9 Coastal Texas Towns for a Last-Minute Getaway
With 367 miles of coastline, Texas boasts some exciting beach cities to visit for a last-minute day trip or weekend stay. As summer is slowly inching toward the busy back-to-school season, these nine coastal towns and beach cities are perfect for a getaway before school is back in session.
Just three and a half hours south of Austin, Corpus Christi has plenty of interesting history and fun things to explore that make it a great choice for a weekend trip. Some of the most popular things to see are the Selena Memorial Statue and the Selena Museum as well as the USS Lexington and the Texas State Aquarium. If you cross the bridge onto Padre Island you can check out Mustang Island, Whitecap Beach and Padre Balli Park. When your stomach starts to growl, be sure to check out Blackbeard’s On The Beach, Snoopy’s Pier or Water Street Oyster Bar for a bite.
One of the oldest towns in Texas with lots of history to match is none other than Galveston. The Elissa, Bishop’s Palace, the Texas Seaport Museum and Galveston Railroad Museum are great for a quick history lesson, with The Galvez being one of the oldest and most well-known hotels on the island for its supposed ghost sightings and tasty bar and grill. Stewart Beach is always the place to go if you’re looking for a place to relax with the family, but if it gets too crowded just drive a little further south down the seawall and explore many of the off-the-beaten-path beaches. The Spot, Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant, and Joe’s Crab Shack are visitor favorites for authentic seafood on the Seawall, while Shark Shack and Shrimp & Stuff are a few notable eateries on The Strand. Lastly, Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, Strand Historic District and Schlitterbahn Galveston Island are three fun places to spend some time if the beaches are too hot.
Closely located near Corpus Christi, Port Aransas is a beloved beach town on the Texas Coast. Fin’s Grill & Icehouse, Coffee Waves and Jay’s Seafood & Spaghetti Works are a few delicious places to eat with family and friends during your visit, as well as pirate-themed Moby Dick’s—which recently reopened after completing renovations following Hurricane Harvey. If you want to go fishing while in Port Aransas, stop by Captain Kelly’s Deep Sea Headquarters and talk to a staff member about booking an offshore fishing trip or dolphin sighting trip. The Scarlet Lady Dolphin Adventure also offers the chance to go on a dolphin sighting trip that also features some natural landmarks of Port Aransas. If you’re visiting with kiddos, be sure to check out Red Dragon Pirate Cruises for some fun interactive entertainment. You might catch a glimpse of a few pirates, too!
This city is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey damages but is open to tourists! The Fulton Mansion Historical Site, Texas Maritime Museum and Rockport Beach are the top destinations to check out in this town, boasting tons of history and unique architecture to explore. If camping or hiking is up your alley, Goose Island State Park is a fun place to pitch a tent for a night or two, hike on a few gorgeous nature trails, go boating, geocache and visit “The Big Tree”, a 1,000-year-old oak tree. The Boiling Pot, Paradise Key Dockside Bar & Grill and Panjo’s Pizza are a few local eateries that offer everything from seafood to pizza and more.
South Padre Island
For a farther weekend getaway, South Padre is one of the few Texas beach towns to offer blue water and perfect weather almost year round. With so much natural wildlife nearby including the Sea Turtle, Inc., The Original Dolphin Watch and the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, visitors can experience close-up views of rescued sea turtles, dolphins, birds and other wildlife. Andy Bowie Park offers some surfside picnic pavilions, swimming areas, restrooms and showers if you’re looking to spend a day at the beach, but Gravity Park is perfect for anyone wanting to go on a little adventure while on vacation with mini golfing, go-karts, reverse bungees and a giant swing. If that isn’t enough adventure for you, you can always skydive over the island with Skydive South Padre Island. A few notable island restaurants are Blackbeards’ Restaurant, Gabriella’s, Sea Ranch and BurgerFi.
Kemah offers plenty of family fun for everyone and is located just 30 miles north of Galveston—Making it a great option if you’re headed out that way for a few days! The main attraction here is the Kemah Boardwalk that has rides, restaurants and shopping for all ages. Sailaway Clear Lake Charters has unique sailing adventures for everyone whether you’re looking for a fun family excursion or romantic sailing trip with your partner. If you’re looking for a place to stay near Kemah, the Boardwalk Inn is located on the Kemah Boardwalk with a perfect view of the ocean and bites from the Aquarium Restaurant. You can also grab some tasty food with amazing views from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Flying Dutchman. Moody Gardens, which has three different themed pyramids including an aquarium, rainforest, and a theater is a close drive from Kemah and a must-see for most visitors who are headed to the boardwalk.
This city is pretty close to the border of Louisiana and offers plenty of Cajun influence for Texans that love the feel of New Orleans without the drive. Larry’s French Market & Cajun Restaurant has authentic cuisine and hosts the occasional crawfish boils for visitors, while The Rodair Roadhouse is known to have the occasional live musician perform. The Museum of the Gulf Coast is a sight to see with architecture influenced and designed to look like the villas in ancient Pompeii, while The Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Park offers a look into the city’s history for free. Two state parks worth visiting are the Walter Umphrey State Park and Sea Rim State Park which both offer places to camp, fish and boat.
Located near Lake Jackson, this beach town is home to the Sea Center Texas aquarium which has free admission and has an awe-inspiring hatchery located inside. Freeport is also known for having several parks to check out such as Jetty Park, Stahlman Park and Quintana Beach County Park. All of these parks are located alongside the beach, so you can visit them before you hit the ocean or for a lunchtime picnic after you’re done splashing in the waves. If you’re more interested in exploring the wildlife in the area, visit The Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge—The refuge is home to over 400 species of birds. When it comes to beach eats, be sure to stop by On the River Restaurant, A R’s Cafe, Pier 30 and Red Snapper Inn.
Port Lavaca is about three hours south of Austin and near Matagorda Bay. Lighthouse Beach is ideal for families looking to experience the Texas coast and has a picture-perfect with a perfect view of the water and sand. Halfmoon Reef Lighthouse, a 150-year-old lighthouse still available to be toured, is one of the area’s most interesting attractions. Another great place to learn about the town’s history is the Calhoun County Museum featuring artifacts important to Calhoun County. In between touring these places and relaxing at the beach, be sure to grab some grub at Shellfish Sports Bar & Grille, Bayside Seafood, Texas Traditions Grill & Bakery or Scully’s Sports Bar & Grill.
All within driving distance from Austin, these coastal towns are the perfect way to take a last-minute vacation with family and friends before things pick up at the end of summer. Soak up some sun, eat some great seafood and learn something new at one of these places! If the beach isn’t for you, there are plenty of other Central Texas day trips to take and Hill Country wineries to visit if you want to get out of the city.