I grew up spending family vacations on Texas’s Gulf Coast, and there really is nothing better than a Texas Gulf Coast road trip! Here’s my recommendations for the perfect Gulf Coast itinerary that goes from Corpus Christi to Galveston.
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When you think of Texas you probably conjure up images of Stetson-toting cowboys, dry desert landscapes, and epic BBQs. The popular image of the Lone Star State doesn’t often include much in the way of water.
But Texas has an absolutely awesome coastline, 367 miles stretching all the way from the bayous of Louisiana to Matamoros in Mexico. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to explore this beautiful corner of Texas is by hitting the road on a Texas beach road trip!
Where to Start Your Texas Beach Road Trip?
Exploring the Gulf Coast in Texas offers magnificent beaches, stunning landscapes, and adventure at every turn. You really can’t go wrong no matter which city you choose to start from.
Coming down from Oklahoma, you might want to start in the north. In that case, you can follow this itinerary backward. I started in the south because I usually drive down to Corpus to stay with family before heading to the beach.
If you are planning a cruise from New Orleans, or just looking for somewhere new to explore, a Texas Coast road trip is a brilliant way to start out. You can keep going around the gulf til you hit NOLA. Of course, going from Corpus Christi to New Orleans will tack on a few extra days?
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.
Texas Coast Road Trip Itinerary
Here’s my idea of a fabulous Texas beach road trip.
Day One and Two: Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi is a pretty city, well worth exploring before you set off. Sitting on the edge of a wide bay, its beaches are nicely sheltered, and the Texas State Aquarium is also worth a look.
While here, visit the USS Lexington, an Essex-class aircraft carrier built during World War II for the United States Navy which is now a fabulous naval museum right on the water.
5 More Things to Do in Corpus Christi
Besides the aquarium and the Lexington, don’t miss:
- Selena Museum
- South Texas Botanical Gardens
- North Beach
- The Art Museum of South Texas
- Hurricane Alley Water Park
Where to Stay in Corpus Christi
Here are recommendations for each budget category and an Airbnb option. These options are near North Beach which is conveniently located near most of the best things to do in Corpus.
Budget: Motel 6 Corpus Christi
Mid-Range: Hotel DeVille
Luxury: Omni Corpus Christi Hotel
Day Three and Four: Port Aransas (Mustang Island)
From Corpus Christi, head south to Mustang and Padre Islands, where you can see huge flocks of migratory birds, and if you are lucky, endangered kemp’s ridley sea turtles!
I like to keep my time in Port Aransas loose, bouncing between the islands based on weather and what I want to do that day. My primary goal out here is to just relax, but if you’re more into fishing than sunbathing, check out my cousin Stanley Orchard’s YouTube channel about fishing in the area.
Where to Stay in Port Aransas
Budget: Alister Square Inn
Mid-Range: The Place at Port Aransas
Luxury: Plantation Suites
Airbnb: Beautiful Beachfront Condo
Day Five: Surfside Beach
After exploring Mustang State Park and the gorgeous beaches of South Padre, head north through Port Aransas, Fulton, and Rockport to Surfside, keeping an eye out for Aransas National Wildlife Reserve on your way.
In Surfside Beach, you can bask in nature at the nearby Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge or soak up the beach atmosphere in town.
Where to Stay in Surfside
Budget: Anchor Motel
Mid-Range: Beach House with Sunset Views
Luxury: Ocean Village Hotel
Airbnb: 3BR with Ocean and Bay Views
Day Six through Eight: Galveston
After a night in Surfside, head back up the coast and meander your way along the gorgeous Matagorda Bay coast. Find your way down to Matagorda itself, and spend a while exploring the splendid isolation of Matagorda Island and Matagorda Bay Nature Park.
Moving on, you’ll have to head inland until you reach Angleton when you can dive back down to the Gulf and drive along Galveston Island until you reach Galveston itself.
Check out the Historic Pleasure Pier on the south shore, and the bizarre glass pyramids of Moody Gardens, home to all manner of exotic creatures including sharks, monkeys, and animatronic dinosaurs!
This itinerary sets aside time to really enjoy this coastal gem, so slather on that sunscreen and hit the beach!
5 More Things to Do in Galveston
Besides the pier and the beach, don’t miss:
- 1892 Bishop’s Palace
- Strand Historic District
- Moody Gardens
- Galveston Historic Seaport
- Moody Mansion
Where to Stay in Galveston
Budget: Beachtree Motel
Mid-Range: Knights Inn Galveston
Luxury: Four Seasons on the Gulf
Airbnb: Galveston Beach Front Condo
Day Nine and Ten: Houston
Galveston to Houston is a breezy fifty mile-drive, and won’t take you more than an hour. This is a great way to end your trip, as Houston is one of the largest and most vibrant cities in the US.
It’s also a great way to spend the last few days of your trip if you’ll be flying out of Texas since Houston has a large airport.
While you can make the trip in under an hour, a more scenic route is to jump on a ferry from Galveston to Port Bolivar, and drive up the Bolivar Peninsula until you reach the Anahuac National Wildlife Reserve.
Grab a lunch of freshly-caught fish at Crystal Beach, then take a big loop around Trinity Bay before heading into Houston along the I-10. You’ll get a taste of the bayous spilling over from Louisiana, before enjoying the cultural delights of Texas’s biggest city, and your final destination!
During your last few days in Texas, soak up Houston’s history at the Space Center Houston and learn all about Houston’s role in America’s space exploration.
A Texas coastal road trip is a brilliant adventure and offers an alternative perspective on the Lone Star State. An underrated gem, the Texas Gulf Coast has loads to offer, and this adventure is the best way to experience it!
5 More Things to Do in Houston
Besides Space Center Houston, don’t miss:
- The Museum of Fine Art
- Kemah Boardwalk
- Battleship Texas State Historic Site
- Market Square Park
- Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
Where to Stay in Houston
Budget: DoubleTree by Hilton
Mid-Range: Aloft Houston Downtown
Luxury: The St. Regis Houston
Airbnb: Pool House Pied-A-Terre Suite
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)!
Texas Travel Resources
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.
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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!