Life’s a Beach
The weather is beautiful and like a lot of you out there my thoughts have turned seaward. With more than 1,000km (620 miles) of south-facing coastline on the Gulf of Mexico, Texas is home to beaches galore, from lively resorts to deserted nature reserves. Beaches can be found on the mainland, facing the shallow Laguna Madre, and plenty more are on the South and North Padre Islands, 170km (105 miles) of barrier islands which protect much of the coast. Keeping this in mind I’ve decided to profile the beach less traveled. Everyone knows about Galveston but there can more to a summer getaway than chain restaurants and rental umbrellas. Let’s explore some of the other options our great state has to offer.
Sea Rim State Park: On Texas’s eastern tip, near the city of Port Arthur and across Sabine Pass from Louisiana, Sea Rim combines 8km (5 miles) of beach with wetlands and two lakes. People come here to soak up the sun but also to hike, cycle, bird watch and fish. Swimming is safe in the Gulf but alligators lurk in the marshland… Look for them from the boardwalk Gambusia Nature Trail, during airboat tours or hire a canoe or boat. There is a visitor centre with observation decks, picnic area and exhibits.
Mustand Island State Park: This wilderness area, with 8 km (5 miles) of beach, is an easy drive across the causeway from Corpus Christi, and just south of Port Aransas. Dunes are home to raccoons, armadillos, skunks and gophers, while little bays and wetlands are home to wading birds and many varieties of fish. This is a place for kayaking in shallow, protected waters (kayak hire available nearby), fishing, and mountain biking either on the beach or the hinterland. There are simple facilities, and a campsite.
Padre Island National Seashore: This undeveloped shoreline, one of the nation’s longest, stretches some 60 miles, with those beyond mile marker 5 accessible only by boat, shank’s mare, or four-wheel-drive. Adventurers who venture farther will see little more than an occasional hard-core fisherman, wind, waves, sea birds, and, if they’re lucky, a sea turtle. The entire beach is a primitive campground, offering sunsets over grass-covered dunes, star-studded skies and, occasionally, bioluminescent waves.
Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area: This 38-mile-long barrier island across the bay from the fishing village of Port O’Connor can be reached only by boat, but local fishing guides provide shuttle service for a fee. On the unpopulated island, trails lead to a circa-1852 lighthouse, on the National Registry of Historical Landmarks. Miles of beach show barely a sign of human hands. Visitors must bring their own water, food and other supplies, and arrange in advance for a return shuttle.
Boca Chica: This gloriously wild peninsula is separated from Mexico only by the mouth of the Rio Grande. No shops or hotels, just pristine white sand at what is almost the southernmost point in Texas. Yet Boca is only a short drive from the semi-tropical city of Brownsville, and the seaside fun of South Padre Island is just across the Brazos Santiago Pass to the north. The area, the first landfall for birds arriving from South America, is a birdwatchers’ paradise where you can see everything from pelicans to peregrine falcons.
Whatever choice you make, sun block and mosquito spray are a must. Also it might be good advice to hurry up and get down to the coast, there are only 8 more months of warm weather this year, the clock is ticking!
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