I’ve spent my entire life going to the beaches in Texas for vacations. Every summer (and some spring breaks and winter breaks), we would load up the family minivan and head down I-35. Sometimes the trips would end early due to hurricanes, other times we would extend our time because we just couldn’t bear to leave. There’s just nothing like a Texas beach trip!
Here are the best beaches in Texas, including quiet beaches, sandy beaches, party beaches, beaches great for families, and even the best surfing beaches in Texas. There’s something here for every single kind of traveler looking to soak up some fun on the Texas coast!
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Why Go to the Beaches in Texas
South Texas is where my family has always gone to play. My first ever solo trip was here, when I was eight. Okay, my cousins live here, so we always had good reasons to go, but there’s no place on Earth I’d rather go to unwind.
But if you don’t have 3+ decades of memories here and family you love, you should still come and enjoy a Texas beach vacation! Here are just a few reasons why I love this place so much.
First, Padre Island National Seashore is just special. One of the National Parks in Texas, it’s a spectacular stretch of coastline.
Second, Texas beaches may not be clear, but they have these lovely, rolling waves that make it so much fun to swim! It’s not a great place to go surfing (though my cousins make it work). But if you want to swim in water that’s active but not crazy, this is the place to be!
Finally, it’s not expensive. You’ll spend so much less for what you get here than in comparable towns in the Outer Banks, South Carolina, or Florida. And while I love going to beaches in the southeast United States, I still think Texas beaches are way more fun!
How to Get to Texas’s Beaches
Well, if you’re a Texas local then you probably already know that getting around the state is really tough without a car. Since you really need your own vehicle to make this work, I have tips below for renting a car if you don’t have one.
The good news is that most of these are easy day trips from many parts of Texas, so hopefully, you can find one or two Texas beaches that pique your interest. However, if you do decide to stay nearby, all of these would make excellent Texas weekend getaways.
And of course, you really need your own wheels if you plan on going on a Texas Gulf Coast Road Trip.
Tips for Renting a Car in Texas
It’s awfully hard to get around Texas without a car. Whenever I don’t drive my own car down from Oklahoma, I will pick up a rental car at whichever airport I fly into when I get to Texas.
If you’re also looking to rent a car, I use Discover Cars when I rent cars on my travels. You’ll be able to pick up a car at any airport or in your hometown.
Check availability and get a quote for a rental car for your trip here.
The Best Beaches in Texas
In no particular order…
South Padre Island Beach
When I hear South Padre, I have very hazy flashbacks to Spring Break in college, because this is the number one Spring Break destination in the state. And it’s a really fun one!
Of course, March isn’t the best time to take advantage of the beaches because they’re still on the cold-side for swimming (but I’ve done it!).
There are many beaches on South Padre Island. This massive Island located in South Padre Island, Texas, is 34-mile long and is a top destination for tourists, especially because of its beaches. This Island converted into a resort allows for so many activities apart from swimming and boating.
On South Padre Island Beach, you can fish, go horseback riding, bird-watch, kiteboard, and even surf.
Matagorda beach is nearly sixty miles long. The beach is located close to where the Colorado River enters the Gulf of Mexico. On the west side of the river, the beach is only accessible by boat, allowing tourists to go on extensive boat rides, kayaking, and canoe rides.
There are lots of trails to explore, but also many rattlesnakes to avoid, so you may want to be careful walking around the grass. The beach has two entrances: the main entrance and an entrance on the west side of the parking lot. You can camp and go swimming here and enjoy a little more peace and quiet than at some of the more popular party beaches.
Located in Rockport, Texas, Rockport Beach is Texas’s first-ever Blue Wave Beach. Rockport Beach is situated along The Golden Crescent, a particularly lovely stretch of Texas’s Gulf Coast.
This beautiful beach offers a spectacular view of the sunrise and is very clean sand suitable for kids to play. As someone who always takes family vacations to the Gulf Coast, this is really important to me. You can enjoy a cozy afternoon picnic with your family and friends.
There are vacation rentals and cottages available to let for a wonderful weekend getaway.
Galveston beach is located along Seawall Boulevard. There is a lot to do around here, a lot of swimming, fishing, surfing, and boat riding. Several restaurants surround the beach allowing a taste of local cuisines popular in the town.
There are also luxury hotels and apartments to complete a fun-filled vacation. You can also enjoy marine life by going on a dolphin tour. You may get a close-up view of dolphins jumping and playing as birds fly over the blue water.
