito. From here, take the TX-550, and continue to the junction with the TX-48 E. Here, turn left, drive for about thirty kilometers to Port Isabel. Now turn right onto TX-100, and cross the very long bridge to get to South Padre. The total journey is 300 km, with a travel time of 3 hours.
South Padre is the classic tourist beach town, full of bars, restaurants and attractions for the whole family. There is the Beach Park water park, the Gravity Park adventure park, and you can even take lessons on how to build a sand castle at Sand Castle Lessons. A very informative visit, especially for children, is the Sea Turtle Inc., a center that deals with the rehabilitation of sea turtles.
South Padre's best beach is White Island Park, at the southern end of the island. Its wide stretch of golden sand is flanked by a pleasant seafront promenade, with numerous umbrellas and benches to relax. Walk to the end of the very long pier, to admire the panorama of the city skyline and the Gulf of Mexico.
If you are looking for a quieter environment, go north. The beaches are free, but being all residential, it will be a bit difficult to find parking. From downtown, follow the main street, Padre Boulevard, until you pass Andie Bowie County Park. From this point on, it is easier to find public parking lots with direct access to the beach.
Finally, if you want to take a walk in nature, you can take the simple path Laguna Madre Nature Trail, 1,8 km long and flat. It starts from the Convention Center (7355 Padre Blvd), and is a path on wooden walkways with beautiful views of the lagoon, and the possibility of spotting alligators.
Surfside Beach is very popular because, in addition to being a beautiful beach, it is also easily accessible.
From Houston, take State Highway 288 S, and drive approximately 60 km to the industrial city of Freeport. Then take the interchange for T-332 E, which ends after 12km right in front of the Surfside Beach welcome sign.
As with many other beaches in Texas, here too it is possible to park on the coast, just bring the $ 12 permit, valid for a whole year. Alternatively, park for free in the city, and walk to the beach.
Surfside Beach is 6,5km long, and is the surfer's paradise, because there is always a lot of wind, and the water quickly becomes deep. You can also go kayaking, kitesurfing and windsurfing. In addition, the Beach Bum Horse Rides company organizes horse rides on the beach, at different times and conditions depending on the season. If you are interested, I recommend contacting them in advance to make sure they are open.
Of course, you can also simply relax on the beach, collect shells, light a bonfire, or walk along the pier to try to spot dolphins and turtles. If you are hungry by this point, there are several restaurants and bars, convenience stores and liquor stores nearby.
Finally, I recommend that you take the long Bluewater Highway, on foot or by car, to see the colorful ones case a palafitta, built on very high wooden poles to resist storm surges.
East Beach (Galveston)
The huge beach at the eastern end of Galveston Island is perfect not only for the sea, but also for those who want to do some nightlife, as it hosts numerous Events, and is close to major city attractions, such as Galveston Pier.
It's less than an hour from Houston, and it's super easy to get to. In fact, just take I-45 southbound, and continue to the end of the freeway, which enters Galveston taking the name of Broadway Avenue. From here, continue straight on to Seawall Boulevard, then turn right onto E Beach Drive.
Il parcheggio plus it can accommodate up to 7000 vehicles, so you will have no difficulty in finding space. The daily cost is 12$ during the week, e 15$ in the weekend. Alternatively, park on the street with the meter, for $ 1 per hour and up to $ 8 per day.
East Beach is the only beach in Galveston where it is allowed to consume alcohol, as indicated everywhere in large letters. For this reason, it is a very popular destination for young people, especially in the evening. But it is also a family-friendly beach. It is in fact possible to rent deck chairs and umbrellas, and includes a playground, volleyball courts, and pavilions that can be rented for private events.
In August, East Bech hosts the annual sand castle competition, in which the participants compete with each other with a shovel and chisel, creating real works of art that will leave you speechless. For the updated calendar of the event, consult the official website.
Port Aransas Beach finishes in the last place among the 10 most beautiful beaches in Texas, but only because the others are true natural paradises.
Less crowded than Galveston or South Padre, Port Aransas is ideal for families, and for couples seeking both the tranquility, and the convenience of having all tourist services available. In 2017 she was badly hit by Hurricane Harvey, but she is recovering very well, and life is back to normal.
From Corpus Christi, take TX-58, also known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Causeway. Cross the two bridges, and you will arrive on Padre Island. From here, turn left onto TX-361, and continue for 30 km to arrive in the center. The total journey is 63 km and approximately 40 minutes.
The main beach, I.B. Magee Beach Park, extends for 9,5 km along the east coast of the island. It is very large, and accessible to vehicles at the cost of 12$ per day. You can purchase the pass at large beach shops such as Islander Souvenirs at 602 S Alister Street.
It is a free beach, with a large coastline of golden sand, dog-friendly and equipped with some picnic tables. For the rest, such as umbrellas and deck chairs, you will have to be autonomous.
Among the most popular activities in Port Aransas is the birdwatching, with over 450 species of birds, which populate the area during migration periods, in spring and autumn. Near the Marine Science Institute of the University of Texas (750 Channel View Dr) it is possible to walk a short distance paved path which crosses the lagoon environment, with many information panels on flora and fauna.
Another very popular event is the Texas Sandfest, which takes place in April and lasts 3 days. Unlike the Galveston competition, here the challengers have to create their works according to the theme indicated by the organizers, which changes every year.
Where to stay near the beach
The beaches of Texas are all on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and, as we have seen, some of them are very close to each other. By staying in these three locations, you will therefore have the opportunity to see them all.
- A Galveston, Best Western Plus Galveston Suites andHoliday Inn Resort Galveston-on the Beach they are located along Seawall Boulevard, in a quiet area. From here you can visit East Beach, Crystal Beach, and Surfside Beach.
- A Port Aransas, I recommend theHoliday Inn Express & Suites Beach Area, with parking and close to the beach. From here you can also visit Mustang Island, Padre Island, San Josè Island, and Rockport Beach, staying in a more relaxed environment than the chaotic Corpus Christi.
- A South Padre Island there are many beachfront structures. I recommend La Copa Inn Beach Hotel e Isla Grand Beach Resort, close to the beach and good value for money. From South Padre you can also go to Boca Chica.
Where to eat with a sea view
Galveston offers several opportunities to eat along the Seawall, the seafront promenade. The Spot, with tables on the panoramic terrace, it serves burgers, tacos and fish dishes, including the typical po'boy sandwich, stuffed with fried shrimp. A short distance away, Gumbo Diner offers typical Southern dishes, including traditional gumbo, a thick fish-and-okra soup, and beignets, New Orleans' fried dough treats. If you prefer a classic steakhouse, give it a try Saltgrass, serving meat and pork ribs.
A Port Aransas you will find few clubs on the seafront, because the coast is less developed. Virginia’s on the Bay located at the marina, and serves mainly fish and seafood, including oysters and southern country boil, a rich dish made with shellfish, potatoes and corn. Although not on the sea, two excellent restaurants are Irie's, a tiny, no-frills venue serving dishes cooked with fresh, local produce, and La Playa Mexican Grille, where I recommend tasting the trio of sea enchilada.
A South Padre, Pier 19 overlooks the inner bay, and offers burgers, Mexican cuisine and fried fish, with the option of having your own fish cooked for you (but contact them first). Lagoon Bob it has a large outdoor terrace, and is more like a live music venue. However, they also have a bar, which cooks ceviche, fried shrimp and hot dogs, to be consumed while watching the show.