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26 Completely FREE Things To Do In The Gulf Coast Region, Texas

Today we’re going on a fun adventure exploring the Gulf Coast region of Texas and guess what? 

Everything we’re going to talk about is absolutely free to visit! 

The Gulf Coast is known for its beautiful beaches, friendly towns and lots of sunshine.

Whether you love nature, history or just hanging out, there’s something here for everyone. 

So let’s discover all the cool things you can do without spending a single dollar. 

Get ready for some fun times!

1. Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center

The Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is a beautiful and peaceful nature area located in Orange. 

It features a wide variety of plants and wildlife as well as scenic walking trails which gives you the chance to learn about and enjoy nature. 

2. Cattail Marsh

Cattail Marsh is a scenic wetland area located in Beaumont that covers over 900 acres.

It’s a great spot for birdwatching and spotting other wildlife, with over 250 bird species recorded. 

The marsh has boardwalks and viewing platforms which makes it easy for you to explore and enjoy the natural surroundings.

3. Big Thicket National Preserve

Big Thicket National Preserve is a large nature reserve in Southeast Texas, near the town of Kountze. 

It’s known for its diverse ecosystems which range from dense forests to marshy bayous. 

The preserve offers many outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking and bird watching.

It’s a haven for nature lovers!

4. McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge

McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge is situated on the upper Texas coast near Sabine Pass. 

It’s a vital sanctuary for migratory birds and other wildlife, covering over 58,000 acres of marshes and wetlands. 

You can visit to enjoy bird watching, fishing and hiking in this protected natural area.

5. Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

Wally Gobetz / Flickr

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Texas Gulf Coast in Anahuac. 

It’s a protected area that serves as a habitat for a wide range of wildlife, especially migratory birds. 

You can explore the refuge by walking the trails, fishing or using the viewing platforms to observe animals in their natural settings.

6. Galveston Arts Center / Flickr

Galveston Arts Center is located in the heart of Galveston, in the historic Strand District. 

It aims to promote contemporary art via a range of exhibitions showcasing the work of professional artists.

The center offers free admission and hosts a variety of events, workshops and educational programs for art lovers of all ages.

7. San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site

The San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site is located in La Porte, near Houston. 

It’s where the Battle of San Jacinto took place in 1836, leading to Texas winning its independence from Mexico. 

Alexander Hatley / Flickr

The site includes a towering monument and a museum that educates visitors about Texas history.

The grounds are free to visit but you will have to pay an admission fee to see the monument up close.

8. Mercer Botanic Gardens

Steve FUNG / Flickr

Mercer Botanic Gardens is a hidden oasis situated in Humble, just north of Houston. 

It’s a public garden that showcases a vast collection of both native and cultivated plants spread across 60 acres. 

The gardens offer trails, picnic areas and educational programs which are great for families with kids.

9. Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve

Jim Whitaker / Flickr

The Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve is located in northwest Houston. 

It is a natural preserve that features 80 acres of beautiful landscapes including a large lake and wooded areas. 

You can enjoy activities like fishing, canoeing and hiking along the trails that wind through the preserve.

10. Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Randall Pugh / Flickr

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is situated in the heart of Houston, near Memorial Park. 

It is a 155-acre urban nature sanctuary that focuses on native plants and animals. 

The center has many educational programs and walking trails to help you learn about and appreciate the local ecosystem.

11. Buffalo Bayou Park

Buffalo Bayou Park is a large 160-acre urban park located in the heart of Houston, stretching along the banks of Buffalo Bayou. 

It offers a variety of outdoor activities including walking and biking trails, dog parks and scenic viewpoints. 

The park also features art installations, beautiful gardens and serves as a popular spot for community events and recreational activities.

12. Houston Police Museum

The Houston Police Museum is located inside the Houston Police Department’s headquarters in downtown Houston. 

It features exhibits on the history of the Houston Police force, including uniforms, badges and vintage police cars.

The museum is free to the public and offers an informative glimpse into the world of law enforcement in Houston.

13. Hermann Park

Hermann Park is a large, historic park located in the heart of Houston. 

It features a variety of attractions including the Houston Zoo, the Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Japanese Garden and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. 

