Texas is renowned for its vast landscapes, diverse cultures, and unique attractions. One hidden gem that often surprises visitors and locals alike is its stunning coastline, offering some of the best beaches in the United States. These beaches, found along the Gulf of Mexico, wow visitors with their natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and rich history. The Texas beaches are not just beautiful vacation spots but also hold immense historical, economic, and geological significance.
Texas beaches are steeped in history. The coast was once inhabited by Native American tribes, and Spanish explorers like Cabeza de Vaca first set foot on these shores in the 16th century. During the 19th century, Galveston Island emerged as a prominent port city, and its Seawall played a crucial role in protecting against hurricanes.
Texas beaches play a vital role in the state’s economy. Tourism, centered around these coastal gems, generates substantial revenue. Popular destinations like South Padre Island, Galveston, and Corpus Christi attract millions of visitors annually, contributing billions of dollars to the state’s economy. Enjoy activities like parasailing, kite surfing, and jet skiing here!
From a geological perspective, Texas beaches are dynamic environments. Barrier islands like Padre Island provide protection against storm surges and hurricanes, acting as natural buffers for the mainland. The diverse geology of these beaches, including sand dunes, marshes, and coastal cliffs, supports a unique ecosystem.
The best beaches in Texas captivate visitors with their natural beauty, diverse activities, and cultural attractions. From the vibrant South Padre Island to the serene Padre Island National Seashore and the family-friendly Crystal Beach, Texas beaches cater to a wide range of interests. Mustang Island State Park and Galveston Island add depth to the coastal experience with their natural beauty and historical significance. All Texans should make it a point to visit these beaches to experience the unique charm and wonder they offer, making unforgettable memories along the Gulf Coast.
Best Beaches in Texas
Did you know, the Gulf Coast is popularly called America’s Third Coast?! The Texas coastline is 367 miles long and stretches from the Louisiana state border to South Padre Island / Boca Chica near the US-Mexico border.
Texas beaches provide an affordable alternative to locals. You can combine a beach vacation with multitude of outdoor activities like fishing, crabbing, swimming, kayaking, and camping to enjoy a fabulous beach getaway.
The beaches are also perfect for adventure travel. You can go horseback riding on the beach, parasailing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, jet skiing, snorkeling, ziplining, and even skydiving! You can charter a boat and spend an entire day out on the water.
There are many beautiful beaches on Texas’s Gulf Coast – here’s an ultimate guide to visiting them all!
South Padre Island
South Padre Island is known as one of the best beach destinations in America and also the Spring Break Capital of Texas. During March, college crowds descends on the island and the beach turns into a party beach! This resort town is located off the southern coast of Texas on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico.
South Padre Island has 34 miles of coastline and many beach accesses. Top favorites include Isla Blanca Park Beach, Andy Bowie Park Beach, the dunes on northern end, and Beach Access #4 (Beach Circle).
Located at the southern end of the island, Isla Blanca Park is home to Playa Beach which has numerous amenities such as boardwalk, picnic tables, equipment rentals, changing rooms, and showers. The beach is popular for diving, snorkeling, parasailing, and jet skiing on South Padre Island.
Andy Bowie Park is also perfect for visitors who would like to swim and sunbathe at the beach. The northernmost end of South Padre Island has sand dunes where visitors can enjoy ATV riding, horseback riding, hiking, and swimming in the open waters.
With its beautiful sandy beaches, clean Gulf waters, restaurants, museums, attractions like the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, and various outdoor activities, South Padre Island is the ultimate Texas getaway.
- 17 Beautiful Beaches on South Padre Island
- A Texan’s Guide to the Best Things to do in South Padre Island
Galveston Island has often been named one of the best summer holiday destinations in the Lone Star State. This is one of the best and most famous amongst all Texas beach towns.
Located on the northwestern shore of the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston Island offers its visitors numerous beaches, water parks, and other attractions. There are several beaches in Galveston, not even counting the Galveston Island State Park.
The city also has beachfront playgrounds, parks, and promenades. Some of the top beaches are East Beach, Stewart Beach, Galveston Seawall Beach, and Porretto Beach.
East Beach is said to be the largest beach in Texas and as such, is fairly crowded. The beach also holds concerts and festivals during the peak tourist seasons. A large picnic area and a playground for the little ones is also available at East Beach. Most beaches offer basic facilities including showers, changing rooms, beach chairs, and umbrella rentals.
