Coast-bound travelers tend to stay for a weekend in one area—Galveston , Brazosport , Corpus , or South Padre —to lay claim to a beach condo or hole up in a fishing village as opposed to roaming the entire region. In fact, parking yourself on one beach is the best way to do it, unless you have time and money to spare and can enjoy your experience cruising along the coast in a boat (rentals are available).
In general, there are two types of Gulf Coast  travelers: busy families looking for a getaway from the ‘burbs, and grizzled fishermen looking for a getaway from the family. The South Padre Island beaches  are considered the nicest, so if quality sand and surf are your top priorities, that’s the best place to start. Plan to spend at least two to three days soaking up the sun, soft white sand, and gently rolling surf. Many South Padre visitors choose to take a day trip to Matamoros, Mexico, via nearby Brownsville.
As you make your way up the coast, the beaches tend to be less scenic—the sand is a bit darker and the infiltration of civilization is more apparent (oil rigs, trash, tankers, commercial buildings, etc.). Regardless, the scent of salt water and intrinsic lure of the sea are just as strong; you just have to deal with more traffic and city folk. It’s worth spending a long weekend in Corpus Christi  to soak up the pleasant scene on Mustang Island  or nearby Padre Island National Seashore . The city’s USS Lexington,  Texas State Aquarium , and Museum of Science and History  are well worth visiting for a family-friendly, air-conditioned change of pace.
The Brazosport Area  offers fewer cultural amenities than its coastal cousins, which is precisely the reason anglers prefer spending quiet weekends here sans water parks and booming car stereos. Things are more low-key and less commercial in this unassuming corner of the coast, where retirees, fishermen, and professional beachcombers peacefully coexist.
Galveston  is where the big-city Houston  folk go to spend their money and get their beach and seafood fix. It’s the least-stunning of all the Gulf Coast beaches, but the waves are still welcoming, and the shopping and restaurant scene in the historic Strand  district are certainly deserving of two travel days.
Most communities along the Gulf Coast  have visitors bureaus where tourists can inquire about directions, equipment rental, and other travel-related assistance. Contact the following entities before your trip with questions about logistics or scheduling.
300 Abner Jackson Parkway, Lake Jackson
888/477-2505 or 979/265-2505
101 N. Shoreline Blvd.
800/766-2322 or 361/881-1800
2428 Seawall Boulevard
888/425-4753 or 409/763-4311
600 Padre Blvd.
800/767-2373 or 956/761-6433
A couple of helpful websites provide more detailed information about the coast, including maps, resources, and notices about current conditions and events. The Texas General Land Office offers a Beach and Bay Access Guide with links to environmental reports and downloads (www.glo.state.tx.us/coastal/access/guide ), and the National Park Service site (www.nature.nps.gov ) includes information about geological issues such as tides, waves, currents, erosion, and sea level.