10 Must Visit Islands in Texas

Mustang Island
© iStock.com/ShengYing Lin

Written by Taiwo Victor

Updated: June 7, 2023

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Islands may be one of the first destinations to pop up in our minds when we think of spending our summers under the sun and receiving a natural beach tan. And when it comes to islands, expensive tours to the Maldives, the Philippine Islands, or Italian beaches may be on top of your bucket list. But if you’re looking for less expensive and time-efficient island travel, why not try Texas? Yes, you read that right. There are several must-visit islands in Texas. These are not golf courses on islands or little islands in lakes; they are islands bordered by bays and the Gulf of Mexico

A group of barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico that run along the Texas Gulf Coast is called the Texas barrier islands. These islands may appear to be one continuous chain from a distance, yet they are divided into separate regions with unique “personalities.” The appeal of these distinctions is increased because visitors can select the kind of island activities that suit their mood. Some of the Texas islands are the best places to meet other travelers, while others are the best places to escape civilization in favor of pristine nature completely. This article will show you the 10 most beautiful and must-visit Texas islands.

10 Must-visit Islands in Texas

1. Padre Island

Padre Island

The largest barrier island in the world is Padre Island.


Padre Island is perhaps among the most famous Texas islands, as it holds the title of the world’s largest barrier island, measuring 113 miles long and 1.8 miles wide. Apart from that, Padre Island is also renowned all over Texas and neighboring states for its gleaming white sands and pristine turquoise waters that seem to shimmer at the touch of sunlight. There is a lot to do on the island, including the Schlitterbahn Water Park, relaxing beach days, water sports, and, if you visit at the appropriate time, the chance to see the world’s most endangered species of sea turtle hatch.

Padre Island is split into two destinations: South and North Padre Island. Each side boasts wonderful beaches and water activities to enjoy. Great restaurants, beaches, various entertaining things to do, housing options on the beach, camping, and entertaining beach bars make South Padre Island a popular vacation destination. In fact, South Padre Island is known as the “Beach Bar Capital of Texas!”

North Padre Island differs from its bustling cousin to the south despite sharing a name. The island is the longest unexplored barrier island in the world at 70 miles long and is entirely undeveloped.

2. Brazos Island

Brazos Island

Brazos Island is situated in Cameron County on the Texas Gulf Coast.


The barrier island Brazos, often called Brazos Santiago Island, is situated in Cameron County on the Texas Gulf Coast. Although Brazos Island is no longer visible on any contemporary maps, it was the site of numerous engagements throughout the 1800s. It was a small, low-barrier island south of Padre Island that was significant in the Civil War. Before advancing on the Rio Grande Valley, Union General Napoleon Dana landed his forces on the island and fortified it. A significant storm damaged most depots’ structures in 1867, and the remnants finally vanished under the dunes along the coast. On the island, there is a small, unspoiled region called Brazos Island State Scenic Park, which offers swimming, camping, ocean fishing, surfing, and environmental research.

3. San José Island

San José Island

San José Island is a tiny private barrier island flanked by the Gulf of Mexico and Aransas Bay.

©Kharker / CC BY-SA 3.0 – Original / License

Undeveloped beaches on San José Island teem with sea life and shells. This formerly ranch-like private island is now a nature refuge that can be reached by ferry. Located immediately off the northern tip of Mustang Island, San José Island is a tiny (21 miles long and 5 miles wide) private barrier island flanked by the Gulf of Mexico and Aransas Bay.

To find unusual seashells such as sand dollars, starfish, lightning whelks, shark eyes, angel wings, and other items, visitors must stay on the beach below the vegetation line, which is ideal for shelling, fishing, birding, and beach combing.

4. Galveston Island


Galveston is renowned as a base for piracy and the importation of enslaved people.

©iStock.com/Eric Overton

Galveston Island, south of Houston, is probably well-known to everyone. It is renowned as a base for piracy and the importation of enslaved people. It is 27 miles long and no wider than 3 miles. Historical homes and exciting seaside activities coexist on this barrier island. Galveston Island is a short trip from one end to the other, but there are many attractions on the island.

Whether you’re traveling with kids, are curious about the region’s interesting history, want to spend the entire day on the boardwalk, or prefer sunset cruises, you won’t run out of things to do. Galveston Island’s distinctive architecture, house tours, boats, beach relaxation, ecotourism, dolphin and whale watching, and museums appeal to families and couples.

5. Follet’s Island

Follet's Island

Follet’s Island is one of a group of barrier islands that stretch along the majority of the Texas coast.

