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The 7 best beach towns in Texas to visit in 2021

As the 2nd largest state in the USA, Texas has so many different landscapes to explore and enjoy. While many consider the hill country or one of Texas’ major cities for their destination, another alternative is one of these best beach towns in Texas.


The lone star state has over 350 miles of sandy coastline calling your name. Right on the Gulf of Mexico, these Texas coastal cities have consistently warm weather and a variety of charm and appeal for every type of traveler.

The Texas coastline is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and beachgoers. For those seeking adventure, the gulf coast is a hotspot for windsurfing, bodyboarding, and kitesurfing.

You can also explore the great outdoors in the marshes, bird sanctuaries, and even help release turtles back into their habitat.

So get ready for a beach vacation you won’t forget as the whole coastline of Texas is waiting for you.

Only a short drive from most major cities, the things to do in these Texas coastline cities continue to grow year over year.

Follow this guide to the best beach towns in Texas to plan your next trip to the gulf coast and find all of your must-stop spots.

south padre island - beach towns in texas

The top coastal towns in Texas

South Padre Island

South Padre Island is a spring breaker’s paradise. This Island is known for its wild parties and upbeat atmosphere. Many college students and young adults will spend a few days here enjoying the stretches of sand and the live music.

SPI is located at the southern tip of Texas, along the Gulf of Mexico. This island is a year-round destination with its warm waters and sunny skies. While the Island is one of the best beach towns for young adults it still has a lot to offer for a family getaway.

For a more relaxed vacation, head to the island in late August and early September, this will help to avoid the spring breakers and large music festivals.

South Padre Island can be reached by ferry or by driving across the bridge and it makes an easy day trip from Corpus Christi. However, it would be ideal to book a place to stay for the weekend to spend all day and night exploring the island.

Although South Padre Island is known for the booze, the beach, and sunbathing, this Texas beach town has much more to offer its visitors. Seek some adventure and go horseback riding on the beach, or learn how to kitesurf with Air Padre.

south padre island
Photo by Canva

South Padre Island also has plenty of daytime tours for those who love sea life. Head out on the open water for some deep-sea fishing, maybe you’ll even catch your own dinner.

Book a dolphin tour cruise to experience these magical creatures in the wild. Learn about how Sea Turtle inc. is rehabilitating turtles to release back into their natural habitat and protecting their eggs.

This organization is working hard to conserve the land for the hatchlings and also has a few permanent residents that are unable to return to the sea.

To find more of a natural landscape away from the hustle and bustle of the party-goers make your way to North Padre Island.

You will find Padre Island National Seashore, the park protects 66 miles and a long untouched beach. The Gulf of Mexico turns into the Laguna Madre Bay, one of the few hypersaline lagoons in the world.

south padre beach
Photo by Canva

My favorite place to spend an afternoon or a late evening is Clayton’s Beach Bar, the largest beach bar in Texas. Claytons has beach volleyball, two piers, and hosts live concerts at night. Make sure to grab one of their famous Turbo Pina Coladas, but be careful, they are strong!

This two-mile Island makes it hard for the spring breaker and families or solo travelers alike to leave.

After a few days spent basking in the Texas sun and nights lit up by concerts and the moon, you will want to be calling this place home.

South Padre island beach
Photo by Canva

South Padre Island is becoming one of the best beach towns for young adults.

Where to stay in South Padre Island

Isla Grand Beach Resort
The Inn at South Padre

Bahia Mar Condominuims


Surfside

As one of the best beach towns in Texas to live, Surfside Beach, often referred to as Rockport, is my favorite Texas beach. Most Texas beaches have darker sand and a greener hue of the water.

Surfside has white sand and blue waters with the perfect mix of locals and visitors. You will find plenty of fresh seafood restaurants and cute little surf shops to rent a board or take some lessons.

One of my favorite places to go in Surfside is Rita’s Daiquiri shop. You can grab a to-go beverage, and head to the beach for some fun in the sun.

surf side beach texas
Photo by Canva

This beach has a lot of water activities such as jet-skiing, fishing, and bodyboarding. After a long day in the sun, spark up a bonfire as Surfside is one of the only beaches in Texas that allows it.

Grab some marshmallows, a guitar, and spend a night under the Texas stars.

This Rockport beach town is located about 2 hours south of Houston and can be explored by golf cart. Nothing in this town is more than a 5-minute ride away. This beach is much more relaxing and laid back than Galveston or Corpus Christi.

Surfside beach texas
Photo by Canva

You won’t find chain restaurants or commercialized tourism in Surfside. Known as one of the cleanest beaches in Texas, and home to the best beach communities in the state, many will find it hard to leave this little coastal city.

