If you’re in Texas or traveling to or through Texas and want to dip your toes into the Gulf of Mexico, here’s the scoop on the best Texas beaches for families. Texas has over 3,000 miles of shoreline, so there are plenty of beaches to explore.
Best Beaches in Texas for a Family Vacation
If you’re looking for the best beaches in the Lone Star State, you’ll want to keep this list for reference. Beaches make awesome Texas vacations for families and they’re easy to drive to.
First, a little expectation management: While Texas beaches are great, don’t expect the Texas coast to have the sugary white sand and clear turquoise waters that you’ll find in Florida or Alabama. Texas beaches have lots of clay in their sand (which makes it great for sandcastles) and it’s darker in color. The water isn’t as clear but it’s typically warm a great deal of the year so you can swim nearly year round. Here are TravelingMom’s top Texas beach destinations and why we love them.
1. Port Aransas
Port Aransas is a family-friendly town on the Gulf Coast. Port A, as it’s affectionately called, is a beachside town rich with fun things to do for families. It is perfect for a beach getaway for families in South and Central Texas – it’s a short drive to toes in the sand. It’s one of the most popular beach destinations in Texas for families. Going to the beach at Port A is one of our family’s favorite Texas road trips.
You can relax on the beach and do a whole lot of nothing. In town offers more options for things to do, including lots of shopping and dining. There are tons of beachfront resorts and rentals to choose from. Prices and amenities will vary but the resorts along Highway 361 all lead to the same beach. Our favorite resort is Cinnamon Shores and a close second is Lively Beach. If you are looking for more budget friendly (but still nice) accommodations, we also recommend the Aransas Princess and the Mayan Princess.
Most resorts along 361 are going to have dedicated beach entrances for their guests. Public beaches are free to enter but beach parking permits are required between markers 0 and 62. There are certain areas that are designated free parking between markers 2 and 58.
2. Mustang Island State Park
Mustang Island State Park is managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife. If you are familiar with Texas state parks, the entry and reservation process may be familiar to you. At publication time, park capacity limits are still in play so we strongly recommend reservations.
Mustang Island State Park has five miles of beaches and you can do all the usual beach things here. They also have a paddling trail, camp sites and lots of opportunities to observe wildlife.
Unlike other area beaches, Mustang Island State Park also offers various ranger led programs, focused on birding and bird watching (Mustang Island State Park is home to lots of different bird species) fishing, stargazing and more. Daily entrance for adults is $5. Kids under 12 are free.
Brazosport Area Beaches
Brazosport is a coastal community that has four family-friendly beaches. These are among some of the least touristy beaches in the state. Visitors to the Brazosport area can stay in Lake Jackson, Clute, Freeport, Quintana or Surfside Beach.
3. Surfside Beach
Surfside Beach has lots of options for beach house rentals, plus a few restaurants. It is the liveliest of all of the Brazosport area beaches.
Miles of golden sand teeming with seashells and marine life make Surfside Beach the perfect retreat for recreational athletes, sun worshipers and nature lovers alike. With beach house rentals, motels, offshore fishing charters, restaurants and souvenir shops close at hand, Surfside Beach is a great spot for every type of beach goer.
You can also explore the the Surfside Jetties. Extending nearly a mile into the Texas Gulf Coast, the jetties offer trophy redfish, speckled trout and a variety of other game fish.
4. Follet’s Beach
The locals refer to Follet’s Beach as the free beach. Follet’s Beach is a a 13-mile stretch of public access beach between Surfside Beach and San Luis Pass. Visitors enjoy fishing, swimming and camping along the beach year-round.
There are not a ton of services here. You’ll find portable toilets are available, although you may have to walk a bit to get to one. An ice cream/concession truck may make the rounds.
5. Quintana Beach
Quintana Beach County Park offers six miles of natural sandy beach with free vehicle access and parking*. There are RV sites, cabins, restrooms and showers, a playground and an elevated boardwalk that leads to the beach. The park also has hiking trails and a great lighted fishing pier.
*From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend there is a $5.00 parking fee per vehicle collected at the entry gate to the park for day use access of the park and pedestrian beach. Registered overnight campers are exempt.
As a natural beach, Quintana is maintained by tides and weather. At any given time, there may be driftwood, seaweed and other plant life on the beach. These materials provide nourishment and stability to the ecosystem. The beach is raked in cases of excessive build-up of seaweed or debris. The island is home to many birds and butterflies that can be observed at the Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary.
