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The 10 Best Beaches In Texas To Visit

There's 350 miles of Texas shoreline just waiting to be explored.

Texas is praised for scenic Hill Country towns like Boerne and Fredericksburg and lively cities like Austin, Houston, and Fort Worth, but the beaches are vacation-worthy, too. You'll find many options on the 350 miles of Texas shoreline snaking along the Gulf of Mexico and dotted with under-the-radar beach destinations (under the radar for anyone who doesn't hail from the Lone Star State, that is).

Venture to Texas's under-appreciated coastal territory and you'll find laid-back, family-friendly getaways (like Port Aransas and Galveston), as well as beautiful wildlife and state parks on barrier islands (like Mustang Island and South Padre Island). Throw in endless outdoor activities, and you're in for a mellow vacation. So, yes, Texas really does have beaches. Great ones.

Choose from among these favorite coastal destinations and their impressive stretches of sand. Here's where to find the best beaches in Texas.

Port Aransas Beach

You'll find this beloved family beach town on Mustang Island, known affectionately as "Port A." Port Aransas and its main beach have made a remarkable recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Its six miles of broad, flat sands invite hours-long lounging and elaborate sandcastles, since the grains are rich in clay and silt, making the sand easy to pack. (Time your visit to the annual three-day SandFest to witness competitive castle-building.) The water is enticing, too: It hovers around 84 degrees in the summer, making this island an ideal swimming destination.

State Highway 361, Markers 0-62, Port Aransas, TX 78373, portaransas.org

Padre Island National Seashore

Located on Padre Island, the barrier between the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre Bay, this national park contains the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. Its 66 miles of pristine coastline shelter the rare Kemp's ridley sea turtle and more than 380 bird species, while offering its human visitors ample opportunities for walking, swimming, and birdwatching. Head to Malaquite Beach for a visitor center, pavilion, and wheelchair access to the shore; if you're an early riser, you may be able to witness a sea turtle hatchling release there. Beachcombers should prioritize Little Shell and Big Shell beaches, aptly named for their bounty, while adventurous types will love windsurfing or kayaking on Laguna Madre, one of the planet's saltiest bodies of water.

End of Park Road 22, Corpus Christi, TX, 78480, nps.gov/pais

Galveston Island State Park

At the west end of Galveston Island , just an hour from Houston, this quiet treasure protects 2,000 acres of upper Gulf Coast barrier island ecosystem, including beautiful beaches, lagoons, bay, and salt marshes. The beachside portion of the park was closed for extensive renovations (due to damage from Hurricane Ike), but reopened in 2022. Currently, the bayside area is open and offers all the usual enticements: fishing, picnicking, camping, swimming, hiking, and paddling. Keep an eye out for armadillos, marsh rabbits, and even raccoons.

14901 FM 3005, Galveston, TX 77554, tpwd.texas.gov

Rockport Beach

With a passion for clean waters and sands, this Aransas Bay beach in the historic city of Rockport was the state's first Blue Wave Beach, an environmental certification granted by the Clean Beaches Coalition. With no vehicles, dogs, beach bonfires, fireworks, or overnight camping allowed, this spot is meant for simple pleasures like playing in the surf and fishing from its pier. The line of thatch-roof palapas lends a Caribbean vibe you don't often see on the Texas coast. Book a rental in Rockport to stay just steps from the sand.

210 Seabreeze Dr, Rockport, TX 78382, rockportbeach-texas.com

Mustang Island State Park

You'll find this nearly 4,000-acre gem toward the southern end of the 18-mile-long Mustang Island, easily accessible from nearby beach towns. With stunning sand dunes, some of the best fishing on the Texas coast, and more than 400 species of birds, this place is ideal for a quiet escape. Set up camp at one of the 50 primitive sites right on the beach and enjoy a couple of days of beachcombing, swimming, and paddling. (There are campsites with water and electricity about a third of a mile from the beach.) Also located on Mustang Island, Port Aransas is the closest town, but Corpus Christi is doable, too, with just a short drive from the nearby bay.

9394 State Highway 361, Corpus Christi, TX 78418, tpwd.texas.gov

Isla Blanca Park, South Padre Island

Courtesy South Padre Island CVB

South Padre Island swarms with Spring Breakers during peak season, but don't let that deter you: This island offers 34 miles of pale, soft sand, with hidden riches from end to end, making it a suitable destination for all ages. Strong and steady winds draw kite surfers, while pet-friendly beaches attract those with four-legged family members. At the southern end of the slender barrier island lies Isla Blanca Park, offering more than a mile of pristine sand along the Gulf. Head there for surfing, fishing, and dolphin-watching; for a quieter day on the Gulf, opt for the island's north end.

Isla Blanca Park, 33174 State Park Road 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597, cameroncountytx.gov

Surfside Beach

Southwest of Galveston, this little town and accompanying beach is an under-the-radar treasure with clean waters and four miles of beaches. If you venture north of Welk Street, you can drive your vehicle onto the beach (just make sure to grab a pass first), and during certain times of the year, horses are allowed on the sand, too. Other activities in Surfside Beach include surfing, fishing, or crabbing; head to the crabbing pier across from Stahlman Park for your best shot at a fresh catch.

Stahlman Park, 2211 Bluewater Highway, Surfside Beach, TX 77541, surfsidetx.org

Seawall Urban Park, Galveston Island

It's hard to argue with these 10 miles of Gulf-facing sands on historic Galveston Island. Named for the seawall that runs along the low-lying shoreline, this park has every kind of beach experience, from quiet stretches to beachfront restaurants, bars, and resorts to the colorful Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park. Leashed pets are welcome, so bring your pup along to explore one of the country's longest continuous sidewalks.

801 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston, TX, 77550, galvestonparkboard.org

Bolivar Peninsula

With 27 miles of shoreline, this slender peninsula between Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico is home to broad, tawny sands that are all about beachcombing and birding (the whole peninsula is part of the Great Texas Birding Trail). Add to that beach camping, bonfires, driving on the sand, and the freedom to shoot beachfront fireworks on the Fourth, and it's no wonder Texans flock to Bolivar. There's easy shore access through neighborhoods (including the lively community of Crystal Beach), as well as a free ferry that runs all day, all year long, between the peninsula's westernmost end and Galveston.

Beach access via most crossroads off Highway 87, Port Bolivar, TX, bolivarpeninsulatexas.com

Boca Chica Beach

Nestled in the embrace of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge on the southernmost stretch of the Texas coastline, this pristine beach spans the spot where the Rio Grande River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. These miles of quiet shores are one of the few nesting spots for the Kemp's ridley sea turtle , the world's most endangered variety, and they also provide rich terrain for a broad variety of birds. There's excellent beachcombing and surf fishing, too. A bit more remote, this beach is a popular day trip from nearby South Padre Island.

Access at end of Boca Chica Boulevard (Highway 4), Cameron County, TX 78521, fws.gov

The 12 Best Beaches in Texas

texas beaches to visit

Texas has over 350 miles of beaches and fun coastal communities to explore. While you won’t find sugar-white sand and clear turquoise water here, appreciate these Gulf Coast beaches on their own, and don’t try to compare them to Florida or the Caribbean. The brownish-blue water is impacted by silt from the Mississippi River but is safe for swimming. The best silver lining: the darker sand that comes from higher clay content makes impressive sand castles.

