The enormity of Texas can be a daunting thing to fathom. From its rolling deserts and canyon hills, to its sprawling cityscapes and country towns, the touring traveller can perhaps be forgiven for feeling a little lost at sea when trying to decide what to visit and where. But, for those looking to traverse the less-trodden Gulf coast on the state’s south-eastern side, it’s unquestionably the beaches, sands and coastal islands that should take center stage, while knowing which to visit amidst the 367 miles of Texan shore is still no easy thing.
So, to help out, here are five of the top beaches in all of Texas, giving a broad cross-section of the cream of the state’s coastal islands, protected lagoons and developed resort destinations.
130,000 acres of undulating sand dunes, protected bio reserves and eye-wateringly beautiful, untouched coastland awaits visitors at the Padre Island National Seashore. Remote, rugged and long (it extends more than 70 miles across the Texan coast), the park is recognized as one of the best places to spot the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle in its natural habitat, while its place on one of North America’s major bird migration routes makes it a hotspot for birdwatchers all through the year.
This one is a veritable hidden gem of Galveston Island, which sits perched out in the Gulf of Mexico just a short drive southeast of Houston City. Its off-the-beaten-track character means that visitors here enjoy some of the quietest beaches in Texas, with sea fishing, camping, swimming and hiking opportunities to boot. Those interested in learning more about the Island’s curious natural habitats can also organize guided flora and fauna tours with the rangers by appointment.
A place at once lively and relaxing, action-packed and laid-back, the 34-mile stretch of coast at SoPadre (as it’s so affectionately known), is home to some of Texas’ most tourist-friendly beach spots. They are hailed as some of the cleanest on the entire Texas Gulf Coast, while the sands glow with an ivory hue that’s more reminiscent of the paradisal spots in the Caribbean. Needless to say, there’s also loads to do, including horse riding, watersports, diving, boating, and beachcombing during the day, along with South Padre’s lively nightlife after dark.
Fill up the RV or pack in the tents and roll up to this drive-in beach that extends either side of Port Aransas in southern Texas. Behind the rolling dunes to the back of the beach, a marked out state roadway allows vehicles to get close to the shore, making camping trips or day-long excursions from the town itself an easy option for all travellers. For those looking to meet some locals and learn a little more about the sands and shells of this stretch, check out the recreational beach walk which takes place on the last Friday of every month.
Protected from the Gulf swells by a long spit of coastal land to the east, Rockport Beach lives up to the touristic motto of the city as a whole by providing family friendly beachfronts in a safe and entertaining environment. For the parents, there are plenty of Tiki-style umbrellas for shade, while if the kids grow bored later in the day, the beach’s numerous playgrounds, parks and amusement facilities are never too far away.