White sand, seafood restaurants, wildlife spots, and salty breezes. It’s true what they say – everything is bigger and better in Texas. While the Lone Star State might not be the first place that pops into your mind when you think of beach vacation, this guide will prove to you why it should be.
Texas is full of fantastic coastal towns to sit back, relax, and have a sip of some sweet ice tea. Whether you’re planning a warm winter vacation, a road trip, or a water-centric summer holiday, these Texas coastal towns are incredible. These coastal towns should absolutely be on your must-see landmarks and vacation list.
This list has 21 of the best coastal towns in Texas and has everything you need for a perfect beach vacation.
21 Charming Texas Coastal Towns
Table of Contents
- 21 Charming Texas Coastal Towns
- 1. Galveston
- 2. South Padre Island
- 3. Kemah
- 4. Rockport
- 5. Port Aransas
- 6. San Jose Island
- 7. Corpus Christi
- 8. Freeport
- 9. Crystal Beach
- 10. Boca Chica
- 11. Matagorda
- 12. Port O’Connor
- 13. Port Lavaca
- 14. Seabrook
- 15. Bolivar Peninsula
- 16. Port Arthur
- 17. North Padre Island
- 18. Jamaica Beach
- 19. Mustang Island
- 20. La Porte
- 21. San Leon
- Final Thoughts on Best Coastal Towns in Texas
This island city is full of Southern charm. If you’re looking to get away from the noise of the city, Galveston is the best place to relax.
In the past, it was the largest city in Texas and one of the largest ports in the United States. But the Galveston Hurricane of the 1900s ended their reign. Now, it is filled with restaurants, decorated Victorian houses and a colourful boardwalk. Galveston is a vibrant slice of paradise.
Be sure to head over to the Galveston Island State Park, and enjoy the scenic hiking trails or have a dip in one of the many swimming spots.
In the evenings, you can head to the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier for carnival rides, fried food, and gorgeous sunset views.
2. South Padre Island
South Padre Island is known as the “Spring Break Island”. It’s a party in the USA for sure on this island. However, South Padre Island is a year-round destination with warm waters and sunny skies. So, if you’re not up for a college flashback on vacation, you can still enjoy the perks of the island in late August and early September and avoid the crowds.
SPI is located at the southern tip of Texas, along the Gulf of Mexico and you are sure to have a vacation full of adventure. Go horseback riding on the beach, join a dolphin watching tour or learn how to kitesurf here.
The crown jewel of South Padre Island is Isla Blanca Park, located along the southern edge of South Padre. This park is filled with white-sand beaches, boating facilities, picnicking pavilions, and fishing spots.
Kemah is located near Houston and this small Texan beach town is unlike any small town you know.
Kemah is a mecca of fun, family-friendly activities. Famous for its boardwalk, you and your family can enjoy a variety of attractions, including roller coasters, arcade games and shopping.
This beach town is also great for indulging in a variety of water sports and swimming. Visit the Kemah Clear Lake Park and you will find a children’s play area, local flora and fauna, picnic tables and an excellent fishing spot or two.
Kemah is also home to many museums including the Bay Area Museum, Old Railroad Station Museum, and the Lone Star Flight Museum.
If you’re coming from Houston or Austin, take a road trip to the beach town of Rockport, Texas. This lovely beach town has a unique culture, excellent weather and great restaurants that might make you want to buy a house and settle down there.
Rockport Beach is Texas’ first 1.6 km (one-mile) long Blue Wave Beach. This means it is clean, managed responsibly, and focuses on protecting human health and the environment. And, the beach is accessible to people with decreased mobility. Unfortunately, Rockport does not allow pets on the beach.
If you love standing by the grill, Rockport also has a few BBQ grill spots for beachgoers who want to have a Texas-style beach vacation.
5. Port Aransas
Port Aransas is one of Texas’ most popular beach destinations. It has everything you want on vacation. With a wide range of incredible outdoor activities to cultural activities, this spot on the Gulf Coast is a must-visit.
