Texas' blistering summers seem to drag on, with sweltering temperatures that tax even the toughest locals. But the state is also home to numerous lakes, rivers, swimming holes and Gulf Coast beaches, where you can cool off -- often in scenic surroundings.
Glittering Gulf Beaches
A swath of East Texas faces the Gulf of Mexico, whose mild, gentle waters lap at barrier islands lined with sugar sand beaches. On the southern end, North and South Padre Islands stretch towards Mexico. Malaquite Beach is one of the best here, as it comprises the world's longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island. Swimming, boating and fishing are common, and solitude is easy to find. Farther north, on the Bolivar Peninsula, Crystal Beach contains 7 miles of pristine sand and gentle water ideal for a soak. In summer, family-friendly concerts are frequent and the small town of Bolivar offers numerous restaurants and shops.
The east and central areas of Texas are home to numerous spring-fed swimming holes welling with pristine water. Barton Springs, near Austin, is one of the best known in the state. It's fed by an aquifer the spurts 26 million gallons of fresh water daily, and the temperature is always comfortable. In Texarkana, in Texas' northeast corner, you'll find Crystal Springs, which is ringed by a white sand beach. Swimmers can rent paddle-boats, cruise down a water slide, grab a snack at the concession stand, unpack a meal at a picnic table, and battle at the arcade. The springs charge a small fee for admission.
Riveting River Beaches
Texas' lazy rivers are occasionally lined with sandy beaches, where visitors can spread out a blanket and chairs and enjoy refreshing waters. Deep in arid Texas Hill Country is the Hamilton Pool Preserve, a swimming hole along Hamilton Creek just upstream from its convergence with the Pedernales River. The creek drops 50 feet here into a limestone box canyon, making for a scenic spot to take a dip. Another option is Blanco State Park's beaches along the Blanco River in Central Texas. The park protects a stair-step waterfall that drops gently into a shallow swimming area. Below the falls, tubing is a common summer activity.
Lovely Lake Beaches
Texas is sprinkled with lakes, and though they aren't often accompanied by sand, you will find a few sporting beaches. Inks Lake State Park protects Inks Lake, which is immune to droughts despite sitting in dry Central Texas. Swimming, boating, water skiing, scuba diving and fishing are common activities here. Rangers also offer programs like guided nature walks and ecology lectures. At Lake Arrowhead State Park, near Wichita Falls in northern Texas, swimmers and boaters can explore the finger-like edges of the large lake. The park also features a fishing pier, and visitors can water ski, play disc golf, picnic, camp, and hike on 5 miles of trails.