Texas has just over 350 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, but where are the best beaches in Texas for families?
The Texas coastline is dotted with with small beach communities, seafood shacks, aquariums, maritime museums, and most notably, the wildlife refuges that make up the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.
Our list of best beaches in Texas for families runs from Galveston Island in the north to South Padre Island in the south.
Generally, the further south you go, the prettier the water color due to the increased distance from the sediment deposits of the Mississippi River.
However, the further south you travel, the more remote. The southern beaches are less developed and require longer travel times to reach them. Keep this in mind as we’ve listed the best beaches in Texas for families geographically from north to south.
Explore more of the state! Here are the best things to do in Texas with kids.
Best Beaches in Texas for Families on Galveston Island
Galveston Island is almost 30 miles long. The city of Galveston is closest to Houston, on the northern end of the island. It is a huge draw for tourists and has lots of attractions to keep families busy even if they are only mildly interested in spending time at the beach.
From the rides on Pleasure Pier to the aquarium at Moody Gardens, your family could never get bored in Galveston! This is really the place to go if you are looking for an action packed family vacation, as opposed to quiet time on the beach.
Check out our Top 10 Things to Do in Galveston with Kids for all the details on a family vacation in Galveston.
1. Stewart Beach
Stewart Beach is the best family beach park in the city of Galveston.
It’s large and has all the amenities you need for a great day at the beach including restrooms, ample parking, concessions, chair and umbrella rentals, a playground, and beach volleyball courts. This is the place to be if you want to stay in Galveston proper and minimize drive time to the beach.
2. Galveston Island State Park
Galveston Island State Park is 20 minutes from downtown Galveston. It spans the the width of the island, offering access to both the Gulf and West Bay and a wide array of activities include fishing, hiking, biking, and birding.
The park has three paddling trails, but does not rent kayaks or canoes. The Gulf side of the park is undergoing major renovations and will reopen in 2022 with brand new Gulf-front facilities. The park has both tent and RV camping spots in addition to lodges for rent.
3. Sea Isle Beach
As you move south from the city, the island gets much quieter and the beaches get less populated. There are small parking lots right on the sand all down the island. If you are willing to walk just a ways down from your car, you can usually find a stretch of beach to yourself.
The hidden gem of southern Galveston Island is Sea Isle Beach. Sea Isle is a tiny community of mostly second homes of Houston residents. There are houses directly on the gulf and many on the canals of the bayside for easy fishing in the bay.
There are no public facilities other than a small parking lot so it is best to stay nearby. This is about as “away from it all” as you can get and still be quite close to civilization. The beach is clean and quiet with a strictly local, residential feel.
Best Beaches in Texas for Families on the Central Coast
The drive from Galveston to the beaches of the central region of the coast is one of the most scenic drives of the Texas Coast.
It is very remote, green, and bucolic, almost like the Texas Hill Country except perfectly flat. You twist and turn through cattle pastures and cotton fields before finally arriving back within view of the water in the Fulton/Rockport area.
4. Rockport Beach
We highlight Rockport Beach specifically for families with small children because the wide, sandy beach is actually on the calm, shallow waters of Aransas Bay.
Adults can walk very far out into the water and still only be knee deep. So, ideal for small children, but probably not so for bigger kids looking to play in the waves.
As a Blue Wave Beach, it is very well maintained. It has palapas for the public to use as shady respites, a small playground, plenty of parking, and restroom facilities.
The best swimming temperatures at Rockport Beach are in the spring and fall. In summer, the water can be too warm to be refreshing since it is so shallow.
Aside from the beach, there is just enough to do around town to make for a vacation, albeit a slow and quiet one. The Texas Maritime Museum and Aquarium at Rockport Harbor are right at the entrance to the beach.
From there, it’s just a mile down to the Rockport Pier. Strolling that mile will take you through the main drag of downtown Rockport along Austin Street. There are several restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shops along this stretch.
Additionally, the Fulton Harbor is about three miles north of Rockport Beach. It also has a large fishing pier, several restaurants, and a playground.
Rockport Birding and Kayak Adventures launch dolphin watching cruises from this harbor. The area is anchored by the Inn at Fulton Harbor, which is conveniently within walking distance of everything in Fulton Harbor including a fun, waterfront seafood restaurant called Charlotte Plummer’s.