Some of these Texas beaches are A+ spots for a family beach day, while others cater to water sports enthusiasts or wildlife and nature lovers. With nearly year-round mild weather, the beaches of the Lone Star State are popular 365 days a year, although spring break (March-April) and summers will see the heaviest crowds.

Beaches near larger cities like South Padre Island or Corpus Christi will have more robust services and seasonal beach concessions. Visitors to smaller beach communities will need to bring everything they’ll need for a successful beach day, from chairs and umbrellas to food and beverages.

South Padre Island

South Padre Island offers great fishing and a wide variety of in town and beach adjacent activities, such as restaurants, nightlife, and fun parks offering horseback riding, zip lines, miniature golf, and more.

South Padre island has 25 public beach access points and the posted rules pertaining to beach parking and driving will vary. Some of SPI’s beaches are owned by the city while others are owned by the county. Driving/parking is not permitted on city beaches.

Pro Tip : Avoid March and April if seeking a family-friendly beach vacation or a quieter atmosphere. South Padre Island’s beaches top the list of popular beaches among college spring breakers.

Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore is a national park that separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre, one of the world’s few hypersaline lagoons. This park protects 66 miles of coastline, dunes, and tidal flats and is best-known for releasing Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle hatchlings, typically from mid-June through August.

Check out the visitor’s center for information on ranger-led programs or to get a map to explore the Grasslands Nature Trail. Beach entrance permits are $10 per vehicle and are valid for up to seven days.

Pro Tip: If you’re set on witnessing a hatchling release, call the park’s Hatchling Hotline (361-949-7163) or follow their Facebook page for the most current info on scheduled public releases.

Corpus Christi

The beaches of Corpus Christi are free to the public, although parking fees apply . Grab a permit at the Corpus Christi Visitor’s Center and most area grocery and convenience stores. The city of Corpus Christi offers many dining, lodging, and non-beach entertainment options, making it an excellent base for visitors wanting to explore different beaches and activities.

Popular public beaches include Padre Island Seawall Beach, North Packery Beach, South Packery Channel Beach, Whitecap Beach, and North Beach.

Pro Tip: Whitecap Beach is one of the quieter Corpus Christi area beaches. The dunes that protect this beach from strong winds make it an ideal spot for picnicking, shelling, and sand play. North Beach, home to the area’s most prominent attractions, the USS Lexington, and the Texas State Aquarium, is the best beach for anyone who craves being in the center of the action.

Port Aransas

Port Aransas , Port A for short, is a beachside community perennially popular with families. The warm, shallow gulf waters and the friendly, well-equipped beach town make this a prime spring break and summer beach spot. Port A is also known as the “fishing capital of Texas,” with over 20 fishing tournaments yearly. Take a deep-sea fishing charter or fish along the Horace Caldwell Fishing Pier.

Highway 361 has a plethora of resorts and condo communities with accessible, direct beach access for registered guests. Public beaches are free to enter, but parking permits are required in most areas, although certain sections of beach have free parking—watch for signs.

Pro Tip : The Port Aransas Museum and Farley Boat Works are two free activities that teach visitors about the area’s history.

San José Island

Accessible only by ferry, peaceful San José Island near Port Aransas is the place to go for shell enthusiasts and beachcombers. Ferry service is available from Fisherman’s Wharf in Port Aransas. There are no services on the island, so bring what you’ll need with you.

Pro Tip: Ferry service may be limited, so plan ahead.

Mustang Island State Park

Mustang Island State Park has 5 miles of beaches where visitors can enjoy swimming and other beach activities. The park also offers a paddling trail for kayak and stand-up paddleboard enthusiasts. Daily entrance for adults is $5. Kids under 12 are free. Reservations are suggested but not mandatory for Texas State Parks. Campsites are also available.

Pro Tip : Mustang Island State Park is home to over 400 species of birds. Check out one of the wildlife-focused ranger-led programs.

Galveston Island

In addition to 32 miles of gulf shoreline, Galveston Island offers year-round options for fun, with robust shopping, dining, and other attractions. Popular Galveston beaches include family-friendly Stewart Beach, lively East Beach, with a boardwalk, entertainment pavilion and playground, and Galveston Island State Park . West Beach and Galveston Public Beach are free and have limited services. Visitors to the free beaches will have to pay to park along the seawall. Entry to East Beach and Stewart Beach is $12-$15 per car. The Galveston Island State Park entrance fee is $5 per person; kids under 12 are free.

Pro Tip : Nearby Moody Gardens offers an aquarium pyramid, a rainforest pyramid, paddlewheel boat rides, and more.

Crystal Beach

Located on the Bolivar Peninsula, Crystal Beach is a favorite swimming spot for families. Birding and wildlife watching is another favorite activity. Driving and parking on the beach are permitted with a $10 permit, valid all season.

Pro Tip: Head south to the end of the peninsula to see the Point Bolivar Lighthouse. Although visitors cannot go inside the lighthouse, it makes for an Instagram-worthy photo backdrop.

Surfside Beach

Surfside Beach offers something for just about any beach lover. Enjoy swimming, boogie boarding, and exploring the beach souvenir shops and restaurants. Fishing enthusiasts can check out an offshore charter or fish from the jetties that extend nearly a mile into the Texas Gulf Coast. As the name suggests, this beach’s deep waters make it an ideal spot for surfing and windsurfing.

Beachgoers seeking more solitude can check out the adjacent beaches in Brazoria County, Follet’s Beach, Quintana Beach, and Bryan’s Beach, which are less-populated, more natural beaches.

Pro Tip : With over 600 species of shells, Surfside Beach is one of Texas’ hot spots for shell collecting. Go early in the morning or when the tide is low for the best pickings.

Rockport Beach

Rockport Beach has the distinction of being Texas’ sole certified Blue Wave Beach , which means an additional emphasis on cleanliness and environmental responsibility and more stringent rules, such as no pets, no overnight camping, no open flames or fireworks, and no driving on the beach. The clean and quiet atmosphere, paired with the shallow and calm water, makes this a sought-after beach for local families. There’s a $10 per vehicle daily fee to enter Rockport Beach.

Pro Tip: Nearby Goose Island State Park offers camping, fishing, hiking, and a look at a 1,000-year-old Live Oak known as “The Big Tree.”

Boca Chica Beach

Boca Chica Beach is a long and narrow strip of sand running through arid Texas lands along the Gulf shore for about eight miles from the Lower Laguna Madre to the Rio Grande delta. This southernmost Texas beach is the perfect escape from civilization but make sure to bring everything you’ll need for the day. This remote beach has no services or concessions. Entrance is free.

Pro Tip: Boca Chica Beach is about 30 miles from the SpaceX Texas launch site, and the Starship building can be seen from the beach.

Matagorda Beach

Matagorda Beach is a 58-mile stretch of beach (23 miles are accessible to cars, with the remaining portion accessible by watercraft). This beach is popular with families and adventure seekers. Swimming, fishing, kayaking and paddleboarding, and exploring nearby trails are in-demand activities at this well-appointed beach. Things to be aware of include the potential for rip currents—especially near the jetties—and the ultrasoft sand. You should not drive on the beach if you don’t have a 4X4 vehicle.