The beaches are incredibly unique, and you can get the most of the Texas coast here. So, why not indulge in all the outdoor activities the town has to offer? Like parasailing, kayaking, or windsurfing. But don’t worry, if all you want to do on your vacation is take things slow, you can rent a bike and cruise down the town and soak up the Port Aransas sun.
Port Aransas also hosts the annual Sand Fest. This is where sculptors create impressive lifesize sandcastles. Thousands of people head over to Port Aransas to see them. The bonus to the event is that the profits earned from the festival go to local schools and the community.
6. San Jose Island
San Jose Island is the perfect place for nature lovers. Besides the amazing beaches here, there are tons of tropical birds that love to serenade their guests. Talk about southern hospitality.
On this island, you can enjoy some downtime because the beaches offer 33 km (12 miles) of pristine coastline and are not very crowded. So, take the opportunity to enjoy the salty breeze and the sunshine, uninterrupted.
The beaches offer plenty to do, though. Popular activities include birding, shelling and fishing. While swimming or fishing from the island’s jetties, keep an eye out for sea turtles; these marine animals are commonly spotted in the area.
7. Corpus Christi
You might have heard of Corpus Christi but if not, this is the largest coastal city in Texas.
It is home to 300,000 people and it’s a beach town that has something for everyone. In Corpus Christi, you’ll have easy accessibility to the big city and its long, beautiful coastline.
The beaches here are great for swimming and other water activities. Corpus Christi has a lot of history and culture to learn about, so visit some of their biggest attractions like the USS Lexington. This is a large aircraft carrier from the Second World War.
Corpus Christi also has a great art scene. One of the best museums in this beach town is the Art Museum of South Texas. You will mainly find great contemporary art from local artists. Not to mention, Corpus Christi is famous for its walking ghost tours, so if you love scary ghost stories, this is the place you need to see.
Freeport is another small coastal town. But dynamite comes in small packages so don’t rule this town out.
If you consider yourself an outdoorsy person, Freeport is an excellent destination for all things nature. You can go camping at Brazoria County Beach Park or enjoy the beaches at Quintana or Bryan Beach. You can also go jet skiing in the nearby Old Brazos River.
Love to go birdwatching? Freeport also offers multiple tours to see migrating birds and songbirds. You can also explore the historic downtown of Freeport and the history museum to see the shrimping history of the beach town. Don’t forget to stop by the Freeport Municipal Golf Course for a few rounds on the green.
In Freeport Beach, dining options include the Red Snapper Inn for fresh seafood and Kitty’s Purple Cow Cafe for family-friendly dining.
The Ocean Village Hotel is located right on the sand in Surfside Beach, so you won’t have to walk far to get your feet wet.
9. Crystal Beach
Crystal Beach, located on the Bolivar Peninsula, is a fan favourite along the Texas coastline. This great beach town is an easy ferry ride away from Galveston. This Texas beach getaway is home to wide sandy beaches, excellent fishing, and amazing bird watching. Crystal Beach also has a fun boho beach vibe, plus, there is plenty to do here.
The beach makes for the perfect base for exploring other attractions on the Bolivar Peninsula, including the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and the Point Bolivar Lighthouse.
Make sure you soak up the sun and add ‘rent a golf cart’ to cruise up and down the beach, onto your itinerary. Crystal Beach is also an excellent place to listen to live music, especially in the genres Country and Rock n Roll.
10. Boca Chica
Boca Chica, located near South Padre Island, is a hidden gem around Texas. This extremely small, quaint coastal beachside community is home to the Boca Chica State Park on the Gulf Coast.
However, due to the nature of this laid-back Texas beach town, there aren’t a lot of amenities readily available to their guests. So, you will need to bring all your equipment for fishing, bodyboarding, and whatever other beach activity you may want to do here.
While remaining off the grid for years, recently, Boca Chica has become famous as the launch site of SpaceX, the private space exploration company founded by Elon Musk of Tesla.
