Texas has 367 miles of coastline. It offers miles of remote, shell-studded beaches, mangrove marshes, mountainous dunes, and tidal salt flats. You’ll find beaches with hundreds of beach house vacation rentals, water sports activities, and deep-sea fishing charters. And winter is the best time to explore Texas beaches, when the crowds are sparse and the weather is moderate, in the low 70s.
I’ve explored beaches from the tip of Texas at Boca Chica to Corpus Christi, Galveston, and up the twisted oaks and salt domes of High Island toward Louisiana. Here are my favorite Texas beaches to visit during winter — listed geographically, south to north.
1. Boca Chica Beach
At the very tip of South Texas, Boca Chica Beach lies about 23 miles east of Brownsville, where Highway 4 dead-ends at the Gulf of Mexico. Mangrove marshes, clay dunes, and tidal salt flats surround the eight-mile beach at Boca Chica, a national wildlife refuge. Rustic and remote, the area is perfect for bird watching, fishing, swimming, and surfing. The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle comes ashore to nest in spring and summer.
These days, you might hear a rumble or two from Elon Musk’s SpaceX South Texas Launch site at Boca Chica, called Starbase. NASA selected Musk’s Starship to be the lunar lander in the future Artemis Program; Musk’s future goal is Martian exploration.
Pro Tip: Travel to the mouth of the Rio Grande to see the border wall extend about 30 feet out into the ocean.
2. South Padre Island
South Padre Island is the number one beach vacation destination on the Texas coast. The 34-mile-long barrier island hosts beachfront hotels, condos, vacation rentals, RV parks, plus deep-sea or bay fishing. Enjoy family-fun water activities like surfing, diving, snorkeling, parasailing, sailboat rides, jet skis, a dolphin watch cruise, and anything else you can dream up.
If you are looking for solitude and peace, wintertime is a great time to visit when the weather is in the high 60s and the low 70s. The peak season is March during spring break and summertime when school is out. The water here is clean and aqua clear, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were in Cancun or Cozumel.
Pro Tip: From Brownsville, take Highway 48 across the bridge to South Padre Island.
3. Padre Island National Seashore
The most extended undeveloped barrier island globally, Padre Island National Seashore separates the Laguna Madre, one of the world’s saltiest lagoons, from the Gulf of Mexico. Padre Island National Seashore protects more than 70 miles of majestic coastline, massive dunes, prairies, tidal flats, and wildlife. The area is the protected nesting ground for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and a sanctuary for more than 380 bird species.
Winter is the time to visit, when daytime temperatures are low to mid-70s and people are sparse. Camping is available at five campgrounds on a first come, first served basis, permit required, with no RV hook-ups available.
If you’re looking to visit during summer, check this NPS resource for hatchling Kemp’s ridley sea turtle releases between mid-June and August.
4. Mustang Island State Park
Mustang Island is an 18-mile-long barrier island near Port Aransas, east of Corpus Christi. A state park with five miles of spectacular sandy beach, it’s a great place to swim, surf, build a sandcastle, fish in the bay, birdwatch, camp, and kayak. Camping is available at 50 primitive drive-up sites or 48 sites with water and electricity, restrooms, and showers with hot water.
The Mustang Island Paddling Trail for kayaks and canoes has some of the best shallow-water fishing in the state.
Pro Tip: You can access the park from both Corpus Christi and Rockport.
5. Corpus Christi Beaches
The downtown Corpus Christi McGee Beach along scenic Shoreline Boulevard is within walking distance of several hotels and restaurants. Rent a cabana, umbrella, and chairs, or bikes and scooters.
Editor’s Note: Perk up at the mention of an aquarium? The Lone Star State has plenty to offer, and the Texas State Aquarium made Janie’s list of the best aquariums in Texas.
Whitecap Beach is a mile-and-a-half-long beach in Corpus Christi on North Padre Island. It’s great in the winter due to the milder weather, but note that from April to August, the undeveloped and unspoiled beach offers the best surfing.
North and South Packery Jetty Beach is a sandy oasis between Mustang Island and Padre Island, with jetties extending out into the azure water. The south side is less crowded, making it a wonderful place to fish, swim, snorkel, and build sandcastles.
6. Port Aransas Beach
Famous for its pirates in the 18th century, Port Aransas, a small town on Mustang Island, northeast of Corpus Christi, swells to 60,000 during its peak season: spring break and summer. Avoid those peak seasons by coming here in the winter.
Port A boasts 18 smooth miles of beach where you can find your perfect beach house. Dive in and experience surfing, jet skiing, pirate cruises, sunset sails, parasailing, or deep-sea fishing. Learn about sea turtle rehabilitation, bird refuges, kayaking, and Texas SandFest, the annual sandcastles competition.