The entrance fee to most Galveston area beaches is between $12 to $15, depending on where you go. Add in the cost of parking too, as free parking can be hard to find in the city during peak times.
The beaches in Galveston City are not the typical white sand beaches and have darker sand and lots of vegetation but are popular due to their proximity to the city. Visitors can go beachcombing for shells, enjoy a sunset along the beach, go swimming, enjoy water sports, and play beach volleyball to enjoy your holiday. End your visit with a delicious seafood meal at one of the Galveston restaurants.
- 26 Beachy Things to do in Galveston, Texas
- 13 Best Beaches in Galveston Island
- Galveston with Kids: Top Attractions & Activities
Galveston Island State Park
Looking for a beach close to the city of Galveston and yet remote? The Galveston Island State Park is one of our favorite state parks to visit near Houston for its trails and beaches. The park is located on the island and has both oceanside and bayside beaches as well as picnic tables.
Galveston Island State Park has a variety of things to do for everyone. Outdoor and water lovers can also enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, swimming, or just splashing in the water. Beach lovers can look for shells, driftwood, and sea glass or build a sandcastle. The state park also has many hiking, biking, and paddling trails to explore the park.
The park visitor center offers many activities for visitors and an excellent opportunity to learn about sea turtle protection and conservation for the kids. The state park is open year-round and the entrance to the park is $5 per person.
Not only does the beach have plenty of facilities including changing rooms, showers, and restrooms, but also a large picnic area that is favorite with day visitors. The park has plenty of campsites for both RVs and tent campers.
Boca Chica Beach
The eight-mile sandy beach of Boca Chica is located on the southernmost tip of Texas, near the Mexican border.
The beach is located within the Boca Chica State Park and consists of the area between Laguna Madre and the Rio Grande Delta.
Known for its crystal clear waters, the Boca Chica Beach is a great place to spend a day in water activities, such as swimming, fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, etc.
The beach is extremely secluded and rarely gets crowded.
The beach is located within the Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge and is excellent for birding.
You can spot pelicans, hawks, ospreys, falcons, and cormorants. Visitors can also camp out on the beach for free.
In spite of its location within a state park, parking at the beach and day-use is free.
The beach is operational 24 hours a day and quite popular with families.
However, there are no facilities at the beach. Bring your own food and lots of supplies if planning a long stay.
For an added adventure, you can actually hike 2 to 3 miles from the end of the road to the border.
The Rio Grande here is basically just a stream and just about 50 feet of waist-deep water lies between the beach and Matamoros, Mexico.
With plenty of sunshine, warm water, and exciting family activities, the coastal city of Corpus Christi is the perfect summer getaway destination.
Even though the town is home to many beaches, North Beach and McGee Beach are by far the most popular.
Both beaches are free of charge and perfect for the entire family.
The beaches in Corpus Christi have calm waters and many amenities including changing areas, public restrooms, restaurants, and shops.
McGee beach is located close to the downtown on the Corpus Christi bay.
This is one of the prettiest beaches in the area and even has volleyball courts.
While McGee Beach can get a bit busy over the summer, the North Beach – a short drive over the Harbor Bridge – allows for a more laid-back vibe because of its remote location.
Radisson Hotel Corpus Christi is the perfect accommodation if you are planning on visiting the North Beach, whereas the Emerald Beach Hotel is in close proximity to McGee Beach.
Corpus Christi has many other attractions such as the Texas State Aquarium and USS Lexington Naval Museum and makes a great year round destination.
Padre Island National Seashore
For beaches as beautiful as the ones on South Padre Island but to escape the resort town feel, consider a visit to Padre Island National Seashore.
This national park site comprises North Padre Island and is beautiful to visit.
The NPS site of Padre Island National Seashore protects the world’s longest undeveloped barrier island and is home to the best beaches in Texas.
With more than 65 miles of stunning coastline, Bird Island Basin Beach and Malaquite Beach are the ones that deserve your attention the most on a visit to Padre Island National Seashore.
Both beaches are slightly off-the-beaten-path and offer a secluded nature-focused summer holiday.
While Malaquite Beach is better for swimming and relaxing by the beach, Bird Island Basin Beach is perfect for outdoor activities, such as boating, kayaking, and windsurfing on Padre Island National Seashore.
Both beaches offer basic amenities, such as showers, restrooms, and changing areas.
