gulf 2Galveston Island Convention and Visitor Bureau

By Vickie Sam Paget

When it comes to great beach destinations, Texas isn’t usually the first destination that pops to mind. Cowboy boots, country music and mouthwatering barbecue maybe…but sunscreen and swimsuits? Surely not.

But consider this: The Lone Star State’s Gulf coast is home to almost 1,000 kilometres of glorious coastline. Stretching from Galveston Island in the north to South Padre Island in the south, this is a place for hiking, biking, kayaking, chasing butterflies, watching dolphins or spotting more than 600 bird species. And if that’s not enough to keep you busy, there’s fishing, swimming, rafting and diving to enjoy.

It’s all about good old-fashioned family fun on the Gulf. This coastline is a mecca for Canadian families looking to escape chilly weather in preference for an altogether more wholesome and sunnier brand of quality family time. Here are just a few of the family fun highlights that the region has to offer.gulf 1Galveston Island Convention and Visitor Bureau

Galveston Island

Galveston Island possesses all the charm of a small southern town, blending its temperate climate with its impressive Victorian architectural heritage. The island is also home to more than 50 kilometres of gorgeous beaches and there are countless outdoor adventure activities to enjoy on land or sea.

Galveston For Younger Kids: Visiting the Moody Gardens Pyramids is a great activity for travellers with younger kids. One of the most visited attractions in Texas, Moody Gardens has an aquarium pyramid and a tropical rainforest pyramid that houses more than 1,000 species of plants and free-roaming animals, like monkeys and sloths.

Galveston For Older Kids: Families with older kids enjoy visiting the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. This family attraction brings the glory of Galveston’s famous history into the present with thrilling rides, games, live music and entertainment.

Not To Be Missed: A family visit to Galveston would not be complete without a stroll along the Strand in the island’s historic downtown district. The Strand is lined with Victorian buildings that house quaint boutiques, shops and restaurants. Be sure to stop by the interactive Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast museum, and then check out the old-fashioned candy shop, LaKing’s Confectionery, for some freshly-made saltwater taffy and ice cream.

gulf 5Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau

Port Aransas

Port Aransas is the only established town on Mustang Island, inhabiting 12 kilometres of the 21-kilometre-long barrier island. Fishing, beach-combing for seashells, kite surfing, kayaking…Port Aransas puts family fun high on the agenda. Nestled between the dunes of Mustang Island and the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, this beach destination is all about tranquil beaches, gentle breezes and abundant wildlife.

Port Aransas For Younger Kids: Take the little ones to check out Wagner's Carnival, which has been providing family fun for more than three decades. There are plenty of old fashioned favourites for them to enjoy, like a merry-go-round, tea cups and Ferris wheel.

Port Aransas For Older Kids: Dolphin sightings are plentiful in Port Aransas, and the town is considered to be one of the best places in the country to take a dolphin tour. Seeing these creatures in the wild is sure to be the highlight of any beach vacation for the older kids.

Not To Be Missed: For some of the best shelling on the Gulf Coast, hop onto a boat for a trip to the unspoiled coastline of San Jose Island. Lightning whelks, shark's eyes and sand dollars are sprinkled on the island's sandy shores. The pristine beaches of this uninhabited island are open to the public but closed to vehicles, which makes them for excellent swimming, surfing, beachcombing and shelling.

Corpus Christi

You can expect sunny days in Corpus Christi almost year round. With more than 160 kilometres of beaches, Corpus Christi offers an affordable vacation that includes diverse selection of family attractions, including the Texas State Aquarium and the South Texas Botanical Gardens.

Corpus Christi For Younger Kids: Spend the day with the little ones in the SEA (Sports, Entertainment, Arts) District. Visit the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, where they can perform science experiments, and then head across the street to Hurricane Alley for an afternoon of splashing down slides and relaxing on the lazy river.

Corpus Christi For Older Kids: The Corpus Christi SeaWall is the place to be. Take a Segway tour around the downtown district or a scenic boat tour of Corpus Christi Bay aboard the Japonica from Harrison’s Landing.

Not To Be Missed: A trip to the Gulf Coast would not be complete without enjoying Corpus Christi’s beaches. Driving is permitted on the beaches, which makes it so much easier to pack up the car with a picnic, chairs and plenty beach toys.

South Padre Island

Located on the tropical tip of Texas, South Padre Island boasts an amazing 253 days of sunshine each year. It really feels like you’re getting away from it all when you visit South Padre, as its only link to the mainland is the four-kilometre-long Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge.

South Padre Island For Younger Kids: Schlitterbahn South Padre Island Beach Resort has plenty of year-round treats in store for the little ones, including a classic grand carousel ride and the low-speed shallow-water fun of the Pirate’s Cove.

South Padre Island For Older Kids: South Texas is a year-round home to several pods of dolphins, and the older kids are sure to enjoy an Original Dolphin Watch tour. They’ll get to see bottlenose and spinner dolphins in the wild. Trips leave daily from the island’s Sea Ranch Marina.

Not To Be Missed: After a day’s fishing, many restaurants in South Padre will happily cook your catch for you. Try Blackbeard’s on East Saturn or the Sea Ranch Restaurant and Grill on Padre Boulevard.