When you think of Texas, a few things might come to mind before white sand beaches. But with 600 miles of coastline, Texas has as much beachfront as Florida, yet without the fame. Not that Texans are complaining.
Travelers who make the trip to the coast will find an authentic, locally driven way of life. Forget hordes of tourist traps and simply light up the beach bonfire and hang with friends.
Among the best beaches in Texas are protected paradises, where turtles hatch and there’s barely a sign of civilization. Balance the two, and you’ll understand why Texas is an underrated destination for a beach vacation.
12. East Beach, Galveston
On Galveston Island, East Beach is one of the first beaches that come to mind when talking about Texas. It’s arguably the most beautiful in the local area, not to mention the biggest in the state. Add on the fact that you can bring all the adult beverages you want and, for most, it ticks all the boxes.
It gets busy, but that is all part of the fun. Musicians descend on East Beach, creating a steady stream of live events through the summer. Then there’s also the famed sandcastle competition!
As you walk westward along the beach, you’ll reach Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. Home to an amusement park, 100-foot Ferris wheel and beachfront bars, it’s the place to be once the sun goes down.
11. Sea Rim State Park
Over the years, hurricanes have torn up Sea Rim State Park. After a rejuvenating closure, today the park’s resident beach is ready to show off its natural beauty.
The five mile-long beach, protected by the park, offers a pristine experience devoid of major development. If you’re after a party beach, this won’t fit the bill. Instead, you’ll find a relaxing spot to journey out on a boat, fish along the coast or enjoy some bird watching.
If you can’t get enough of Sea Rim, there’s a campground to stay overnight, allowing you to get up early and enjoy the soft white sand all over again.
10. San Jose Island
Across the water from Port Aransas, travelers will need a boat in order to arrive at San Jose Island. Upon stepping onto the island, the only place you can go is the beach.
From the sand, you can walk down to the water that’s as clear as any in Texas. Plus, beachgoers can enjoy a serene experience devoid of nearby traffic and four-wheel drivers making their way up and down the sand.
The key to enjoying your day on remote and unspoiled San Jose Island is to bring all you need. There are no facilities so you’ll require a loaded cooler and an umbrella for shade.
9. Surfside Beach
One beach that personifies its name is Surfside Beach. The Gulf of Mexico may not be renowned for its surf, but when the wind picks up, the waves follow. During hurricane season, this notion holds even more weight as surfers flock to the beach in search of the perfect wave.
Back on the sand, Surfside Beach is as clean and clear as any in Texas. Seemingly, all that’s stopping the beach from Blue Wave status is its relaxed rules. Rather than a strict approach to conservation, Surfside Beach balances beauty and cleanliness with campfires and beach driving. Jetties also offer a great spot to fish and you can even horse ride along the coast.
8. Boca Chica Beach
For all its beauty, not all Texan beaches are public, let alone open 24 hours. Boca Chica is both. Between the Rio Grande and Laguna Madre, right at the southern tip of Texas, Boca Chica is a sight for sore eyes.
The impeccable beach runs for eight miles, stretching into the distance and touching the horizon. It’s a breathtaking location, a slit of land where the US ends and Mexico begins. All that’s stopping this beach day turning into an international adventure is the mighty Rio Grande.
As it’s part of a wildlife refuge, there are no amenities here and it’s a purely stunning but rustic experience.
7. North Beach, Corpus Christi
Many of the beaches along Texas’ southern coast often come with a drive from the state’s biggest cities. Not North Beach. The beautiful beach is within the limits of Corpus Christi. But its popularity is two-sided. Sure, the proximity helps, but the scenery is what brings travelers back for more.
Across the city’s Harbor Bridge, North Beach has 1.5 miles of powdery white sand with some fun surf if the wind picks up. The shoreline is pristine, making it a lovely place to relax. There’s also on-site cabanas if you need a break from the sun.
Another layer to North Beach is the number of nearby attractions. These include the USS Lexington, the Texas State Aquarium and Corpus Christi Bay Trail.
