Madison is a content writer, editor, and small business owner living in Okinawa, Japan. She focuses primarily on Texas, Colorado, and Japan travel destinations as well as budget-friendly guidelines and hiking trips.
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The state of Texas has over 600 miles of coastline, where sandy beaches and grassy sand dunes meet up with the Gulf of Mexico. Numerous locals and tourists alike head to the Texas coast every summer for beach season. For Houstonians, the Texas coast is a short drive away, making a Texas Coast beach vacation a great option for a weekend or day trip. From bustling beach towns like Galveston to quiet and remote beachside nature parks, these are the best beaches near Houston, Texas.
Crystal Beach is one of the best beaches to visit in Texas simply because its expansive sandy shore offers a bit more privacy than the beaches near the city of Galveston. One of the biggest perks of heading to Crystal Beach is that you can drive and park right on the sand here. Although Crystal Beach is a farther drive for some Houstonians at two hours, it is well worth the trip to Bolivar Peninsula.
Lago Mar Lagoon is the most unique beach option on this list. As a man-made beach, Lago Mar Lagoon offers a waterfront getaway with crystal clear water and white sand. This 12-acre lagoon has various swimming zones and a 10-foot-deep area made for watercraft. For those looking to enjoy the beach, there is over a mile of sandy shoreline. There is an entrance fee here. However, you can easily spend a full day at the lagoon. Lago Mar Lagoon is also home to an aqua course, catapult swing, paddleboards, and kayaks.
This Gulf of Mexico beach is popular among Houstonians wanting to get out of the busy city. Though there are a few fun things to do in the town of Port Aransas, the beach is really the main attraction here. Located on Mustang Island, Port Aransas is known as the “fishing capital of Texas.” Anglers can find a couple of offshore fishing excursion options or you can cast a line from one of the lighted fishing piers.
As the only privately owned beach in Galveston, Porretto Beach is a well-maintained sandy shore with chairs, umbrellas, and jet ski rentals. Family-owned since the 1950s, locals know Porretto Beach by its beach ball-colored umbrellas that line the shore. Porretto Beach is a less-crowded option compared to the public beaches along the Galveston seawall, making it worth the day trip to Galveston.
Find solitude at this 4,000-acre state park in Port Arthur. Although Sea Rim State Park is a longer drive than some of the beaches on this list, the two-hour trip is perfect for Houstonians looking to spend a few days in the sun. Book a cabin or a tent site right on the beach at one of the top campgrounds on the Texas Gulf Coast. With over five miles of shoreline, this state park is perfect for beach lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. Set out on a nice stroll through the marsh on the Gambusia Nature Trail Boardwalk or rent a kayak or canoe and explore the waterway routes here.
Rockport Beach, located in one of the best coastal cities to visit in Texas, is a great option for Houstonians wanting to spend a few days out in the sun and sand, as the drive to Rockport is around three hours. This beach is the first Texas beach to receive the “Blue Wave” certification, which means Rockport Beach meets a high standard of cleanliness and safety. Rockport is also home to an 800-foot fishing pier and a historic downtown area.
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Padre Island National Seashore, one of America’s most beautiful coastal national parks. As the world’s longest barrier island, Padre Island is a top beach destination in the Lone Star State. The drive from Houston is four hours, so not the closest option. However, this iconic seashore offers some of the state’s best stretches of sand. Padre Island’s natural features are home to hundreds of bird species and miles of natural coastline, making it well worth a visit for a weekend getaway.
Found on the eastern end of Galveston Island, East Beach is a lively beach that regularly plays host to festivals and concerts every summer season. Since this Texas beach is a popular option for locals and tourists, expect umbrella and chair rentals, concession stands, restrooms, and showers. If you’re wanting to explore the area beyond the beach, make sure to visit East End Lagoon Nature Preserve, a place beside East Beach where you can hike, kayak, and birdwatch.
This state park, which is only 58 miles from Houston, spans nearly 2,000 acres and offers a plethora of outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, kayaking, and birdwatching. However, the beach at Galveston Island State Park is one of the biggest draws for parkgoers. There is a day-use fee to enjoy the park. But at only $5 per person, this is a budget-friendly option. There are also tent sites and RV hookups if you’d like to plan a multi-day trip here.
Quintana Beach, an hour’s drive from Space City, is located south of Galveston in Quintana Beach County Park. This beachside park has plenty of amenities, from campsites and cabins to a playground, volleyball court, hiking trails, and even a community event center. Fishing enthusiasts will love the fishing pier and boardwalk, while history buffs shouldn’t miss out on exploring the old fort in the park, Fort Bales.
If you’re seeking a lively beach within reach of Galveston’s attractions, then Stewart Beach is a great option. This family-friendly beach is one of the top beaches in the area, making it both a busy yet popular spot to put your toes in the sand. There are some perks to visiting this Galveston hotspot, such as umbrella and chair rentals, concession stands, and lifeguards on duty.
As the closest beach to Houston, Sylvan Beach is ideal for daytrippers needing a quick beach getaway. At a 30-minute drive from H-Town, Sylvan Beach Park offers calm waves and a relatively seaweed-free sandy shore – two things you may not always find if you drive out to Galveston or Padre Island. Aside from the beach, parkgoers will also find a playground, fishing pier, and skate park.
A popular destination among birdwatchers and located in one of the best beach towns in Texas, Matagorda Bay Nature Park spans 1,600 acres of marshland and has over two miles of beachfront. This park is well-equipped for beachgoers, as you can rent beach chairs, wagons, and paddleboards. Spend a few days here in one of the cabins or glamping sites. In addition to the beachfront, enjoy the other amenities at the park, like kayaking, mini golf, and fishing.
Surfside Beach is a great spot to spend a weekend, as beachgoers can enjoy not only the sandy shore but also nearby local restaurants and souvenir shops. Just an hour’s drive outside of Houston on Follet’s Island, this slice of Texas shoreline is a popular spot for beachcombing and surfing. Although the Texas coast isn’t known for its massive surfing waves, Surfside Beach is one of the best surf spots on the upper Texas Gulf Coast that offers some swells for surfers.