With over 3,000 miles of shoreline along the Lone Star State coast, there are a dizzying number of Texas Gulf Coast paddling trails. We outline a few of our favorite spots for Texas coast liquid road trips and invite you to share your choices.
Laguna Madre Bay, South Padre Island
In addition to enjoying the South Padre beaches, swimming in the Gulf, and riding on boats (for fishing or a sunset cruise), explore the very shallow waters on Laguna Madre Bay in an intimate way. Bring your own kayak or paddle board or rent one from local outfitter Eh Brah SUP.
Mike there will give you a paddle board lesson and tour while discussing the eco-system and history of South Padre—you will be immersed in a memorable educational and active experience. True to the biz name, Mike lived and worked in Maui for a long time (and Canada) and has interesting stories!
McCool Travel tip: Eh Brah SUP also provides super plus-sized boards to allow everyone the chance to have fun on the water.
See also our Things to Do in South Padre Island.
For more local #LiquidRoadTrip funness, the South Bay Paddling Trail heads south from the launch site in Isla Blanca Park at the south end of South Padre Island.
Big Thicket Paddling Trail
Of the 100 or so official kayak trails in Texas, the Big Thicket Trail is one of the top two favorites among several experts. Even though it is indeed in Texas, I honestly forgot where I was for two hours. That is perception alteration at its best!
Gerald from Big Thicket Outfitters created the Big Thicket Trail and was my guide. He pointed out that not only is the Big Thicket Trail beautiful but very unique. During our easy two-hour liquid road trip, we paddled on a river, bayou, slough, lake, and more.
He regularly guides visitors from around the world and says the highlight for many is the Madonna Tree, shown below. Do you see her?
Clear Creek Paddle Trail
The Clear Creek Paddle Trail rolls along tree-lined Clear Creek through League City and continuing to Clear Lake and Galveston Bay. Three convenient launch spots for the Clear Creek Paddle Trail are—from east to west—Heritage Park, Walter Hall Park, and Countryside Park (all are League City parks).
Look for gators and birds along this wonderful Texas Gulf Coast paddle trail. Within a few minutes of starting out, I saw a bald eagle, who then circled for several minutes. Flocks of swallows flying from under the Highway 3 bridge reminded me of the bat colony in Austin.
If you do not have your own craft, convenient rentals and expert guidance is provided by Rich at Clear Creek Kayaks.
See also Great Things in League City.
Mustang Island Paddling Trails
Paddling on the west side of Mustang Island provides wonderful opportunities for gorgeous scenery, bird spotting, and fishing. Three trails to enjoy in Mustang Island waters are Ashum Trail, North Trail, and Shamrock Loop. For Ashum Trail and North Trail, arrange transport back to the launch sites (or double back).
Galveston Island State Park Paddling Trails
While you can paddle in hundreds of spots in Galveston Bay, we suggest the paddling trails of Galveston Island State Park to access its dunes and facilities. Three Galveston Island State Park paddling trails are all loop trails. They are Oak Bayou Trail, Dana Cover Trail, and Jenkins Bayou Trail.
Lighthouse Lakes Paddling Trail
In 1999, Lighthouse Lakes became the inaugural Texas Paddling Trail. Four separate loop trails explore the mangrove and flats (aka lakes) areas of Redfish Bay. Cutter Loop, Redfish Loop, and South Bay Loop launches are along highway 361 a few miles between Aransas Pass and Port Aransas. The Electric Loop is accessed a few miles into Redfish Loop.
Sea Rim State Park, Port Arthur, Texas
Our final entry in our favorite Texas Gulf Coast paddling trails is just a few miles from Louisiana.
Drive past an otherworldly Mad Max scene of oil refineries to find an oasis at the remote Sea Rim State Park in Sabine Pass. Sea Rim, just a few miles past Port Arthur, has five miles of Gulf of Mexico shoreline but also 4,000 acres of marsh and nearly 10 miles of kayaking trails.
Along the closest and easiest Sea Rim State Park paddling trail we saw a few small alligators. The water depth is very shallow and we even got stuck in the first pond turnaround spot. Later we saw larger gators but better to see them above the water than feel them bumping the kayak from below.
Later, we encountered (from afar) a gator sunning across a boardwalk hiking trail. We turned around. Good time to grab some lunch at one of the fun Port Arthur restaurants.
Let us know your favorite Texas Gulf Coast paddling trails. See you out on the water!
Please read about more fun places to kayak in US.