11+ Best Beach Towns in Texas

Looking for a less crowded beach getaway?

Why not a trip along the sunshine-filled Texas coastline?

Start southeast of Houston following a chain of islands that hug the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Continue past Corpus Christi, down to where Texas meets Mexico.  

Enjoy warm water and unobstructed Gulf views, while preparing yourself to enjoy a brighter side of Texas.

Follow along for the 11 best beach towns in Texas.

But, first!

Why consider Texas beach towns for a getaway?

Port Aransas

A few reasons:

  • Affordability – unlike some major East and West coast beach towns, Texas beach towns are still relatively affordable both for living and for day trips. You’ll find more affordable restaurants, accommodation, and things to do.
  • Warm waters – Texas beaches have some of the warmest waters in the Gulf, which makes it super relaxing to chill out in (and yes, you can swim off of Texas’ coast!)
  • See a different side to Texas – let’s face it, most people don’t think of the coast of Texas. They think of the rodeo, of major Texas inland cities, and maybe of Buccees, but they’re missing out on the gems that can be found on the coastline. Discover a different side to Texas in its beach towns and see why this state has so much to offer.

Hey! Want more expert tips on Texas? Check out our other guides!

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Don’t forget to pack…

For all of your opportunities to hit the beach, don’t forget to bring:

1. Port Arthur

McFaddin Beach
Image: McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, TX. John Kim. [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Across the border from Louisiana sits Port Arthur, one of the smaller beach towns in Texas.

It’s also known as the historic site where the Confederate soldiers stopped the Union forces during the Civil War, so history buffs should make sure to plan a stop here.

Check out the Sabine Pass Battleground Memorial site where you can grill your favorite foods and picnic next to the water (don’t forget the bug spray in the warmer months).

Next, look for Sea Rim State Park or McFaddin Beach, both places where Texans and visitosr alike can enjoy sand and sun.

Launch your boat for a playful afternoon on the water, soaking in the rays.

Further south is the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge offering a mix of wetlands and beach.

Here, enjoy outdoor activities including swimming, fishing, camping (one of the best places to camp in Texas), and seashell hunting (some of the best seashells in the area!).

It’s a quiet location which means there can be lots of wildlife.

Look for wild hogs, alligators, crabs, dolphins, and even bald eagle!

Bring a pair of binoculars to make your visit even better.

Pitch a tent and fall asleep stargazing on warm nights.

Had enough sun?

Enjoy a super cool whiskey tasting experience at the new veteran-owned, hand crafted Clifford Distillery, in downtown Port Arthur.

Before you head home, try the Museum of the Gulf Coast for a bit of local flavor.

Entry is under $10 per person, offering exhibits on the history and artistry of the area.

Port Arthur’s best beaches:

  • McFaddin Beach
  • Pell’s Landing

Where to stay in Port Arthur:

2. Bolivar Beach

Image: Reese Enjoying the Sand. Donnie Ray Jones. [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Just south of Port Arthur is the Bolivar Peninsula, home to Bolivar Beach, Goat Island and Fort Travis Park.

Drive your car right onto Bolivar Beach and camp.

Your belongings will never be far away, so you can easily run back to your set-up for some food, an extra layer, or more sunscreen.

Beware of the four wheelers going fast along the water’s edge (definitely keep an eye on the kids), but delight in the sunset on the gulf.

Boliver Beach
Image: Reese in the Waves. Donnie Ray Jones. [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

They’re truly out-of-this-world and something everyone should see with their own eyes.

Birding enthusiasts will also love this part of Texas.

Keep an eye out for sandhill cranes!

Where to stay in Bolivar Peninsula:

3. Goat Island

Arguably the best coastal town in Texas, Goat Island may not have any goats (a shame), but at only four miles long and one mile wide, it packs a lot in for those seeking fun and mystery.

It has a reputation for being the “Key West of Texas” with bars and an eclectic group of islanders that celebrate life to the fullest.

And why not when you’re in such a beautiful part of the world?

