Whether your trip is a weekend getaway or a two-week sojourn, the Texas coastline is home to some of the most diverse sea life and renowned beaches and resorts in the country. This guide will help you find the best spot for your next coastal vacation, covering everything from family-friendly beaches and activities to secluded shores for those who want to get away from the city crowds. It’s not too bold to say that with 367 miles of coastline, there’s enough sun, water and activities for everyone to get the most out of their summer vacation.
Seaside Hotels and Resorts
Who can say no to a beautiful seaside resort on the water abounding with all the creature comforts? Plan a trip at these Texas Beach Resorts for a summer vacation that’s resplendent with stunning scenery, resort pools and sandy beaches for miles and miles.
If you’re destined for South Padre, a jewel along the Texas coast, plan on staying at a South Padre beachfront rental where the water is right at your feet. If you want the beach and all the attractions of the city we recommend staying at Carr Mansion just north of Galveston. There you can enjoy exclusivity and access to some of the best beaches along the gulf. But wherever you decide to stay, it’s impossible not to let your hair blow in the breeze and relax along the Texas shoreline.
Family Style Beaches
The only trouble when bringing your family to the beach in Texas is trying to decide which of the family-friendly locales to pick. There are a ton of beaches where you and your loved ones (often including your furry family members, too) can relax by the water, catch a few rays and switch into vacation mode. For a nice, clean sandy beach, kick back for chill vibes and build spectacular sandcastles with your little ones all day at East Beach on Galveston Island. If you’re willing to pay a fee, it doesn’t get much better than Stewart Beach, where you can truly relax with lifeguards on duty, a play area for children, volleyball courts and amenities. And then when the sun sets, make sure and take the little ones to visit the candy shops in Galveston’s historic downtown.
Together, Rockport and Corpus Christi make up an ideal family combination. In addition to the usual sea and sand, North Beach in Corpus Christi offers extracurricular activities like the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington Museum, an exciting opportunity for kiddos to tour a real-life aircraft carrier. Rockport Beach is a mere 30 miles away, with fabulous birding, the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site and the Texas Maritime Museum.
For Marine Life Lovers
If creature features are your interest, make sure to visit North Padre Island for an unforgettable experience. With a little bit of luck and good timing, you can witness the release of sea turtle hatchlings, occurring between mid-June through August right on Malaquite Beach in Corpus Christi. Visit the Hatchling Releases page of the National Park Service website to make sure you catch a glimpse of the hatchlings making their way across the shore and into the sea.
Scuba certified? It doesn’t get much better than Flower Garden Banks. There are a variety of charters available to take you 100 miles off coast, where you’ll dive 60 feet to spot star coral, bluehead wrasse, orange sponges, loggerhead sea turtles (all grown-up!), manta rays — the list goes on and on. Then plan a trip to the Texas Clipper off South Padre Island and dive 70 feet to explore a sunken ship that is now a 473-foot-long artificial reef.
Surf’s Up in Texas
The ocean breeze can be good for more than just keeping you cool. The Texas coastline offers some bigger winds, and to ride these gales, there’s no place like the Laguna Madre in South Padre. This estuary is a shallow saltwater lagoon that offers unobstructed wind over thousands of acres of water, making it one of the best spots to windsurf and kitesurf in mainland USA — and a great place to learn the sport, as well.
For those interested in surfing, there’s a Texas break for every level. If you want to learn how to paddle in and pop up like a pro, then the best place to learn has surf right in its name. Surfside Beach offers a variety of waves perfect for the beginner and the expert, and don’t worry about “Locals Only” here. The vibe is mellow and welcoming. Though maybe you’re more experienced and looking for powerful waves that curl into barrels. If that’s the case, head down to Boca Chica Beach right along the border of Mexico. Here you’ll find thinner crowds and a chill vibe with waves you can rip all day long.
Of course, Texas has to go big. If you want an experience unlike any other, surf the Galveston Shipping Channel for impressively long rides created by, you guessed it, shipping tankers. Although you will need to enlist a jet ski to help you chase down the ships and ride the wake of these moving giants.
Beach Camping Made Easy
When it comes to beach camping, it doesn’t get much better than the warm sands of Texas. From South Padre Island to the tip of Port Bolivar, we’ll dip into the best spots along the coast to sleep under the stars. So, let’s go, the water is fine.
Located within the Padre Island National Seashore, South Padre Island’s pristine blue waters, 380 species of birds and remote beaches make it a natural hot spot for campers and visitors of all kinds. If your vehicle has off-road capabilities, then check out South Beach, where you can drive along the 60 miles of shoreline, finding the perfect spot to make camp away from the crowds. Camping here in the National Reserve requires a permit which can be purchased at the entrance kiosk, and without water and electricity hookups, it’s recommended you come prepared for primitive camping.
But if that’s not your style, there’s RV and tent camping at Bird Island Basin, replete with opportunities for birding, kayaking and windsurfing. All camping is on a first-come, first-served basis, though don’t worry, there’s plenty of beach for everyone.
If you are pulling an RV, you can also head up the coast toward the Mustang Island and Port Aransas beaches, where you can park near the dunes and enjoy the ocean breeze. Try IB Magee Beach Park on the northern edge of Mustang Island, with RV sites right on the water. Or if Galveston Beach is your destination, you can find great RV campsites at Jamaica Beach RV Resort and Galveston RV Park.
For quicker access from a major city, get away from the crowds along Crystal Beach. This destination is less than 100 miles from Houston, and you can pitch a tent anywhere along the 27 miles of coastline. If access to amenities is essential for your summer vacation, then this beach spot has your name written all over it. Literally, go ahead and write your name in the sand! With quick access to stores and restaurants along the Bolivar Peninsula, you get the creature comforts and the stars and the warm gulf waters at your fingertips.
Traveler Tip Section
It’s always smart to research where you’ll be camping and prepare for the elements. Here are some quick tips to ensure your next beachside vacation is unforgettable:
- Pack eye protection for sandy winds that can whip off the coast.
- Wear plenty of sunscreen.
- Double check the tides.
- Make sure your vehicle can handle the terrain.
If you’re unsure about sleeping under the stars, check out Suzanne Stavinoha’s trip along the coast with her family to see what staying on the beach is like.