Food services are limited and you should bring your own food while visiting the undeveloped island.
Bird Island Basin is also popular as a camping location with both RV and tent sites while Malaquite Beach is day use only.
Padre Island National Seashore also allows camping right on the beach for RVs and 4WD vehicles.
The park has an excellent Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle conservation program and in the summer months, you can even attend a sea turtle hatching release at Padre Island National Seashore.
Watching the baby sea turtles swim towards the ocean is an amazing experience.
There are many other things to do on Padre Island National Seashore including beach camping on the sandy shores, bird watching, hiking trails, and more.
With fine white sand, Whitecap Beach is one of the best Texas beaches in the Corpus Christi area.
Stretching for approximately 1.5 miles, the beach is fairly close to the South Packery Channel.
Because of its location away from the city, the beach is a hidden gem and amazing for beach lovers.
The beach is big and beautiful and perfect for a relaxing beach getaway in Texas.
Visitors can find basic amenities such as showers, restrooms, and even a small restaurant on the pier serving delicious food.
Whitecap Beach is perfect for enjoying your summer holiday by sunbathing at the beach, building sandcastles, and swimming in the sea.
Nearby, you can also find the less-visited South Packery Channel Beach.
The South Packery Channel Beach separates Mustang Island and Padre Island.
This Corpus Christi Beach is a great fishing destination and a hot spot for catching tarpons, trout, and kingfish.
The South Packery Jetty Beach is a hit with beach goers for its sandy shore line, low crowds, and big waves.
Mustang Island State Park
Covering almost 4,000 acres, Mustang Island State Park offers 5 miles of beautiful beach along the Gulf of Mexico.
Spreading across the barrier island, the park protects the region’s fauna, as well as the sand dunes surrounding the coast.
The beach at Mustang Island State Park is one of the best beaches in Texas.
It is open for visitors year-round from 7AM to 10PM for an entrance fee of $5 per person.
Kayaking, surfing, fishing, and paddling are popular water activities at Mustang Island.
The island is also great for birding and visitors can spot a variety of birds including pelicans, hawks, and oystercatchers.
The park also has many hiking, mountain biking, and paddling trails and is the ultimate outdoor destination.
The park has various options for camping including a mix of water & electric as well as primitive drive-up campsites.
IB Magee Beach Park in Port Aransas
Port Aransas is one of the best Texas beach towns for families.
IB Magee Beach Park is situated on the northern side of Mustang Island in Port Aransas.
It is the perfect place for a laid-back and relaxing summer holiday getaway.
The park is close enough to downtown Port Aransas, so you can find various restaurants and shops within walking distance.
Yet, once you reach the beach, you will find yourself in paradise far away from urban life.
With over 70 campsites, the Port Aransas Beach is a great place to spend a few nights.
There are plenty of facilities, such as showers with hot water, water hook-ups, laundry area and even free Wi-Fi.
Along with the clean sandy beach and the picture-perfect waves for surfing, visitors can also fish on the over 1230 feet long Horace Caldwell pier that offers beautiful views of the Gulf’s aquamarine waters.
Mackerel, sea trout, flounder, tuna, red snapper, and tarpon are abundant in the waters around Port Aransas.
Located in Nueces County, the park was severely damaged during Hurricane Harvey and is still undergoing repairs.
Consequently, the park is still closed to visitors.
However, Port Aransas has many other beaches and tourist attractions for visitors and makes a perfect beach trip on the South Texas coast.
As the first Texan beach to be declared a “Blue Wave Beach”, Rockport Beach is hands down the cleanest beach in the state.
This designation is given only to those beaches that are extremely clean and have excellent water quality.
Rockport Beach is free to enter year-round, however, parking at the lots by the beach comes with a nominal fee.
Known for its shallow waters, swaying palm trees, and laid-back atmosphere, the beach is perfect for the entire family.
The beach has calm water and a long beachfront and is great for building sandcastles or taking a stroll with your partner at sunset.
Even though the amenities are limited, Rockport Beach has free umbrellas and a nice playground area.
It is a good idea to bring your own food and have a picnic at the beach.
Located less than a mile away, Holiday Inn Express at Rockport Beach and the Days Inn by Wyndham are the closest accommodation options by the beach.
The nearby coastal town of Rockport is also great to explore on a vacation while visiting one of the best beaches in Texas.