Top tip: make sure you know that you’ll need to leave your car on the peninsula, as this is a ‘car free’ zone where residents and visitors use golf carts and bikes to get from place to place.

It makes for a super chilled out experience, and: there’s a bonus!

No one has to worry about being the designated driver.

The Point Bolivar lighthouse is also a great way to spend some time, getting pictures and enjoying the beautiful backdrop against the deep blue sky.

4. Galveston/Jamaica Beach

From Goat Island, you can grab the ferry to Galveston Island and Jamaica Beach.

Tucked in the northwest corner of the Galveston Island State Park is Jamaica Beach, one of best beaches in Texas to live if you’re looking to settle down near the coast.

Galveston Island
Image: Galveston Bay. Bart Everson. [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Yes, it’s crowded at peak times with Texas daytrippers, but you can find secluded spots if you go a bit further and pitch your umbrella away from the masses.

This is the perfect beachy spot for hiking, birdwatching, and swimming – all in a safe, protected and natural setting.

Galveston Texas
Image: Galveston, Texas. Nicolas Henderson. [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Rent a beachfront home for a week to enjoy home cooked meals with the family (we recommend using VRBO instead of AirBnb) or stay in the campgrounds after a long day at the beach if you want to feel more one-with-the-beach.

See the area by chartered boat or helicopter for a unique, Texas-sized adventure (everything’s bigger in Texas, don’t you know?)

Galveston’s Beaches:

  • Sunny Beach
  • Pirates Beach
  • Galveston Seawall Beaches
  • Jamaica Beach

Galveston at-a-glance:

5. Quintana Beach

Quintana Beach
Image: Pelicans at Quintana beach Texas. Doug Hodel. [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr

Quintana Beach is next on the list, known for being a peaceful place to hang with family or friends.

This is where you should go if you want to escape a bit more from day-to-day life and just relax without a ton of hub bub.

This is another public beach you can drive on and park for the day, so incorporate it easily into a Texas road trip.

Locals recommend bringing your own food and drinks, as it’s a bit far to go if you forget something (make sure to bring a cooler that’s easy to carry onto the beach).

Bring your RV or rent a cabin and take a break from the rest of the world.

Flanked by Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge to the northeast and San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge to the southwest, Quintana Beach has lots of activities to keep everyone entertained, including boating, fishing and crabbing, and other water sports.

6. Freeport

Freeport Beach
Image: Freeport Beach. tifsims. [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

Freeport is close by, where the Brazos River meet the Gulf of Mexico, with cute dive bars, diners with Americana classics, and hotels (if you need some suggestions, check out our guide to the best places to stay in Texas).

Another one of the best Texas beach towns to live in and definitely worth a stop on your Texas adventures.

The motto is “where fun happens,” and you’ll totally see why once you arrive and head to Surfside Beach.

Need help planning your trip?

Stop by the Freeport Historical Museum and Visitor Center on your way to the beach.

They’ll be more than happy to help you figure out exactly what to do and where to go for the cheapest eats and the absolute best way to spend the day.

Freeport’s beaches:

  • Surfside Beach
  • Brazoria County Beach
  • Bryan Beach

Where to stay in Freeport:

7. Matagorda Island

Fishermen and women take note, this next best Texas beach also has the best fishing in Texas – Matagorda Island.

At the east tip of the island is Pass Cavallo, known as the secret jackpot spot for fishing (shh!)

Hire an experienced guide to take you out for your very own catch of the day.

Fishing pole

The Matagorda Island Lighthouse is another gem, and it has a unique cast iron shaft that has patinaed to a beautiful copper green.

It sits at the end of an old army base, great for riding bikes.

Matagorda is Spanish for “thick bush” describing the canebrakes that once grew along this meeting of land and sea.

Those bushes are still around, mainly found in the Matagorda Bay Nature Park just next to the beach, where the Colorado River meets the Gulf of Mexico.

The main beach is a great place to camp but here’s an expert tip for you: you must buy a pass from the local shops.

It’s a small price to pay for a great overnight stay.

