As I relax in the Official World Headquarters of How Big Is Texas in San Angelo, I’m starting to feel the coolness of fall in the air. Here’s hoping the dropping temperatures will finally bring some much needed rain to the area. We could sure use it.
I’m also thinking of the many trips I was blessed to take across the Lone Star State over the past year. Several times, I found myself on the Gulf Coast of Texas. I enjoyed a long weekend with old friends, went RVing with my husband and our dogs, and attended conferences for my job. After all my Gulf Coast travels, I decided I’d let you know about some of my favorite beach cities and towns in Texas.
You might be asking why I would share beach communities as the fall season has just begun. Since I go to the beach more to enjoy the sunrises and sunsets while listening to the surf, I think the fall is the perfect time because you can enjoy the beaches when they’re not nearly as crowded. You can walk along the beach and get exhilarated from the gulf coast waters as they splash your toes or you can go all in and swim to your heart’s delight in the cooler waters. And the best part? Much of that time you can practically be all by yourself. Now that’s what I call the perfect vacation!
Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
South Padre Island
The furthest beach south in Texas is South Padre Island. During my perimeter tour driving around the state of Texas in June 2020, Debra, Morgan, and I spent the night in this beautiful town filled with beaches and both sunrises and sunsets. All you had to do was look east for one and west for the other. I was on South Padre Island in August for a conference this year and got up every morning to watch the sun slowly rise above the water-filled horizon, while others slept in. I also took an evening ride on Breakaway Cruises thanks to my friends at Welcome Home RGV. As the sun began to set, we met a pirate ship along the way, but, thankfully, they chose not to plunder and we made it back to shore unscathed. I know many tell me they prefer a sunrise to a sunset, but I couldn’t tell you my favorite, especially when it comes to being on a beach.
Of all the beaches I’ve visited in the Lone Star State, I think I’ve frequented Galveston Island more than any of them. I’ve cruised out of Galveston Bay a couple of times on Royal Caribbean, attended numerous work conferences, and overnighted at Moody Gardens and the San Luis Resort. I’m fascinated with this city on the gulf offering a rich history, including visiting homes that survived the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, touring the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, and currently being able to view Battleship Texas, which was recently moved to Galveston to undergo extensive repairs to her hull. And if you’re into Mardi Gras, this town does it up right. Gather your beads and head on over to the Oleander City.
One of my fondest memories of Port Aransas was driving down with my husband and our dogs in our relatively new, gently used motorhome on Thanksgiving weekend a few years ago. All of our kids had other plans so we piled in the RV with the dogs and stayed at On the Beach RV Park, literally located by the beach and cool waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Since we were there for Thanksgiving, we paid $1 each and brought two sides to the park’s community room, and celebrated the holiday with total strangers, mostly from the north, including Canadians. For them, it was their first Thanksgiving. Since then, Port Aransas and the adjacent Mustang Island have ranked pretty high among our beach favorites.
I also like the birding opportunities at Port A. One of my go-to birding locations is Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center. Located practically in the middle of town, it’s convenient and the birds are extremely close for viewing. And if you love photography, you can take back incredible photos from this one stop to last you a lifetime.
Corpus Christi Bay
The bay at Corpus Christi offers so much more than just beach views. Padre Island National Seashore is the first place I ever saw a whooping crane. The Texas State Aquarium features dolphin shows and other creatures of the sea. The adjacent USS Lexington provides a look at naval history. Commissioned in 1943, the World War II vintage Essex Class aircraft carrier celebrates her 80th birthday next year. I try to pay my respects to the Selena Memorial Statue, featuring a life-size bronze of the Tejano singer. One of the biggest surprises for me is the Texas Surf Museum. When I think of surfers, I never really think of the Gulf Coast. And while I don’t see the Beach Boys writing and performing songs about it, surfing is a thing in Texas.
I haven’t spent a great deal of time on Surfside Beach but I’ve found myself in the area on a few occasions – once on my perimeter tour around the state of Texas and the other time when my best friend, Darla and I took a long weekend to visit the Buc-ee’s locations in Texas. While the convenience store is not in Surfside Beach, according to the Buc-ee’s website, many of the locals say it is. The beaches here are lovely and a nice change, if you’re looking for other beachside locations to visit on the coast that are not nearly as crowded.
Rockport Beach in the small town of Rockport, where it gets its name, includes Little Bay, Saltwater Pool, and North and South Rockport Beach. Dan and I rented a B&B near the beach around Christmas one year. Living in west Texas, the holiday lights in a beach town are very different from what we have been accustomed to seeing. Rather than viewing homes with holiday lights and blow-up Santas, most of the time deflated due to the west Texas winds, we saw boats on the harbor with strings of lights and snowmen at the bow, looking like Rose in Titanic waiting for Celine Dion to break out in song. On a separate note, Jack could have lived in the movie, but I digress…
Rockport is home to the Texas Maritime Museum and the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site. Another favorite stop for me is Goose Island State Park, as it is home to the “Big Tree,” a massive coastal live oak tree dating back more than 1,000 years. Talk about deep Texas roots!
Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula
In 2021, my friend Darla invited me and two of my high school classmates to a long weekend of laughter and memory sharing with our spouses. We stayed at a fantastic rental house on the coast called The Ritz of Crystal Beach, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a place for a family get together. There’s something about enjoying your coffee on a deck while watching the sunrise over the water or having a nightcap in the evening and seeing the stars and the lights from boats as they come into Galveston Bay. Located on Bolivar Peninsula, you’ll know you’re in the right place when you spot the Point Bolivar Lighthouse. If you want to take a daytrip into Galveston, you simply drive onto the Port Bolivar Ferry that takes you conveniently across the gulf waters. You might even get lucky and spot a dolphin or two along the way. Here’s a little free advice, if you get out of your car on the ferry ride, which I highly recommend, don’t take a hat. The winds can blow pretty strong and I’d hate you to lose your head cover.
Eat in the Heart of Texas
I could say it goes without saying, but I’m choosing to say it. There is no better place to enjoy fresh seafood than on the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico when you’re in Texas.
The shrimp options alone are enough to make Bubba from Forrest Gump question whether he named all the ways to cook the tasty crustaceans, afterall, “shrimp are the fruit of the sea.”
I’ve even bought fresh seafood to take home with me for future enjoyment.
So while you’re dreaming of where to go in the fall, don’t count out the beaches of Texas. Beautiful water, unlimited sand, and much needed rest and relaxation await you.
Until next time…in Texas…safe travels!