Located in Galveston, Texas, Pareto Beach is one of the cleanest beaches in Galveston. It is less crowded as well and better maintained, giving an overall great experience to travelers especially those traveling with young kids. The beach is quite friendly so that you can hang around with your friends for a get-together or a mini picnic.
You can take a walk around the beach if you get tired of swimming or playing in the sand. The beach is a private beach with a lot of beautiful views and easy access to food from local restaurants.
Boca Chica Beach
You can drive around Boca Chica Beach, which is located in aptly named Boca Chica, South Padre, Texas. This beautiful beach is right next to Elon Musk’s Space X launch area (and you thought space tourism in Texas was just in Houston!).
Here you can camp, go on walks, and have picnics. There are no facilities around the beach, so you may need to drive for a few minutes to find a hotel or a bathroom. Just make sure to bring everything with you that you need for your day!
Boca Chica Beach is perfect for a short, quiet, and peaceful stay. It’s a little gem that is only discovered by a few. Even though I’ve been to southern Texas dozens of times, I missed this one at first! The surreal experience will leave you wanting more.
This incorporated community is located in Calhoun County, Texas. Alamo Beach is often lightly populated and is close to the popular Magnolia Beach. There are beautiful resort homes and apartments for rent, many fantastic picnic spots, and all the necessary facilities such as electricity, water, sewer, and phone services.
Close to the beach, there is Port Lavaca, where stores like Walmart are situated to allow tourists to shop and sightsee around the town. There are walking trails around the beach with a stunning view of the sky.
For starters, there are no aliens on this beach, so make sure you dont visit the UFO Beach to see one. But there are many more exciting things worth seeing and experiencing on this beach. Located north of South Padre, this beach is hidden away in a very quiet part of the Island.
The beach is only discovered by visitors who are patient enough to properly explore the Island. You may hike or drive there depending on the weather or choice. The UFO Beach got its name from a washed-up ocean buoy after a hurricane that happened years ago. This buoy looks incredibly like a flying saucer and has become a landmark for many.
El Jardin Beach
Here, you can swim, sunbathe, and arrange cozy picnics. El Jardin beach is located in Seabrook, Texas. It is a small but beautiful beach with surprisingly lots of activities to do. The beach allows certain pets like dogs as well. It has a rich marine life with a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
You may come with your family, have your kids play with the sand, organize a barbecue and splash around the water. Though the water isn’t perfectly clean, it is safe for swimming both for adults and kids.
Situated in High Island, Texas, High Island Beach is one of the treasures of Eastern Texas. The beach is a perfect example of what a quiet and calm lifestyle in Texas should look like.
You can soak up in the sun while quietly watching the birds; there are so many of them. The sands are studded by shells, and there are horses owned by locals that you often get to see every now and then. So, if you get tired of the noisy life of the city, High Island beach is the perfect place for a quiet and relaxing getaway.
Big Shell Beach
Big Shell Beach got its name from the deposits of large shells brought by currents from the south. This beach is located south of Corpus Christi, Texas, and offers beautiful scenery and spectacular views.
Big Shell Beach, also often simply called Big Shell, is 17 miles south of Closed Beach (Malaquite Beach). Some of the shells that can be found on this beach include cockles, coquina, familiar arcs, and quahogs. The Beach, along with Little Beach, are sections of Padre Island Beach.
This amazing beach is a treasure. Located as part of a section on Padre Island, the Malaquite Beach water is crystal clear and therefore very safe for swimming for both children and adults. The beach is well-maintained, and it has excellent camping sites.
There are several facilities available for visitors, such as bathrooms, showers, and a gift shop. It is one of the jewels on Padre Island and definitely one of the best Texas tourist beaches for a short stay, and it is also very family-friendly.
This beautiful beach is located in Surfside in Brazoria County, Texas. Of course, as the name implies, you can surf all day long. But surfing is not all that there is to do. The sand is so soft on this beach that you will be tempted to play around with it a little.
You can soak up in the sun and get a little tan, go fishing, you can bike, hike or sightsee around the Butterfly Trail. There are also local restaurants around the beach ready for you after a day filled with lots of activity.
This is such a great beach that’s it’s one of the stops on my Texas Gulf Coast Road Trip itinerary!
At Crystal Beach, you can relax on the sandy beaches while sunbathing or simply staring at the beautiful coastal sky. The beach sand is so soft that you may even be tempted to play around along with your kids and build sandcastles. You can also go kayaking, surfboarding, or even fishing.
