My husband and I are both native Texans, frequenting Gulf Coast locales such as Port Aransas, South Padre Island, Galveston and Matagorda Beach our whole lives. Last fall, however, we decided to check out a new spot with one of the shortest driving distances to Austin – Surfside Beach.
Nestled between Galveston Island to the northeast and the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge and Matagorda Bay to the southwest, Surfside Beach along the Bluewater Highway comes into view about 3.5 hours from Austin. Like other beachy Texas towns, it has a few convenience stores, souvenir shops and over-priced grocery stores, but by way of tourism, Surfside most definitely has less than its more popular coastal competitors.
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With no corporate-owned hotels, visiting Surfside is almost 100 percent done by way of Airbnb.com or VRBO.com. There you will find a treasure trove of colorful beach houses with a range of sizes and amenities. We lean toward the more affordable options as close to the water as possible, even if it means sacrificing a fancy finish out. This trip, we found the perfect spot – a location new to us to which we will most definitely be returning.
Not to be fooled by the lack of a witty ocean-themed name, Property #462018 (113 Beach Drive) on VRBO.com was absolutely the perfect fit for our family of five, plus our dog, Louie. With four beds, three baths, a large, open living/kitchen arrangement, strong Wi-Fi, an unbeatable ocean view and sleeping space for 20 people, this spot is a steal I’m a little afraid of sharing! Literally only a few steps from the water, one crew can be playing in the waves while the other sits on the deck with not only a clear view but also within talking distance. At high tide, our deck piers were actually in the water. Although tucked in a quiet little pocket between the jetty beach and the main public access beach, we met friendly passersby who were also virtual schooling and observed plenty of locals fishing, strolling or just hanging out in the cute little A-frame beach huts over the water.
Surfside Beach may best be known for its quiet, local-feeling beach accommodations, but it’s also a fishing and, wouldn’t you know it, surfing destination. On a summer day, you’ll see surfers lined up along a short little stretch of Beach Drive just east of the jetty where the waves break. Folks looking to fish head to the jetty itself or to the ship channel where the waters are more calm.
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In between these two spots is Surfside proper, which is defined by rows of modest but colorful beach houses on a grid of streets, a public access beach, playscape, Surfside City Hall and a handful of bar and dining options recommended to us like Dorado’s Dive Club, Sharkies on the Beach, the Jetty Shack and Beachfront Deck Bar and Grill.
Surfside proper is only 1.7 square miles, but beach homes are available for rent for miles past downtown. Despite the bar and dining options available, my favorite spot right now (and, let’s be honest, every time we’ve come down) is Surfin’ Rita Daiquiris To-Go, delicious, frozen treats in a plastic cup that are the perfect accompaniment with a day at the beach.
We opted for a quieter trip this season, spending our time flying a kite, fishing in the surf outside our door, crabbing on the bayside for bait, boogie boarding (for the brave souls who didn’t mind the cool fall water temps), digging and building in the sand and, of course, committing to a jigsaw puzzle we were sure not to finish within our three days.
All in all, Surfside was a new experience in a familiar place, a COVID-friendly getaway not far from home but far enough to offer the kids a completely new environment. From the playground of sand, shells and little treasures, waves to bound on during recess and lots and lots of fun, stress-free memories made in a time when virtual school, Zoom meetings and a lack of friend meet-ups and parties were taking an emotional toll on kids and adults alike, Surfside Beach was just the soul food we needed.
If You Go
Surfside Beach is located about a 3.5-hour drive from Austin.