The 12 Best Beaches in Texas

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
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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.

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South Padre Island

Island at night
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South Padre Island, TX 78597, USA

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.

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Padre Island National Seashore

Golden Reflection off wet sand as waves crash along the shore Sea birds and cranes feed on the beach
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Padre Island National Seashore, Texas, USA

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.

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Corpus Christi

Palm Trees On Beach Against Sky
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Corpus Christi, TX, USA

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.

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Port Aransas

Pier at sunset
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Port Aransas, TX, USA

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.

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San José Island

San José Island, Texas, USA

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.

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Mustang Island State Park

Royal Tern Flypast
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Mustang Island State Park, Port Aransas, TX 78373, USA

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.

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Galveston Island

Flying over Galveston Texas Sea Wall and Beach
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Galveston Island, Texas, USA

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.

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Crystal Beach

Crystal Beach, Texas 77550, USA

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.

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Surfside Beach

Sunrise On the Gulf of Mexico
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Surfside Beach, TX, USA

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.

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Rockport Beach

Pier at Rockport Beach
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Rockport Beach, Rockport, TX 78382, USA

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.”

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Boca Chica Beach

South Texas Beach
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Boca Chica Beach, Texas 78521, USA

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.

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Matagorda Beach

Stone Pier on Matgorda Bay
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J24V+6V, Matagorda, TX 77457, USA

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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The 12 Best Beaches in Texas