Think about it for a minute: What if you lived in Lincoln, Nebraska? You’d be freezing half the time, yes, but more important, you’d also be totally landlocked. In fact, one of your closest real beaches would be … Galveston, Texas, more than 900 miles away.

Such an existence is hard to imagine for Houstonians, who live a mere hour’s drive from land’s end, where, just about any time we want, we can dip our toes in the salty water whose insistent, mysterious pull we canno—don’t want to—resist.

With the beach so close, we can enjoy it to the fullest, as long as we have just one day to swim, fish, boat, eat, drink, and explore before heading back home happy, tired, and a little sandy. If, like us, you like to pack as much in as possible, read on for great day-trip itineraries to four fantastic—and, lucky us, nearby—Gulf Coast destinations.

In This Feature:

The End of the Island: A Day at Galveston's East Beach

The wildness of the natural world, but with all the amenities.

02/28/2018 By Sarah Rufca Nielsen

Livin' on the Edge: A Day at Galveston's Seawall

Making a day of it on Galveston’s front porch.

02/28/2018 By Morgan Kinney

Ferry to Freedom: A Day at Bolivar

Take a 20-minute ride to another planet.

02/28/2018 By Roxanna Asgarian

The Bright 'Side: A Day at Surfside Beach

A laidback fishing village where anything goes.

02/28/2018 By Catherine Matusow