Visitors need a $10 annual permit to drive and park on the beach. Passes are available at most area grocery and convenience stores.

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Lone Star Travel Guide

17 of the Prettiest + Best Beaches in Texas (By a Texan!)

From Beaumont to Galveston to Corpus Christi and everywhere in between, the Gulf Coast is home to lots of Texas beaches that are perfect for soaking up the saltwater air and the sound of crashing waves. 

While, sure, any Texan will be quick to tell you that Texas beaches can’t generally outcompete places like the Caribbean, a quick road trip to the Texas Gulf Coast is often exactly what family vacation calls for!

Whether you’re looking for a state park, a quiet neighborhood beach, or the national seashore that is undoubtedly one of the prettiest beaches in Texas, the Lone Star State offers plenty of opportunities to stick your toes in the sand.

If you’re looking for a new beach to enjoy, here’s where to find the best beaches in Texas!

Small sandcastle on the Port Aransas beach with children playing in the background

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Rockport Beach

Rockport Beach is located in Rockport, Texas, and draws people from miles around.

This quaint little beach has plenty of areas for you and your family to sit back and relax under one of many cabana umbrellas.

Rockport Beach is Texas’ first and only Blue Wave Beach, meaning it is incredibly clean and free of litter.

Rockport Beach also has fishing piers, playgrounds, and even an area to protect migratory birds, giving you and your family plenty of options while you are visiting.

Rockport Beach costs $10 for a parking day pass, or $40 for an annual pass, which allows you to come and go as you please.

It’s free to enter on foot or by bike.

Rockport Beach is a smaller beach, so planning time to get your space and set up for the day is important.

While you are visiting, make sure to plan some time to explore historic downtown Rockport where you can shop, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy the saltwater breeze off of the ocean.

Rockport beach with multiple straw cabanas visible with the water in the background. visiting rockport beach is one of the most fun things to do in rockport tx

Padre Island National Seashore

Arguably the prettiest beach in Texas, the Padre Island National Seashore is known for being the longest undeveloped stretch of coastline on a barrier island on the planet.

When visiting the Padre Island National Seashore, you can see seagulls and pelicans flying overhead and watch the tide rise and fall as you dig your feet further into the sand.

Another reason people travel to Padre Island National Seashore is to catch a glimpse at tiny Kemp Ridley Sea Turtles hatching and making their way to the ocean.

Every year, hundreds of these tiny turtles find their way into the ocean with the protection of volunteers who keep predators away and ensure they have a safe path.

Padre Island National Seashore protects miles and miles of land that includes a variety of birds, tidal pools, and more.

When you visit this beach, you are sure to find some ocean wildlife in its natural habitat all the while making some incredible memories with your friends and family.

For non-Texans coming down to visit, keep in mind that the Padre Island National Seashore is located on the less-developed North Padre Island, not popular South Padre Island (which also has beautiful Texas beaches to visit–more on that in a bit).

Purple flowers blooming on sand dunes on padre island, one of the prettiest islands in texas

North Beach, Corpus Christi

North Beach is one of the best beaches in Corpus Christi .

It is a great TX beach to visit because of its close proximity to many of Corpus Christi’s main attractions.

Within walking distance of North Beach, you’ll find many of the best things to see in Corpus Christi , including the Texas State Aquarium and the (potentially haunted) USS Lexington.

North Beach is a vehicle-free beach, ensuring that you have plenty of areas to walk along the beach watching for dolphins in the distance or searching for seashells.

North Beach also has multiple bathrooms and shower facilities, allowing you to wash all of the sand off before you load your family back in the car.

bright orange sunset over the beach waves

McGee Beach, Corpus Christi

McGee Beach is a laid-back and calm beach that is one of the best beaches in Texas for families!

Located in Corpus Christi, this Texas beach is close to restaurants as well as plenty of free parking spots for your family to take advantage of.

McGee Beach tends to have calmer waves than most beaches, making it a perfect spot for small kids to enjoy the beach without having to fight large and often intense waves.

McGee Beach has soft white sand that is perfect to sink your feet into and soak in the sounds of the waves all around you.

This is one of the best beaches in Texas that is free to the public.

It’s a very popular destination for Texas families in the summer, so make sure to arrive early to grab your spot in the sand.

beach in corpus christi texas with a small white gazebo along the promenade

Mustang Island State Park

Mustang Island State Park is located in Port Aransas, Texas , and sits right on miles of coastal shoreline.

This is one of the best Texas beaches to visit if you are planning to camp or RV, allowing you electric and water hookups with the beach being only steps away.

In order to enter Mustang Island State Park, you must pay a daily rate or camping rate that can be paid in person or online.

Camping on the beach allows you to enjoy all day at the beach and then soak up the rest of the night around a campfire with all of your friends and family.

Underside of a wooden dock on Mustang Island Texas, one of the best texas islands

San Jose Island

Looking for a beautiful beach to visit on one of the coolest islands in Texas ?

San Jose Island is a private little oasis just off of the coast of Port Aransas.

This small island can be visited by jumping on a ferry at Fisherman’s Wharf and taking the short ride over to this perfect getaway destination.

Before you visit San Jose Island, make sure to pack everything you need with you as there are no stores or restaurants on the island.

San Jose Island is the Texas island beach to visit when you want to get away from it all!

Find a perfect spot to have a picnic and soak in the rest of the day while enjoying this small Texas paradise.

Flock of seagulls on the beach on San Jose Island, one of the prettiest islands off of texas

McFaddin Beach, Port Arthur

McFaddin Beach is located along the Gulf Coast near Port Arthur and is made up of miles of coastline.

This Texas beach is rich in history and many people have found some incredible artifacts washed ashore on this exact beach.

When you visit McFaddin Beach, you will find the sand is denser than most beaches in Texas, which allows you to walk easily and drive along the beach as well.

This beach is not as well-known as many along the Texas Gulf Coast, which allows you to often have most of the beach to yourself when you visit.

Sunrise over the beach, one of the best things to do in Port Aransas TX

Lighthouse Beach

Lighthouse Beach, located in Port Lavaca, is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and one of the best beaches near Houston .

As you pull into Lighthouse Beach, you are greeted by plenty of places to park your RV as well as a large boardwalk that allows you to explore the marsh all around.

Lighthouse Beach is one of the smaller Texas Gulf Coast beaches to visit, but still offers plenty for the whole family to enjoy.

Take some time to enjoy the playground with your kids, or sit back and relax under the multiple cabana umbrellas located throughout the beach.

boardwalk over the marsh near lighthouse beach texas

Porretto Beach, Galveston

A lot of vintage movies and photography from the have this imagery of beaches with colorful umbrellas and pristine sandy shores–and that’s exactly what you’ll find at Porretto Beach in Galveston.

There are races and other events on-site and also the shaded areas can be rented for a fee.

This beach is private so there are fees associated with certain amenities to provide upkeep for the area.

This beach is very close to Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier which has food, rides, and games.

