Dig your toes in the sand, ride the waves, or take to the water with our Around Houston guide to more than 40 beaches and on-the-water activities.
From Lake Conroe and The Woodlands all the way down to the shores of Galveston Island, Clear Lake and the Bay Area, Baytown, Brazosport and Port Arthur, the region that surrounds Houston offers plenty of reasons to get your toes wet and enjoy the sizzle of the sun.
Most importantly in 2020, there are many, many options for social distancing or staying within your bubble while still escaping the house.
We’ve compiled some of the most enticing beaches that line the Gulf Coast, as well as activities that will get you on the water—from thrill rides and reef diving to relaxing paddling and sunset cruises.
Of course, in the time of social distancing, it’s important for you to consider any health precautions before heading out. Our picks below may have certain requirements or restrictions at this moment and these things can change quickly, so be sure to contact your destination ahead of time with any questions or concerns.
Beaches Around Houston
- Bryan Beach – Stretching for three miles along the Gulf coast, Bryan Beach remains in its natural state, allowing for sunbathing, camping, birding, fishing and relaxing. If you’re in need of supplies before hitting the waves, then be sure to stop in Freeport to stock up. Some beach access fees may apply. Click here for more information.
- Follet’s Beach – This 13-mile stretch between Surfside Beach and San Luis Pass offers free, public beach access year-round. Camping, fishing, swimming and small campsite fires (pending any burn bans) are allowed, while glass containers are not. Click here for more information.
- Quintana Beach – This popular stretch of natural sandy beach offers six miles of fun in the sun, as well as other amenities as part of the Quintana Beach County Park, including RV sites, cabins, restrooms and showers, a playground, covered pavilions and grills, a lighted fishing pier and much more. Parking fees are $5 from Memorial Day to Labor Day; free otherwise throughout the year. Click here for more information.
- Surfside Beach – Spanning miles of the Gulf Coast, from Quintana Beach to Follet’s Island, Surfside is a popular place for beach-goers seeking out a patch of sand to relax. Beach house rentals and motels fork off Bluewater Highway, just steps from the water, making this a great spot for a weekend getaway. Some vehicle restrictions apply, though on most of Surfside Beach, passes can be purchased for $12. Glass containers and camping are not allowed. Click here for more information.
- Surfside Jetty County Park – Located on the west end of Surfside Beach, this 15-acre beach park offers paved parking, a playground, restroom facilities, and covered pavilions for public use. Nearby boat ramps are free for public use, providing access to the beach, harbor channel and jetty. Open from 8am to dusk. Click here for more information.
- Beach Pocket Park 1 – On the west end of Galveston Island, this pocket park near 7 1/2 Mile Road offers on-beach access so you can pull your vehicle onto the sand for your beachside day of relaxation. Entry fees are charged from Mid-March through Labor Day and vary per day. Click here for more information.
- Beach Pocket Park 2 – Just slightly further down the road from Beach Pocket Park 1, this spot provides paved parking, indoor restrooms and showers, umbrella and chair rentals, and sun deck eats at the Tipsy Turtle Bar & Grill. Admission is free, though vehicle access is not allowed on the beach. Click here for more information.
- East Beach – Follow the seawall to the far east end of Galveston Island to find this popular party spot with plentiful amenities. The beach park is home to a pavilion, boardwalk and entertainment stage, restrooms, showers, chair and umbrella rentals, a playground, concessions and more. What attracts many is that, unlike most of Galveston’s public beaches, alcohol is permitted. Hours and admission rates vary throughout the year. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Seawall Urban Park – For more than ten miles, this seawall barrier stretches the coast of Galveston, offering easy walk, bike and run access to many of the beachfront shops and restaurants along the way. Throughout the length of the seawall, visitors will also find access points to the coastline and beaches. Parking rates along Seawall Boulevard varies, including some free parking zones. Click here for more information.
- Stewart Beach – This family beach park is located just off Seawall Boulevard, providing plenty of amenities like covered pavilions, concessions, restrooms, showers, a playground, beach volleyball and more. Alcohol is not permitted at Stewart Beach. Hours and access fees vary throughout the year. Click here for more information.
- McFaddin Beach – Part of the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge that sits along the Gulf Coast, this public beach stretches for nearly twenty miles along the coast, providing a spacious and isolated beachgoing experience. Because of the desolate nature of the beach, there are no vendors or facilities in the area so be prepared before venturing out. Click here for more information.
- Sea Rim State Park – Along 5.2 miles of Gulf shoreline, Sea Rim State Park offers access to 4,000 acres of marshlands and beachfront activities. Terrific birding and beach combing opportunities can be had while walking the sandbar, and the park also offers primitive camping for the avid beachgoer. Click here for more information.