6. Bryan Beach
Bryan Beach is part of the city of Freeport and offers approximately three miles of natural beach perfect for sunbathing, camping, birding, fishing and relaxing. The beach is still in its natural state, which means no stores or concessions. Make sure you stock your coolers in Freeport before going over the intracoastal road. Beach goers should check Freeport’s website for any beach access fees, as this may vary.
7. South Padre Island
South Padre Island is a fun beach town known for its beaches and fun family activities. If you want great fishing, a great selection of restaurants and shops and lots of choices for activities, South Padre Island might be your choice of Texas beaches for families.
South Padre Island, SPI for short, is home to South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Sealife Nature Center and Sea Turtle Inc. The work they’re doing with the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle is very inspiring and it’s a great educational experience. They have a five-story watchtower to catch a glimpse of the hundreds of birds and other creatures who call this undeveloped barrier island home.
Several terrific parks dot the island for playtime, and Island Adventure Park offers horseback riding, zip lines, and a petting barn for your little (and big) animal lovers. The Island Fun Park water park features mini golf and go-karts for sports fans.
I strongly recommend you avoid March. This Texas beach is very popular with the college spring break crowd and the March crowds aren’t usually conducive to family-friendly fun. If you want to enjoy a family friendly Texas beach vacation during spring break, look elsewhere. The college kids have staked their claim on SPI as their party beach.
You’ll need a permit to park on the beach unless otherwise indicated.
Corpus Christi Area Beaches
The city of Corpus Christi is home to more than 325,000 people so you’ll find many options for dining, shopping, entertainment and lodging. You also have lots of choices for beaches.
Please note: Don’t confuse the reference to Padre Island with South Padre Island, described above. North Padre and South Padre are two completely different places in Texas
8. Padre Island National Seashore
Opportunities to watch wildlife abound at Padre Island National Seashore. One of the best-loved activities on the Seashore is watching baby sea turtle hatchlings get released to begin their lives in the open waters of the Gulf. A regular park program allows visitors to witness this phenomenon every summer. You can also off road and explore the Grasslands Nature Trail.
Entrance fee is $10 per day, per vehicle. This is valid for up to 7 days. You’ll need an additional permit to park on the beach. Make sure to check out the visitor’s center for info on available ranger-led programs.
9. Padre Island Seawall Beach
One of the biggest selling points for this beach is that it is within walking distance to many area resorts and condos. If you reserve a hotel or vacation rental in this area, you’ll need to make sure you understand what your access to the seawall is. This will impact your ease of getting to the beach.
Padre Island Seawall Beach is popular with bikers and walkers and also has a paved path. There is a free parking lot available adjacent to the beach. If you want to drive/park on the beach, you will need a permit.
10. J.P. Luby Beach/North Packery Beach
If you have an active family, this is definitely a Texas beach to put on your list. There are lots of options for equipment rental here, including wakeboards, jet skis and kayaks. There’s also a designated area for swimmers.
This beach may attract a younger crowd during spring break and can get very crowded. While you are more likely to encounter an aggressive volleyball game than an MTV style party, this might not be the best spring break choice for young families or anyone who needs total peace and quiet.
North Packery is also popular with surf fisherman.
11. South Packery Channel Beach
This beach is also known as South Packery Jetty Beach or Jetty Beach. It’s less popular with swimmers, although you absolutely can swim here, and more popular with fisherman. It’s generally less crowded than other area beaches and has been described as “serene” with lots of room to spread out.
If you are swimming, use caution and make sure children are well-supervised. This beach’s proximity to the jetty can cause strong riptides.
12. Whitecap Beach
Whitecap Beach is the perfect beach for a picnic, beachcombing, or quiet sunbathing since the dunes protect the beach from strong winds. It’s also generally one of the least crowded beaches in Corpus Christi, which make it an ideal choice for families, dates, or any type of gathering where you don’t want to be elbow to elbow with other beach goers.
13. McGee Beach
McGee Beach is clean, gentle and close to town, making this a great beach for families. Unlike other area beaches, McGee Beach doesn’t allow cars. Also unlike other beaches, this one has restroom facilities.
There’s a small fishing jetty nearby and there’s free street parking nearby.
