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Best Things To Do On The Gulf Coast

Make plans for these things to do on the Gulf Coast.

The Gulf Coast boasts a wide variety of cultures, cuisines, climates, and scenery. The area easily offers something to appeal to all ages. Younger children and their parents love visiting the miles of sandy beaches and enjoying water activities at Texas Gulf Coast resorts. Snowbirds from the north come down in their campers for sunshine and fellowship, while spring breakers take over the beaches in March. Empty nesters and grandparents might enjoy visiting historic sites and museums, plus trying new types of cuisine.

As a frequent visitor to the south, I’m happy to offer some tips about what to do on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Top Things To Do On The Gulf Coast

Everyone enjoys sampling those tasty Tex-Mex and BBQ dishes everywhere along the Gulf Coast and Texas Tropical Trail Region. Fresh-caught seafood dishes ranging from shrimp to redfish and ocean trout are plentiful in coastal resorts like Galveston Island, Port Aransas, Rockport, and South Padre Island.

Photo Credit: JoAnn Holt


With 32 miles of great public beaches for family activities, Galveston Island, believe it or not, is a massive draw for history buffs. Stay at the recently renovated historic Grand Galvez Hotel on the Seawall. Rooms start at $189, and the hotel pampers its guests with a spa and other amenities. Galveston Historical Foundation offers tours of beautifully restored historic mansions like the 1853 Menard House, Bishop’s Palace, and Moody Mansion, which magically survived the tragic 1900 Hurricane.

The island has many restaurants to consider, from the best seafood to barbeque to Tex-Mex to everything you can think of – both on the Strand and in town. Go here to find where to eat in Galveston.

Galveston is also known for outstanding festivals like Dickens on the Strand and Holiday Lights at Moody Gardens in December, and their vast Mardi Gras celebration is in February,

Port Aransas

Port Aransas and Mustang Islands are the best spots for semi-private public beaches where you can park your car or camper near the water. The kids will enjoy building sand castles, searching for shells, or body surfing. The best place to stay in Port Aransas is the historic Tarpon Inn. It was built in 1887, and its 200-foot-long porches are perfect for relaxing in the shade after a long day at the beach.

Corpus Christi

Drive west about 40 miles to Corpus Christi to tour the Texas State Aquarium. The world-class aquarium was recognized for saving sea turtles during Winter Storm Uri last year. Boating, camping, and fishing are all available in this coastal city, as are restaurants and nightclubs.

Captain Tommy’s Skimmer. Photo Credit: Rockport Fulton Chamber


Rockport and Fulton Beach are adjacent resort towns in Aransas County. Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Rockport in 2017, and it’s apparent –you can’t keep a great place down. The towns have bounced back better than ever. Stay at the restored Lighthouse Inn on Aransas Bay, where each room has its own balcony or patio. Aransas Bay has excellent birding, boating, nature, and wildlife preserves.

Take a boat trip on Captain Tommy’s Skimmer to view migrating Whooping Cranes between November and March. Be sure to visit Fulton Mansion, which is open for self-guided tours. Built 150 years ago by Col. George Fulton, the four-story home overlooks Aransas Bay and features indoor bathrooms with flush toilets and heating systems ahead of its time.

If you’re okay with crowds, the HummerBird Festival in September draws birders. The best seafood is at Charlotte Plummers, where you can sit on the outside balcony deck and watch the boats unload their catches.

Sea Turtle Sculpture at SPI. Photo Credit: SPI

South Padre Island

South Padre Island has plenty to offer visitors, which may be why it’s packed with sun-lovers from March to October and Winter Texans from November to February. Enjoy pristine beaches, boating, fishing, surfing, and shell hunting on South Padre Island.

We loved our recent stay at Isla Grand Resort Hotel in a private cabana with Gulf and pool views. A great place to eat fresh seafood is Blackbeards Restaurant on the island.

On my recent visit to South Padre Island, I was intrigued by the whimsical Sea Turtle sculptures displayed around the island by local artists. Be sure to pick up a map at the SPI Visitors Center to follow the trail.

Photo Credit: Port Isabel

Port Isabel

Want to be away from SPI? Drive about 3 miles south to Port Isabel, which lies on the Laguna Madre. You will find many ways to enjoy a week or a weekend with accommodations, restaurants, attractions, the beach, and shopping.

An excellent place to eat fresh seafood in Port Isabel is Pirate’s Landing. If you don’t mind climbing stairs, visit Port Isabel’s Lighthouse, a national historic site open to the public. Visitors take 75 winding stairs and three ladders to reach the top and are rewarded with amazing views.

Anglers should visit the state’s longest fishing pier nearby at Lighthouse Square. Fishing is available by boat, on the pier, on the beach, and with a charter.


Baytown is it if you’re looking for a place to fish, bird, or photograph wildlife! The Texas Gulf Coast’s bays, marshes, and coastal grasslands in and around Baytown provide key habitat for a staggering array of wildlife, providing plenty to see and do for anglers, birders, and photographers.


If you’re ready to toss that bathing suit for some old Western-style garb, Kingsville is only 45 miles inland from Corpus Christi. Its ambiance is as different as visiting another country or era. Get information about taking a tour of the 825,000-acre King Ranch, one of the largest working ranches in the world, at the King Ranch Visitor Center. You’ll find fascinating images and exhibits about the ranch’s early days at the King Ranch Museum.

Port Arthur

Located on the Texas-Lousinia border, Port Arthur is a diversified town. Follow the faith trail, see Janis Joplin’s tribute at the Museum of the Gulf Coast, play at Pleasure Island, deep your feet in the water (or swim) at Sea Rim State Park on the Gulf, and a new distillery.


Kemah is south of Houston, about 25 miles, and a city on Galveston Bay. Many people pass right by, heading for the island; some don’t even know it’s there. But it’s known for the Kemah Boardwalk with an amusement park, outdoor entertainment, and waterfront dining for the whole family.


Photo Credit: JoAnn Holt

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