It is definitely an all-around top hit in terms of location and access and one of the prettiest Texas beaches to visit!

beach chairs with corresponding colorful umbrellas set up on the sand at one of the beaches in galveston texas

Magnolia Beach, Port Lavaca

Magnolia Beach is a well-known boondocking spot that RVers come from miles around to take advantage of.

Magnolia Beach is first come first serve for RVs and campers to set up, so make sure to get there early to grab a spot!

Besides being used as a boondocking spot for RVers, Magnolia Beach also has multiple jetties and areas to go fishing or just spend the day swimming in the saltwater all around.

You can explore the beach throughout the day, and even boondocking is free for those that want to take advantage of it.

The water here tends to be very calm, making Magnolia Beach a fun Texas beach to visit with small kids!

calm water and grass on hardpacked sand at one of the cleanest beaches in texas

Bryan Beach, Freeport

Located at the mouth of the Brazos River, Bryan Beach is a great beach to hang out with friends and family for the day.

Access fees will vary, so calling beforehand will make sure you are well prepared.

Make sure you grab everything you need for Bryan Beach before you travel over the intercoastal so you will not have to drive in and out of town all day.

With 3 miles of gorgeous, undeveloped beach to enjoy, there is plenty to do at Bryan Beach from fishing to swimming, sunbathing, and more!

bryan beach in freeport, one of the best beaches in texas to visit

Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville

Often considered one of the prettiest beaches in Texas, Boca Chica Beach is a gem that is located near Brownsville, Texas.

Boca Chica is a perfect spot to spend the day birdwatching, surfing, and soaking up the sun.

Boca Chica is also open for you and your family to be able to camp on, allowing you to soak in the sand and the waves all the while having your campsite nearby.

While you are there, you can even look out and see the lighthouse on the Mexican border.

bright orange sunset over boca chica beach, one of the best texas beaches to visit

Isla Blanca Beach, South Padre Island

Isla Blanca Beach is any beachgoer’s dream with the immense amount of amenities that it offers.

With over 600 RV sites, you can enjoy Isla Blanca Beach by bringing your trailer or camper with you.

There are also plenty of opportunities to take part in multiple one-of-a-kind adventures from Isla Blanca Beach such as offshore fishing, snorkeling, and even parasailing.

Isla Blanca Beach has multiple ways to rent cabanas and offers multiple restaurants to enjoy during your trip.

Your trip to Isla Blanca Beach is sure to be a hit and keep you coming back year after year!

two children building a sandcastle on a sandy beach

Jamaica Beach

As one of the best beaches in Galveston, Texas , Jamaica Beach is a great destination for those that want to escape the city, but not travel too far.

Galveston is a short drive from Houston and offers a beach escape for all those in the city.

Jamaica Beach is a great beach that offers you plenty of room to set up for a perfect day at the beach.

After your day at the beach, enjoy many Galveston restaurants such as The Spot to make your coastal Texas adventure complete.

sand dunes with some shrubbery on a beach in texas

Sea Rim State Park Beach

Tucked into the quiet part of the Gulf Coast close to the Texas/Louisiana border you’ll find Sea Rim State Park, which is the perfect combination of marsh and beach.

If you’re a birdwatcher, Sea Rim State Park is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Texas for you.

When you travel to Sea Rim State Park you can spend your day watching as shorebirds come and go in the marsh area of the park.

You can then load up your family and drive directly on the beach to soak up the sights and sounds of one of the prettiest beaches in Texas to visit.

After you drive on the beach, you can set up your spot to soak in the saltwater air and the most perfect sand to construct sandcastles with.

sand piper on texas beach with shells sea rim state park

South Padre Island Beach

Featuring a whopping 34 miles of white sand beaches, Texas’ only tropical island is undoubtedly one of the prettiest and cleanest beaches in Texas to visit.

While the beaches turn into a raucous party scene during Spring Break , the rest of the year sees a much more relaxed side to the island.

For most of the year, South Padre Island is perfect for families looking for relatively calm waters and excellent places to build sandcastles and memories.

SPI’s beaches are free to access (with a couple of limited exceptions like Isla Blanca Beach), with plenty of access points to choose from.

This is also one of the only beaches in Texas where you can reliably ride horses on the sand!

seagulls on a beach on south padre as seen during a long weekend in south padre itinerary

Crystal Beach

Quiet and beautiful Crystal Beach is located on a peninsula, allowing you a perfect little escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Crystal Beach offers you glistening waters and plenty of space for you and your family to enjoy and is one of the best beaches in Texas for families.

You can enjoy the ferry ride from Crystal Beach to Galveston where you are likely to see dolphins and some truly incredible views.

2 photos of texas beaches: galveston from above and rockport from the shore. black and pink text on a white background reads "15 best beaches in texas"

10 thoughts on “17 of the Prettiest + Best Beaches in Texas (By a Texan!)”

There are no fees or permits required for Bryan Beach and we also allow overnight camping – come play and stay for FREE!

We got Rockport beach 4x a year. We were there in March 2021and beach was $10 a day or $40 for an annual pass.

Thank you, Debra! Updated to reflect the change.

Where is Isla Blanca Beach.

It’s on South Padre!

Is the 10 dollars or 40 dollars per person or is it per family?

It’s a parking fee, so per car. 🙂

Crystal Beach is the best kept secret in Texas. After driving on the beach to set your EZ up & enjoy the day on the beach you can go to Stingaree restaurant & Marina on the bay side to enjoy some of the best seafood in the state. Also Steve’s Landing for good food & atmosphere. Ship’s Wheel for live music & dancing on the Peninsula.

Surfside Beach (and extended Brazoria County Beach) allows vehicle access, overnight camping, and open fires – including fireworks during legal time-frames. They just require an annual pass that can be purchased at multiple places in town (e.g. any gas station). On holiday weekends, the traffic gets horrible, but get there early, stay late, and it’s great. Bring your own bathroom though, because there are none, and the cops will ask where you’re “going.”

Kingfisher and Matgorda Island!! In Port O’ Conner!

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16 Best Beaches in Texas to Visit in 2024

Written By: ThePlanetD Team

United States

Updated On: January 5, 2024

When you think of the  best beaches in the USA , you might think of visiting Miami, California, or perhaps the Washington coastline. However, overlooking Texas beaches is a travesty. Texas beaches are not unlike the pristine, mega-popular Florida beaches. Texas beaches are dreamy – with fewer crowds, beautiful clean sand dunes, and plenty of wildlife.

Table of Contents

Top Beaches in Texas

Whether beach-goers want the cleanest beaches formally recognized by the Clean Beaches Coalition or just a quiet beach to enjoy with a book, Texas beaches are fantastic. The entire coast of East Texas is brimming with sandy shores.

These are the best 16 beaches in Texas. Grab your towel and sun cream because these best beaches are all worth a visit.

1. Crystal Beach

A 7-mile stretch of unassuming-looking white-gray sand, Crystal Beach is one of the best beaches in Texas for a peaceful experience. There are no beachfront restaurants and infrastructure – just outstretched sand and the occasional dolphin pod causing temporary mayhem in the water. Crystal Beach is one of the cleanest beaches in Texas and is ideal for swimming or sunbathing. And in terms of busyness, you’ll be lucky to walk past more than a handful of people. The size of Crystal Beach means you only really have to interact with people if you want to.