San Jose Island
San Jose Island is a true hidden gem along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Located in Aransas Bay, San Jose Island is a private island and accessible only by a ferry from Port Aransas.
As the island is privately owned, visitors can only access the beach area.
However, this is absolutely the best place to visit on the island.
The coastline is over 21 miles long and you will find undisturbed pale golden sand and lots of seashells – perfect for any nature lover!
Another plus: very few other visitors!
Keep in mind that the island does not have any facilities or amenities for visitors and you need to bring your own food and supplies.
The island is very popular among those who love fishing, however, families and couples can also have a fun day swimming and strolling along the beach.
Known for its beautiful shilling beaches and diversity of seashells, the island was also once called the “Seashell Island”.
Visitors can find starfish, sand dollars, shark eyes, and lightning whelks on the beaches.
San Jose is the perfect day trip along the Texas Gulf Coast to find solitude, recharge, and forget all your worries.
With its soft sand and shallow waters, Lighthouse Beach in Port Lavaca is a great place to visit.
The beach has a very family-friendly atmosphere.
The beach is both easily accessible and free of charge with plenty of facilities, such as showers, restrooms, picnic areas, and even a small playground for the kids.
There are no restaurants or bars, however, there are free umbrellas spread across the beachfront.
For those who would like to stay overnight, the Lighthouse Beach RV Park is your best bet.
You will find many long term renters here but the sites are kept mostly clean.
Alternatively, you can also find a home-stay in the number of cottages located walking distance away from the beach.
The beach is also excellent for birding.
The beach is located within the Port Lavaca Bird Sanctuary.
You can walk along the Formosa Wetlands trail all the way to the Alcoa Birding Tower. From the tower, you can see pelicans, seagulls, terns, ospreys, and oyster catchers.
Lighthouse Beach is a great location for a fun family day playing volleyball, building a sandcastle, or swimming in the sea.
Magnolia Beach is located approximately 20 minutes away from Port Lavaca and is one of the most underrated beaches in Texas.
The 1.5 miles long beachfront is perfect for a summer escape from the busy city life.
The beach is free to use, even for camping. The sand is hard-packed, making it a great spot to park your RV.
Swimming at the beach is great fun; the water isn’t very salty as the Colorado and Lavaca Rivers empty into the ocean right here.
The beach is extremely secluded, there are no stores, restaurants, or urban attractions nearby.
You need to get all your supplies with you if you plan to stay for a long time. Beach facilities include clean bathrooms, showers, grills, gazebos, and picnic areas.
The beach is also pet friendly however the hard sand is not pleasant to walk on.
Magnolia Beach is the perfect location to enjoy a relaxing vacation by waking up by the ocean breeze in the morning.
Sunrises and sunsets are also spectacular here.
Located just an hour away from the Bayou City, Matagorda Bay Nature Park Beach is a stunning Houston area beach that is perfect for a family summer escape.
The beach is located at the mouth of the Colorado River. While the beach is over 58 miles long, not all of it is easily accessible.
The beach to the east of the river is easily accessible by vehicles. This is the most popular stretch.
However, for kayakers, canoers, and boat owners, Matagorda Beach has a special treat in store.
The area to the west of the Colorado River is over 35 miles long and can be accessed only via watercraft.
That ensures that the beach here stays remote and secluded, perfect for a relaxing vacation.
At the beach, you can walk along the dunes and the grasses and splash in the water.
Vehicles can drive on the accessible part of the beach, however, they will need beach permits.
If you enjoy camping, you can also stay overnight at the beach free of charge.
This is probably the best way to relax and explore the surrounding natural area of Matagorda Beach.
The beach here is located just an hour away from the urban attractions of Houston and is popular to visit.
Because it is easily accessible by car, the beach is an especially popular tourist destination on hot summer weekends.
To enjoy this beach and its beauty without the crowds, visit Surfside Beach on a weekday.
The beach is four miles long and has soft sand. Access is via the Surfside Jetty County Park.
The park also has a kid’s play area and splash pad. Visitors require a permit to access the beach which can be purchased at the entrance booths.
The beach has a few basic facilities including public restrooms and picnic areas.
The water here is fairly calm and perfect for families with children.
Popular activities at the beach include swimming, picnicking, surfing, fishing on deep-sea charters, or casting a line from the pier, and paddle-boarding.
Surfboards and other gear rental shops are also available near the beach. The beach is also popular for crabbing.