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Port Aransas

As one of the best beach vacations in Texas, Port Aransas has everything you need for a family or solo getaway. Port Aransas is a town close to Corpus Christi making it an easy day trip from the bigger city.

This Texas coastal city is known for its soft sand and its profound birding and fishing culture.

Known as the “fishing capital of Texas” Port Aransas has everything you need for a full day out in the open sea.

There are plenty of tours to join, whether you just want to spend the morning trying to catch some red snapper or spend the whole day reeling in big tuna or baby sharks.

These tours do a good job of maintaining the fish population by only allowing you to keep two of your catches and requiring you to throw the others back.

port Aransas beach
Photo by Canva

Make sure to pick up some motion sickness bracelets before you head out on the water to avoid getting seasick. 

One of my favorite things about Port Aransas is its thriving art community.

This coastal town has plenty of pop-up art exhibits as well as long-term galleries for you to visit.

Blast to the past at the Port Aransas Museum to see how early islanders used to live and how this Texas town has evolved into what it is today.

The museum also holds daily tours to Chapel on the Dunes, the oldest church on the Island.

If you want to get in on some action make sure to check out Farley Boat Works. You will learn about the history of boat making and can attend a workshop to build a small replica of a sailing boat.

Port Aransas
Photo by Canva

Toward the end of the inlet is Mustang Island, which is the most popular beach in Port Aransas. Mustang Island is surrounded by the calm, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Due to its shallow and calm waters, this beach is the perfect spot to go kayaking or paddleboarding. You will find minimal wind here and lots of sea creatures.

Port Aransas is one of the best Texas coastal cities to live in as it provides an incredible opportunity to own your home, create a community of other beach lovers, and also rent out your property during the high season to bring in some capital.

With its short drive to the bigger city of Corpus Christi, you will have access to everything you need for a thriving beach life. 


Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi has the best of different worlds.

As the largest Texas coastal city, home to 300,000 people, this beach town has something for everyone. Corpus Christi is one of the best beach towns in Texas to live in with its easy accessibility to the big city and its miles of coastline.

This coastal city is just a short 2-hour drive from San Antonio and is the entry port for many of the beaches on this list.

Some cities near Corpus Christi are Port Aransas, Padre Island, and Rockport. With such easy access to so many of Texas’ best beaches, many travelers will set a base in Corpus Christi and do day trips to the nearby shores.

Corpus Christi Texas aerial view
Photo by Canva

If you are a big history buff, head to one of the most famous sites in Texas. The USS Lexington, now a naval aviation museum that was originally commissioned in 1943 for the Pacific War in World War II.

If you have seen the movie Pearl Harbor, this museum is likely to seem familiar as the converted convoy was used on set. Onboard the Lexington, you can go on a guided tour to learn the history, see some vintage aircraft, and even try out their fighter jet simulator.

One thing the south can come to an agreement on is our love for Selena, the most famous Mexican-American singer in history.

If you haven’t heard of her, check out the 1997 movie “Selena” starring Jennifer Lopez.

The singer and songwriter died in 1995 at the early age of 23. Corpus Christi is home to the Selena Museum, and it is a must-stop, especially if you love Latin culture.

It is open Monday-Friday from 10 am-4 pm and will cost you 3 dollars to go through Selena’s life, musical achievements, and sadly her early death. I can not recommend this museum enough.

Corpus Cristi Texas
Photo by Canva

While the Texas surfing culture doesn’t seem to be too big to the naked eye, Corpus Christi is home to the Texas Surf Museum.

This museum is a product of dedicated surfers who wanted to create a space for the history of the sport as well as encourage others to try.

This museum is free to visit and is a good way to spend a few hours whether you are an avid surfer or have never even tried.

corpus cristi texas
Photo by Canva

Corpus Christi continues to grow in population and construction year over year. The city has done a phenomenal job at keeping its coastline preserved and beautiful for its visitors and locals.

Boasting over 100 miles in the area, you will find clean beaches with wildlife and people living hand in hand.

Many different organizations have come together over the years to educate the Texas community on preserving the landscape and all of its inhabitants.

Where to stay in Corpus Christi

Use the map below to find the best hotels or apartment deals in the location you desire.


Galveston

As one of the easiest Texas beach towns to drive to, Galveston is a must when considering Texas cities on the gulf. Over the years, Galveston has become a popular destination for family vacations as well as new residents.

Hop on a bike and explore the Victorian homes, colorful boardwalks, and chat with the locals.

Fun fact: Galveston has the world’s longest continuous sidewalk, making it quite easy to walk around the city.