Crystal Beach is on the Bolivar Peninsula, around an hour and a half drive from Houston. It is best reached by car, as public transport is relatively limited.

  • Crystal Crab  is where to stay near Crystal Beach, just 350 yards away on foot. The holiday home offers a self-catered experience with a luxurious balcony.

2. Rockport Beach

Rockport Beach is angelic looking. This Texas beach arcs in a smooth curve with golden sand and traditional beach umbrellas. Your first impression is that it looks serene, and that’s entirely accurate. Even its waters are peaceful. Rockport Beach is perfect for those who want a quick paddle, as its waters are shallow and gentle.

Rockport Beach is in the sheltered Aransas Bay, just north of Corpus Christi. The beach is protected from the winds and currents of the Gulf of Mexico by San Jose Island. Its location is what gives it its most attractive quality – peacefulness. Sitting on Rockport Beach feels like sitting in your own private world.

If you stay in Corpus Christi, you’ll have to drive as there is no public transport option. It takes around 38 minutes by car.

  • This  waterfront Rockport holiday home  has three bedrooms, a private dock, and three kayaks for guest use.

3. Surfside Beach

Surfside Beach is another little town beach. Surfside has a real community feel and is nicknamed ‘family beach’ because of its friendly, laid-back vibes. While its waters do get choppy sometimes, for the most part, it is suitable for swimming and a brilliant beach to relax on. Another huge draw is how fantastic Surfside Beach is for fishing. The beach is a great fishing destination – so definitely bring your fishing rod for a fun-filled day.

Its atmosphere bagged Surfside Beach a spot on our list. The happy-go-lucky vibe makes it one of the best beaches in Texas. Surfside Beach is also relatively centrally located, just 70 minute drive from Houston.

  • The red reef home with sundeck  is a gorgeous split-level holiday home, ideally a short walk from Surfside Beach.

4. North Beach

Forget remote islands and quiet beaches; North Beach is one of the best beaches in Texas for an urban beach day. The beach sits on North Beach island – connected to the center of Corpus Christi by the Harbor Bridge and surrounded by major attractions like Texas State Aquarium and USS Lexington. North Beach itself is also heaving with action.

North Beach wiggled its way onto our list because of its constant excitement and urban character. Besides, it is also one of the only beaches in Texas accessible by public transport if you stay in a city. From Corpus Christi city center, you can hop on the 76 bus and be at North Beach in 25 minutes.

  • This one-bedroom  sun-soaked Texas condo with North Beach access  has stunning ocean views.

5. Boca Chica Beach

Boca Chica Beach is one of the best beaches in Texas. Why? Because of its rockets. Boca Chica Beach is right next to SpaceX Spaceport, and you have a full view of the rockets from its sandy shore. For visitors interested in space, this is a hard temptation to shake. Besides, how many rockets do you see parked next to beaches? It’s easy to see why Boca Chica Beach made our list.

Boca Chica Beach is also one of the prettiest beaches in Texas. It is surrounded by coastal marshes and clay dunes – ideal for bird watching and admiring wildlife. It’s located on the east coast, right above the Mexico border. Sandwiched between Boca Chica State Park and Brazos Island Park, it is a beach that belongs to nature. And just a 50-minute drive from Brownsville, it is easily accessible by car.

  • Casa Roble  is a beautiful apartment in Downtown Brownsville with a patio with garden views.

6. South Packery Jetty Beach

South Packery Jetty Beach is best spotted by its huge wooden jetty. The jetty acts as a fisherman’s wharf, with rows of fishermen poised, ready for their next bite. South Packery Jetty Beach is quiet but well-loved – attracting a handful of visitors, aka those in the know.

Do you want an extra adventure? South Packery Jetty Beach allows overnight camping. You can get to the beach by driving just 25 minutes from Corpus Christi and then use it as a base overnight – waking up to the ocean in the morning. We love South Packery Jetty Beach’s convenient location and laid-back vibe. With overnight camping and fishing allowed and barely any crowds, it’s a fantastic beach to visit in Texas.

  • Island Escape  is a gorgeous two-bedroom holiday home just 550 yards from South Packery Channel Beach.

7. South Padre Island

South Padre Island has a vast 12-mile stretch of beach that runs alongside its resort town shenanigans. The beach at South Padre Island is swimmable and spacious. It is also alcohol friendly and backed by some of the most lively bars and seaside entertainment.

South Padre Island is one of the best beaches in Texas if you want a cheesy seaside getaway. There are just so many  things to do . It’s backed by theme parks and beach resorts, with all the resort amenities that give a beach an infectious sense of fun. It’s a three-hour drive from Corpus Christi or 40 minutes from Brownsville.

  • This  cute condo  is within walking distance of South Padre Island beach and sleeps up to six guests.

8. Magnolia Beach

Magnolia Beach is beautiful. Let’s just start there. The 1.5-mile-long beach is known for being massively RV friendly. Its hard-packed sand is ideal for beach drives. Since it allows overnight camping, Magnolia Beach is popular amongst RV campers. Another huge bonus is its flush toilets and showers onsite – even boasting hot water. Isolated and dreamily so, Magnolia Beach is a quiet spot to spend undisturbed time on the coast. It’s one of the best Texas beaches for RV owners.

Magnolia Beach itself is a tiny community with little in the way of facilities or amenities. However, you are just a 15-minute drive into Port Lavaca, which has all the urban necessities. To get to this Texas beach, a car is the best way forward, and besides, you want to take advantage of beach driving, don’t you?

  • This  waterfront park model  is a beautifully located holiday caravan only minutes from the shore.

9. Galveston Island East Beach

In Galveston Island East Beach, activities and entertainment are the laws of the land. The beach sits on the far east of Galveston Island and is best known for its relaxed laws – including being one of the only Galveston beaches to permit alcohol. Concerts and parties; you name it and Galveston has got it. Galveston Island East Beach has everything from nightlife to activities like horseback riding and beach combing. From its wooden boardwalk, you’ll overlook all of this mayhem.

The beach is just a 12-minute drive from Galveston town and an hour from Houston. Galveston Island East Beach is on our list because it offers top-tier entertainment. If you want an event, it is one of the best beaches in Texas.

  • This  beach town seaside paradise  is just 50 yards from East Beach and is a four-bedroom, spaciously decorated holiday home.

10. Lighthouse Beach

This sandy shore is one of the best Texas beaches for children and families. The tiny stretch of sand is backed by a children’s playground, splash pad, and covered picnic shelters. Its age-appropriate amenities are what caught our eye. In short, Lighthouse Beach is a kid’s paradise.

Lighthouse Beach is situated at the edge of Port Lavaca. It’s tucked in just before the Port Lavaca Causeway, which spans across Lavaca Bay. It is easily walkable for those staying in Port Lavaca. Alternatively, you can drive to the beach in a matter of minutes.

  • Best Western Port Lavaca Inn  is adjacent to Lighthouse Beach and has a seasonal outdoor pool and gym.

