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Texas is home to over 350 miles of Gulf of Mexico coastline and 7,000 lakes, so it’s no wonder that there are so many incredible beaches in the Lone Star State. No matter where you’re staying, you’re sure to be close to a decent beach. But if you’re planning a trip to Texas and want to know the best places to swim, snorkel, and more, keep reading.
We’ve looked at what makes a great beach–from how many activities there are to do to how clean the shores–to put together a list of the top 15 beaches in Texas. In this guide, we’ll talk about the ideal time of year to visit, average rates for lodging, distance to airports, and other information you’ll want to know before coming.
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Best for Families – Stewart Beach
Native Texas families know that this is the place to go for a fun day trip. Stewart Beach is a gem of Galveston Island with something for everyone. Play volleyball at the courts, take your kids to the playgrounds, or participate in a beach challenge or sandcastle lesson. There are plenty of lifeguards, restrooms, and pavilions even when the beach is busy.
Stewart Beach is open from March 13 to October 10, but the best time to go for the best weather and events is between May and September. However, just be warned that it can get pretty crowded in the summer. You’ll likely pay around $260 a night for an Airbnb in the Galveston area, as this is a popular tourist destination and space on Galveston is limited. The nearest airport, William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), is about a 40-minute drive away.
Galveston Island is one of the best places to go in Texas, period. If you’re in the area, stop by Stewart Beach.
Best for Dogs – Port Aransas Beach
As one of the most dog-friendly beaches in Texas, you’re likely to see leashed and off-leash dogs all over Port Aransas Beach in Port Aransas. There are over 18 miles of Gulf shoreline for you and your pup to enjoy. You can let them off-leash at the Coastal Bend or keep them on a leash throughout the beach where they are permitted to roam the sand and water. This beach also offers camping, water sports, and other activities.
Port Aransas is open year-round but it is known for being busy in the summer (especially in the designated off-leash zone), so it’s best to bring your dog in the spring and fall. The Port Aransas area can be a bit pricey at between $250 and $375 a night for Airbnbs, but you can save money by booking during the off-season or farther from the coast. Port Aransas is about an hour and 15 minutes away from the nearest airport, Corpus Christi (CRP). You can drive or ferry in to the beach.
Best for Scuba Diving – Lake Travis
If you’re in Austin, Texas, you have to visit Lake Travis. This is the best beach in the state for scuba diving whether you’re a novice or pro. This lake (and the only lake to make our list this year) has a mix of manmade and natural features including shipwrecks and grottoes to explore. When you’re finished scuba diving, take a trip in a kayak, go ziplining, or rent a party boat. Lake Travis offers many events throughout the year, including concerts, tournaments, and games. Visit nearby Volente Beach Water Park for water slides and other family-friendly outdoor attractions.
Lake Travis is open year-round, and there’s really no bad time to visit because there’s always something to do. But for the best scuba diving conditions, shoot for the spring. The average daily rate of an Airbnb in Austin is around $250, and there’s no shortage of properties to choose from. The Austin Airport (AUS) is just a half hour’s drive away.
Best for Fishing – San Jose Island
If it’s fishing you’re after, you’re going to need to make a trip to San Jose Island. This is another incredible destination in Port Aransas, but this one is only accessible by boat. The beaches offer some of the best saltwater fishing in the state where visitors can catch trout, flounder, and red snapper among many, many others. This island is quiet and secluded, ideal for relaxing by the water and appreciating the view. Don’t forget to take a stroll on the beach to comb the sand for seashells and sand dollars before you leave.
Visit San Jose Island any time of year, as anyone from Texas can tell you that there’s good fishing year-round. You can stay in mainland Port Aransas for about $250 to $375 a night, but there are also some Airbnb rentals available right on the island that’ll run you between $175 and $250 a night. The best time to fish on San Jose Island depends on what kind of fish you’re hoping to catch. You can visit anytime, but note that you are prohibited from catching certain protected fish.
Best for Foodies – Surfside Beach
Surfside Beach is the beach for you if you mainly go to beaches for the cocktails and concessions. This beach and city in Brazoria County, Texas, is full of locally-owned restaurants serving fresh seafood and other regional eats and teeming with food trucks and concession stands. It’s a good choice if you’re just looking to lounge or swim, but it’s a foodie’s paradise. You can even catch dinner yourself if you visit the crabbing pier. Work up an appetite by going surfing or deep-sea fishing on one of many charter boats.
The best time to visit Surfside Beach is between early spring and late fall when many types of fish are in season and the weather is likely to be as pleasant as Texas gets. You can rent an Airbnb here for a little less than $200 a night on average, but you can snag one for barely $100 if you plan ahead. William P. Hobby (HOU) is the closest airport, and it’s about 60 miles away.