Boca Chica is home to a 12km (8 miles) stretch of sandy beach located north of the mouth of the Rio Grande river. This Texan beach is only a 30-minute drive from the Mexican border.
Boca Chica needs to be at the top of your beach destinations in Texas
Matagorda is the third oldest town in Texas and has many historical buildings and markers in its downtown area. It is a small beach town located near the mouth of the Colorado River on the upper Gulf Coast of Texas. This town’s motto is “the hidden treasure of the Texas Gulf Coast,” and it’s known for its excellent fishing opportunities.
Here, you will find over 37km (23 miles) of beach area that is easily accessible for camping, swimming, and relaxing. The Matagorda Bay Nature Park is also an excellent place for birding and wildlife.
If you have a kayak or a personal watercraft, then you have access to another 56km (35 miles) of the beachfront area south of the Colorado River.
12. Port O’Connor
The city of Port Lavaca is located southeast of Houston and is also one of the most underrated Texan coastal towns in this guide. Why? Well, Port Lavaca and the nearby town of Port O’Connor are coastal towns that are rich in cultural activities. Port O’Connor is also excellent for swimming, kayaking, paddling, and other water activities.
The coastal city Port Lavaca includes the Main Street Theater and the Calhoun County Museum. It is also home to the coastal city’s top attraction, the Half Moon Reef Lighthouse, which was built in 1858.
But besides the abundant cultural scene, its outdoor activities are scenic and heaps of fun too. Golf lovers will enjoy playing a round at the beautiful Hatch Bend Country Club. Port Lavaca is also home to two fabulous beaches, Magnolia Beach and Lighthouse Beach.
While Magnolia Beach is excellent for fishing, launching boats, and playing volleyball, Lighthouse Beach is also wonderful for birding. It even has a birding tower and a family-friendly hiking trail.
13. Port Lavaca
Port Lavaca has managed to fly under the radar when travellers are looking for a Texas beach destination. Port Lavaca is known for its incredible fishing culture, and more and more people are starting to flock here for their summer holidays.
This city sits on the Gulf Coast and is home to 12,000 people and only a 2-hour drive from Houston, making it the perfect place to spend a weekend.
The park also has a locally owned bird sanctuary, where you can explore the Alcoa Birding Tower and the Formosa Wetlands Walkway. Also spend a day at LightHouse Beach Park, for its shallow warm water and sandy dunes. This park makes for a relaxing day in nature.
Made out of recycled material, the 670m (2,200-foot) Port Lavaca boardwalk will guide you directly from the beach to the birding tower. It’s the perfect place to reel in a big catch at Marina Bay.
Seabrook is a wonderful Texas coastal town vacation destination. You can find Seabrook in Harris County, which is close to the city of Houston. To reach Seabrook from Houston you have to drive about 30 minutes. The distance between the two places is about 56 kilometres (35 miles).
There are lots of great things to do in Seabrook. Making it one of the most fun beach towns in Texas to visit. For example, Seabrook is famous for the large and diverse number of birds that live here.
You could easily spend the whole day bird watching. This is due to the location of the coastal town. Seabrook lies on a very large path for bird migration in North America.
Not only is nature here phenomenal, but you can also find lots of activities at these parks. For example, there is a skate park and a swimming pool in a few of the parks in Seabrook. You can also find some scenic hiking trails connecting the 18 amazing parks in Seabrook, which you can also bike along.
15. Bolivar Peninsula
Bolivar Peninsula is a 43 km (27 miles) stretch between Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico with some small communities, such as Crystal Beach and Port Bolivar.
Because it’s a short drive there, it makes for the perfect weekend getaway from Houston.
In the Bolivar Peninsula, you are sure to find clean beaches, soft sand, and a lot of fun.
16. Port Arthur
This thriving port town has an alluring combination of Texas coastal charm and Cajun flair.
Port Arthur is an idyllic location that offers lots of delicious fresh seafood, breezy coastal walks, and natural beaches.