11. Stewart Beach

Stewart Beach is another Galveston Island gem. However, unlike East Beach, it is much more renowned as a family-friendly coastal spot. Alcohol is not permitted, which invites a quieter crowd. Still, forget the lull of long beach days with no activities; Stewart Beach has loads to do, which caught our attention. Families can get involved with volleyball and giant Jenga and access a playground. Stewart Beach is perfect for families with older children wanting to get more active.

Aside from all these activities, Stewart Beach has chairs and umbrellas, shower and restroom facilities, snack bars, and even beach wheelchairs if needed. Located just outside Galveston town, it’s also easy to reach. You can walk to Stewart Beach or drive minutes from Galveston. Alternatively, drive from Houston in around an hour.

  • An  apartment  with an infinity pool sits just steps from Stewart Beach.

12. Matagorda Bay Nature Park

Matagorda Bay Nature Park is far from just a beach. The park encompasses numerous recreational activities like putt a hole-in-one, as well as wetlands and an RV park. It is an organized area, and there’s even a visitor center. You can enjoy strolls on the beach, kayaking the wetlands, and spotting wildlife – Matagorda Bay is essentially a bird sanctuary, given its protected status. Matagorda Beach is just next to the opening of the Colorado River. As a two-hour drive from Houston, it is best accessed by car.

We love Matagorda Bay Nature Park as an entertaining place to visit for wildlife watching and outdoor water-related activities. It is important to note that Matagorda Beach is not a swimming beach. The area is popular amongst sharks and dangerous due to rip currents and undertow. Matagorda is one of the best Texas beaches to experience from land or in a kayak.

  • This stunning  Matagorda townhouse  has a deck, three bedrooms, and access to a massive communal pool.

13. Mcgee Beach

Mcgee Beach is a trendy beach in downtown Corpus Christi. This Corpus Christi beach is perfect for an urban sunrise or sunset, with clean waters and fresh, rubbish-free sands. It is set back against Shoreline Boulevard. Mcgee Beach has that hotel-backed, resort-style vibe. Yet it also has a residential feel, which is nice and relaxing. You can kick back with a book, have a quick bite to eat at a picnic table, or rent water sports equipment.

Mcgee Beach is on our list as it is a real downtown area – perfect for relaxing outside the inner city center. It’s easy to reach too. You have free parking and can reach Mcgee Beach by car in 10 minutes from the city center. Or, if public transport is more your style, in just 30 minutes using the bus.

  • Residence Inn by Marriot Corpus Christi Downtown  is just 550 yards from Mcgee Beach and offers a swimming pool and gym.

14. Mustang Beach

Mustang Beach gets its name from the herds of wild horses that once lived there. The beach is more famous now for its sea turtle population and location in an untouched barrier island park – Mustang Island State Park. It is magical for hiking and spotting wildlife, an activity best experienced under the watchful guidance of the Ranger Programs. The state park has five miles of coastline, so be prepared for some hiking.

Mustang Beach is part of the 3,954-acre Mustang Island State Park, located on North Padre Island. It is easiest to reach from Port Aransas, which is just a 15-minute drive away. From Corpus Christi, it is a 25-minute drive. We love how Mustang Beach is so untouched and a haven for wildlife and nature.

  • Happy Place  is a wonderful two-bedroom apartment with a hot tub and a communal swimming pool.

15. Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore is a massive section of 66 miles of coastline on Padre Island – a huge barrier island lying between Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. It goes without saying that natural beauty is one of the biggest draws of visiting its beaches. However, there’s also another bonus; the seashore is the most important nesting place for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. The ridley sea turtle is the most endangered of all sea turtles. Padre Island National Seashore has been dedicated to protecting the animal since 1978.

Padre Island National Seashore is one of the best beaches in Texas for seeing sea turtles. And if you want to support conservation attempts, you can get involved with the beaches’ multi-agency efforts. Padre Island National Seashore is best accessed by car and takes around 30 minutes from Corpus Christi.

  • This  four-bedroom condo  is within walking distance from the beach and boasts BBQ facilities and a swimming pool.

16. San José Island

San José Island is a 21-mile-long barrier island on the Gulf Coast, only accessible from Port Aransas by ferry. This distance means San José Island is mainly empty of human inhabitation and has plenty of quiet coastlines. San José Island is famed for its clean beaches. As a privately owned island, it has plenty of regulations to protect its flora and fauna. However, visitors can still access all ‘public’ areas – appreciating the fantastic amount of rare seashells, including sand dollars, starfish, and lightning whelks.

We love San José Island’s isolated allure. Having to catch a ferry makes it feel all the more expeditionary. To reach this Texas beach, visitors must drive to Port Aransas before sailing across the passenger ferry.

  • The Place at Port Aransas  is a perfect base for catching the ferry to San José Island. Guests also access free Wi-Fi and a shared lounge.

To Conclude

Some of these Texas beaches are amongst the  best places to visit in the USA.  We love the natural beauty of these beaches in Texas and the experiences they offer visitors. You could release baby sea turtles along Padre Island National Seashore or fish on North Beach. One of the best things about Texas’ quiet beaches is that they are a nature lover’s paradise. You can swap people-watching for bird watching, fishing, or assisting with sea turtle conservation.

Looking for some more Texas inspiration? We have a complete guide on the  best things to do in Austin  – or a  fun fact guide  if you want something more light-hearted.

Plan Your Next Trip to Texas With these Resources

  • 21 Things to do on South Padre Island, Texas
  • 29 Best Things to do in Austin, Texas
  • 17 Interesting Facts About Texas
  • 50 Best Places to Visit in the USA

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2 thoughts on “16 Best Beaches in Texas to Visit in 2024”

wow great article, I have learned a very new concept today. You guys are doing a great job providing such useful information. Thanks again.

Wow these beach are very nice and my favorite is Galveston Island East Beach because there is so many places to spend time and enjoy with family.

thanks for this blog.

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The Best Texas Beaches for Every Kind of Traveler

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 . 

Robert Hinojosa/Getty Images

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

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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 sparsely 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

Olga Melhiser Photography/Getty Images

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 not only can 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 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.

Whitecap Beach

Brent_1/Getty Images

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 Beach

jerryhopman/Getty Images

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 plentiful 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

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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 U.S. following the Civil War. It’s also the site of the largest natural disaster in U.S. history: the 1900 storm . You can explore both of these historic events and more throughout the island.

Malaquite Beach

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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 a.m., but keep an eye on the schedule for the latest news and updates.

South Padre Island Beach

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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 populous 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 Beach

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“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

westtexasfish/Getty Images

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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The 12 Best Beaches in Texas in 2023 [Detailed Guide]

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Lindsey Olander

Former Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 24 U.S. States Visited: 25

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Countries Visited: 44 U.S. States Visited: 28

The 12 Best Beaches in Texas in 2023 [Detailed Guide]

Map of the 12 Best Beaches in Texas

  • Boca Chica Beach
  • Crystal Beach
  • Galveston Island
  • Matagorda Bay Nature Park
  • Mustang Island State Park
  • North Beach
  • Padre Island National Seashore
  • Port Aransas
  • Rockport Beach
  • San José Island
  • South Padre Island
  • Surfside Beach

The Best Beaches in Texas for Families

The best beaches in texas that allow dogs, the best texas beaches in winter, final thoughts.