©OpenStreetMap editors (map), Bryan Rutherford (edit & labels) / CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

In Brazoria County, Texas, just southwest of Galveston Island on the Texas Gulf Coast, is a barrier island called Follet’s Island. It is one of a group of barrier islands that stretch along the majority of the Texas coast and divides the Christmas Bay system from the Gulf of Mexico.

6. Mustang Island

Mustang Island

About 177 miles north of Houston, Mustang Island is near Padre Island in the Gulf of Mexico.

©iStock.com/ShengYing Lin

Mustang Island is yet another stunning barrier island in Texas. This island is near Padre Island in the Gulf of Mexico, about 177 miles north of Houston. Mustang Island, a Gulf island with more than 18 miles of barrier-island shoreline, is worth visiting for its wildlife, beaches, and marine sanctuaries. The island is a well-liked spring break and summer vacation spot for several reasons.

Mustang Island State Park, which has more than five miles of coastline, is one of its key attractions. You are welcome to swim, surf, and fish in this state park and enjoy all the other benefits of hanging out on an island in Texas. The beaches are stunning, the sea is teeming with vibrant fish, and there is even a resort village to give you the impression that you are in a tropical paradise.

7. Matagorda Island

Matagorda Island. Texas. USA

If you crave seclusion 0 Matagorda Island may be the perfect spot.

Image: SevenMaps, Shutterstock


Matagorda Island, Galveston’s far less populated sister island, is the ideal location if you want to spend a calm beach day away from intrusive tourists. Matagorda sits roughly seven miles south of Port O’Connor and is long and narrow. The island is a 56,688-acre wildlife management area between eight and a half miles long and four miles wide.

It is renowned for its seclusion, untainted natural beauty, a lighthouse built in 1852, a myriad of migratory birds, including 19 species listed as endangered by state or federal authorities, and an abundant population of white-tailed deer, alligators, and other wildlife. On the island, there are a lot of wildlife refuges, so you might observe some fascinating, endangered species you have never seen before.

8. Ward Island

Bob Hall Pier, Padre Balli Park, Corpus Christi, Texas

Ward Island is situated right offshore of Corpus Christi.

Image: JACoulter, Shutterstock


Ward Island is a tiny, triangular island located about four hours from Houston and is one of Texas’s islands with the lowest population density and rich military history. A favorite among history aficionados, Ward Island is situated right offshore of Corpus Christi and played an important role during World War II.

The deserted island was converted into the Naval Air Technical Training Center at the start of the war, where technicians received training in the use of radar and other vital electronic devices. Since the center’s closure in 1947, the island has been home to Texas A&M’s Corpus Christi branch, whose stunning campus makes it worthwhile to visit on its own.

Although A&M’s Corpus Christi uses the island primarily, visitors are still permitted, and many take advantage of the chance to appreciate the tranquility and beauty of this island. Biking, hiking, and fishing are the three most popular activities on the island.

9. Pelican Island

Galveston beach, Texas

Pelican Island is part of the city of Galveston.

Image: Iuiia K, Shutterstock

©Iuiia K/Shutterstock.com

If you want to understand more about the state’s maritime heritage, go to Pelican Island. Texas A&M Galveston, as well as two Navy vessel memorials, are located on Pelican Island, which was formerly a marsh region before it was transformed into a 5.4 square-foot island as a part of the city of Galveston. In Seawolf Park, both ships have been transformed into public museums.

The American Undersea Warfare Center, commonly known as the Galveston Naval Center, is only found on Pelican Island. The Island is a great location for festivals, beaches, art and history museums, bird viewing, fishing, and seasonal festivities.

10. Pine Island

Cowboy Hat Beside the Lake

Pine Island is an island located in Lake Livingston and is a great spot for fishing.

Image: Kevin Shayer, Shutterstock

©Kevin Shayer/Shutterstock.com

Enough about the museums, wildlife viewing, and natural beaches. Let’s explore an island known for its fishing and boating opportunities this time. A man-made reservoir on the Trinity River in Texas called Lake Livingston includes an island named Pine Island. It is located inside the confines of Texas’ San Jacinto County. Boats are anchored offshore at Pine Island; on the other hand, there are no services here.

Summary of 10 Must-Visit Islands in Texas

1Padre IslandClose to Corpus Christi
2Brazos IslandCameron County on the Texas Gulf Coast
3San José IslandFlanked by the Gulf of Mexico and Aransas Bay
4Galveston IslandSouth of Houston
5Follet’s IslandIn Brazoria County, just southwest of Galveston Island
6Mustang IslandNear Padre Island
7Matagorda IslandSeven miles south of Port O’Connor, Galveston
8Ward IslandJust offshore of Corpus Christi
9Pelican IslandGalveston
10Pine IslandLake Livingston, in San Jacinto County

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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