With over 300 miles along the Gulf Coast, Texas is a destination that offers a wide array of beach opportunities. From Galveston to South Padre Island and everything in between, I’ve asked top Texas travel bloggers to share some of the best Texas beaches along with tips and tricks for enjoying the sunny destinations.
If you happen to plan on driving to the Texas Coast, be sure to check out these Best Road Trip Games for Families.
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Best Texas Beaches
Texas blogger Sara Phillips from SensiblySara.com
Located in Rockport, Texas, this small city is full of fishing piers and birdlife. The beach here is primarily made of crushed shells, so be sure you pack your water shoes! In addition to Rockport Beach, you can visit the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site, Goose Island State Park and the Texas Maritime Museum. The Fulton Mansion is one of my personal favorites. The mansion was built with the most current conveniences of the 1870s, like flush toilets! There is a small fee to visit the mansion and it’s well worth the money.
As far as food is concerned, you’ll want to visit Charlotte Plumber’s and The Boiling Pot. Enjoy indoor or outdoor dining at Charlotte Plumber’s while you enjoy seafood platters, shrimp gumbo and more. Don’t worry, they also have non-seafood options for those of us who don’t enjoy that fare. The Boiling Pot serves heaps of Cajun-spiced, boiled seafood in a down-home environment. Only the kid’s menu offers non-seafood options at this establishment. Though I’ve never stayed there, I’ve heard the Lighthouse Inn is top notch.
Texas blogger Julie from JulieMeasures.com
When you say beach, I think Galveston. The closest beach to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, Galveston is a frequent destination. You have a few different options when it comes to playing on the beach, and it all depends on what type of beach day you are looking for.
The easiest option is to visit one of the public beaches. You simply pay to park along the side of the road, and then walk down a few steps to the beach. Make sure to bring everything you need with you for a day of fun in the sun.
Want a few more amenities for your beach day? Stewart Beach is a paid beach but it offers restrooms, showers, chair and umbrella rentals, restaurants, and more. Be advised that both the public beaches and Stewart Beach can quickly become crowded.
Looking for a more secluded spot? Head over to Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula. This is your beach if you want some peace and quiet with your waves. To visit Crystal Beach you will need to purchase an entrance sticker for your car. Don’t forget the most fun way to get to Crystal Beach is to take the free ferry!
Texas blogger Traci Shannon from AStarInMyOwnUniverse.com
Along Texas’ 367 miles of coastline sits the quiet town on Surfside. Only 37 miles Southwest of the better known Galveston Island, it is distinctly different as a vacation location. It is a one- stoplight destination offering a small-town feel to its beach charm. The entire town can be driven within ten minutes making it immensely manageable for families.
In these unique travel times, Surfside may just be the perfect spot. Drive to a spot on the beach, set up a tent, and enjoy a picnic and your day at the beach. The city is encouraging social distancing and best practices making this a good day-trip destination for the hesitant traveler. Two blocks from the main entrance to the beach, we found the Surfside Mart which offered very nice takeout offerings perfect for beach eatings.
There are about 8 restaurants in town – 5 of which at the main light drag. When we visited not all were open, but those that were open all offered takeout. A little further down are landmarks Kitty’s Purple Cow and Jetty Shack. So whether you want to pack your own or let others do the cooking, options abound even in this small town.
For those looking to make a true escape out of it, there are a few small inns including Ocean Village and The Breeze. Most vacation housing in Surfside, however, is provided by residential rentals. Check out booking.com or Air BnB for those options. My family found Surfside a lovely spot to relax and reconnect – a great place for skimming waves by days and board games by night which was exactly what we needed.
Texas blogger – Jill Robbins from RippedJeansandBifocals
As a San Antonio area family, Port Aransas is our go-to place for a beach fix. Port A, as it is commonly known is located about 175 miles from San Antonio, which means we can be looking at the ocean in about two-and-a-half hours, depending on traffic.
What I love most about Port A is the chill, family-friendly vibe. You can do a lot at Port A or do a lot of nothing. My favorite part about this stretch of Texas coastline is that even when the beaches are busy, they don’t feel crowded..