8. Rockport Beach

Rockport Beach
Image: DSC06040. Lindsey Parker. [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr

Further southwest sitting on Aransas Bay is Rockport Beach, one of the best beach cities in Texas and a favorite for families.

In fact, Rockport is one of the best places to visit in Texas!

There is a clean, shallow, soft sand beach, with well-maintained indoor showers and restroom facilities, playgrounds and even covered picnic tables for sand and salt-free mealtimes and to catch some shade from the harsh rays.

It’s only $5 for a day pass, which makes for a cheap day out in Texas.

Rockport Texas
Image: Rockport & Port Aransas, Texas. Gloria Bell. [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Grab some friends for beach volleyball, boating, or spend some quiet time together on the fishing deck.

When you’re not on the beach, grab a drink at the dual wine and brewery on the water, take in some fine art at the galleries featuring local artists (lots of events to attend), or visit Fulton Mansion for a bit of Texas Golden Age history.

The next best beach towns in Texas are next up, right around Corpus Christi. 

Where to stay in Rockport:

9. Mustang Island/Port Aransas

Mustang Island
Image: Fishing along the coastal inlet on Mustang Island #jcutrer. Jonathan Cutrer. [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Mustang Island stretches for 18 miles of sandy beachfront along the coast with absolutely stunning views and plenty to do.

Port Aransas is on this island and is known to be one of the highest rated places for surfing, swimming, sunbathing, and other recreational activities to keep the whole family busy – certainly, a top contender for one of the best beach cities in Texas!

Port Aransas
Image: Roberts Point Park. amir85. [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

After you’ve built a sky-scraping sandcastle and protected it with a moat, grab a bite at much-loved local spots like Oceans of Seafood or Rosita’s Taco Shop and finish your night dancing the two-step at one of the bars featuring live country music (this is Texas, after all).

Bring your RV or tent to camp on the beach, inviting the ocean waves to lull you to sleep.

Port Aransas at-a-glance:

10. Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi

Just across the bay in the Corpus Christi, are the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, Hurricane Alley Waterpark, and Texas State Aquarium.

Don’t leave out the Texas Surf Museum!

With the Dolphin Connection viewing center a short trip over the bridge in Ingleside, this is definitely one of the top Texas beach towns to live in.

Corpus Christi

Another great thing about Corpus Christi is the amazing amount of Tex Mex here, with plenty of delicious restaurants and foodie options.

Corpus Christi’s best beaches:

  • Whitecap Beach
  • North Beach
  • Padre Balli County Park
  • McGee Beach
  • Big Shell Beach
  • Little Shell Beach
  • South Packery Channel Beach
  • North Packery Channel Beach

Corpus Christi at-a-glance:

11. Padre Island/South Padre Island

South Padre Island
Image: Seagulls and Sunset at South Padre Island. G. Lamar. [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

The Padre Island national seashore is a protected coastal area hugging the last stretch of Texas coast, starting at Padre Island and extending down to South Padre Island, with a few remote beaches along the way.

While Port Aransas is a top destination for families, South Padre Island is known for being a Spring Break destination.

Keep this in mind if you’re visiting during this time of year and this isn’t your scene.

The rest of the year, however, South Padre Island is one of the best coastal towns in Texas for nature lovers.

Residents care for the sea life, rescuing sea turtles and rehabilitating them for release through Sea Turtle Inc.

Padre Island

The South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center has a 5-story watchtower where you can watch migrating birds and the Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center has touch tanks and boat tours along the outer banks.

Of course, you can still enjoy water sports like parasailing any time of year!

Plan your visit around one of the sandcastle days, when sculptors bring their talents to the beach for some of the most creative – and tall – sand artistry you will ever see. Some take days to build!

That’s it for the 11 best beach towns in Texas.

Ready to surf the Texas coastline down to Mexico?

PS – if you’re still looking for water activities in Texas, don’t forget about our guide to the best lakes in Texas if you can’t make it to the ocean!

Where to stay in Padre Island:

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