Best for Sailing – Bird Island Basin
For the best sailing on Laguna Madre, a hypersaline lagoon stretching 130 miles, you’re going to want to stop at Bird Island Basin in Padre Island. Bird Island Basin boat ramps are open to the public. Depending on the time of year, you might see terns, orioles, skimmers, and more. Launch here for a day of boating, fishing, birding, or all of the above for a daily fee of just $5. You can even bring your dog if you keep them on a leash. The park is simple with just restrooms and some first-come, first-served campsites, but it’s the best beach in the area for sailing.
We recommend visiting in the spring or fall for good weather and boating conditions. The beach is occasionally closed due to high tides, so keep an eye on closures. The average price of an Airbnb in Padre Island is about $250 and the nearest airport, Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport (BRO), is about 20 miles away from the basin.
Best for Nature Lovers – Padre Island National Seashore
Another spot in Padre Island you don’t want to miss, the Padre Island National Seashore is the best beach in Texas for seeing some wildlife. This beach, which boasts the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world, sits between the hypersaline Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Padre Island National Seashore is home to many, many species, including the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle known to nest here. You can safely visit their protected nesting grounds to see the hatchlings make their way to the sea. Learn about sea turtle conservation efforts at the park and attend a ranger program.
If you want to see the turtles, you want to visit between June and August during their nesting season. You’ll likely spend around $250 a night for an Airbnb in Padre Island, but it depends on how close to the beach you stay. The Corpus Christi International Airport (CRP) is about 43 miles away. This beach is just a 20-minute drive from Bird Island Basin, so you can easily hit both in a day for even more adventures.
Crystal Beach in Galveston County, Texas, is a 7-mile stretch of sand on the Bolivar Peninsula. This is a great place to go if you’re around the Upper Texas Gulf Coast and you’re looking for a good old-fashioned beach day. Crystal Beach and the Bolivar Peninsula Beach are not as popular with tourists as other beaches on this list, so they shouldn’t be too crowded when you go. Hunt for Shark Teeth, build sand castles, or go swimming in this clean and quiet beach.
The beaches on Bolivar Peninsula are always open, but they’re liveliest and most eventful in the summer months. Staying right in the Bolivar Peninsula will cost you between $200 and $300 a night, but campers and RVs are also welcome. The closest airport is Jack Brooks Regional Airport (BPT/KBPT) and it’s about 60 miles from Crystal Beach.
Rockport Beach is a gorgeous sandy beach in Rockport, Texas, that holds the title of being the first beach in Texas with Blue Wave certification (given by the Clean Beaches Coalition to beaches that are clean and responsibly managed). This beach is notoriously well kept and generally pretty quiet, and there are a lot of rules that keep it that way. There are no dogs, cars, or campfires allowed at any time and overnight campaign is not permitted. What you can do are play water sports, have a picnic, or comb the beach. Just be sure to clean up after yourself!
You can visit Rockport Beach year-round. It is open seven days a week, 375 days a year. Most festivals and events such as fishing tournaments and art fairs take place during the summer in June and July, but there’s almost always an upcoming event. On average, an Airbnb in Rockport, Texas, will run you about $200 a night, but prices are considerably lower in the fall and winter. Corpus Christi (CRP) is the nearest airport and it’s about 38 miles away.
South Packery Channel Beach
Also known as Jetty Beach, this stretch of sand in Corpus Christi sits between the scenic Padre and Mustang Islands. You’ll find South Packery Channel Beach in Packery Channel Park, a county nature park along the Gulf Coast with an endless selection of things to do. This beach is swimming- and snorkeling-friendly, and it’s home to a variety of wildlife. You might be lucky enough to spot sea turtles in the water during the warm summer months.
South Packery Channel Beach is an especially great one for anglers. The pier offers prime fishing for trout, mackerel, sheepshead, tarpon, kingfish, perch, and even grouper. The average price of an Airbnb in Corpus Christi is around $200 a night, and the drive to the Corpus Christi International Airport (CRP) is just shy of 23 minutes.
Also worth a visit is North Packery Channel Beach, located on the other side of the Packery Channel. It’s just a short walk away and you may prefer this side for typical beachgoing activities like lounging and swimming as it can be less crowded during the busy season.
Matagorda Bay Nature Park
You don’t want to miss the Matagorda Bay Nature Park if you’re in the Matagorda Area. This park in southeastern Texas offers gorgeous views of the Gulf and something for everyone. Anything you might want to do during a casual beach day, you can do here. You can boat (bring your own or rent) or try your hand at fishing, or you could play a game of mini-golf or go river rafting. There are 70 different campsites for overnight trips and even 2 Airstreams for rent that sleep up to four people each. Plus, it’s pet-friendly.
