Texas has already had its fair share of 100-degree days this summer. Where better to while away the hot, hot summer days than at one of the Lone Star State’s many beaches? The only problem: There are so many to choose from. So how do you decide which one to visit? Here’s a guide to Texas’ most popular beaches and what you can find at each one. (Note: Several of these towns were affected by Hurricane Harvey last year but are in the process of rebuilding and open to visitors.)
The Bolivar Peninsula is a 27-mile stretch along the Gulf Coast containing communities like Crystal Beach, Gilchrist, High Island and Port Bolivar. There are plenty of things to do, including beach and bay fishing, bird watching, shopping and of course, plenty of seafood dining. There’s also a mini golf course and a water slide for kids of all ages (including the grown-up kind). The area suffered significant damage from Hurricane Ike in 2008, but it’s back and as relaxing as ever.
One of the biggest beach cities in Texas, Corpus Christi has plenty to offer. Play in the bay (and get Robert Earl Keen stuck in your head) or on the beach, and visit sights like the Texas State Aquarium and the U.S.S. Lexington. Other attractions worth visiting include the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, Hurricane Alley Water Park and Schlitterbahn.
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Another large city along the Gulf Coast, Galveston is best known for Moody Gardens, a trio of glass pyramids that house aquarium and rainforest exhibits, rides and other learning experiences. Galveston is also home to Pleasure Pier, a boardwalk with rides and carnival games, as well as Schlitterbahn. There are plenty of beaches to visit, too -- Galveston Island State Park is full of fishing spots, hiking trails and kayaking opportunities, while the east end of the island is home to Stewart Beach and East Beach. There’s also The Strand, a historic district full of shops and restaurants.
Located near Houston and Galveston, Kemah is a perfect trip if you love shopping, eating and family fun all in one. The city is home to the Kemah Boardwalk, which is open daily and is home to roller coasters, carousels, an exhibit to touch and feed stingrays and check out rainforest animals like tarantulas, snakes and piranhas, and plenty of shops and restaurants.
Matagorda Bay and Beach
For a less crowded beach, check out the 22 miles of coastline along Matagorda Beach. Matagorda offers beach camping, boating, birding, fishing, hunting, kayaking, surfing and more. You can spot at more than 300 species of birds in the area at the Birding Nature Center of Matagorda County and a bird-watching area, and there are plenty of fish to catch in the bay.
One of Texas’ most popular beach destinations, this small community was one of the hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey last year. But it’s bouncing back quickly, and despite damage that remains throughout the town, the beaches are pristine, the restaurants are open and the water is fine. Visitors can ride the ferry, bird-watch, go fishing and even surf, when the water’s right. There are also plenty of great places to eat and drink in the area.
Port Aransas is also part of Mustang Island, an 18-mile barrier island which is home to a state park, offering picnicking, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, kayaking, bird watching, camping and more.
In addition to the beach, Port Arthur is chock-full of historical destinations, outdoor activities and nightlife. The town is home to the Museum of the Gulf Coast, which highlights local culture, and Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site, which is located on a Civil War battlefield. There are also several religious attractions in Port Arthur, including the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine and the Buu Mon Buddhist Temple.
One of the top cities to visit along the coast, Rockport is open for business and rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey (here’s a list of all the businesses currently open in town). There’s plenty of shopping, dining and places to stay, as well as art galleries, the Texas Maritime Museum, and hunting and fishing opportunities.
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South Padre Island
It’s not just for spring breakers, y’all. South Padre Island is one of the most popular beach destinations in the country, with beautiful beaches and plenty of nightlife. You can go windsurfing, parasailing, kiteboarding and fishing, and you can see wildlife at the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge, the largest of its kind in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
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Located outside of Galveston, near Freeport, Surfside is a clean beach in a small town worth visiting. It’s best for you if you’d like a relaxing getaway -- there aren’t many bars and restaurants in town, so your trip is sure to be quiet. That makes it perfect for fishing, bird watching and kayaking.
Unsung heroes: Smaller Texas beaches off the beaten path
If these more popular Texas beaches aren’t your bag, try some of these:
- Alamo Beach (near Port Lavaca)
- Boca Chica (outside of Brownsville)
- Freeport (between Galveston and Matagorda)
- Lighthouse Beach in Port Lavaca
- Magnolia Beach (between Port O’Connor and Port Lavaca)
- Malaquite Beach (along the Padre Island National Seashore)
- Port O’Connor (between Galveston and Corpus Christi)
- San Jose Island (between Matagorda Island and Port Aransas)
- Sargent (southeast of Bay City)
- Sea Rim State Park (southwest of Port Arthur)
- Seabrook (south of Baytown, northeast of League City)