Hidden Gem Beaches in Texas for Your Summer Family Trips

Texas has 367 miles of coastline for you to explore. Photo by Michael Hogan, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Texas has 367 miles of coastline for you to explore. Photo by Michael Hogan, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
6/16/23 - By Nan Ross

It's beach weather in Texas, but if you're like us, you don't always feel like dealing with crowds and traffic. You’ve probably made the day trip to visit Galveston's beaches, or maybe even places like Corpus Christi and South Padre Island, two popular Texas beach destinations. But with a coastline spanning 367 miles, there are plenty of beaches in Texas that offer sandy shores, amazing wildlife, and beautiful waters with less of a crowd. If you’re looking for a beach trip off the beaten path, consider one of these hidden gem Texas beaches.


Hidden Gem Beaches in Texas

Texas beaches: Surfside 
Surfside Beach is an hour from Houston. Photo courtesy of Visit Surfside Beach TX

1. Surfside Beach 

Located just one hour from Houston, Surfside Beach offers four miles of pristine beaches, consistent waves, and some of the best surfing in Texas. One of the cleanest beaches in the region, this location is ideal for family-friendly vacations. The beach divides into two sections, a pedestrian beach with no vehicular access and a beachfront area that does allow driving and parking with the purchase of an annual pass for $12. 

2. Crystal Beach 

Some of the fun of Crystal Beach is the drive to get there -  take the free Bolivar ferry from Galveston to the Bolivar Peninsula, where Crystal Beach is located. Visitors can drive and park on the beach ($15 permit), and camping and campfires are allowed. Families can enjoy the day building sand castles, searching for shells, fishing, boogie boarding, and playing in the waves. 

Texas beaches: Mustang Island State Park 
Mustang Island State Park is off the coast of Corpus Christi. Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife

3. Mustang Island State Park

Off the coast of Corpus Christi and nestled between Port Aransas and South Padre is Mustang Island State Park, a picturesque barrier island. Entry to the park is $5 per adult and children 12 and under are free. Visitors can enjoy the beach, camping, fishing, kayaking, and bird watching. Mustang Island is also one of the few places the endangered Kemp Ridley Sea Turtle nests, which happens annually from April to July.

4. San José Island

Just east of Corpus Christi is the privately owned San José Island, which boasts 21 miles of undisturbed golden sand beaches. Affectionately known as St. Jo’s by locals, the island can only be accessed by taking the Jetty Boat from Fisherman’s Wharf in Port Aransas, and no cars are allowed. The uninhabited island makes for excellent swimming, surfing, bird watching, fishing, and collecting unique and beautiful seashells. 

5. Padre Island National Seashore

Not to be confused with the similarly named South Padre Island, Padre Island National Seashore is located on North Padre Island and consists of sixty-six miles of wild coastline. A one-day entrance pass is $10 per vehicle, and campsites are also available for purchase. Visitors can enjoy swimming at the beach, kayaking, birding, and swimming. Driving along the sixty-mile stretch of coastline is allowed, but only in high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles.  Sea Turtle hatchling releases also occur from mid-June to August. 

6. Matagorda Beach

An easy two-hour drive from Houston, Matagorda Beach offers miles of sandy beaches and clear waters. Matagorda has approximately 58 miles of coastline, splitting where the Colorado River meets the gulf. The beach east of the Colorado River is open to vehicles, while the remaining 35 miles of beach west of the Colorado River is only accessible by boat, kayak, canoe, or other watercraft. Driving on the beach requires a $10 annual permit, but camping is allowed for no additional fee. 

Texas beaches: Boca Chica Beach 
Boca Chica Beach is famous for shells and turtles. Photo by Alexander Hatley, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

7. Boca Chica Beach

If you’re up for the drive, one of the most isolated and undeveloped beaches is at the southernmost point of Texas, Boca Chica Beach. It’s known for having an endless amount of shells on the beach and being a nesting area for sea turtles. The beach is free, and while you can drive your car, there is no camping is allowed. The Space X Launchpad is nearby, which is worth driving past while in the area. 

8. Galveston Island State Park

Galveston itself is well known, but on the west side of the island far from the hustle and bustle of the seawall and Pleasure Pier is Galveston Island State Park. With wildflower-covered sand dunes and sandy beaches, it’s perfect for swimming, bird watching, picnicking, camping or just relaxing. And as a bonus, the park extends to the bay side of the Island with miles of hike and bike trails. The cost to enter for a day pass is $5, and children under 13 are free. 


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