Sun, sand and surf are an integral part of the Texas Gulf Coast lifestyle. From South Padre Island to the Louisiana border, you’ll find many places to cool off this summer. Here are just a few splash-worthy options that attract locals and visitors alike.
Paddle over to Padre Island
Experience natural beauty at Padre Island National Seashore, which has 70 miles of protected coastline and is the longest remaining stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. This national treasure is the site of the Laguna Madre, one of the world’s few remaining hypersaline lagoon environments. The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle — the world’s most endangered sea turtle species — nests on Padre Island’s beaches from April to July. Visitors may swim in the recreation area at Bird Island Basin or in the Gulf of Mexico. Please note: No lifeguards are on duty. Learn more at www.nps.gov/pais/index.htm
Make waves at Mustang Island
Just south of Port Aransas, you’ll find the five miles of beach along the Gulf of Mexico that comprise Mustang Island State Park. The first historical record of Mustang Island dates back to 1519, when Spanish explorer Alonso Alvarez de Pineda mapped this section of the Gulf Coast. Today, visitors enjoy swimming, surfing, hiking, mountain biking and bird-watching. Plan your visit at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/mustang-island
Splash into fun at Stewart Beach
Beach bums will want to check out Stewart Beach, one of the top family destinations on Galveston Island. You’ll find many amenities, including umbrella and chair rentals, volleyball courts, showers, a snack bar and a souvenir shop. Check out scheduled events — such as the Gulf Coast Volleyball Association’s annual “Hot as Hell Classic,” taking place Aug. 5 — and view a live webcam from the beach at www.galveston.com/stewartbeach
Take yourself to Lake Texana
If you prefer lakes to oceans, consider Lake Texana east of Edna, halfway between Corpus Christi and Houston. Lake Texana is a dammed reservoir on the Navidad River and features approximately 125 miles of shoreline. Watch out in the park coves, though: The alligators you might see there should not be approached or fed. Lake Texana is currently a Texas state park, but its operations will soon be transferring to the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority. Learn more at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/lake-texana
Seek thrills at Schlitterbahn
Texas’ own Schlitterbahn Waterparks have two locations on the Gulf Coast: Schlitterbahn Galveston Island and Schlitterbahn Beach on South Padre Island. Each has thrill rides, lazy rivers and restful “beaches.” On Galveston Island, check out the Torrent River attraction, a “tidal-wave river” that generates continuous waves. At South Padre Island, prepare to scream on the Tempest, an uphill water coaster. Plan your visit to Schlitterbahn Galveston Island and Schlitterbahn Beach by checking out www.schlitterbahn.com/gal
Whether your destination is a pristine natural coastline, a man-made lake or an action-packed amusement park, enjoy the watery wonders of the Texas Gulf Coast.