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Cowboys, barbecue, live music, and… beaches? They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes (perhaps surprisingly) its sandy shores.

While Texas certainly cannot hold a candle to the beaches of Hawaii , its 600 miles of shoreline are comparable to Florida’s Gulf Coast — still sunny, still beautiful, and still worthy of a drive. Not to mention when those summer temperatures in the South skyrocket into the 90s, nothing seems more inviting than the glittering Gulf.

What truly sets Texas’ best beaches apart, however, is their authentic taste of local life. Fishing — a popular Texan pastime — is spectacular no matter which beach town you choose to visit, while horseback rides along the sand channel the state’s cowboy culture.

From windswept national seashores known for bird-watching and kayaking to calm-wave beaches filled with anglers and families, here are the best places to swim and suntan in the Lone Star State.

Boca Chica Beach

As far as Texas beaches go, the 8-mile-long Boca Chica Beach is as close as you can get to Mexico without actually crossing the border. All that separates the 2 is the mighty Rio Grande, which flows eastward into the Gulf.

Part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and protected by the state, this quiet beach is as rustic and untouched as they come. Consequently, there are no facilities in the vicinity , so be sure to bring all the food, water, and beach essentials you’ll want or need.

While certainly inconvenient, such a lack of development is exactly what makes Boca Chica so special. The area is tranquil and relaxed, perfect for enjoying life’s slower pleasures — swimming, snorkeling, fishing, birding, or simply soaking up the sun’s rays while flipping through a favorite beach read.

Hot Tip:  Visit between April and July for the chance to see Kemp’s ridley sea turtles — the smallest, rarest, and most critically endangered sea turtle species in the world — that nest here every year.

Bolivar Peninsula

Looking for a good time? Take a drive up to the Bolivar Peninsula, on Texas’s Upper Gulf, and hop a ferry in Galveston bound for Crystal Beach.

Despite how secluded it is, Crystal Beach serves up a true party atmosphere . Visitors are allowed to drive their cars and trucks directly onto the sand (there’s a $10 fee per vehicle), campout overnight (free), and set up grills and bonfires, encouraging groups to gather and revel throughout the summer.

Fishing, hunting for shells and hermit crabs, and birding (over 100 migratory species flock to the Bolivar Peninsula each year) are also popular here. After the sun sets, nearby restaurants, bars, and nightclubs keep the energy high .

For even more family-friendly fun, check out the local Fun Spot Waterslide and Bolivar Point Lighthouse , an 1872 lighthouse that has survived multiple hurricanes.

Galveston Island

An hour south of Houston, Galveston Island is a favorite local escape from city life . This isn’t to say Galveston is rowdy — there are just as many quiet corners as there are crowded areas along the area’s seawall.

East Beach is Texas’s largest beach and Galveston’s prettiest (as well as the only beach on the island that permits alcohol), so it gets busy. Concerts and festivals take place throughout the summer, including an annual sandcastle competition . There’s also a playground for kids.

Interested in sandcastle lessons ? For that, head next door to Stewart Beach , where, instead of alcohol, you’ll find seasonal lifeguards, umbrella and chair rentals, and an even more family-friendly atmosphere.

Keep walking west along Seawall Boulevard and you’ll eventually hit the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier , one of the island’s biggest attractions . Its amusement park features a steel roller coaster and 100-foot-tall Ferris wheel and sits in close proximity to the island’s best beachfront restaurants, bars, and hotels, including Hotel Galvez and Spa (from $215 or 30,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night).

Hot Tip:  Galveston Island State Park , on the island’s west end, protects 2,000 acres of beach, salt marshes, wetlands, and various lagoons. Entry is $5 per adult (or free for children 12 and under).

Matagorda Bay

Much of Matagorda Island, immediately northeast of San José Island, is taken up by Matagorda Bay Nature Park — an off-the-beaten-path hidden gem along Texas’s Gulf Coast.

Only about half of Matagorda’s 58 miles of beach are accessible by foot, which helps keep the area in its natural state, but if you can brave the primitive surrounds and pack plenty of provisions and sunscreen, it promises to be one of Texas’s most serene beach experiences .

When you’re not setting up camp on the sand, horseback riding in the water, or kayaking along the coast, the rest of the inland region is ripe for exploration.

Follow one of the hiking trails to see shifting sand dunes or venture into the coastal marshes home to herons, storks, and spoonbills . Although no longer open to the public, the rusted-over Matagorda Island Lighthouse, built in 1852, is another favorite sighting.

Mustang Island State Park

East of Corpus Christi, Mustang Island is named after the wild horses that once roamed here and is arguably the prettiest and best bang-for-your-buck beach vacation destination in Texas.

There’s only a single town on the island — Port Aransas . The rest is reserved for Mustang Island State Park , a gorgeous natural swath of land home to 20 miles of hiking trails, 5 miles of beach, green sand dunes, surfing waves, and a healthy population of shorebirds, dolphins, and turtles.

Swimming, birding, paddleboarding, and kayaking are all noble pursuits here — the shallow-water Paddling Trail gets you up close and personal to park wildlife — as is fishing off the multiple jetties (charters are also available for more serious anglers), For folks who’d like to stay awhile, 98 campsites are available, located either directly on the sand or father back and with electricity.

Texas State Aquarium

North Beach is living proof that you don’t have to leave Texan city limits in order to enjoy quality beach time. One of the best beaches in the state sits just across Harbor Bridge from Corpus Christi, the second-largest metropolis (behind San Antonio) in south Texas.

From this 1.5-mile-long stretch of sand, 2 of Texas’s biggest attractions are within easy reach . Perhaps the most famous is the USS Lexington , a WWII aircraft carrier turned naval museum that you can snap photos of right from North Beach.

A paved Beachwalk from North Beach also leads straight to the not-for-profit Texas State Aquarium , which features a 4D theater, a 400,000-gallon tank habitat for sharks, and a jungle exhibit home to flora and fauna native to the Yucatán, such as flamingos and southern 2-toed sloths.

Padre Island National Seashore

Nowhere else in the world will you find an undeveloped barrier island as long as Padre. Roughly 30 miles from Corpus Christi, the 7o miles of beaches and sand dunes that make up Padre Island National Seashore are a nature lover’s paradise for over 300 individual bird species, as well as the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.

If it sounds rugged, that’s because it is. The seashore belongs to the birds and the turtles, but those in the know come here to relax, camp, windsurf, kayak, and stroll the waterline in solitude.

Kayaking and snorkeling are possible in the shallow waters of Laguna Madre and beach-combing is best on the well-named Big Shell and Little Shell beaches. However, beach-goers might have the most fun at Malaquite Swimming Beach , where park rangers host baby sea turtle releases and lead conservation programs.

Padre Island is also one of the country’s best areas for birdwatching , which is especially spectacular during the early spring, fall, and winter.

Hot Tip:  Park entry is $10 per vehicle for a 1-day pass or $15 per pedestrian or bicyclist. Campsites are also available, but come with additional fees ($14 per night at Malaquite Campground ; $8 per night at Big Island Basin).