You’ll find the typical port city activities here, such as boating and fishing. If you like wildlife and nature, take a dolphin watching cruise or go birding in Mustang Island State Park, where you’ll also find a junior ranger program. You’ll find lots of shopping, dining, and (I’m told) nightlife in downtown Port A. I’m not much of a nightlife kind of girl but we do love the restaurants. Our favorite is Fins Grill and Ice House followed by Tortuga’s Saltwater Grill. Both are casual and family-friendly.
Our favorite thing to do is to rent a beachfront condo – there are a ton to choose from – and rent a golf cart to drive down the beach road and to town for ice cream. Don’t miss snapping a picture in the shark’s mouth at Bo Jon’s surf shop. If you don’t get this picture, were you really even there?
Taking a sandcastle building class with The Sandcastle Guy is the next Port A fun thing on our bucket list. However much or little you choose to do in Port Aransas, you’re sure to have a fun and relaxing time.
Corpus Christi Beaches
Texas blogger Marina from MommySnippets.com
Home to over 8 beaches, Corpus Christi proudly boasts of miles of sun, sand, and fun. With scenic and serene beaches on the bayside and the gulf side to choose from, there’s no way you can leave this South Texan city wishing for more.
Popular must-visit recommendations include McGee beach, Padre Island National Seashore, Whitecap, and the Mustang Island State Park beach.
Besides sandcastle building, swimming, and beach sports, visitors can enjoy fishing off the piers, surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding. Just make sure to do a little research before picking the beach you plan to visit, especially if your family wants to do something specific. Let say the kids want to collect seashells. Malaquite beach and Big Shell beach would be on top of your list of shores to hit up. And when visiting the area, don’t forget to check to see if the Padre Island National Seashore has a scheduled Kemps Ridley hatchling release. This is an experience you will not want to miss!
Padre Island National Seashore
Texas blogger Brenda Cisneros from Mejorandmihogar.com
If you are ready to relax with your family, Padre Island National Seashore is a great option. It is located in North Padre Island, just east of Corpus Christi. There is a $10 fee per vehicle to enter the island. You can enjoy many activities like sunbathing, surfing, fishing, picnic, bird watching, and more. Camping is allowed but you need a camping permit.
If you’re lucky, you can participate in the public turtle hatchling releases during early summer mornings in front of the Visitor Center at Padre Island National Seashore. This is a place to enjoy nature, you won’t find restaurants and nightlife here. Be ready to bring food and drinks because the closest restaurants are on the Island.
We spent a day on Malaquite Beach and had a great time with the kids. Besides an information desk, you can find a small museum, gift shop, ice, vending machines, restrooms, and showers in Malaquite Visitor Center. They offer beach wheelchairs at no charge, and there is a handicap deck for looking out over the dunes and sea.
South Padre Island
Texas blogger Debra Muccio from FindingDebra.com (that’s me)!
Over the years, I’ve spent many a day enjoying Texas beaches, and one of my favorites is South Padre Island. With 34 miles of beautiful sandy beaches, South Padre Island offers families an incredible beach destination not far from the Mexico border. No passport needed!
While South Padre Island is widely known for it’s Spring Break destination among college students, if you are looking for a family getaway, I suggest traveling at all times except Spring Break. I’ve visited both in summer and autumn many times and enjoyed the trips immensely, one of which was a sponsored press trip.
Before you cross over to South Padre Island, get out and see the Port Isabel Lighthouse which is located right before you cross the bridge over to SPI. This lighthouse is one of Texas Historical Commission State Historic Sites and a highlight for any kid who has never climbed lighthouse steps. A nominal fee is charged for admission.
In addition to the obvious beach time in SPI, be sure to check out Sea Turtle, Inc., where you can learn about conservation efforts, view turtle feedings and even meet Allison, a turtle with a prosthetic fin in their brand new facility. Animal lovers will also want to stop at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.
Kids of all ages will love the island’s sandcastle lessons or one the many boat cruises – from fireworks cruises and pirate ship cruises to dolphin watching cruises or even deep-sea fishing options. No trip to South Padre Island would be complete for the kids without a stop at Beach Park at Isla Blanca (formerly Schlitterbahn) water park.
Where should you eat? Be sure to check out my post about South Padre Restaurants.
Be sure to check out my post about our stay at Schlitterbahn South Padre Island Beach Resort, which as of 2020 is now called the Beach Resort Hotel.
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