By Merle Rosenstein

The Texas Gulf Coast stretches 1,004 kilometres south from Brownsville to the Louisiana border. Calm and serene cities and rollicking beach towns offer supreme sunbathing, wicked wildlife watching, historic sites honouring battle heroes, fine architecture, premium shopping and loads of family fun.

South Padre Island

South Padre Island is a year-round vacation destination at the same latitude as Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Here sunbathers can chill by the water or get busy kite boarding, windsurfing, parasailing, surfing, skiing or horseback riding.

South Padre Island is home to more than 300 species of shore and migratory birds. From the boardwalk at the South Padre Bird and Nature Centre, visitors can see herons, oystercatchers, terns and White-Morph Reddish egrets. The Dolphin Sea Life and Nature Centre in Port Isabel teaches kids and their families about sea life in the Laguna Madre Bay.


Located in the heart of the Rio Grande Harlingen, Texas offers historic sites, family fun and outdoor adventures. The city of Harlingen is an exciting blend of South Texas hospitality and the rich, colourful traditions of Mexico. The Iwo Jima Memorial Monument on the grounds of Harlingen’s Marine Military Academy, is the original from which the monument in Arlington, Virginia was cast. Downtown Harlingen features a variety of unique shops that specialize in home decor, apparel, original Texas artwork, hand-made jewelry, gifts, antiques and collectibles. Drive through Harlingen and enjoy the beautiful murals that describe Harlingen’s history as a major city in the development of the Rio Grande Valley.

Birders flock to Harlingen’s World Birding Center, Ramsey Nature Park, and nearby wildlife parks to see a wide variety of birds. Some of the more uncommon species include Green Jays, Great Kiskadees, Buff-Bellied Hummingbirds and the Altamira Oriole.

Corpus Christi

Beachcombers make waves at Padre Island National Seashore, home to the largest natural barrier island in the world, or pack a picnic and rent a kayak to enjoy the Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail.

For lovers of flora of fauna, the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Centre boasts 2,500 different orchids as well as roses and tropical flowers.

At the Corpus Christi Museum of Science & History, science geeks can board replicas of Spanish ships, view treasures from world-famous shipwrecks and enjoy the Smithsonian Institution exhibit “Seeds of Change.”  


Located just south of Houston, romantic Galveston is a Gulf Coast paradise. Cajun and French influences abound thanks to neighbouring New Orleans, the revival of the Galveston Mardi Gras and early Island inhabitant pirate Jean LaFitte. Victorian villas, fine restaurants, top notch hotels and 51 kilometres of beautiful beaches make Galveston an island treasure.

For a taste of historical Galveston, visit the Broadway Beauties, three Victorian mansions built from the mid to late 1800s and saved from demolition – Ashton Villa, Bishop’s Palace, and Moody Mansion. Built in 1894, the elegant Grand Opera House withstood the hurricanes of 1900 and 1915 and hurricanes Carla, Alicia and Ike.

At Moody Gardens kids can explore the four oceans of the world, marvel at the mysteries of science or strap on a seatbelt and travel at warp speed at the Ridefilm Theatre. Families looking for water action can head for the beach or ride a wave on the Boogie Bahn surf ride at Schlitterbahn Waterpark.

Bay-Area Houston

Home to the third-largest pleasure boat basin in the United States and a temperate coastal climate, Bay Area Houston offers a wide variety of boating, sailing and other outdoor water activities year-round. Party boats, 19th-century schooners, sailing charters – Bay Area Houston has affordable water fun for everyone.

At Space Center Houston, the official visitor centre for NASA’s Johnson Space Center, families are immersed in the history of the space program and can observe three capsules that were flown in space. The Level 9 tram tour gives a behind the scenes look at the Historic Mission Control Center and the International Space Station Shuttle mock-up facility where astronauts are trained.

The Kemah Boardwalk features restaurants, amusement rides, carnival games and a shopping district to provide a day of fun for the whole family.

From budget motels to five-star resorts, bed-and-breakfasts on and off the water, and even a couple boat-and-breakfasts, visitors have plenty of places to choose from.

For more information, visit