There are just lots of activities that it could get difficult deciding which of them to do. You can make the decision easy by doing all the activities one after the other. After your stay at the beach, you will most likely visit again, so it’s okay if you dont get to do all that you wanted to do because of time.
Isla Blanca Park
Located on the southern part of South Padre Island, this beach park has so many things to offer. Often called the crown jewel of South Padre Island Park, it offers so many recreational activities. There are two large beachfront pavilion, food, rental packages, parking, walking trails, tent sites, bathrooms, shower, picnic sites, and many more facilities.
There are also restaurants, water sports such as jet skis, parasailing, and snorkeling. For a whole beach experience, the Isla Blanca is the perfect spot.
South Beach is located along the Gulf of Mexico. It is about 60 miles long and open to RV and tent camping. There is a chemical toilet and a large dumpster available right at the entrance of the beach.
When you drive into the beach, however, there are no facilities and the reception is a bit poor. It is, however, safe and enjoyable for camping. There is a 14-day limit for campers, and they are encouraged to remove as much trash as they can to keep the environment clean.
Think festivals? Think East Beach! This beach located on the far eastern tip of Galveston Island is the site for parties and lots of other beach festivals. The beach facilities include a boardwalk, restrooms, a pavilion, an entertainment stage, childrens playground, showers, concessions, chairs, and umbrella rentals.
The beach hosts the American Institute of Architects Sandcastle Competition that is held every summer. Its the perfect destination site for an exciting and eventful summer. There are parking spaces available but with a fee of about $15 per car.
This incorporated community dates back to the 19th century. It is 1.5 miles long, close to Matagorda Bay. The Colorado and Lavaca Rivers flow into the beach, making it less salty than the ocean water. Though not a resort, the beach is peaceful and easily accessible with a safe car park area.
There are facilities available on the beach that include bathrooms, showers, hot water, and toilet paper. There are also picnic tables and barbecue grills for the perfect mini family vacation.
Brazoria County Beach
Brazoria County Beach is known for its high tides and high tide lines. Entry into the beach is free. Though it may be a little crowded, especially during the day, it is a perfect site for campers. There are no facilities besides local shops and dining. There are gulf carts available for rent to drive around the beach, and it is relatively safe.
You can do a lot of bird watching while listening to the sounds of the ocean. To get the full experiencing, it is best to go at night when it is less crowded, especially during winter and spring.
San Jose Island
This dreamy island is about 21 miles long and 5 miles wide. Located on the Gulf Coast of Texas, San Jose Island has pristine, stunning beaches that are largely uninhabited and therefore open to both local and foreign tourists.
There are no vehicles allowed around the beaches, and while that may not seem attractive, it actually allows for safe swimming, surfing, beachcombing, and generally sunbathing. The seashore houses several shells such as shark eyes, sand dollars, and lightning whelks. The island is accessible only by boat that begins its hourly rides by 7 am. The boat ride costs $12. There are no facilities on the beach.
Steward Beach is located in Galveston Island, Texas. It is a family-friendly beach. Some of the facilities available at the beach include bathrooms, showers, a snack bar as well as a snow cone vendor. There are beach chairs and umbrellas available for rent at $25. There is also a parking space available for $8
Steward beach is generally relaxing and fun-filled. The beach is well-maintained and occasionally patrolled by the police to help maintain safety and order. The beach is open Mon-Fri: 8 am-6 pm, and Sat-Sun: 8 am-7 pm.
What to Pack for Texas
Lonely Planet Texas so you have a guidebook with you on your trip. It’s not easy to find guidebooks once you’re on the ground, so I suggest picking one up ahead of time. They also have Kindle editions available.
A camera so you can take photos of the special moments from your trip. Whether you bring a point-and-shoot like my Sony ZV-1 or rely on your cell phone like my iPhone 12 Pro, make sure you have at least one camera (though I always travel with two)!
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for your trip make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I have used World Nomads when I travel since 2016, and I happily recommend them.
Getting coverage is important whenever you’re more than a hundred miles from home in case of an accident, sickness, theft, etc.
Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.
Pin this Guide to the Best Texas Beaches for Your Texas Adventures!
Stephanie is a born-and-bred Oklahoma mom and travel expert who has been to over fifty countries. After living in Eastern Europe for four years, she has moved with her family back to Oklahoma to write about her favorite places growing up: Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, & Route 66!