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Houston’s sprawling metropolis can feel busy, dense and crowded, but when the need to escape hits there are a number of Texas beaches that are surprisingly close to Houston, yet feel like a world away. It’s sometimes hard to believe that in such a short period of time, you can have an ice cold beverage in hand and your toes in the sand.

If you’re ready to skip town and head to the beach—whether that’s for the peace and quiet of Surfside or the historic grandeur of Galveston—there are several beach towns near Houston to consider. Keep reading for five of our favorites within a short drive of the city. 

Surfside Beach 

If you’re in search of a super low-key beach adventure that offers a lot more peace and quiet than bigger name Texas beach towns, Surfside Beach is your spot. Just a straight shot south of Houston, you’ll have a hard time believing that this beach oasis is just an hour away. With a population in the hundreds, not thousands, it’s a 15-minute trek to Lake Jackson, where you can stock up on groceries, and a 30-minute drive to bustling Galveston.

Surfside Beach 

Cara C. via Yelp

There are a couple of motels, hotels and RV parks in Surfside, but your best bet for accommodations is to book a vacation rental on Vrbo or Airbnb, where you’ll find a slew of affordable (between $150-$200 per night for 2 adults and 2 children), colorfully painted, beach-front cottages on stilts.

Surfside is known for its shelling (there are hundreds of types of shells and fewer shell seekers than other beaches) and for its birdwatching—its Bird and Butterfly Trail is a 2.5 mile path where you can spot many species of birds. Other Surfside Beach activities include surfing, horseback riding, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, crabbing, boating, jet skiing and visiting historic sites.

Crystal Beach 

East of Galveston Island, a strip of land known as Bolivar Peninsula is home to Crystal Beach, aka Patton, a beach community that stretches for several miles along Texas State Highway 87 and is just an hour-ish from Houston. Because it allows beach camping and fires, it’s a popular spot for outdoorsy types.

Crystal Beach 

Crystal Beach 

Janrunun T. via Yelp

Like Surfside, vacation rentals are the way to go here (if you aren’t camping), so check out the rentals on Vrbo and Airbnb, where you can get a cozy beach bungalow and enjoy all the sun and sand you can handle. While you can do any of the normal things you’d expect on the beach, Crystal Beach and Bolivar Peninsula are known for their live music and entertainment at their restaurants in town. The myriad events they have all year round (BBQ cookoffs, art festivals, parades, car shows), robust fishing opportunities and a lively food and drink scene—which features iconic spots like Stingaree Restaurant & Marina which will cook your catch just the way you like it—make for a memorable time at the beach.

Galveston Island


Galveston Island is an hour from Houston, but feels like another place entirely. As one of the first established beach communities in the area, it has more than 100 years of history behind it, taking visitors a step back in time when they visit some of its Victorian treasures like Moody Mansion, the East End Historic District and the 1894 Opera House. But not to worry—Galveston is thoroughly modern with resorts like the Grand Galvez, Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa and Convention Center and the The San Luis Resort, Spa & Conference Center offering top-notch amenities.

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

There are numerous beaches along the coastal Gulf side of the island, offering all the beachy activities you’d expect. For lovers of the outdoors, birding, surfing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, golf, and just strolling the beach are great pastimes. Tours of the area—whether by land or by boat—are popular, as you can learn about Galveston and its history. There are too many shops and restaurants to count in the downtown section called The Strand—once known as the Wall Street of the South—but we recommend you hit these standout Galveston restaurants and bars. Another popular landmark you’ll want to visit is the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier, a boardwalk destination where you can enjoy everything from soft serve ice cream and stone crab to rides and midway games.

South Padre Island

The longest barrier island in the world is right here in Texas—it’s Padre Island, lying in the Gulf of Mexico. Known for its white sandy beaches, South Padre is on the south part of the island, but in the middle, the Padre Island National Seashore is preserved in its natural state, and it spans more than 70 miles. If you crave a true beach getaway, consider a trip to the park where you can enjoy unique experiences like beach camping, releasing turtle hatchlings, canoeing and 4-wheeling along the seashore.

Empty boardwalk on South Padre Island, Texas.

Empty boardwalk on South Padre Island, Texas.

Yesim Sahin/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Stay at any number of beachfront resorts offering ocean views like the Pearl South Padre Resort, the Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island Beachfront or the Isla Grand Beach Resort. South Padre is known for being the “Sandcastle Capital of the World,” and you can book a class to learn to build sandcastles with the pros. You can also learn to kiteboard or windsurf on Laguna Madre Bay and learn to scuba dive or try your hand at deep sea fishing. South Padre’s proximity to the Mexico border means you’ll also find great Mexican seafood restaurants with a coastal southern touch. 

Corpus Christi

No list of Texas beach towns would be complete without a mention of Corpus Christi, a sizable coastal city that hugs the Gulf shoreline and offers over 100 miles of sandy shores to enjoy. Three hours from Houston, it’s also a favorite of San Antonians and is midway between Galveston and the Mexican border.

Boy playing in ocean waves in Corpus Christi, Texas. 

Boy playing in ocean waves in Corpus Christi, Texas. 

Cavan Images/Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

The question in Corpus Christi is how to make time to do it all—there’s the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, the Texas State Aquarium and the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History for nature lovers. Want to catch a ball game after a day at the beach? The Corpus Christi Hooks is an Astro-affiliated minor league baseball team that plays regularly for spectators. The USS Lexington, a WWII-era aircraft carrier is also a winner for the family history buff. Corpus Christi also has a lively arts and entertainment scene and is a foodie haven, offering fresh seafood, Tex-Mex and Texas barbecue.