The pier was recently rebuilt and features green fishing lights in the water, so it’s a very popular fishing spot in the cool hours of the evening and makes for a pretty night time stroll.
5. North Beach
It’s a 1.5-mile stretch of narrow but sandy beach on the bay with bathrooms, a playground, and two fishing piers. There is ample parking along the beach and several restaurants with views of the water.
Families will love being able to see two of the biggest attractions in the city and spend time on the beach, all without getting in the car.
6. McGee Beach
McGee Beach is the main beach in downtown Corpus Christi, on the edge of Corpus Christi Bay.
Corpus is almost the exact same size as Galveston, providing the only other city home base for families looking for lots of things to do on the Texas coast in addition to spending time at the beach. The water of the Corpus Christi Bay usually has a nice green tint to it. McGee Beach has bathroom facilities and beach equipment rentals.
Downtown Corpus stretches north from McGee Beach along the water’s edge about 2.5 miles to the museum complex anchored by the Art Museum of South Texas and the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History.
Take your time exploring the waterfront area of downtown and you will find a playground at the Water’s Edge Park, restaurants with a view of the harbor, and a “Journey Through Our Solar System” outdoor exhibit on the seawall.
Best Beaches in Texas for Families on Mustang Island
Mustang Island is the barrier island protecting the Corpus Christi Bay from the Gulf. Families can stay in Corpus Christi if they are looking to stay near big city attractions and still take an easy day trip out to Mustang Island and Padre Island for time on the Gulf.
7. Port Aransas
Port Aransas is a small beach town with a nothing-fancy-to-see-here personality and extremely wide beaches perfect for running and biking.
Cars are allowed to drive great lengths of the beach in Port Aransas, so it’s incredibly easy to find the perfect spot to set up camp for a day at the beach. Don’t miss a walk out on the Port Aransas Jetty, where you can often spot green sea turtles.
Texas families tend to find their niche in Port A, and then return year after year as a family tradition. Some families want stay in the residential neighborhood centered around Avenue G (where there is direct access to the beach).
Others opt for more of a resort feel and stay further out of town at the Port Royal Ocean Resort or in the more upscale communities of Palmilla Beach and Cinnamon Shore.
In town, you’ll find an assortment of family-friendly restaurants, souvenir shops, and a harbor that launches a variety of sightseeing boat tours.
Check out our guide to 8 Fun Things to Do in Port Aransas for more details on a family vacation in Port A!
8. Mustang Island State Park
If you want to venture beyond the city beaches for more time in the sand and sun, Mustang Island State Park has five miles of gulf beach and allows tent camping and campfires directly on the sand. The beach camping sites have access to water, showers, and restrooms.
Mustand Island made our list of the best state parks in Texas. See what other special spots made our list!
Best Beaches in Texas for Families on Padre Island
It’s very important to note that while these two beaches are both on the southern most barrier island in Texas, it is not easy to get from one to the other.
There is an artificial waterway cutting through the island separating the two and you must drive inland to get from one to the other. So enjoy the remote national seashore or the hopping resort town of South Padre Island, but definitely don’t plan on doing both in one day.
9. Padre Island National Seashore
If you’re a family of nature lovers, the Padre Island National Seashore is the place to be! This is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.
It’s best to kick off the day at the Malaquite Visitor Center to get the lay of the land. It has a book store and exhibit area about the park. It also conducts sea turtle hatchling releases in the early mornings during the summer
. The beach directly in front of the visitor center does not allow cars, but many miles of beach south of the center are drivable.
10. Isla Blanca County Park
Isla Blanca Park is at the southern end of the island. The park’s facilities enable families to enjoy endless hours at the beach. It has a mile of beach, concessions, equipment rentals, pavilions for shady picnics, and a fishing jetty.
The beaches of SPI are your best bet for swimming in clear Gulf water in Texas. The hue of the water never gets blue-green like in Florida, but it does veer more toward blue than the water at other Texas Beaches.
Check out our roundup of 10 Fun Things to Do in South Padre Island!
At just 20 miles north of Mexico, South Padre Island is the end of the line as far as beaches in Texas for families go! It’s remote, but this spring break mecca has built itself up as a vacation destination for families as well.
From touring the Birding and Nature Center to kayaking the Laguna Madre, there is plenty of kid-friendly entertainment on the island.