On The Water Activities Around Houston
The Gulf Coast is about more than beaches and in the areas around Houston, you’ll find plenty of reasons to get out on the water along the water’s edge and further inland.
Kemah, League City, Baytown Nassau Bay & Seabrook
- Boardwalk Fantasea Yacht Charters | Cruises – Out of Kemah, these yacht charters send visitors onto the waters of Houston and Galveston Bay for sightseeing, dinner voyages, party cruises and other events. Click here for more information.
- Captain Kidd Sailing Schooner | Sailing – Hop aboard a 55-foot tall schooner that calls back to the 19th century of sailing the open seas. Schedules vary throughout the year, but visitors can take to the water off Seabrook for two-hour sails that offer a chance at catching stunning sunsets or dolphins leaping from the water. Click here for more information.
- Houston Party Boats | Cruises – If you’re planning an event or celebration, these party boat charters out of League City offer flexible packages for dinners, dancing and drifting across the waters of Nassau Bay, Clear Lake and the surrounding area. Click here for more information.
- Kemah Boardwalk | Amusements – Dine along the waterfront, hop aboard a roller coaster or try your best to take home boardwalk prizes. This popular amusement destination is packed with restaurants, shopping, thrill rides and more in a carnival-like boardwalk atmosphere. Click here for more information.
- Pinky’s Kayak Rentals | Paddling – Just down the road from Seabrook, this rental shop will get you geared up to paddle through the nearby Taylor Lake or kayak through Armand Bayou Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness Preserve. Pinky’s also offers guided tours, including its popular couples and Texas Wine Tasting tours. Click here for more information.
- South Coast Sailing Adventures | Sailing – From Kemah, this sailing charter service can meet many of your adventure needs. Take to the water for cruising and fishing trips, learn how to sail with the South Coast sailing school, or enjoy their on-the-water take on bed-and-breakfast. Click here for more information.
- Star Fleet Yachts | Cruises – This entertainment cruise service takes visitors to the waters of Clear Lake and Galveston Bay with public cruises on offer, including special events like Murder Mystery Dinners. Click here for more information.
- Buffalo Camp Bayou | Paddling – In Lake Jackson, the launch point of this flatwater trail is located on the east side of Wilderness Park, across from the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. Bring a kayak and paddle along the winding water, keeping an eye out for migratory birds and wildlife on the banks. Park is open 6am to 10pm daily. Click here for more information.
- Christmas Bay Paddling Trail | Paddling – The very shallow waters of Christmas Bay provide a great opportunity to safely paddle through the 19.1-mile trail while watching for birds, exploring the oyster reefs, or fishing. Shorter trail loops of 3.8 and 10.3 miles are also available. Click here for more information.
- Flower Gardens National Marine Sanctuary | Diving – Located in Freeport, this premier diving destination provides access to coral reefs, manta rays, hammerhead sharks and loggerhead sea turtles. This activity is best suited for intermediate or advanced divers. Click here for more information.
- Brazos River Runs | Paddling – The Brazos River winds through the areas of Brazoria and Freeport, providing excellent paddling opportunities through the 9.8-mile trail of the Gulf Prairie Run, and the six miles known as the Sugar Mill Stretch. These trails send paddlers down an incredible ecological system under towering trees, past flowering plants, nearby wildlife and migratory birds. Click here for more information.
- Old Brazos River Paddling | Paddling – Launching from RiverPlace at Freeport Municipal Park, the Old Brazos River offers an area of paddling that is segmented from the nearby winding Brazos River. Click here for more information.
- Oyster Creek Paddling at Dunbar Park | Paddling – This 98-acre public park provides launch access into Oyster Creek, which snakes north and east of Lake Jackson, and is lined by moss-hung oaks and residential homes. Click here for more information.
- Sea Center Texas | Aquarium – Operated by Texas Parks & Wildlife, this marine center houses a 50,000-gallon aquarium, a fish hatchery and a five-acre wetland exhibit that explores the Gulf Coast region’s marine wildlife. Admission is free. Click here for more information.
- Southern Empress Cruises | Cruises – This paddle-wheeler boat offers a unique opportunity to head out on Lake Conroe for your next dinner, cocktail or special event cruise. Click here for more information.
- Lake Conroe Park | Parks – Sitting on the west shores of Lake Conroe, this 13-acre park offers covered pavilions, grills, picnic facilities and restrooms, as well as swimming areas and fishing piers for your next family outing. Admission is $2 per person; free for ages 5 and under, 65 and over. Click here for more information.