For a day of fishing or a sundowners paradise head to the island’s longstanding pier where you will see local fishermen reeling in a catch. This is also the best place to catch one of Galveston’s pastel-colored sunsets.

Galveston texas harbor
Photo by Canva

If you are looking for some adventure, Galveston’s state park is home to over 200 acres and 34 bird species.

This green space is filled with loads of hiking trails and hidden swimming holes for you to cool off in from the Texas heat. It is easy to spend a whole day exploring the park.

The state park also has RV hookups and tent sites should you want to turn your day trip into an overnight experience.

Within the past 20 years, Galveston has escalated its historical sites and museums making this a great destination for those who want to learn about the past.

Galveston is the birthplace of Juneteenth, the holiday that celebrates the last African American slaves being freed.

Go on Galveston’s self-guided freedom walk around the city to be immersed in the African American roots and learn about the emancipation of all Texas slaves.

Another fantastic way to spend the day is at Moody Gardens. Open every day from 10 am-6 pm, the gardens welcome you with their world-class aquarium, living rainforest, and educational 3D tour.

Grab their value pass for 60 dollars and have access to the whole park, try your hand at their 18 hole golf course, or cool off on a hot summer day in the lazy river.

Galveston beach
Photo by Canva

There are seven beaches in Galveston, each with its own culture. My favorite is East Beach where you will find a youthful ambiance and plenty of speakers blasting some tunes.

This beach allows open container alcohol making it a bit more rowdy for those who love a good party beach and hosts plenty of evening concerts in the summer.

If you are seeking a more serene and calming day, head to the award-winning Stewart Beach for more family-friendly fun and a relaxing day by the shore.

Many find themselves in Galveston as it is the 4th largest port for cruise ships to launch from.

However, the city brings so much charm to its visitors with its historic roots, art culture, and of course, its gorgeous 32-mile long coastline that more and more people are starting to call this little gulf coast townhome.

GALVESTON BEACH
Galveston Beach

Port Arthur

Port Arthur is known as one of the best little beach towns in Texas. For those seeking fun in the sun with some cajun flair, look no further than this coastal escape! This port town has a little bit of everything from city living, amazing fishing, and sandy beaches for a day in the sun.

Separated from Louisiana by the Sabine Lake, Port Arthur is filled with Louisiana influence. While many head to the coast for seafood, Port Arthur should be your destination for Cajun eats.

From crawfish boils to deep-fried catfish, you will have your fill of the bayou cuisine.

This little beach town is full of culture and feels so welcoming from the moment you arrive.

The oil boom in the United States made Port Arthur one of the best gulf coast towns to live in. 

Port Artur

Many American citizens, as well as foreigners, flocked to this area to settle. Because of the high influx of immigrants, you will find temples, shrines, and historical artifacts all throughout this city.

Many of them are dedicated to places and heritages around the world. Like a melting pot in Texas, you are sure to find your place in this historic beach town.

Along with its unique cultural identity, you will find an abundance of popular activities here. Spend the day kayaking the marshes, birdwatching, or sailing the open water.

The city has done a good job in maintaining the environment of the coast, allowing locals and visitors to enjoy its natural beauty. 


Port Lavaca

Port Lavaca has managed to fly under the radar when travelers are seeking a Texas beach destination. Known for its incredible fishing culture, 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.

Spend a day at LightHouse Beach Park, with its shallow water and sandy dunes this park makes for a relaxing day in nature.

The park also has a locally owned bird sanctuary, where you can explore the Alcoa Birding Tower and the Formosa Wetlands Walkway.

Made out of recycled material, the 2,200-foot boardwalk will guide you directly from the beach to the birding tower. Reel in a big catch at Marina Bay.

Port Lavaca
Photo © Seadrift Cottage

The Marina is known to be home to the red snapper, so grab your tackle box, find a nice spot and test your luck with a rod and reel.

It also has space for RV hook-ups and pop-up tents. You will find many people loading their jet skis and boats into the water for a full day ripping through the waves. 

While many come to Port Lavaca for a relaxing time on the water, the more you explore this coastal town the more you will see how much it truly has to offer.

Trek up to the Half Moon Reef Lighthouse to see how mariners were guided around the coast for years.

Built in 1858, this lighthouse provided guidance for over a century until a hurricane completely devastated the coast. Now visitors can walk the remains that were salvaged and see original pictures of the structure.

Half Moon Reef Lighthouse Port Lavaca
Photo by Canva

Another really great place to learn about this Gulf Coast City is at the Calhoun County Museum. This museum has been operating for over 50 years and is home to many artifacts that date back to 1852.