This park is open every day from sunrise to sunset, so the best time to visit is in the summer when you’ll have the most daylight to enjoy the 1,600-acre park. If you’re staying in Matagorda, you will likely pay about $120 a night for the average Airbnb. The nearest airport, Palaios Municipal Airport (PSX), is about a 45-minute drive away.
Balmorhea State Park
Balmorhea State Park is a man-made park featuring the largest spring-fed swimming pool in the world. It’s not a traditional beach, but rather a welcome swimming hole in the middle of hot and dry West Texas. The crystal clear water that bubbles up from San Solomon Springs is cool and inviting, to both people and fish. There are a number of endangered and rare fish in the water, so scuba diving is encouraged. For a unique “beach” experience in the desert, stop by this historic Balmorhea park.
This destination is open all year long, but the capacity is limited and the pool is busiest during the summer as people try to beat the heat. Your best bet is to visit in the spring or fall. To stay in Pecos, Texas, where this park is located, you are looking at an average nightly Airbnb rate of around $150. The Pecos Municipal Airport (PEQ) is about 35 minutes away.
Not to be confused with Lighthouse Beach in the Bahamas, this sandy beach located in Port Lavaca is for all of the RV enthusiasts reading. This beach is unassuming, but it’s a favorite among the camping crowd. Enjoy a perfectly pleasantly getaway when you reserve a campsite here for anywhere from $50 to $55 a night for RVs (or $20 for a tent site without amenities). Lighthouse Beach is serene and rarely crowded. Both Houston and San Antonio are just over two hours away.
Lighthouse Beach is always open, so it makes the most sense to just plan your trip around your weather preferences. If staying in an RV isn’t your style, the price of an Airbnb in Port Lavaca starts at just $100 a night. This beach is about a 10-minute drive from Calhoun County Airport and about a 25-minute drive from Victoria Airport (VCT).
Boca Chica Beach
Boca Chica Beach is a necessary stop if you’re ever in the Cameron County area. This beach can be found on a peninsula that splits the busy Brownsville Ship Channel and the Gulf of Mexico. Boca Chica has been kept very natural, so it’s a good place to go for a classic beach day. Boca Chica is teeming with sea life and you’ll see a lot of people snorkeling and exploring. You can take a boating trip or expedition to see dolphins, just one of the things this area is famous for, or birdwatch from the shore or a boat. Sea turtles often come here to lay their eggs in June and August as well.
The best time to visit Boca Chica Beach is between March and May when you are most likely to see dolphins coming through to breed, or in June or August when you are most likely to see sea turtles. You can stay in an Airbnb in Boca Chica for a modest price of about $130 a night. The Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport (BRO) is about 35 minutes away from Boca Chica Beach.
Mustang Island State Park
Managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Mustang Island State Park is a beautiful barrier island park that’s well worth a trip. Take a trip down the 20-mile Paddling Trail to get up close and personal with local birds and wildlife. If you’re a fan of geocaching or hunting for hidden “treasure, this is an excellent place to do it. There are many RV campsites with and without hookups and community showers open to the public.
This beach is open year-round, but the best times to visit are during the spring and fall. This is when most birds are migrating and you don’t want to miss them. The average price of an Airbnb in Corpus Christi, Texas, is about $200 a night and the closest airport, the Corpus Christi Airport (CRP), is about 25 minutes away.
Mustang Island State Park is located between Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, and it’s just a short drive to the Padre Island National Seashore and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
Bonus: Beach Park at Isla Blanca
Though not a beach in the strictest sense, we had to include Beach Park at Isla Blanca on our list. This is a waterpark and amusement park located in Cameron County, Texas, on South Padre Island. There are more than 24 different attractions including rides, waterslides, and pools, and there’s a boardwalk in the park that’ll take you right to the beach. The cost per person is $3 for kids, $5 for students, and $6 for adults to get into the park and there are added costs for many attractions.
This park is open all year, but we recommend visiting in the spring and fall when it won’t be as crowded if you’re just going for a day or two. Or, you can purchase season passes and visit as many times as you’d like. On South Padre Island, an Airbnb costs around $250 a night on average, but you might be able to save some money if you stay a little farther inland. The drive to the nearest airport, the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport, is about 30 minutes.
Are you planning a trip to Texas in the near future? The next time you’re visiting Texas, use this list to find the right beach for you based on your favorite activities. Hopefully, this article helps you budget and plan your perfect Texas trip. Let us know which Texas beach is your favorite.
Note that some of the locations on this list may have COVID-19 rules in place. Check ahead of time for temporary closures and restrictions.
About the Author:
Lauren is a writer and editor specializing in personal finance and education. She works for the digital publishing company, Dotdash, as a content update editor and writes for APYGUY and SavingforCollege when she's not writing for FlyerGeek.