The park also has beautiful gardens, a golf course and plenty of walking trails for everyone to enjoy.

14. Discovery Green

Discovery Green is a vibrant 12-acre park situated in downtown Houston. 

It serves as a gathering space for the community with a lake, playgrounds and multiple lawns for outdoor activities. 

The park hosts numerous public events including concerts, exercise classes and art exhibits, making it a lively spot.

15. Miller Outdoor Theatre

lauramcastro / Flickr

The Miller Outdoor Theatre is located in Hermann Park in Houston. 

It is an outdoor theater that offers a variety of free performances including concerts, theater productions and dance shows. 

The venue features lawn seating on a grassy hillside, making it a popular spot for picnics and family outings under the stars.

16. Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

The Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Texas Gulf Coast, near the city of Freeport. 

It is a protected area that provides a habitat for over 320 species of birds, 95 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 130 species of butterflies and dragonflies.

You can enjoy bird watching, fishing and hiking on trails through wetlands and prairie landscapes.

17. Sargent Beach Access

Sargent Beach Access is located in Sargent, along the Gulf Coast. 

It provides public access to a quiet stretch of beach that’s ideal for fishing, birdwatching, beachcombing and relaxing by the sea. 

The area is less commercialized compared to other Texas beaches so it offers a more natural and serene beach experience.

18. Magnolia Beach

Magnolia Beach is located on the coast of Lavaca Bay. 

It’s a quiet, natural beach known for its calm waters and shell-rich sands which makes it perfect for swimming, shelling and fishing. 

You can even camp on the beach for free! No permit required.

19. University of Texas, Marine Science Institute

College of Natural Sciences / Flickr

The University of Texas Marine Science Institute is located in Port Aransas, right by the Gulf of Mexico. 

It’s a center for research and education in marine biology and oceanography. 

The Patton Center is open to the public for free and is a great place to learn more about what the university does as well as the local marine life.

20. Corpus Christi Marina

The Corpus Christi Marina is situated in the heart of Corpus Christi, along the city’s scenic waterfront. 

It’s a popular spot for boating and provides docking facilities for a wide range of boats, from small sailboats to large yachts. 

The marina is also a hub for dining, shopping and enjoying the waterfront views.

21. McGee Beach

McGee Beach is located in downtown Corpus Christi, along the city’s bayfront. 

It’s a popular sandy beach known for its calm waters which makes it ideal for swimming and relaxing by the shore. 

The beach is easily accessible and features many amenities like restrooms and showers, perfect for family outings.

22. Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve

Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve is in Corpus Christi and serves as a natural habitat for a variety of wildlife. 

This 162-acre preserve offers walking trails, a learning center and viewing platforms for bird watching and enjoying the natural surroundings. 

It’s a great place for educational programs and provides opportunities to learn about conservation and the environment.

23. Michael J. Ellis Beach and Seawall

The Michael J. Ellis Beach and Seawall is located on Padre Island in Corpus Christi. 

It features a long seawall that’s perfect for walking and enjoying views of the Gulf of Mexico. 

The beach itself is popular for its soft sand and gentle waves, making it a favorite spot for swimming and sunbathing.

24. Whitecap Beach

Whitecap Beach is situated on Padre Island near Corpus Christi. 

It’s known for its white, soft sand and is a popular destination for both tourists and locals looking for a relaxing beach day. 

The beach offers excellent conditions for activities like surfing, kite flying and fishing.

25. Baffin Bay

PINKE / Flickr

Baffin Bay is located in South Texas, 46 miles south of Corpus Christi. 

It is a large, shallow bay known for its excellent fishing, particularly for trophy-sized speckled trout. 

The bay’s remote and undeveloped shores make it a peaceful place for anglers and nature lovers to visit.

26. Laguna Madre Nature Trail

The Laguna Madre Nature Trail is located in South Padre Island. 

It is a 1,500-foot long boardwalk that winds through marshes and wetlands, offering visitors a chance to see a variety of birds and other wildlife. 

The trail is a popular spot for birdwatching and provides a peaceful natural setting for walks.

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Tom Jackson

Tom was born in San Antonio but spent most of his childhood in Dallas, he has lived in several cities across Texas and joined the team in 2024 to create travel guides on Texas.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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