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Hey, why do you think we set up our state way down here? So we could be right on the beach! In fact, we have 600 miles of sparkling coastline down here, fronting the always-warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. So pack your swimsuit, your snorkel, your bucket and shovel and come on in. The water's fine.

All along the 600 miles of Texas beaches, the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico meet the 80 degree F median temperature of the Lone Star State, making Texas beaches among the most calming and beautiful in the nation. There are countless sandcastles to build, unrelenting surf to tame and infinite shells to find. There are a number of ways to enjoy what we in Texas like to call the "Third Coast." All you have to do is pack. And pick one.

Galveston Island, at just an hour's drive from Houston history and Texas charm makes any summer retreat an experience beyond the sun and surf. And with planned activities like volleyball tournaments, concerts and more, there's always something going on. The island even hosts one of the largest sandcastle-building competitions in the world, planned and judged by the American Institute of Architects. Stewart Beach Park is the island's premiere family beach that features a pavilion, complete with a playground, volleyball courts, snack bar, as well as a souvenir shop and even umbrella and chair rentals. As for the rest of the island, there are more beautiful beaches and tours of some of the 550 historic sites and homes that add to your visit.

Head south and you'll hit Corpus Christi, at the heart of the Texas Gulf Coast. While visiting Corpus Christi, you'll be able to climb aboard the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier-turned museum. But don't end your naval tour there. Enjoy a scenic narrated cruise of Corpus Christi Bay and Harbor. And when you come ashore, visit the Texas State Aquarium and marvel at the aquatic life of the Texas gulf coast and the Atlantic Ocean.

Across Corpus Christi Bay, you'll find Port Aransas on Mustang Island. Along with some of the most popular beaches in the country, you can explore one of the nation's prestigious "Top 12" bird watching sites on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.

Take a breathtaking drive across the spectacular Harbor Bridge (U.S. 181) for a view of the city and bay. Outside the city, another bridge (TX 358) leads to Padre Island, one of the last natural seashores in the United States. At either end of the 110-mile long island are state parks and resort accommodations. In between, an unblemished stretch of serene Texas coast. The National Seashore features the Grasslands Nature Trail-a two-mile paved walk among native plants and wildflowers. While enjoying the pristine coastal waters and sand, you can learn to surf, kayak and even windsurf the waves, or parasail above them. At the southern-most tip of the island lies the appropriately named town of South Padre Island. Each year, the 2000-population town grows tenfold for a few weeks in March, as it has become one of the most popular Spring Break destinations in the nation.

And if a good catch is what you're looking for, there are seasoned fishing expeditions just waiting for you at almost every stop on the Texas-beach tour. Bringing home a prize sailfish or shark as a souvenir is pretty tough to top. There are many other places to see on the Texas coast. For more information use our search feature.

Getting your feet wet in Texas doesn't always have to mean a trip to the coast. Hundreds of beautiful lakes and rivers offer visitors to the Lone Star State a chance to see just how Texans cool off. To find out about all the other parks and recreational destinations, use our search feature. Or if the only thing more inviting than the blue of water is the green of a golf course, check out the Texas Tee-Off category on the Texas Activities tab to find out more about Texas golf courses.

Every year, there are plenty of events and festivals around the Texas Gulf Coast. And if you're looking for any special events happening in our great state during the rest of the year, use the search feature.

What better way to brag about a beautiful Texas vacation? Send a Texas beaches postcard to a friend or relative!

And to keep a little part of Texas right on your desktop, download a Texas beaches screensaver. You'll feel so close to the Lone Star beaches, you may need sunscreen.