Texas summers call for days—or, if you’re lucky, weeks—at the beach. Galveston will always be number one in our hearts, because you can’t beat a beach that’s under an hour away. But if you’re thinking of heading farther down the coast, here are our favorite destinations. Grab your sunglasses and a beach towel and come along.
South Padre Island
Erase those images of beer pong and wet T-shirt contests from your mind. South Padre Island has plenty to offer as a family-friendly destination. South Padre is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island coastline in the world at 70 miles, and 35 of those are driveable, making this a great location to view around 380 bird species, and, if you’re lucky, the endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. There are five campgrounds along the seashore, or go the more traditional route and book a beach house, condo or hotel. After wading with the sea turtles all day, stop by Farley Girls Cafe for an impressive plate of shrimp and grits. We recommend adding an egg on top.
There’s an endless amount of things to do in quaint Matagorda Bay, among them fishing, bird-watching and building sandcastles. Another family-friendly location, this gem is a mere 100 miles away, making it a great weekend getaway. You can get to the first 22 miles of the beach by car, while the remaining 35 are accessible by boat. Visitors can look forward to camping and, at times, great waves for surfing. At the 1,600-acre LCRA Matagorda Bay Nature Park, popular activities include canoeing, beachcombing and more fishing. Be sure to stop by one of the many local shops for charming beach items and historical souvenirs.
Rockport is the first of four Blue Wave beaches on the Texas Gulf Coast. What does this mean, exactly? It’s part of the exclusive Clean Beaches Coalition, a program designed to keep beaches clean and safe. Essentially, what you bring into the beach is what you carry out. Pets aren’t allowed, but the clear, blue waters and incredible sand make up for it. The quiet, serene nature of the waterfront makes this a great location for a romantic getaway. Indie shops line the downtown streets, and the 1,500-foot lighted jetty pier at the end of the harbor adds an intimate touch.
Mustang Island State Park
Mustang Island features a vast amount of wildlife and incredible coastline. We suggest taking a paddling trail excursions for a chance to view wildlife up-close and personal. If that’s not your cup of tea, grab a pair of binoculars and search the skies for over 400 species of birds. With a little luck, you might catch a sight of the rare aplomado falcon.