The Museum has created a historical path, guiding its guests through the times of Karankawa Indians, the civil war, and the boat wreckage of a sunken ship found by famed explorer Robert La Salle.

As a true Texas girl, I can confidently say that a can’t-miss local restaurant in Port Lavaca is LaVaca BBQ.

Stop by early in the afternoon to grab some brisket and pulled pork with a side of potato salad. One taste and you will be begging to return to this little town as often as possible. 

Where to stay in Port Lavaca

Seadrift Cottage – cozy and fully furnished cottages at a few steps from the beach


Boca chica

Currently a quaint coastal town with an untouched beach in Texas, Boca Chica needs to be at the top of your beach destinations in Texas.

While remaining off the grid for years, Boca Chica Beach is a laid-back, no-bells-and-whistles beach that takes a relaxing beach trip to a whole new level.

Due to the nature of this Texas beach town, it takes a little more preparation than its bigger city neighbors.

You will need to bring all your equipment for fishing, bodyboarding, and whatever other beach activity you may want to have.

Boca Chica is an eight-mile-long beach where the Colorado River meets the Gulf of Mexico. This is the southernmost beach in Texas and is only a 30-minute drive from the Mexican border.

While for years this is where Texan locals found themselves escaping big city lights it is now starting to find the spotlight.

Elon Musk, Tesla Founder, announced in late 2020, that Boca Chica is being looked at for the next Space X location.

This would create a large travel hub in this region, with a small launching station and a large compound for workers, what we know Boca Chica to be will be forever changed.

Many residents are being pressured to sell their land and move out of the area. This would also disrupt the bird populations and many animal habitats.

As of right now, no construction has started and hopefully, enough people will come together to preserve this special coastal city. Make sure to check out this one-of-a-kind beach before they take away its natural charm.

Texas is home to so many wonderful people and places and the gulf coast is no different and I hope this guide to the best beaches in Texas has inspired you to see them all!

For more frequently asked questions in regards to these Texas coast cities, the list below will hopefully answer any other questions you may have.


Texas beach towns FAQ

What is the nicest beach town in Texas?

Corpus Christi is the nicest beach town in Texas, thanks to its easy accessibility to the best beaches as well as its big city vibes and friendly residents. You will never grow bored of this Texas beach town. Many visit this city for a weekend and immediately start planning their move down to the coast.

surfside beach texas

What is the most affordable beach town in Texas?

Port Lavaca would be the most affordable. Because it’s a small lesser-known town, it still has conserved more affordable prices. Port Lavaca is rated to be 30% cheaper than the average city in the US. You will find everything you need here along with a small price tag.

Are there any white-sand beaches in Texas?

If you are looking for white-sand beaches in Texas, your best bet is going to be Surfside beach.

Most Texas beaches have darker sand, great for building sandcastles, not so great for your Instagram pics. But they can become with some creativity.

Surfside beach is one of the only beaches in Texas with blue waters and whiter sand.

Corpus christi texas Marina

What beach in Texas has clear water?

Very few gulf coast beaches have clear water. The best chance to see your toes in the water is to head to Surfside and Port Aransas for clear waters.

The time of year will also affect the color of the water. The best time to go to avoid the seaweed and darker waters are in the summer months of July in August.

The worst time to visit is going to be January and February when the wind has shifted bringing the seaweed and algae up from the Mexican coast.

Can you swim in the ocean in Texas?

You can and should swim on the Texas coast. While the waves might be high and the water less blue it is still perfect for swimming and any water activities. The gulf coast waters are warm and usually, the current is minimal making the swimming conditions perfect.

Texas beach at sunrise

What is the best family beach in Texas?

If you are thinking about a family vacation, Port Aransas is the destination for you. With plenty of family-friendly activities, kids and adults alike will spend all day and night enjoying this coastal town.

Many families live here and the environment is the perfect blend of excitement and curiosity for little ones. Spend the day on the beach or take the young ones to the interactive museums or the park.

Is it safe to swim in Texas beaches?

Yes, it is very safe to swim from the Texas beaches. There are lifeguards on most beaches and they flag the waters each day based on the wind with green, yellow, and red flags. Some sharks reside in the warm Texas waters, but it is very rare for them to come up close to the shore.

Where to stay in the beach towns in Texas


About the Author

carae hilcher

Carae is a born and raised Texan and a lover of new places and adventure. She has been traveling around the world solo for 3 years now. She moved to West Africa in hopes of seeing the world and has not been disappointed. She has met the coolest people and believes to have seen the prettiest places and never wants it to stop. You can follow her travels at caraeofsunshine.com

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