Soak Up Some Sun (& Family Fun) at Surfside Beach
When you mention beaches near Houston, everyone's first thought typically trends toward Galveston. However, Galveston's many beaches are not the only ones close enough for a day trip, and while we've trekked down there plenty of times, it's definitely not the end-all-be-all. In fact, one of our favorite spots is the quiet town of Surfside where the beach is clean and full of sand (not seaweed).
The drive down Highway 288 to Surfside is nothing glamorous. You won't find any billboards advertising swanky seaside restaurants or the latest island-wide events but instead will see factory after factory lining the road. Even the Buc-ee's is small and unassuming - a far cry from the typical bustling gas station super-center you expect when you see the friendly beaver logo (though in true Buc-ee's form, it is always packed). As you come into town you'll find a handful of small bait shops, some restaurants and diners, and rows of streets that are littered with quiet beach houses. It is truly a beach town, and the main attraction is the long stretch of sand and water.
Crashing waves without the crowds.
If you're down for the day, you have a few options when it comes to parking:
- Park at Surfside Jetty Park, which is a free park that is home to a playground and public restrooms and has both beach and jetty access.
- Park outside the entrance station of the beach for free. This option means you will have to carry all of your belongings to the beach, and - depending on when you arrive - there may or may not be open areas close to the entrance to set up shop for the day.
- Purchase a beach access pass for $12 and park on the beach. Your beach access pass comes in the form of a car windshield sticker and is valid for the entire year. One thing to note: if you are planning on parking on the sand, make sure to ask how packed or loose the sand is before driving on to avoid getting stuck!
We've purchased the beach pass in the past, and did so on our most recent trip to Surfside as well - parking right on the beach just can't be beat! It allowed us to easily pull out our chairs and claim our little section of sand for the day without having to unload all of the stuff we brought (real talk: this is a big deal; having two kids ages 3 and under means we have to bring half the house anywhere we go). It also meant we could quickly pack up and head out when we were ready to leave, and since our son's tantrum level went from 0 to 30 in 5 seconds flat, that was a blessing.
Constructing sand castles.
While there were a decent amount of people on the beach, it never felt crowded, which is a definite plus when your child can't decide where he wants to be and continually takes off running in all directions. Keeping an eye on him was easy, and he had a blast barreling in and out of the waves and building sand castles. The sand was clean with minimal seaweed and no trash in sight where we were sitting, and a beach maintenance employee was walking the strip offering trash bags for any trash that accumulated throughout the day. There are also trash cans on the backend of the sand every few feet, making it easy to keep the beach spotless.
One of the biggest highlights we encountered was getting to see a pod of dolphins swim in and out of the water. They cruised back and forth for hours and my son was giddy with glee every time he saw them surface. Both of our kids had a blast on our trip, and I definitely recommend Surfside if you have small children and want a no-frills beach experience that really is all surf and sand. It has and continues to be our top choice for a day excursion.
Soaking up every second of beach time.
Tips and tricks:
- There aren't any public restrooms along the beach, and the porta-potties are minimal (and probably questionable). This wasn't a problem for us this time, but it is something to keep in mind. If you do want access to public restrooms, I'd recommend parking at Jetty Park and taking advantage of the beach access there.
- Dining in Surfside doesn't offer the same expansive list of restaurants as in Galveston, however, there are a few waterfront restaurants to choose from, as well as some to stop at that are right off of Highway 288 if you want to eat on the way in or out.
- In the past, we've camped at one of the RV parks on the water, and camping on the beach is allowed east of the city limits at Beach Access Entrance 1. Camping on the beach is not allowed inside the city limits.
- Everyone who has a baby should get the KidCo - GoPod portable activity station - it's the best for outdoor excursions!
All photos by Rachael Cherry