- Lake Equipment Rentals – Before heading out on Lake Conroe, give your day of fun in the sun a jolt of excitement with equipment from one of the area’s popular rental services. Lake Conroe Water Sports will cover your water craft needs, while you can grab paddle gear from 3rd Coast Paddle Boards and North Lake Conroe Paddling Company. For the adrenaline-seeker, HydroRockets is your go-to with jetboard rentals that strap to your feet, lifting you in the air with powerful pressurized water nozzles.
- Artist Boat Kayak Adventures | Tours – Out of Galveston Bay, this guided tour service takes participants on paddling adventures through some of the area’s most beautiful coastal areas, including East End Lagoon Nature Preserve, Christmas Bay, Armand Bayou Nature Center, Cypress Swamp and Coastal Heritage Preserve. Click here for more information.
- Baywatch Dolphin Tours | Cruises – Out of Pier 21 in Galveston, this family-owned guide service takes visitors out on the water for a 45-minute tour of the harbor and an opportunity to spot dolphins in their natural habitat. Click here for more information.
- Bucket Brigade | Tours – These free, public tours take visitors on a 45-minute stroll down Stewart Beach in Galveston, with hands-on activities that explore the beach’s water, debris, Sargassum landings and other ecological findings. Click here for more information.
- Captain Hal Newsom’s Airboat Tours | Cruises – Take a seat on the Gator Getter, a 450 horsepower airboat that takes visitors on a tour of the nearby waters while they take in the sights of coastal wildlife like marsh birds, stingrays, fish, sharks and alligator gars. Click here for more information.
- Colonel Paddlewheel Boat | Cruises – Head out on an 1800s paddlewheel replica, touring through the Galveston Bay area while enjoying dining service, dancing, or the relaxation that comes with a midday cruise. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Duck Tours | Tours – For a unique tour through Galveston, hop aboard a Duck Tour which will drive you through blocks of Seawall Boulevard before entering the water at Offats Bayou, and then back out again to check out some of the historic properties in the area. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Harbor Tours | Cruises – Hop aboard the Seagull II for an on-the-water tour of Galveston Harbor. Take in the natural wildlife of the area, seek out playful dolphins in the harbor, or take in a beautiful sunset cruise. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Island State Park | Parks – Though the beach side of the park is closed until 2022, the bay side provides plenty to do with fishing, picnic, birding, hiking, biking, paddling, camping activities and more. Operated by Texas Parks & Wildlife, this natural environment is a boon to those who want a closer look at Texas’ rich coastal ecology. Click here for more information.
- Galveston Water Adventures | Cruises – Take to the waves for a range of cruise events from this popular local service. Check out beautiful sunsets or go looking for dolphins, or, take a seat for an adrenaline-filled jet boat thrill ride near Galveston Harbor. Click here for more information.
- Ohana Surf & Skate | Classes – This one-stop shop for all things surf and skate in Galveston also holds clinics with certified teachers, helping kids ages 6 to 17 learn the fundamentals of surfing and injury prevention. Click here for more information.
- Sandy Feet Sand Castle Services | Classes – Led by professional sand castle sculptors, this service will meet you at the Galveston beach of your choice and show you how to make stunning sand sculptures. In the summer months, you can catch them teaching free lessons at Stewart Beach. Click here for more information.
- Pleasure Island – This longtime magnet for amusement in Port Arthur provides great opportunities to enjoy the surrounding waters of the Intracoastal Waterway and Sabine Lake. Pleasure Island is home to great sailing, boating, fishing, crabbing, hiking, birding, camping, and much more. Click here for more information.
- Sabine Lake – This 90,000-acre saltwater estuary provides prime fishing, boating and sailing for those living the salt life. Click here for more information.
- Lakes Edge Boat House | Paddling – Nestled among high end restaurants and shopping, Lakes Edge Boat House offers visitors the chance to rent kayaks and head out on Lake Woodlands. Bring a pole and enjoy fishing in their catch-and-release waters. Click here for more information.
- Riva Row Boathouse | Paddling – Enjoy the scenery of The Woodlands Waterway out on the waters of Lake Woodlands, with kayak, paddle board, water bike and swan boat rentals. Click here for more information.
Social Distancing & COVID-19
Businesses and organizations in Houston have opened under modified protocols, following guidelines administered by local health officials, the State of Texas and CDC. At this time, guidance from experts urges people to continue wearing face masks when in public spaces, practice social distancing of at least six feet, limit your touching of surfaces and frequently use hand sanitizer or soap and water to keep your hands clean.
Although vaccines have been approved and distribution has begun, supplies are still limited. Health officials have severely cautioned that it will take until late spring 2021 before the U.S. might be able to expect a level of herd immunity. In the meantime, masks are strongly advised to help curb the increasing spread of COVID-19 this winter.
Before heading out, take time to familiarize with your destination’s requirements or restrictions at this moment, and be sure to contact them ahead of time with any questions or concerns.
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