Pro Tip: Cook Your Catch locations like Fins Grill & Icehouse or Castaways Seafood and Grill will cook your freshly caught, freshly cleaned fish and prepare it to your liking, a unique “sea-to-table-experience.”
7. San Jose Island
A short ferry trip from Port Aransas, San Jose Island is a privately owned, uninhabited wildlife sanctuary. St. Jo’s beach is 21 miles long with fine white sand and lots of colorful shells, and it is known as The Fishing Capital of Texas. Catch a passenger ferry from Fisherman’s Wharf in Port A and fish from the rocky edges of the North Jetty. Catch redfish, flounder, speckled trout, or charter a deep-sea fishing boat from the pier.
8. IB Magee Beach
On the northern end of Mustang Island, on the other side of the rolling dunes of Port A, is IB Magee Beach. You’ll find almost 3,500 vacation rentals in IB Magee Beach Park. The park offers 75 RV sites with water and electricity, complete with hot showers and restrooms. Don’t miss the 1,240-foot-long, lighted Horace Caldwell Pier on the northern point of Mustang Island, perfect for 24-hour fishing.
9. Rockport Beach
Texas’ first Blue Wave Beach, Rockport Beach is certified by the Clean Beaches Coalition, a network of organizations and individuals committed to promoting clean, healthy, and well-managed beaches worldwide. Rockport is famous for great fishing, bird watching, and beautiful coastal climate.
On this mile-long sandy beach, you’ll find 65 quaint picnic areas with shade, grills, picnic tables, and volleyball courts.
10. Matagorda Island
Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area is a 38-mile-long uninhabited island with a Texas Parks and Wildlife outpost. Today, traverse the bay and the 2.5 miles across the island to the 1852 historic lighthouse, standing 91 feet above sea level, that guided ships through Pass Cavallo on their way to Indianola.
The island is home to 19 threatened bird species, migratory birds, white-tailed deer, alligators, and other wildlife. Bring your water and supplies to the Sunday Beach area, where camping is allowed.
11. Surfside Beach
Surfside Beach at Freeport stretches four miles between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico. It has vacation rentals, hotels, motels, and beach houses. Visit the crabbing pier and the Freeport jetties, where you can watch the large ships come and go or toss in a line and do some night fishing.
12. Galveston Island Beaches
Galveston Island is Texas’ charming retreat, 50 miles south of Houston, where we celebrate Mardi Gras, Dickens on the Strand in December, visit historic architecture like Bishop’s Palace and the largest collection of Victorian homes in America. The cruise docks host Royal Caribbean, Disney, and Carnival cruise lines. You can find hundreds of beach houses and vacation homes for rent along the 27-mile island. I like to visit Galveston beaches in the off season (not spring break or the summer) when the beaches are not crowded and you can find seashells on the beach.
San Luis Pass Beach, a 15-acre bay park, once known as the back door into Galveston Bay for pirates and smugglers, is located west of the Brazoria-Galveston County toll bridge at San Luis Pass. You’ll find full-service RV camping, cabins, restrooms, boat launch, and paved parking.
Jamaica Beach, with drive-on-the-beach access, makes a beach trip very easy with grandkids. Choose from a wide selection of vacation rentals on or near the beach.
Pirates Beach features over 700 beach properties near Galveston Island Country Club facing the gulf.
Seawall Urban Park, America’s longest continuous seawall, offers a 10-mile shoreline. You can bike, peddle cars, swim, make sandcastles, and people watch.
Beachtown Development is a quiet, uncrowded beach that is safe for swimming. Victorian homes offer many rental choices, plus stunning scenery. Access to Moody Gardens and Schlitterbahn make this beach a hidden oasis.
Stewart Beach is a family-friendly beach Between the seawall and Broadway Avenue, with lifeguards on duty. Access an outdoor pavilion, chair, and umbrella rentals. The Pleasure Pier has a colossal roller coaster, rides, and games. Stay nearby at the historic Hotel Galvez, my favorite.
East Beach, the only public beach where alcohol is allowed, hosts concerts, festivals, and a boardwalk. A pavilion, playground, and restrooms make this beach kid-friendly too.
13. Crystal Beach On The Bolivar Peninsula
Stretching seven miles along Texas State Highway 87, you can drive on Crystal Beach. Enjoy free camping, fishing, birding, and hunting for shells during, free from the summer crowds. Stay at beachfront and bayside vacation rentals during the off season, when rentals are easily available. Access Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula via the Bolivar free ferry for a trip across the bay from Galveston. There are no ferry lines during the off seasons, and you might see your ferry escorted by dolphins.
14. High Island
High Island is a quiet east Texas town, on the edge of a vast marsh, with twisted oaks clinging to the rims of salt domes 40 feet above the gulf. To the east, long, shell-studded beaches stretch 100 miles into Louisiana. There are four bird sanctuaries — the largest is Smith Oaks, with four lakes and nests of herons, egrets, and roseate spoonbills.