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Culture / Travel

Texas’ Best Beaches — 8 Underrated Retreats (No, Really)

The Lone Star State's Beaches Often Get a Bum Rap, But There's Real Beauty Out There

BY // 03.28.19

Houston and Dallas are many things, but stunning isn’t exactly one of them. People will say Houston and Dallas are not all that scenic — we see you, concrete jungle, and the benzene fire smoke in Houston certainly doesn’t help — but that doesn’t mean the Lone Star State isn’t a thing of beauty.

Texas is known for wide open plains, big open skies, fields of bluebonnets.

But there’s more than that. There are more gorgeous, panoramic views to be had outside the scope of a cowboy’s daily sights. The Texas shoreline is lovely, somewhat underrated, and definitely worth exploring.

When you live close to Galveston, you might think that’s your only access to the Gulf in this great state. And some Galveston area beaches, like East Beach, are worth the trip. But there are so many more breathtaking beaches dotting the coastline than you can imagine.

But they’re not a dime a dozen. They may each be primed for collecting shells and jumping into the waves, but they’ve all got their unique charms.

Any time is the perfect time for a beach vacation — and they’re all the more manageable when they’re in your home state. There’s an awful lot to choose from, but it’s all good.

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PaperCity has rounded up Texas Best Beaches for your enjoyment. And when it comes to Texas beaches, you’ve got a solid seven to eight months of beach weather.

Rockport Beach

This small coastal town beach is a winner not only because of its designation as the very first Blue Wave Beach in Texas. It’s also widely known as the cleanest beach in the state, with a long stretch of pristine sand curving into a crescent lapped by shallow waters, perfect for wading with the kiddos.

Beachgoers can swim, boat, fish or bird-watch in the fresh air. But if you start feeling too pruny, you can always venture ashore to the many nearby gift shops, art galleries and restaurants of this quaint little town that’s come back swinging from some horrific Hurricane Harvey devastation.

Rockport Beach
Rockport just may have the cleanest beaches in Texas.

South Padre Island

So, you may want to avoid this particular beach during Spring Break. That’s fair. But don’t discount it during calmer times of the year. You can definitely enjoy some solitude in the north of the island, the polar opposite of the March madness. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own little party at this BYOB beach.

It’s also a great place to get up close and personal with marine life, whether you go fishin’ at Isla Blanca Park or opt to watch dolphins, the Gulf’s friendliest ambassador.

Crystal Beach

It’s no surprise a Bolivar Peninsula beach made the cut. This peaceful beach runs seven quiet miles long. It’s the ideal spot for fishing, crabbing and splashing in the waves.

And your fun can last beyond the afternoon. Rent out a beach cabin with friends or the fam to make a weekend of it. It does take a bit of extra commitment — you’ll have to catch a ferry, and pay $10 for parking. But it’s more than worth it. Especially if you go during the annual Texas Crab Festival, running from May 10th through May 12th.

Surfside Beach

You can get things going on this sunny day jaunt in no time at all — Surfside’s under an hour drive from Houston. This four-mile stretch of coastline is just as good for lazy activities like sunbathing and collecting shells as it is for adventure.

And we don’t just mean fishing for kingfish and bonita. There’s ample opportunity for horseback riding just steps from the crystal-clear waters.

Matagorda Bay Nature Park

This spot proves it’s possible to get a little learning in when all you want to do is lay back and relax. The nature park is committed to educating people about the wetlands and preserving them. Wildlife abounds — think thousands of birds — at this intimate piece of the shoreline.

Get just close enough for comfort with a kayak trip or a hike down one of the many trails. Not to mention, it’s not just the Gulf of Mexico you’ll get to know. There’s also two miles of Colorado River frontage. And you can’t beat the stunning view of the Matagorda Lighthouse, which dates back to 1852.

Mustang Island State Park

This gorgeous barrier island beach is as friendly to dogs as it is to families. And the critter love doesn’t end there. Kemp’s Ridely turtles, a rare breed, have chosen this spot of one of their few breeding grounds.

Nighttime is when Mustang Island truly shines, thanks to the many campfires. Earn it with a day of playing in the wind-struck waves or taking the sea by paddleboard.

San Jose Island

If you want to belong in this peaceful paradise, be sure to call it “St. Jo’s,” just like the locals do. This privately owned island runs is a ranch-turned sanctuary, giving you plenty of opportunity to stroll and watch birds.

Not to mention fishing — it’s actually been dubbed the Fishing Capital of Texas. And a major bonus: absolutely no cars are allowed on this beach, making for truly unspoiled sands.

East Beach, Galveston

Of course a Galveston beach made this list — and not just for convenience’s sake. Not only is it mostly deserted on the quiet season, so you can collect seashells and work on that tan in peace, it’s known for some pretty great programming.

That means festivals, concerts and more. And for those fans of sandcastles — you can build your own for fun, or you can test your chops in the annual sandcastle building competition.

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