If you are looking for something more and want to venture out to partake in adrenaline-pumping activities, you’ll be well served here. Port Arthur is the perfect backdrop for dozens of outdoor adventures, including sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking.
17. North Padre Island
Take a stroll along North Padre Island’s soft sandy beaches and watch the crashing waves. Not only is North Padre a picturesque setting for some time alone or with a plus one, but it’s also home to the sea turtle. Padre Island National Seashore separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre and is one of a few hypersaline lagoons in the world.
North Padre draws a huge crowd to Kemp’s Ridley to see the sea turtles every year. These turtles nest on the shores of North Padre Island and are very well protected by the state park system. People come from all over to watch the baby sea turtles being released into the ocean for the first time.
If you’re looking for one of the more rustic and off-the-beaten-path beaches in Texas, North Padre Island is for you. With over 112km (70 miles) of protected land, this national seashore is the longest undeveloped stretch of coastline on a barrier island in the entire world.
The Padre Island National Seashore is a great place to learn and uncover different wildlife and plants. It’s also a great nook to set up for a beach day with family and friends.
18. Jamaica Beach
Jamaica Beach is another place you should see when you’re looking for beach towns. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a small vacation spot in Texas.
Jamaica Beach City Park is one of the best places to see while you’re in the South. It’s a relaxing place to go to and there are several things to do – especially for large families.
Plan a day at the local basketball court and picnic area for the whole family to enjoy. This is also a great place to go for the kids, as there’s a playground with swings as well.
And of course, we can’t forget about the beautiful beaches here. The sand is wonderfully soft and white with crystal blue waters – it’s the perfect place to relax.
The closest large city in Texas near Jamaica Beach is Houston. You can reach this lovely town from there within 1.5 hours.
19. Mustang Island
This barrier island is located just east of Corpus Christi, Mustang Island is a favourite beach destination for families and active travellers.
Surfing and camping are popular things to do at this beach, however, the Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail also offers opportunities to kayak, canoe and paddleboard. The Paddling Trail is a 32km (20 miles) series of shallow-water canals.
If you’re not keen on breaking a sweat during your visit, you can stretch out and watch for turtles, dolphins and birds on the island’s 28-plus kilometres (18 miles) of beautiful sands.
20. La Porte
La Porte is a great place on the coast of Texas, close to the city of Houston. To reach La Porte from Houston it’s a short 30-minute drive.
You’ll find lots of great sights in La Porte. One of those sights is the San Jacinto Museum of History. This is a museum where you can learn about the history of Texas.
Be sure to check out La Porte Pecan Park too. People gather here to watch baseball, take leisurely hikes along the designated trails, let their kids have fun at the playground, and so much more.
Also, when you are in La Porte, don’t miss an opportunity to go to Sylvan Beach Park. This is a lovely waterfront park with a pier that stretches into the sea.
La Porte is close to many other beach towns on this list, such as Kemah and Galveston. You could make a day of it and opt to visit all three beach destinations. You’ll be sure to have limitless amounts of fun in the sun at all three places.
21. San Leon
San Leon is a lovely beach town in Texas. One of the best things to do in San Leon is to visit Bayshore Park. This is a lovely park next to the San Leon waterfront.
San Leon has an amazing variety of restaurants and bars to choose from along the beach. After spending a day in the sun, head over to San Leon’s most loved bar- the Sunset Lounge. Besides, the people of San Leon call it the Sunset Lounge for nothing. It is truly the perfect place to see the sunset.
Final Thoughts on Best Coastal Towns in Texas
As the second-largest state in the USA, Texas has over 563 km (350 miles) of sandy coastline calling your name. Hopefully, this guide made you curious to explore the many different landscapes Texas has to offer.
The Texas coastline, right on the Gulf of Mexico is a haven for every type of traveller. The coastal cities have consistently warm weather and a variety of charm and appeal. So, are you ready and rarin’ to go yet? The Texas coast is awaiting.
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