When you think of the Gulf of Mexico, the first things that usually come to mind are blue waters, soft white sand, palm trees. Perhaps you are imagining Florida and the old 1980s show Miami Vice with its pastel-colored scenery and its endless highway that goes down to Key West.
In Texas, no, that’s a whole different story.
Rule of thumb is that the beaches get nicer the more South you go. Reason for that is the Mississippi river entering the Gulf in New Orleans with his muddy waters and the somewhat shallow sea in East Texas, which acts like a reservoir for said water. In the Lone Star state, the Gulf of Mexico starts up North in a city called Port Arthur, which is actually just a bay town and leads you some wildlife refuges a couple of miles South. This is a rather inaccessible stretch of land. The geography then takes you further down the road until you reach Goat Island where you can cross over to Galveston, a primary destination for weekend partying and get-togethers for people in the Houston area. It is not the prettiest of sights with a long highway roads, lots of traffic and predominantly establishments serving the entertainment purpose. Expect lots of tattoos, bikers, a redneck atmosphere, and difficulties parking depending on where you intend to go. Only Jamaica beach that requires a fee for parking is somewhat clean and worth the drive.
Float Pool & Patio Bar in Galveston, Tx.
Our journey then continues further South towards Surfside Beach. It is mostly empty and easily accessible by car allowing you to park directly on the hard sand and enjoy your day there. Many people roll up in pickup trucks and set-up camp for the day.
Surfside Beach, Tx.
Skip the industrial town of Freeport and continue on to Matagorda Beach. It is here where you get a feeling of a beautiful beach that indeed dares to compete with some in Florida or South Alabama. But watch out, the sand is softer, so make sure to not park your car close to the water or you will get stuck for sure: Youtube Link
Matagorda Beach, Tx.
The roads go further South and take you back into the mainland until you reach the city of Corpus Christi which is usually pretty quiet except in those few weeks of spring break or summer when students or families, respectively, travel down here for vacation. Again, Corpus Christi is at a bay and I recommend to avoid the city since it is frequented by rather shady visitors. Instead, head east towards North Padre Island and go South as far as possible until you enter the state park and enter a beautiful land of pure nature and mesmerizing beaches. It is absolutely worth the entrance fee.
North Padre Island, Tx.
In order to drive further South, you need to return towards Corpus Christi and take the highway US 77 South towards the Mexican border. Now, mind you, this area of South Texas with the cities of McAllen, Harlingen, and particularly Brownsville is no destination for your relaxing holidays. This region suffers from unemployment, crime, lack of medical providers, and the difficulties that arise being next to the border to Mexico. Nevertheless, if you travel past that and enter South Padre Island you will enjoy beautiful beaches that are of top-notch quality and will make you forget all your sorrows. I yet have to visit South Padre. Making it a 6 hour drive from Houston to the Southern tip of Texas, it is by far no day or even weekend trip. In addition, holiday seasons spike up prices for condos and hotel rooms to over $200 per night. We shall see.
South Padre Island, Tx.
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