Texas is a state well-known for its wide-open spaces, cattle ranches, and quirky roadside attractions. It’s not as famous for its beaches, but there are actually many fun towns that line the southern coast. The coastal area of Texas stretches from South Padre Island to the Louisiana border and offers a very different way of experiencing the state. Here you’ll find some amazing seafood, kayaking, boating, birdwatching, and pleasant temperatures year-round.
This is a much more affordable region than coastal communities in many other U.S. states, and Houston is nearby for all your big city and airport needs. Whether you’re looking for a fun vacation destination or somewhere to settle down for a while, these are the top 10 beach towns on the Texas coast!
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South Padre Island
This island is on the tip of Texas and one of the best beach destinations in the South. It’s gotten a reputation as a big spring break destination, but it’s also a wonderful place for outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts. Some of the most popular things to do here include horseback riding, dolphin watching, sand castle building, and sport fishing. It’s also easy to visit the Schlitterbahn waterpark and witness the huge saltwater fishing contest when you visit South Padre Island. For adventurous travelers, this is a great place windsurfing, kiteboarding, snorkeling, and diving. If you visit in the winter, you’ll still likely enjoy comfortable temperatures in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. You’ll find many restaurants to dine at here, including Yummies Bistro, the Padre Brewing Company, and the Beachside Bar and Grill. Recommended places to stay include the Isla Grand Beach Resort and the La Copa Inn Beach Hotel.
You’ll find Port Aransas at the end of Mustang Island and a refreshingly under-developed area. This is a small tourist town that has several miles of sandy beaches, delicious restaurants, and a fun arts scene. But it’s much smaller and more relaxing than some of the larger beach destinations on this list. This is an excellent place to visit if you love to fish, and it’s even been referred to as the fishing capital of Texas. Boating, kayaking, and shelling are also popular here when you spend time on the Mustang Island beaches. Port Aransas is about an hour away from Corpus Christi and has a couple dozen restaurants to choose from. A couple recommended ones are Irie’s Island Food and Roosevelt’s. RV enthusiasts love this place because you can camp right on the beach. There are also quite a few vacation rental properties here, as well as resort hotels like the Pamilla Beach Resort and Golf Club and the Seashell Village Resort.
If you like the idea of big city attractions mixed with a charming coastal atmosphere, then make a point to visit Galveston. It’s only about 50 miles from Houston and has a nice mix of city amenities and small-town charm. You can take a tour of the city with a local guide and partake in a wide variety of outdoor activities when you visit, such as sports fishing and horseback riding. The Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark is also here and one of the most popular amusement parks in the state. To learn something new on your trip, stop by the Railroad Museum, the Texas Seaport Museum, or the Lone Star Flight Museum. The Pelican Club and Shearn’s Seafood and Prime Steaks are local restaurants that are excellent. When you make a trip to Galveston, you can stay at the Moody Gardens Hotel, The Galvestonian, or the Tremont Mouse. There are also quite a few RV parks as well if you prefer to camp.
The town of Corpus Christi has the best of both worlds: a laid-back atmosphere and also lots of excitement and local happenings. The town has a population over 300,000, which means that it offers a lot more things to see and do than the average tiny beach town. To get around, you can hop on a bus or the Harbor Ferry, which takes passengers from the Texas State Aquarium and North Beach to the Corpus Christi Marina. When you visit, don’t miss these iconic local attractions, as well as the USS Lexington, the Water Street Market, and Padre Island National Seashore. When you get hungry, Ginger Café, and Andy’s Kitchen are local spots to stop by for food. A few recommended hotels here include the Omni Hotel, Best Western Marina Grand Hotel, and the Staybridge Suites.
As the name suggests, Seabrook is a big boating destination on the Texas coast. In town, you’ll find houses on stilts, marinas, seafood restaurants, and two main highways that run through town. This is a family-friendly community that is quiet and is passionate about fishing and boating. Make sure to visit Clear Lake Park when you’re in Seaside and maybe even take a boat trip with the All Points of Sail Sailing School. For budget-friendly meals that are as delicious as they are affordable, stop by Habanero’s Tacos, Neptune Subs Incorporated, or Dave’s Smokehouse in Seabrook. After long days out on the water, you can come back to comfortable accommodations at the Springhill Suites Houston/NASA/Seabrook or the Best Western Plus Seabrook Suites.
Kemah is a lovely Texas town that’s between Houston and Galveston. The best thing to do here is to take a stroll along its iconic boardwalk. Here you’ll find lots of shops, restaurants, and even amusement rides. There are lots of things to do in Kemah for tourists, such as horse carriages, boat cruises, and sailing. Kemah hosts a fun 4th of July celebration, festivals, and concerts, so check the town’s events calendar to see what’s going on during your trip. The Lighthouse Buffet and T-Bone Tom’s are recommended local restaurants here. One of the best places to stay during your trip to Kemah is the Boardwalk Inn, which offers lovely ocean views.
Another great coastal town in Texas is Rockport, which is surrounded by barrier islands and the bay. Come here if you are looking to avoid the crowds of South Padre Island and looking for a chill vibe. The place to be here is Austin Street if you love to shop and dine. There are cozy accommodations awaiting your stay at the Lighthouse Inn, and Hoopes House. Some of the top things to do here include the Rockport Center for the Arts, the South Austin Street Galleries, and Rockport Beach Park in the middle of town. The breezy winds here are perfect for both windsurfing and flying a kite. When you work up a hunger, plan to eat at the Latitude 28º02′ Coastal Cuisine & Fine Art, which specializes in oysters, craft cocktails, and sells the artwork displayed on the walls.
You’ll only need to travel about an hour from Houston to reach Surfside, which is an ideal place for active travelers who love water sports and shell collecting. Come here for your adrenaline fix on the water or to try out a new hobby. There are lots of vacation rental properties that you can stay at when you visit Surfside.
Crystal Beach/Port Bolivar
Crystal Beach is a resort community on the Texas coast that is part of the Bolivar Peninsula. This is a peninsula that stretches along the coast for about 27 miles. You’ll need to hop on a ferry in Galveston or drive along Highway 87 from High Island to get here. This is a family-friendly destination that has lots of seafood, swimming spots, and even local nightlife to check out. In May or June each year, the community hosts the Texas Crab Festival with lots of seafood dishes, live music, and craft vendors. Golfers will enjoy the Rancho Carribe Golf Course, while nature lovers should check out the Bolivar Loop Upper Texas Coast Wildlife Trail along Highway 87.
The last awesome beach town that we’ll mention in this list is Matagorda, Texas. This town’s motto is “the hidden treasure of the Texas Gulf Coast,” and it’s known for its excellent fishing opportunities. The Matagorda Bay Nature Park is a 1,600-acre preserve with miles of beaches, public piers, and birdwatching opportunities. On the third Saturday of each month, you can stop by the downtown courthouse square for market days. A few recommended places to stay are the Stanley-Fisher House, the Shell Motel, and the Fisherman’s Motel – all of which are B&Bs.