14. North Beach
If you want to be in the center of everything happening and enjoy lots of facilities and activities, North Beach is for you. North Beach is home to two of the area’s most popular attractions, the USS Lexington and the Texas State Aquarium. There’s also a concrete boardwalk that is great for walking, biking and strollers, two fishing jetties and a playground.
North Beach is walkable from several area restaurants and hotels. There’s no parking on the beach.
15. Galveston/Galveston Island
The history of Galveston is that of a bustling port city through the 1800s, until a massive storm in 1900 wiped out a wide swath of this gulfside town. In 1904, the first section of the 16-foot-high and 17-foot-wide seawall was completed and is now more than ten miles long. The seawall protects the gems of history still standing in this small town, like beautiful Victorian architecture, the Strand National Historic Landmark Districtand more.
Galveston Island is home to Moody Gardens, offers an aquarium, plus 3D and 4D movie theaters and other activities to make up a full day.
This is a great area for a boat ride for you and your family, and your options are many. The jet boat tour is a blast for a fast thrill ride. For a slower pace, try the historic paddleboat tour. Other fun-filled activities include airboat rides, fishing, jet skis or kayaking.
Galveston is also a popular cruise port, so if you’re planning a cruise, make sure to build a little time in to explore the beaches.
16. Rockport Beach
Rockport Beach is a clean, family-friendly beach in Rockport, Texas. It is currently Texas’ only certified Blue Wave Beach (additional emphasis and criteria on cleanliness and environmental responsibility), so you may see this beach as having more rules than other Texas beaches. That said, the rules make sense and they’re not difficult to follow.
Rockport Beach doesn’t allow animals, as it is also a bird sanctuary. Overnight camping is not permitted but there are lots of picnic areas complete with grills. No driving is allowed on the beach but there are places to park your car (a $10 per day fee applies). No fireworks or open flames are allowed here so if your beach experience won’t be complete without a beach bonfire, look elsewhere.
There’s a playground and an 800 foot fishing pier. Rockport Beach is popular with Rockport-Fulton area locals and other in-state travelers who appreciate it as a quiet, family-friendly beach as well as one of the cleanest in the state.
17. Crystal Beach
Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula is the perfect spot to relax with family, swim, fish and check out the local wildlife. It’s a popular spot for birding and bird watchers. Head to the south end of the peninsula and grab a shot of the Point Bolivar Lighthouse. Although you can’t go inside, it makes a great photo backdrop.
18. Boca Chica Beach
If you’re coming from Brownsville or the Rio Grande Valley, Boca Chica Beach will be your closest beach…but if you are coming from Brownsville or the RGV, you probably already know all about this beach.
For the rest of us, Boca Chica Beach is a long and narrow strip of sand running through arid Texas lands along the Gulf shore for about eight miles from the Lower Laguna Madre to the Rio Grande delta.
If you are looking for an escape from civilization, this southernmost beach is one to check out. Make sure you bring everything you need with you because you will find no services here.
Boca Chica Beach has been intermittently closed this year due to Space-X testing.
Essential Info for a Texas Beach Vacay
Many Texas beaches are going to be a pretty easy drive from the state’s major cities, such as Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Coming from elsewhere in the state such as west or north Texas, you’re looking at a longer drive to get to the salt water.
Most Texas beaches are free to enter, although a beach parking permit is almost always required. You’ll rarely find public restrooms on the beach but most beaches will have port-a-potties.
Generally, Texas beaches are open 365 days a year. Some beaches will have different rules/restrictions during busy periods, such as fourth of July weekend, Memorial Day or Labor Day.
Most Texas beaches are shallow-water beaches and you can wade pretty far away from the shore and have the water still only be up to an adult’s knees. Be careful, though! Sand and water are constantly changing and you never know where there will be a drop off. Make sure your kiddos are well supervised.
Resorts and hotels along the coastline often have dedicated beach access.
You will find most Texas beaches are pet on a leash friendly.
Popular/busy beaches may have restaurants, concessions or food/ice cream trucks during high season and may also offer beach chair/umbrella rental service. Unless you are 100 percent sure of beach amenities, assume you’ll have to bring everything you’ll need for the day, from chairs to ice.
Fires on the beach are generally permitted unless otherwise indicated. Make sure you check for posted signs. Winds and burn bans may come into play so don’t assume that because it was OK last time, it’s OK this time.