The beach town of Surfside Beach is a small, charming place to visit and explore.
There are many beachfront restaurants and shacks in the town which serve fresh seafood.
If you would like to stay overnight check out Surfside Beach Oceanfront Hotel, where you can get a room directly on the beach.
Crystal Beach and Bolivar Peninsula
Encompassing 27 miles of beachfront, the Bolivar Peninsula is situated on the Upper Texas Coast near Galveston.
The peninsula is home to some of the best beach spots in Texas including the famous Crystal Beach.
The family friendly destination is the perfect spot for a short, budget summer getaway near Houston.
Have a barbeque or picnic on the beach and spend the day cooling off in the Gulf waters.
Crystal Beach is a fairly remote and secluded beach town, accessible only via a free ferry ride from Galveston.
You can take vehicles on the ferry too, and drive them throughout the length of the beach.
The beach itself is seven miles long and free of charge, however, camping and parking require a $15 annual permit.
The facilities at Crystal Beach are limited and to be on the safer side, we recommend planning in advance and bringing everything that you need including food, shade, toys, and water.
While Crystal Beach is the most popular beach on the peninsula, High Island Beach is a hidden gem and well worth visiting.
Reached via a gravel road, the beach has many free campsites and is perfect for families looking for a secluded beach vacation.
This beach was part of the old Texas Highway 87 that was completely destroyed by Hurricane Jerry in 1990.
High Island Beach has almost no amenities of any kind.
However, the beach is a real paradise for its remote location and fewer crowds. You can spend a relaxing holiday with stunning views of the Gulf’s clean waters.
Bolivar peninsula and its beaches are perfect for beach-combing.
Visitors can expect to find a variety of treasures including seashells and even shark teeth.
Spend a day building sandcastles and enjoy your time on the beach.
Sea Rim State Park, Port Arthur
Sea Rim State Park is located in Port Arthur in southeastern Texas.
The park is the northernmost beach in this list and comprises over 5 miles of Gulf coastline and 4000 acres of swampy marshes of the Sabine River.
Sea Rim refers to the area where the marsh grasses grow right near the shore where the wave action occurs.
Located near Sabine Pass, the park is quite remote and rarely visited but worth the visit.
This state park has a unique blend of marshes and the shoreline and is excellent for birding.
The park preserves the wetlands, natural beaches, and white sand dunes. The park is also part of the Greater Texas Coastal Birding Trail.
Sea Rim State Park is an excellent location for outdoor activities, such as kayaking, fishing, paddling, swimming or just strolling down the beach.
The park also has plenty of trails including the Gambusia Nature Trail, an accessible boardwalk trail over the marshes.
With cabins, RV parking, and plenty of camping options, the park is perfect to spend time in nature.
Visitors can choose from campsites with electricity located next to the dunes, primitive drive-in sites right on the beach, or even boat-in campsites that are accessible only to kayakers and paddlers.
These last are located in the marshes and represent the perfect adventure.
The park is one of the best beaches in Texas for those who want a tranquil family friendly beach experience indulging in hiking trails, bird watching opportunities, and great fishing on the Gulf of Mexico.
There is nothing more refreshing than waking up to the sound of waves far away from the busy city life.
The park is open daily from 8 am to 6 pm and has an entrance fee of $3 per person.
Best Time to Visit Texas Beaches
Texas beaches are year round destinations. Summers might be hot and humid but the water temperature is just perfect for cooling down. In winter, there is no other place to beat the chilly air like the warm and sunny Gulf Coast.
Spring break has college goers and families descending upon the beach in droves – making this a really crowded time on the coast! Visit the beach in fall and you can find a little bit of foliage, some wildflowers, and migrating birds!
These prettiest beach spots in Texas are perfect to visit with your loved ones.
Stay in a secluded beach cabin or book a quaint inn in a small town on the coast or enjoy overnight camping right by the water.
Take a jetty boat tour to spot dolphins and explore the diverse wildlife of the coast including hermit crabs, alligators, and rattlesnakes.
Nature lovers can enjoy the best bird watching in America right here in Texas.
Spot migratory bird species like geese, ducks, spoonbills, and terns.
Enjoy a fun filled day hiking the coastal marshes or enjoy sunbathing
We hope you like our post on the best beaches in Texas.
Did we miss out on any favorite swimming or boondocking spots on the Gulf Coast? Let us know in the comments.