From western Louisiana down to the Texas coastal bend, beaches are wider and browner than Florida's. The gulf can look brownish-green due to rivers emptying into it, but it gets bluer the farther south you go. Here's my assessment of some popular beach towns:
Holly Beach, La.: Once a hopping spot on the western corner of Louisiana, the so-called Cajun Riviera was wiped out by Hurricane Rita in 2005 and again by Hurricane Ike in 2008. It’s now just a few small streets with lonely trailers and houses.
The beach is wide and beautiful. Holly Beach is adjacent to the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. The nearest store is 20 miles away. You can rent one of eight trailers on the beach in the summer for $75 a day from Eric Monceaux (www.cajunriviera. com, 337-569-2318): “I’m pretty much the only game in town,” he says.
Crystal Beach, Texas: Most beachfront property on the Bolivar Peninsula in East Texas was destroyed by a 20-foot storm surge from Ike. But Crystal Beach is in vigorous rebuilding mode, with some nice beachfront homes ready to rent. Crystal Beach is a short, free ferry ride from busy Galveston (www.crystal beach.com, 409-684-5940).
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Galveston, Texas: In 2008, Ike flooded the town so badly that even residents had to stay away. Locals might see what’s still undone, but tourists will notice only that hotels are open, and beaches, water parks, bars and restaurants are bustling.
Galveston is both a cruise and commercial port. Coolest museum is the Ocean Star – a retired oil rig. Tons of vacation rentals and hotels (www. galveston.com, 1-866-505-4456).
Port Aransas, Texas: Port A, as the locals call it, is an exuberant spring break spot, a slightly ramshackle beach town featuring huge souvenir shops that stock skimpy bikinis and raunchy T-shirts.
As on all Texas beaches, you can drive on the wide, tan sand. Drive south and encounter tamer areas of Mustang Island, where Winter Texans from the north have found nirvana. Lots of vacation rentals (www.portaransas.org, 1-800-452-6278).
IF YOU GO
Rockport, Texas: It is located on Aransas Bay. It is known for art galleries and its boat trips to view whooping cranes. To its south are Corpus Christi and Padre Island. A few miles north are the Lamar Peninsula and the Big Tree.
Information: To learn more about the tree, bird boat tours, lodging, see www.rockport-fulton.org; 1-800-242-0071.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge: It is 25 miles north of Rockport. Entry fee is $5 per car or $3 per person. 361-286-3559.