When folks think of Texas, they often think of cowboys, wide-open prairies, and bar-b-q. Very rarely do they think of sand and surf. But Texas has over 350 miles of coastline and most of it isn’t full of condos and souvenir shops. So, let’s take a road trip through one of my favorite parts of our Texas-sized coast.
With the beach in front of you, the drive is guaranteed to take longer than you want it to. But you’ll eventually arrive at the Port Aransas ferry letting you know that you’ve made it. We love riding the ferry and try to head straight to the beach to get our feet wet. But before you do, make sure you pop into a local convenience store to purchase a Beach Parking Permit. They’re only $12 and will help avoid a ticket. Magee Beach is the closest and easiest access. There might even be some surfers to keep you entertained.
When you’re ready for dinner, head to The Crazy Cajun Seafood where they dump an entire bucket of seafood and crab legs in front of you and then let you go wild with mallets. There’s something cathartic about being able to smash food with a hammer. My kids love it.
Where to stay? We’ve stayed at numerous places all over the island. Best Western Port Aransas is great and includes free breakfast. Texas waffles anyone? We’ve also loved some of the VRBO rentals all across the island.
On beach vacations, we like to spend our morning hours exploring and leave the beach time for the afternoon and evening when the coast is a little more chilled out. Start the day by seeing the bayside of the island at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center with boardwalks that extend way out into the marsh. Bring binoculars and bug spray. But keep your eyes peeled. You might even see some of the resident alligators in addition to hundreds of bird species. Grab lunch at Irie’s Island Food serving up amazing tacos with an asian spin.
Start heading down the coast until you reach Mustang Island State Park. Now is the time to bust out the umbrellas and lawn chairs as you enjoy one of the premiere beach-front parks in Texas. You’ll easily be able to find your own piece of Texas sand and can spend hours playing in the surf or walking the beach collecting shells.
When you’re nice and crispy, keep heading south on the beach for dinner. Make it to Snoopy’s Pier by sunset and you’ll get one of the best sunsets on the coast and one of best platters of fried seafood in Texas. Snoopy’s is classic.
Where to stay? If you brought tents or an RV, then Mustang Island is a great choice. But if not, we love Best Western Padre Island for all the same reasons as above.
Wake up early and get ready to visit the “Longest Undeveloped Barrier Island in the World.” I’m talking about North Padre Island which is part of the federally-protected Padre Island National Seashore. If you’re extra lucky, they’ll be doing a sea-turtle release at dawn which is a magical thing to witness. Call the turtle hotline the day before to find out.
Your first stop should be the Malaquite Visitor Center to learn about this amazing ecosystem and why it was worth protecting from developers. You’ll also learn about the Kemps Ridley sea turtle which is our “Texas Turtle” that’s been critically endangered but is now making a comeback. At this point, you have some options.
Option 1 - Spend the day on the beach playing in the surf.
Option 2 - Head back into town for lunch at Surfside Sandwich Shoppe or Padre Island Burger Company.
Option 3 - Grab a windsurfing lesson at Worldwinds Windsurfing.
Option 4 - Gas up your vehicle and drive to the end of the beach
Based on your timing, you might be able to do some or all of these. If you want to drive to the end of the beach, get ready for 60 miles of the most-beautiful and pristine beach in Texas. You’ll find lots of places where you can look left and right and not see a soul in any direction. Just be prepared. The Visitor Center can help make sure you have all the gear, supplies, and information you need.
This article was written by WanderWheels trusted travel guide Chet Garner. You can find more helpful adventure tips and tricks on Chet’s Instagram (@chettripper)
For more tips for your road trip, explore these other adventures near the Texas coast.