Just about an hour’s drive from Houston, Texas, Galveston Island is home to 32 miles of remarkable Gulf beaches. There are multiple public beaches on the island, where visitors can enjoy everything from fishing, swimming, and watersports to beachcombing, and basking in the sun. Galveston’s moderate climate and warmer temperatures allow for outdoor recreation all year long, but the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico are at their most inviting from spring through early-mid fall.
The water off the Galveston coast appears somewhat murky, or “turbid” due to the build-up of nutrients like sediment, plankton, and microorganisms that serve as a food source for the abundant fish, birds, and wildlife in the Gulf Coast region. As a result, the island is a prime spot for sport fishing opportunities and one of the best birding sites in the United States during the spring and fall.
Finding Your Place In The Sun
There are different kinds of beach experiences, and Galveston Island has a shore for every type of beachgoer. The East Beach areas are more lively and active, while the more pristine beaches of the West End offer a more serene experience. Some beaches charge a small entry fee per car, but many are free and open to the public. Visitors to the East End beaches may find free parking areas on the north side of Seawall Boulevard between 12th and 19th streets, 33rd and 39th streets, 53rd and 61st streets, and 85th and 91st streets. Paid parking is also available on Seawall Boulevard for $1/hour (maximum $8), 10 AM – 6 PM, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. Visitors can use a mobile app to pay for parking.
East Beach (R.A. Apffel Park)
The epitome of a happy little accident, East Beach consists of a series of jetties “left over” after the development of the port and harbor in the 19th Century. Today, it is one of the best beaches in the area and the largest beach in the state. Home of an annual sandcastle competition sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, East Beach hosts regular events, especially during the summer months when live musical performances and popular festivals lure residents and visitors alike. Onsite facilities include changing rooms, volleyball courts, showers, a stage, pavilion, café, and a boardwalk. Take advantage of horse riding on the beach, as well as great fishing and birdwatching opportunities. Unlike most Galveston beaches, alcohol is allowed on East Beach. Admission fees and hours vary.
Galveston Island State Park
14901 FM 3005, Galveston, TX 77554
Open seven days a week all year ’round, Galveston Island State Park was named one of the top 5 Best Gulf Coast Beaches by Travel Channel in 2013. The park spans over 2,000 acres from the Gulf to the bay on the island’s West End. Families love the state park for its safe swimming, pier fishing, hiking and biking trails, boardwalks, and meandering wetland waterways to explore by kayak or canoe. The area provides a thriving coastal habitat for an array of wildlife, offering endless unpredictable photo opportunities and exciting, natural sightseeing. Public restrooms, showers, and picnic tables are available, as well as free tours, nature walks, and fishing clinics. Entrance Fee is $5 per person, per day.
Technically a separate city off the Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County, Jamaica Beach is an ideal place for fun-seeking families on a mission for beach tradition. Located on the borders of Galveston Island State Park, the city’s public beach offers “backdoor” entry to the park, as well as free parking. The Jamaica Beach City Park on Jolly Roger Road offers additional recreation with swings, a basketball court, a picnic area, and a pavilion with a kitchen, all next door to the Jamaica Beach Swimming Pool and the Marina Boat Ramp.
Palm Beach at Moody Gardens
One Hope Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77554
Located within Moody Gardens, Palm Beach is Galveston’s only white sand beach. This modern, outdoor water park features a lazy river, wave pool, splashpad, colossal tower slides, and regulation sand volleyball courts embraced by the surrounding tropical landscapes.
10th & Seawall Boulevard
Porretto Beach was originally established as a part of Porretto’s Motel and Beach Shop, creating a resort-style environment for a fully-immersive, round-the-clock beach experience for sun-seeking Lone Star State visitors. Porretto Beach continues to offer an exceptional beach escape with concessions, restrooms, equipment rentals, jet skis, and more. Open from 9AM-6PM daily.
San Luis Pass
Situated on the west end of Galveston, San Luis Pass offers wide sandy beaches among natural wetlands that provide habitat for a range of migratory birds. The park is named for the shallow waterway connecting Galveston Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. There are no onsite facilities aside from picnic areas and outdoor showers, but it’s the ideal escape for beachgoers seeking an unspoiled, natural beach excursion. There are several smaller launch sites within the park, where surfing and fishing are popular year-round. Swimming is allowed only on the Gulf side. Free parking is available within the park, just before the entrance to the Galveston Tollbridge.
Seawall Urban Park
801 Seawall Blvd, Galveston, TX 77550
Spanning more than 10 miles, Seawall Urban Park offers ample beach space and a scenic walking path along the nation’s longest continuous sidewalk. This park is an ideal location to enjoy a day at the beach while keeping the best beachfront eateries, shops, and attractions in easy reach.
100 Seawolf Park Blvd, Galveston, TX 77550
Located on Pelican Island, Seawolf Park is named after a WWII submarine that was sunk off its shores. Visitors can explore another submarine (the USS Cavalla) as well as the destroyer USS Stewart within the park, while the remnants of the tanker S.S. Selma can be viewed near the fishing pier – one of the island’s top fishing spots. Seawolf Park is not known for being a great swimming hole, but there are picnic areas and a playground. Parking for the entire day is $6 per car. Additional fees apply for fishing or admission to the Galveston Naval Museum. The park is open all year, but hours vary.
201 Seawall Blvd.
Named one of the 10 Best Beaches for Families by Family Vacation Critic in 2013, Stewart Beach is a beloved beach park for fun-seeking families near the Seawall. The park features a pavilion, restrooms, showers, equipment rentals, sand volleyball courts, a playground, gift shop, and snack bar, as well as special events and community functions throughout the summer. Admission fees and hours vary.
Surfside Jetty County Park
Covering 15 acres, this county park features a beachfront playground, picnic areas, and ample parking with public restroom facilities nearby. Beyond the beach, guests can expect to encounter a range of bird life and prime fishing opportunities. History buffs will appreciate exploring Velasco Battery within the park, and the old Fort Velasco just outside.
Know Before You Go – Beach Safety
Familiarize yourself with local beach laws and ordinances, and be aware of the meanings of colored warning flags posted at each beach. Green flags indicate that conditions are calm; yellow – use caution; orange – poor air/water quality; red – strong winds &/or currents; purple – dangerous marine life in sight. By order of the City of Galveston and the Galveston Park Board of Trustees, all glass beverage containers are strictly prohibited and alcohol consumption is prohibited at most public beaches and the Seawall, with the exception of licensed concession areas. For information about current beachfront conditions, please visit the Galveston Island Beach Patrol, the designated lifeguard service for the city of Galveston.