Port Aransas

The best family-friendly destination on Mustang Island , the small, sleepy town of Port Aransas attracts bigger crowds than Mustang’s state park but never more than ever-popular Galveston or South Padre Island.

Convenience is key here. Laid-back restaurants and for-rent vacation homes line the 18-mile-long beach, where it’s just a short walk to the sand. Well-maintained facilities include bathrooms and outdoor showers.

Owing to the beach’s popularity, festivities happen here year-round. The biggest event of the year in Port Aransas is Texas SandFest , a weekend sand-sculpture competition where concessions, live music, and activities draw crowds in the tens of thousands. For bird enthusiasts, the Whooping Crane Festival also takes place every February.

Rockport Beach

Cars, dogs, bonfires, fireworks, and campsites on the beach are all prohibited on Rockport Beach, keeping its sand (and water) as clean as can be. These efforts, however strict, paid off in a big way: this was the first beach in Texas to earn “Blue Wave Beach” status , an environmental certification that recognizes clean, well-managed beaches worldwide.

Locals spend time swimming, playing volleyball on the beach courts, and fishing off the pier as well as lazing in the thatch-roof palapas that line the crescent-shaped sand. Families especially love the shallow waters and available facilities that include picnic tables, restrooms, and showers. Parking is $5 a day.

The nearby village of Rockport, with its restaurants, art galleries, hotels including the charming Lighthouse Inn at Aransas Bay , and weekend events, is another nice distraction. If you visit in March, don’t miss the annual Fulton Oysterfest , which supports the local volunteer fire department.

San Jose Island

A boat is required in order to step foot on this pristine island across from Port Aransas. Once you arrive, you’re limited to just the beach (San José, or “St. Jo” as the locals call it, is privately-owned, so there are no restaurants or stores), but then that’s what you’ve come to enjoy.

The jetty is a perfect spot to fish for flounder or speckled trout, the water is startlingly clear (a rarity for Texas), and, because no cars are allowed on the island , the area is incredibly safe, quiet, and clean.

To ensure that level of cleanliness lasts, there are also zero facilities, bathrooms, running water, or even shade. If you plan to stay in the sun long, umbrellas , snacks, water, and coolers are all absolute essentials to pack before your departure.

Birding and shelling are popular pastimes on San José Island. If you’re a fan of the first, be sure to catch the Whooping Crane Festival that takes place on nearby Port Aransas every February.

Hot Tip:  The Jetty Boat ferries passengers to San José Island from Fisherman’s Wharf ($12 round-trip per adult, $6 per child) in Port Aransas throughout the day.

South Padre Island

There’s no denying the beauty found along this 34-mile-long barrier island just north of Boca Chica — or the crowds. South Padre is considered one of Texas’s busier beaches . Chalk it up to stellar kite-surfing and parasailing conditions, pet-friendly beaches , diverse wildlife, relatively affordable hotels , and the fact that drinks are allowed on the sand .

March is peak season , when spring breakers arrive in droves to dance and carouse during day-long beach parties. South Padre’s bayside is particularly loved for its lively beach bars and killer sunsets. If you’re looking to avoid the mobs, the island’s north end tends to be much quieter, if less developed.

Outside March, the rest of the year is a fantastic time to visit — especially Isla Blanca Park . There, the beaches are wide, pavilions are filled with concession stands, boat tours offer everything from deep-sea fishing to dolphin-watching trips , and there’s even a Beach Park waterpark featuring 13 waterslides and a zip line.

Hot Tip:  Stay nearby at the Isla Grand Beach Resort , where guests enjoy oceanfront rooms, 2 swimming pools, and a nightclub.

Surfside Beach

True to its name, stronger waves occur here during the hurricane season months, making Surfside one of the best surfing beaches in the state .

Like Rockport, 4-mile-long Surfside Beach has some of the cleanest and clearest sand and water you’ll find in Texas. Unlike Rockport, however, the rules here are far more relaxed. Leashed dogs and campfires are permitted, and cars are allowed on specific sections of the beach for a fee.

In addition to the most traditional pursuits of swimming, strolling, crabbing, and fishing off the various jetties, guided horseback rides on the sand are a fun and unique way to take in the sights.

  • Galveston Island (East Beach and Stewart Beach)

Some could argue that every Texas beach is well-suited for families because of their calm Gulf waves, flat beaches, and abundance of wildlife, but some are decidedly more prepared to cater to the needs of children and parents than others.

While beautiful places to bring the gang, Boca Chica and San José Island both lack facilities and activities, which can pose a challenge to younger age groups.

  • Matagorda Island
  • Port Aransas Beach
  • South Padre Beach

With a few exceptions, most Texas beaches are extremely pet-friendly and welcome pooches of all sizes to frolic on the sand and in the water — so long as they remain on a leash. Rockport Beach does not allow dogs, as it is a bird sanctuary.

As is typical for destinations in America, the further south you go, the warmer it will be. So, although Texas as a whole experiences mild winter weather, its southernmost beaches retain their high temperatures year-round. This includes Boca Chica Beach and South Padre Island , whose temperatures rarely dip below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you aren’t bothered by cooler temperatures, Padre Island National Seashore is another popular winter beach destination in Texas. Birdwatching is at its best here in the fall and winter, when thousands of migrating shorebirds — peregrine falcons, sandhill cranes, ospreys — flock here for the season.

The advantage of having every beach live along a single coastline means that no matter which one you choose to visit, you know exactly what to expect. In Texas, that means beautiful natural scenery, warm and calm Gulf Coast waters, unique and plentiful wildlife, accessibility across the board, and family-friendly activities that run the gamut from fishing to kayaking.

The state of Texas is big, but thankfully, no beach is truly out of reach if you’re staying in Houston, Corpus Christi, or San Antonio. Some beaches are just a day’s drive — sometimes even minutes away — from sand and surf.

So the next time you find yourself down south and the heat settles in, skip the pool, pack up the car, take a drive, and discover what all the fuss is about.

See here for our quick story on the best beaches in Texas .

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the prettiest beach in texas.

Our “best of” list includes 12 of the prettiest beaches in the state, every one of them offering a winning combination of golden sand, warm water, opportunities to fish and sail, some of the best bird-watching in the country, and stunning sunsets courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico.

What is the cleanest beach in Texas?

Rockport Beach, a “Blue Wave Beach” within driving distance of San Antonio, is reputed to be the cleanest beach in Texas. The area protects its environment through strict visiting rules that prohibit cars, dogs, glass containers, open flames, fireworks, and overnight camping.

An hour outside of Houston, Surfside Beach is another well-kept beach beloved for its surf-ready waves.

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About Lindsey Olander

Currently based in New York, Lindsey spent her childhood in Connecticut dreaming of far-off places. Her first flight was to Disney World at age 11. Her second flight was for a high school field trip to Italy, though travel as a career didn’t stick until she studied abroad in London during college and discovered the true power of her passport. Since then, she’s worked as a travel editor at Jetsetter  and Travel + Leisure , where she reported on everything from African safaris to hot hotel openings to, yes, Disney World.


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