Most people may not think of Texas when they are planning a beach getaway, but the island city of Galveston has more than 30 miles of beachfront coastline. Located about 50 miles southeast of Houston on the Gulf Coast, Galveston is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the state, with seven million people visiting its shores each year. Whether you’re looking for some weekend downtime or planning an all-out vacation experience, you’ll love Galveston's beaches.
In 1902, the leaders of Galveston built a seawall to protect its residents from hurricanes. Through the years, the city has made improvements to the wall, and local children painted sea life murals to decorate it. The Seawall now extends 10 miles along the coastline and reaches 17 feet in height. The sidewalk on top of the Seawall is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world. Parking is available along Seawall Boulevard. Visitors will find beautiful, well-maintained, scenic beach areas as well as a great selection of restaurants nearby.
This alcohol-free, family-friendly beach has just about every amenity you can hope for: Freshwater showers, concessions, volleyball courts, a children’s play area, and umbrella and chair rentals create a comfortable, fun place to relax and enjoy the seaside. Lifeguards are on duty to ensure the safety of beachgoers. Stewart Beach is also a popular beach wedding destination, with a 150-seat, climate-controlled pavilion available for rent.
If you’re seeking a connection to Texas wildlife, Galveston Island State Park is the perfect destination. Take a kayak tour, join in on a nature field trip, or catch some fishing tips for flounder, seatrout, and more at one of the angler clinics. The park also offers many bird-watching events and opportunities for nature photography. During the day, you’ll see coastal birds such as herons and gulls in the marshes; as the sun sets, barn owls sweep across the grasslands looking for prey. If you're looking for somewhere to stay the night, RV hookups and campsites are available.
Sitting on the far eastern edge of Galveston Island, East Beach is one of the state’s largest beaches. It’s also the site of concerts, festivals, and other big events throughout the summer months, including an annual sandcastle competition. You’ll love the boardwalk and the beach's many great amenities, such as an entertainment stage and concessions. East Beach is also one of the few Galveston beaches where officials allow alcohol consumption. Dogs are also permitted on the beach, as long as they’re on a leash.
Located east of Galveston Island on Bolivar Peninsula, Crystal Beach is a narrow piece of land that separates the Gulf of Mexico from East Galveston Bay. Crystal Beach is a popular fishing, dolphin-watching, and beachcombing spot. If it’s peace and quiet you’re looking for, avoid this beach on weekends during the summer. Otherwise, make plans to camp out overnight, where the sound of the ocean waves will lull you to sleep. In mid-May, attend the Texas Crab Festival and enjoy fresh seafood, live music, and more.
Babe’s Beach has been named one of the top five restored beaches in the country, meaning this local beach keeps getting better. Its name comes from a former Texas House and Senate member and Galveston beach lifeguard, Babe Schwartz. He helped create the Texas Open Beaches Act, a law granting free public access to the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Free parking and a fantastic selection of nearby eateries make it an ideal destination for Texans and visitors alike.
Galveston County manages two popular beach sites. For those looking for a drive-on beach experience, Beach Pocket Park 1 is an outstanding choice if you don’t mind fewer amenities. Not only is it close to Moody Gardens and Schlitterbahn Waterpark, but you can also consume alcohol on the beach. Beach Pocket Park 2 provides free pavement parking, showers, and restrooms. Stop and grab a bite at Tipsy Turtle Bar and Grill, conveniently located right on the beach.
Although parking is about a block away, Pirates Beach is one of Galveston’s top beaches, according to locals. Not only will you find amazing sunrises and sunsets here, but you may also catch sight of some nesting sea turtles. This beach offers a nice break from the crowds, but remember to bring your own meals and snacks, since there are few concession options to choose from. However, there are a variety of beach house and vacation rentals close by.
Watching over the beachgoers every day, the Galveston Island Beach Patrol maintains a safety presence over the area’s beaches. These 100 lifeguards, peace officers, and dispatchers also maintain the flag warning system, which designates potential dangers in the waters. Flag colors indicate high winds, rip currents, and other hazards. You can verify current beach conditions in Galveston on the GIBP website, or you can sign up for notifications via email or text message.
Galveston is one of the largest port cities in the United States, and city ordinances prohibit swimming in the San Luis Pass area as well as the Houston Ship Channel entrance. Visitors may notice sharks in the Galveston waters, but most are not dangerous. Avoid swimming at dawn, dusk, and after dark. Following heavy rains, alligators sometimes travel downriver and end up along the Galveston beaches. Wildlife officials warn beachgoers against feeding them, disturbing their nests, or approaching them in any manner. Stinging jellyfish, especially the Portuguese man-o-war, are not only present in the water but may wash up on the beaches; avoid them to prevent possible stinging. Don't let these precautions keep you from exploring all that Galveston's beaches have to offer! With some planning and attention to rules or guidelines, your trip to Galveston's shores can be an experience of a lifetime.