By Andrea Slaydon
You don’t have to leave the great state of Texas to find quality beaches to enjoy with your family. From water slides to turtle sightings and plenty of sand and surf, Texas offers a great selection of beaches to explore this summer.
Parking Cost: $10-15 per day
Stewart Beach on Galveston Island is consistently named one of the best beaches for families. It’s located where Broadway Avenue meets the Seawall in Galveston. For the kids, there are beach volleyball areas set up, as well as a playground. There are plenty of amenities for a day at the beach, including concessions, restrooms, showers, chair and umbrella rentals, and more.
Must see: It wouldn’t be a trip to Galveston if you didn’t visit the Pleasure Pier (http://www.pleasurepier.com). It’s one of the few spots in the world that has so many rides over the water! All day passes run from $19 to $26 each. Family favorites include the carousel, roller coaster, tea cup, and frog hopper rides.
Location: Bolivar Peninsula
Parking Cost: $10 for yearly pass
Crystal Beach is on Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County, Texas. Many of the homes on Bolivar were destroyed during Hurricane Ike, so there is a lot of new construction and modern cabins available for rental. One fun adventure for the kids is feeding the seagulls on the free ferry ride between Galveston and Bolivar. The 2.7 mile ferry trip takes about 20 minutes to cross. The seagulls are always eager and will take food right out of your hand! Crystal Beach is also home to Rollover Pass, a two-hundred-foot-wide channel that joins the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay. It’s a great spot for fishing and crabbing. (You must have a fishing license to fish here.)
Must See: The Fun Spot Waterslide is a rite of passage for any Crystal beach visitor. For years, people have been making the climb up the large hill to ride the fun slide into a pool of crystal clear water. Another must see: The Bolivar Lighthouse. The massive 117-foot lighthouse was built in 1872 and was used for 61 years before being rested in 1933.
Location: Port Aransas
Parking Cost: $12 daily
In the mood for a low-key beach weekend? Mustang Island is an 18-mile long barrier island that includes a state park. There are 48 campgrounds available at Mustang Island State Park. You can also use the covered picnic areas and public restrooms. Take the kids out for a shelling adventure! There are always a lot of beautiful shells near the jetty, especially after high tide. You can book surfboard lessons or arrange a pro guided fishing, birding or nature kayak tour.
Must See: Got a quarter? Take the family on a trolley ride around nearby Port Aransas. It’s just 25 cents a person, and it travels around the city’s hot shopping spots, restaurants, the UT Marine Science Institute, Community Park, Art Center, and more. Colorful signs mark the trolley route, and riders can flag down the trolley at any location along the route.
Location: off coast of Corpus Christi
Parking Cost: $10 per vehicle for a 7-10 day pass
Padre Island stretches from Corpus Christi down to the resort community of South Padre Island. It is home to the newest Schlitterbahn waterpark! The Padre Island National Seashore is part of the global effort to help recover populations of threatened and endangered sea turtles. There are several programs during the year, including bird watching walks. Kids can earn an official Junior Ranger Badge and certificate through the National Park Service. Padre Island is known for horseback riding. You can rent a horse and explore the coast on horseback.
Must See: Make a stop by Sea Turtle Inc. (http://www.seaturtleinc.org) for a chance to get up close and personal with sea turtles of all shapes and sizes. The mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured sea turtles, and to educate the public. You may even get the chance to see a turtle-hatchling release.
Parking costs: $5 daily or $20 yearly
Rockport Beach faces the Aransas Bay, which means there are no big waves or strong undertows to worry about. It’s a great place for kids to swim, and there are many areas where the water is very shallow with small lapping waves. It’s also known as one of the cleanest beaches in Texas. There are plenty of outdoor public showers and clean restrooms for guests. Rockport Beach is also popular with people who love to bird watch, as there are many rare birds that make the stop through the area.
Must See: There’s a long 1,500-foot, lighted jetty pier at the end of Rockport Harbor. It’s a great place to take the family and to watch the sunset. The nearby Rockport Beach Festival Grounds are home to the popular Rockport Market Days where vendors sell handmade items, food and more.
You can check up-to-the-date information about the water quality at Texas beaches at Texasbeachwatch.com.