6. Crystal Beach
Just north of Galveston, along the Bolivar Peninsula, is where you’ll find Crystal Beach. As the name suggests, this beach has plenty of glitz and glamour on the back of its renowned party atmosphere.
From summer to early fall, Crystal Beach is a hot spot of beach driving, tailgating and bonfires, with the revelry often lasting into the early morning. If you want your beach day to come with more than just sand and sea, then put Crystal Beach on your itinerary.
You can drive onto the golden, shell-laden sand for $10. From there, enjoy your beach day before setting up camp. If you’re not much of a campfire chef, trade the beach grill for a local restaurant or bar.
5. Galveston Beach
From a national standpoint, Galveston Beach may be the most famous stretch of sand in the state. An hour south of Houston, the shoreline is a popular weekend getaway for Houstonians, providing the beachfront town with plenty of atmosphere at any time of year.
A highlight of Galveston Beach is the 61st Street Fishing Pier. Sometimes open 24/7, the pier provides the perfect complement to your day on the sand. After plenty of time swimming, reading and relaxing, stretch your legs with a walk. If you enjoy fishing, you can also rent all the necessary gear and bait, along with snacks and refreshments at the pier store.
When you’re done for the day, simply walk back inland a block or two to find great local restaurants to end your day on a high.
4. Rockport Beach
A certified Blue Wave Beach, Rockport Beach, is the picture of health and clear water. Gone are the beachfront bonfires and four-wheel driving across the sand.
Today, it’s a pristine beach where you can swim in the crystal clear gulf, enjoy a friendly game of beach volleyball and cast a fishing reel off the resident pier. Rockport’s calm, shallow water also makes it great for younger families who don’t have to worry about swell or rip tides.
Rockport Beach features an inexpensive car park ($5 per day) with easy access to the shore. Along the way, you’ll pass the palapas that provide beachgoers with some welcome respite from the scorching Texan sun. While nearby are the restrooms, showers and picnic areas.
3. Padre Island National Seashore
Featuring 70 miles of untouched sand and rolling dunes, the Padre Island National Seashore is like no other place in Texas. The seashore spans one of the longest undeveloped barrier islands on earth, making this both an excellent place for a day at the beach, and a haven for nature lovers.
Where other beaches have easy access to midday lunches and golden hour cocktails, Padre Island National Seashore is far more remote. For most visitors, they wouldn’t change a thing. This is the place where we take a step back and let mother nature be the star of the show.
Beyond sunbathing and swimming, you can kayak along the rugged shoreline and snorkel in Laguna Madre. Bird watchers will also be excited to spot as many of the island’s 300 bird species as they can.
2. Port Aransas Beach, Mustang Island
On Mustang Island, Port Aransas Beach knows how to attract a crowd. But such is the length of the shoreline, that the beach provides a fantastic atmosphere rather than a cramped space. Arrive at any time you like as the 18-miles of golden sand on offer is more than enough to go around.
Towards the southern tip of Texas, near Corpus Christi, the beach is fringed by the timeless Port Aransas. The chill town is lined with charming vacation homes that make accessing the coastline a breeze. From there, you’ll be able to sunbathe in peace with plenty of bathrooms and outdoor showers spaced along the waterfront.
After a day on the sand, you’ll be just a short walk from the many restaurants that serve up casual fare and delightful seafood.
1. South Padre Island
Once a beloved Spring Break destination, South Padre Island is now a gorgeous place where families enjoy a sun-soaked vacation. The island is enveloped in white sand, yet the South Padre’s Isla Blanca Beach is the one to visit.
Aside from the small $5 fee to visit Isla Blanca, the beach is great for families, especially younger kids who can enjoy the small waves in the balmy Gulf of Mexico. In the summer months, the beach quickly fills with locals and travelers alike. So be sure to arrive early if you wish to get your hands on the beach chairs and umbrellas available for rent.
Beyond the golden sand is the Isla Blanca Park, home to picnic areas and concession stands.