Looking for a great beach destination this summer? Consider heading to Texas.
The Texas coastline is dotted with charming beach towns rich in nostalgic Americana. You’ll find street signs topped with American flags, retro diners, and pastel houses hoisted on stilts. Many of these destinations are also gateways to coastal parks and nature reserves—long stretches of coastline where you can claim a spot of sand to call your own.
For example, wide beaches aren’t the only draw in Port Aransas (as shown above): its charming downtown also has cute B&Bs, great burger joints, and surf-ready shops. Close by, the Port Aransas Brewing Company makes its own beers and a killer cheddar-topped hamburger. Travelers should make a field trip to the University of Texas Marine Science Institute to tour seven different coastal habitats and a 3.5-acre salt marsh that’s home to migratory birds and native flora and marine species.
Port Arthur – Natural Beauty
Port Arthur benefits from two bodies of water—the Gulf Coast and Lake Sabine—so it’s a favorite Texas coast destination for boaters and anglers. The town is also full of other draws, from delicious Cajun cuisine to history walks. Visit the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historical Park, a Civil War battlefield where fighters prevented Union forces from penetrating interior Texas in 1863. Beau Rêve restaurant, built at the turn of the 20th century, is a favorite spot among locals for fine Cajun food. Located on the outskirts of town, Sea Rim State Park (seen here) has 4,000 acres of marshlands and 5.2 miles of coastline, making it an ideal spot to camp, kayak, swim, and fish.
Rockport – Boho-Chic
Downtown Rockport has a sleepy vibe that lends itself to family vacations and couples getaways alike. You’ll find independent boutiques and generations-old restaurants, as well as plenty of outdoor diversions. Little Bay, a boat-dotted inlet, is a great spot to fish, water ski, or go tubing. If you’d rather stay on dry turf, explore the city’s well-manicured hike and bike trails, which loop through nature reserves (the newest leg, Tule East, winds through a south Texas wetland.) Refuel at Crab-N, a family favorite for its fresh, Cajun-style seafood. Don’t leave town without visiting the famous oak tree, estimated to be around 2,000 years old.
South Padre – Surf’s Up
While the tip of this barrier island is best known for its spring break crowds, take time to get off the beaten path and you’ll be rewarded with a slower pace of beach life. The surfing scene is especially vibrant, thanks to outfits like the South Padre Surf Company where expert Gene Gore and his team work with beginners and experts alike. You can also take an ecology tour with the Dolphin Watching Boat company, where guides not only take you to see sea mammals but also talk you through the region’s rich marine life.
Surfside – Small Town Charm
While this easy-to-reach beach is just an hour from Houston, it’s blissfully under-the-radar. The town is loaded with touches of nostalgic Americana—street signs are topped with American flags, lazy umbrellas dot the sands, and houses hoisted on stilts are painted in pastels. Grab a bacon and cheddar burger at the Pirates Alley Café, where the wide porch overlooks the water, or order a cold beer at one the island’s oldest establishments, the popular Jetty Shack.
Corpus Christi – Urban Escapes
While Corpus Christi is the fifth largest port city in the country, it has many pockets of small-town charm. Some of its quieter corners include Mustang Island State Park; you won’t find the horses for which it was originally named, but other wildlife such as armadillos, jackrabbits, and migratory birds are in abundance. Back in town, don’t miss Snoopy’s Pier, a casual waterfront eatery that’s packed with travelers diving into crab cakes, fried fish, and shrimp and rice, all made from time-tested family recipes.
Port Lavaca – Boardwalk Escape
Nestled in the middle of Texas’s Gulf Coast, this small waterfront city is a great respite from the Texas heat. The town is fronted by a 2,200-foot boardwalk, as well as the Indianola Fishing Marina, where anglers cast for trout, redfish, and flounder. If you’re not cooking these swimmers on the barbecue, snag a table at Texas Traditions, a Lone Star State-style family restaurant where comfort foods such as chicken and dumplings and potato skins pile high on long wooden tables.
Galveston – Sandy Shores
There are many versions of this port city: Generations-old yacht clubs, charming neighborhoods full of pastel houses, waterfront amusement parks, and long boardwalks and piers. Galveston also has 32 miles of beaches, some of which are known for surfing, others for family picnics. Games and rides such as Texas Teacups and Iron Shark Rollercoaster abound at the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier (hint to mom and dad: head to the Brew Station to cool off with a beer or ‘rita.) In town, stop by LaKing’s Confectionery, where master candy maker Ernest Torres hand-pulls saltwater taffy and serves up malted milkshakes at an old-fashioned soda counter.
Article and Photos Courtesy of Travel Texas