Here are 10 of the best Texas beaches, plus fun things to do at each.
On a glorious sunny day with crashing Gulf of Mexico waves in front of me, I spread out my beach blanket and giggled at a cranky-faced seagull — we were the only two occupants for miles of beachfront, and it was pretty darn blissful.
Texans occasionally downplay their beaches (they may not always stack up to some of the best beaches in certain other states), but if you know where to go, Texas beaches can be quite lovely and ideal for an afternoon of sunbathing or a weeklong Texas beach getaway.
Here are some of our favorite Texas beaches, along with some ideas for things to do when you’ve had your fill of the beach.
Related: The 14 Best Beaches in Florida — From Romantic Islands to Family-friendly Spots
Matagorda Beach is an under-the-radar Texas coastal destination located halfway between Galveston and Corpus Christi in a tranquil fishing village. You’ll find some beautiful (and rarely visited) beachfront here. There are two spots worth mentioning: The first is the main beach, located just off a public access road past the tiny town of Matagorda, with 23 miles of soft sand and public picnic areas. The more remote option is Jetty Park, where the Colorado River and the Gulf of Mexico meet. You’ll need to take a boat or kayak and then walk along the jetty to find one of the most secluded beaches in Texas — it’s a great place to collect shells. Texas’ Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) just built some new beach bungalows near the main beach, which are great for large families or groups of friends.
Mustang Island State Park
Ask native or longtime Texas residents where they like to go for their beach getaways, and you’ll most often hear about Port Aransas, or “Port A.” Mustang Island State Park is located just south of Port A and offers nearly 4,000 acres of soft sandy beachfront. You can not only camp on select beach sites here — you can also drive on the beach. The Whooping Crane Festival (February) and Texas SandFest (April) are annual events that draw crowds for their unique celebrations. Check out the free Patton Center for Marine Science Education, which recently reopened following the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
San Jose Island
If you’re spending a few days in Port Aransas, plan to take a day trip to San Jose Island, a private island owned by descendants of Texas oil tycoon Sid Richardson. Called St. Jo or St. Joe by locals, it’s another remote Texas beach with no public facilities and low numbers of visitors, even in the summer peak season — it’s truly just about soaking up the natural beauty. Catch the Jetty Boat to St. Joe’s from Fisherman’s Wharf in Port Aransas, and mind the schedule so you can plan your return trip.
If you’re seeking a white-sand beach in Texas, head to Whitecap Beach, a stretch of Padre Island that is free to the public and ADA accessible, with fine powdery sand. People visit this beach for surfing, kiteboarding, and fishing, which you can do from the jetty or the shoreline for redfish, trout, and sharks. A new Wildlife Rescue Center at the Texas State Aquarium in nearby Corpus Christi will open in March 2023. The free center will teach visitors about local wildlife rehabilitation and conservation.
Rockport, Texas is home to Rockport Beach, a Blue Wave-certified beach according to the Clean Beaches Coalition (along with Padre Island National Seashore beaches Malaquite Beach, Little Shell Beach, and Big Shell Beach), which means it follows certain principles for conservation and environmental protection. You’ll find plenty of visitor amenities here, including volleyball courts and playgrounds, along with a beach walking trail. Check out the natural saltwater pool where you can swim at the north end of the beach. Visitors report being able to swim near the occasional dolphin that makes its way here.
Galveston Island State Park
Plenty of visitors flock to Galveston, Texas, every year for a beach getaway near Houston. There’s a bounty of dining and entertainment options located on the island, including the famous Galveston Island Pleasure Pier. Galveston Island State Park reopened in 2022 after a three-year $10 million renovation to the beach, which includes new campsites, a new beach hiking trail, and a boardwalk. This is the only site that permits tent camping in Galveston. For a more remote beach option, go to San Luis Beach at the southern tip of Galveston Island (a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended, as some off-road driving is involved in accessing this beach). Galveston is the historic birthplace of Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the US following the Civil War. It’s also the site of the largest natural disaster in US history: the 1900 storm. You can explore both of these historic events and more throughout the island.
Part of the Padre Island National Seashore, Malaquite Beach on North Padre Island is a wonderful destination for getting away from it all. Protected by sand dunes and located in an undeveloped area free from vehicles on the beach, this pristine destination feels like you’re someplace special. During the summer months (mid-June through August), Malaquite Beach is where you can participate in the magical experience of releasing Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings. These generally begin at the Visitor Center at 6:45 am, but keep an eye on the schedule for the latest news and updates.
South Padre Island Beach
South Padre Island, beloved by generations of spring breakers, is at the southernmost end of the longest barrier island in the world. The beach here offers more developed areas with beachfront dining and hotels, as well as less popular options if you head a bit farther north. At the end of 2022, the historic Port Isabel Lighthouse was lit for the first time in 117 years, after a specialized lens was installed. Visitors can explore the lighthouse daily to see it up close.
“Surfside,” as it’s called locally, is another popular Texas beach destination. Located about an hour south of Houston near the town of Freeport, Texas, Surfside Beach offers tons of beach town amenities in a quieter, more family-friendly setting than some of the more well-known spring break destinations. As the name suggests, surfers flock to this area of the Texas coastline, but it’s also a great spot for dolphin watching. Surfside Beach is one of the places in Texas where you can go crabbing. You’ll need a state fishing license to do so, but it’s an activity you can do year round.
Boca Chica Beach
Located at the Texas/Mexico border town of Brownsville, Texas, Boca Chica Beach is surrounded by large sand dunes, and it’s known for its bounty of shells, along with its close proximity to the SpaceX launch site. It also remains relatively uncrowded compared to other popular Texas beaches. You can rent a kayak and paddle your way through Brownsville’s canals and the Paseo de la Resaca. The four miles of resacas are freshwater channels that were formerly part of the Rio Grande.
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