While it's true that Texas isn't a traditional beach destination, there are many great reasons to explore the Texas gulf coast. Whether you're looking for a sandy stretch of solitude, a wildlife haven, a bachelor party destination, or a family-friendly weekend getaway, with over 350 miles of coastline you'll be able to find your bliss on the Texas coast! Below are ten of the best beach areas that Texas has to offer.
1. Padre Island National Seashore
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Whether you're looking for solitude or adventure, Padre Island has you covered. Padre Island is located just off the coast of Corpus Christi and is the largest undeveloped barrier island in the world. Sandy South Beach stretches roughly 60 miles along the Gulf Coast, while you can find one of the top windsurfing destinations in the country at nearby Bird Island Basin. You will also find spots for fishing, kayaking, hiking, four-wheeling, and camping. Be prepared to pay a park entrance fee of $10, but camping on South Beach is free for up to two weeks.
2. Mustang Island State Park
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This barrier island just north of Padre Island boasts the pristine white sands you would expect in traditional beach destinations. However, these five miles of coast attract people from all over for hiking, camping, swimming, surfing, bird watching, and Spring Break-ing. Yes, be prepared to find this beach a little rowdy and full of twenty-somethings if you visit in late March. Otherwise, you should have plenty of space to stretch out on the soft sands of Mustang Island.
3. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
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This refuge is an absolute must for the wildlife lover in your life. With over 45,000 acres of preserved land ranging from desert to subtropical climates and coastal beaches, Laguna Atascosa is home to untold numbers of creatures and critters. At least ten different endangered species make appearances on this refuge, while bird-watching, alligator-watching, and plant identification keep you busy between sightings. Popular among photographers, bird-watchers, and amateur nature-lovers alike, this pristine oasis rests on the southern tip of Texas near the border cities of Harlingen and Brownsville. These cities will offer low-cost amenities and lots of Hispanic American culture (three-quarters of the residents claim Hispanic heritage). Be sure to check out the major historical landmarks while you're in the area!
4. Rockport Beach
Located in the small coastal town of Rockport, Texas, Rockport Beach is a nice stretch of sand with a couple of pavilions frequently used for weddings and special events. As with most Texas beach areas, there is plenty of fishing, boating, and bird-watching to be done. Yet it's the small town charm of Rockport that make this a worthwhile stop on your journey. With just about 8,000 residents and dozens of gift shops, galleries, and restaurants, you're sure to find some Rockport souvenirs to take along when you leave. A down-home, relaxing Texas beach destination all the way around!
5. Isla Blanca Park
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Isla Blanca Park, located at the southern tip of South Padre Island, is a golden sand beach that is home to some of the best surfing in all of Texas. Better known for its Spring Breaks and party ethos, South Padre Island is a popular beach destination for all types. As with any popular and heavily trafficked beach-front, expect some wear and tear on the beaches, facilities, and surrounding areas. But if you're willing to look past some of that in exchange for nightlife, beautiful warm sand, and some waves to catch, then South Padre Island and Isla Blanca Park is the spot for you.
6. Stewart Beach Park
Let's say you're in Houston for a couple of weeks visiting family, it's late May, and the kids are begging you for a trip to the beach. Enter: Stewart Beach Park. This family-friendly beach is just 45 minutes south of Houston in the popular coastal playground of Galveston. A safe beach with plenty of parking and warm sand, it'll satisfy your beach craving and have you back in Houston by dinner-time. Avoid steep rental fees by bringing your own umbrella and chairs, and be prepared for the seaweed. It varies from year to year and season to season, but Galveston is often home to large swaths of the stuff. If you find that the smell is a bit of a turn-off, head to Moody Gardens and you'll forget all about the seaweed in no time.
7. Surfside Beach
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The town of Surfside is home to less than 500 residents. That means that this little town is about as quiet and sleepy a beach destination as you're likely to find on the Texas coast. Many who want to avoid the hustle and bustle of nearby Galveston opt for Surfside instead. Surfside also has a reputation as a slightly cleaner, slightly less seaweed-filled beach than the ones found at Galveston. And being just an hour away from Houston, it's perfectly attainable for those in the visiting the area or just taking a trip down the coastline.
8. San José Island
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San José Island, a private barrier island that forms the southern border of Aransas Bay, is a perfect 'getaway' destination. Access is limited to ferries and jetty boats, which means that traffic is limited (by definition), and you get the added benefit of feeling like you're truly leaving the mainland behind. Fishing, birding, and especially shelling rule the day at San José. After spending your day on the beach, head back to Port Aransas or Mustang Island for food, drinks, and entertainment. Just make sure you catch the last ferry, as there aren't any accommodations on San José Island.
9. Boca Chica State Park
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Way at the southernmost tip of Texas' coastline lies a beach that might have you thinking you accidentally slipped across the border. The sand dunes at Boca Chica stretch for about 8 miles and on a good day you might have most of that to yourself. Just east of Brownsville and literally running along the northern border of Mexico, this beach is popular amongst vacationers and locals alike. A day hike around the mouth of the Rio Grande is often the activity of choice, but surfing, camping, and fishing are also possibilities. If you're deep in Southern Texas for any reason, do yourself a favor and be sure to stop by Boca Chica.
About 200 miles Southeast of San Antonio, and just north of San Jose Island, lies 55 miles of coastal land that makes up Matagorda County. Popular among fisherman and beachcombers, this area also offers kayaking, surfing, and birding. Keep your eyes peeled for treasure along the beach –the tide here has been known to produce old Spanish coins, bones, and even fossilized wooly mammoth teeth from almost twenty million years ago! As only about 25 miles of this county are accessible by car, go by boat if you truly want to get off the beaten path. If you do, be sure to check out the Matagorda Lighthouse, built in 1852 and made of cast iron. Either way you go, you're sure to enjoy this low-tech, low-stress coastal hideout.
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This article was written by Maxx Kaplan and edited by Tripping.com Content Specialist Lexi Perman.