Beaches might not be the first things that come to mind when you think of Texas. But much like avocado margaritas, sometimes the coolest things are the least expected – and Texas beaches are no different. From the quiet expanses of Boca Chica to the liveliness of South Padre Island, here is your guide to Texas Beaches…

Boca Chica Beach
Drive from Austin: 6 hours
If the idea of chaotic summers and spring breaks in South Padre Island gives you second thoughts, check out Boca Chica instead. Nestled along the southernmost tip of Texas and quite literally a stone’s throw from Mexico, Boca Chica Beach offers unbridled views on a beach untouched by most tourists. This 8-mile stretch of beach has escaped modern development – affording you a day of snorkeling, fishing, and swimming with only the beautiful expanses of the ocean and Texas coastline taking up your view in any direction.

Photo via YELP

Port Aransas
Drive from Austin: 4 hours
Slow down and chill will the fam at “Port A”, where beach life is all about relaxation. Get around on golf carts, hang out on miles of open beach, and enjoy fresh seafood. Spend a few hours at Port Aransas Nature Preserve or do some fishing on the pier. If you’re planning a trip in the spring be sure to get the details of the annual Texas SandFest where you can see giant sand sculptures like no other!

Photo from the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce Facebook page

Mustang Island
Drive from Austin: 4.5 hours
Mustang Island is an 17-mile expanse of sandy shore perfect for seashell-collecting, swimming, and even bird watching. The island originally got its name from the large number of wild mustangs that used to trot freely across the island before development took over. These days, the island is a designated state park where you can camp, kayak, and perhaps catch a view of the Kemp’s Ridley turtles. Mustang Island is one of the only breeding grounds for this rare breed of turtle!

Photo from the Mustang Island State Park Facebook page

South Padre Island
Drive from Austin: 6 hours
A popular tourist destination, South Padre Island provides enough entertainment to a last an entire week: from horseback riding and ziplining to a full-blown Schlitterbahn water park.

Photo credit: City of South Padre Island

Rockport Beach
Drive from Austin: 3.5 hours
Rockport Beach was the first in Texas to garner a Blue Wave Beach designation — a label given only to beaches that maintain high standards of environmental care. As a bonus, Rockport is also a designated bird sanctuary — so don’t forget to scan the skies for the variety of bird species likely to fly overhead.

Photo from the Rockport Beach Facebook page

North Beach
Drive from Austin: 3.5 hours
What’s most captivating about North Beach is its proximity to some of Corpus Christi’s coolest attractions. On the list: the U.S.S. Lexington (a WWII Essex Class aircraft carrier), the Texas State Aquarium, and the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History. North Beach provides a welcome respite from a day of sightseeing.

Photo from the Visit Corpus Christi website

Surfside Beach
Drive from Austin: 3.5 hours
Because of the unusually deep water found close to the shore, Surfside Beach is the perfect location for surfing off the coast of Texas (hence the name). These deep waters lend themselves to some really unique fishing, too. You can catch fish that are normally only found much farther into the ocean without ever leaving the comfort of the shore. With beautifully colored houses on stilts dotting the length of the beach, could you ask for anything more picturesque?

Photo from the Surfside Beach House Rentals Facebook page

Galveston Island
Drive from Austin: 4 hours
is rich with history, making a fun and educational destination. Once one of the most bustling ports of entry in the entire nation, the island city was nearly decimated by a hurricane in 1900, which remains the deadliest natural disaster in United States’ history. You can learn about the history of the Port of Galveston at the Texas Seaport Museum & 1877 Tall Ship Elissa. Admire the beautiful centuries-old architecture at The Grand 1894 Opera House or the opulent Hotel Galvez. Galveston is also home to the fantastic Moody Gardens, with aquariums, IMAX theaters, art exhibits, and more. Of course, no visit to Galveston is complete without plenty of fun in the sun on the beach as well as rides and carnival games on Pleasure Pier.

Photo from the Galveston Island Tourism Facebook page. Photo by Billy Hill

Crystal Beach
Drive from Austin: 4.5 hours
Aptly named for the expanses of smooth, eco-friendly shore contained within this area, Crystal Beach is the less crowded and quieter counterpart to the bustling city of Galveston. Accessible from the east or by an easy ferry ride directly from Galveston, Crystal Beach provides so much more than a warm day at a pristine beach: try the crab and other fresh seafood at the local restaurants (like Steve’s Landing), check out some live music, and visit the historic Bolivar Point Lighthouse.

Photo via YELP

Padre Island National Seashore
Drive from Austin: 4 hours
According to the National Park Service, Padre Island National Seashore is “The Longest Stretch of Undeveloped Barrier Island in the World.” Proudly exhibiting 70 miles of relatively untouched coastline, the Padre Island National Seashore is home to special turtles, 380 bird species, and camping sites for an unforgettable beach trip.

Photo from the Padre Island National Seashore Facebook page

No matter where you choose to put your toes in the sand, we hope you have a great beach vacation!


— This guide to Texas beaches was originally contributed to Do512 by Hannah Baker