Is Houston, Texas Considered a Coastal City?

While Houston, endearingly nicknamed the Bayou, or Space City, is renowned for being a global center of excellence in research and medicine with a diverse multi-cultural population, its status as a coastal city is highly debatable and demands further scrutiny.

Houston, Texas, is considered a coastal city as it is situated along the Texas Gulf Coast and is roughly 50 miles from Galveston on the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas Gulf Coast comprises a 1,890 mile-long waterfront that includes estuaries, tidally affected streams, and adjoining wetlands. 

While Houston might technically be a coastal city it has become a hotly debated topic amongst Houstonites, which might leave you thinking that the nay-sayers might be right. So, read on if you want to know why it’s such a divisive issue!

Why Is Houston Texas Classified As A Coastal City?

While Houston might be known as the most populated metropolitan hub in the South and the ninth-largest city in the USA, its status as a coastal city is a lesser-known fact.

Texas was declared a coastal zone in 1975, which stretches from the south-western region all along the coast, which starts at Sabine as far as the Rio Grande, and to the Gulf of Mexico, including 36 inland counties.

The Texas coastal zone includes Galveston-Houston, Beaumont-Port Arthur, Port Lavaca, Bay City-Freeport, Kingsville, Brownsville-Harlingen, and Corpus Christi.

While the Gulf States that share Gulf of Mexico coastlines include the likes of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama.

It includes all estuaries, tidally influenced streams, and bounding wetlands Beaumont-Port Arthur, Galveston-Houston, Bay City-Freeport, Port Lavaca, Corpus Christi, Kingsville, and Brownsville-Harlingen from north to south.

Most of the Gulf Coast land consists of marshlands that comprise the Gulf Coastal Plain that runs from the southern end of Texas to the western side of the Florida Panhandle.

The western region of the Gulf Coast consists mainly of peninsulas and tiny islands, which includes the extensive 130-mile-long Padre Island situated on the Texas coastline.

These landforms play an essential role in protecting numerous inlets and bays, offering a barrier from oncoming ocean waves. While the most central Gulf Coast area, situated in the eastern parts of Texas to Louisiana, comprises mainly wetlands.

The eastern section of the extensive Gulf Coast, mainly in Florida features numerous coves and inlets. 

The Great Debate On Whether Houston Is A Coastal City

While Houston is situated on a coastal plain, with an elevation of approximately 80 feet above sea level in the downtown area, its 50-mile distance from an actual coast has polarized the local community.

Although, in all fairness, Houston does have a port for ocean ships situated at the Turning Basin, which is a mere 5 miles away from the downtown area.

While those who argue that Houston is not a coastal city point out that when Hurricane Ike destroyed several coastal areas, Houston remained intact.

Although it’s essential to distinguish between the City of Houston and the Greater Houston region, which incorporates several other cities, the City of Houston is so massive that some areas have coastal climates, while others don’t.

It was coupled with the fact that three are coastal of the nine counties that constitute the Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area, namely Galveston, Chambers, and Brazoria. However, it must be said that the Chambers shoreline is not incredibly long.

The only subtropical area in the City of Houston that resembles the coast in Clear Lake City with palm trees and dikes preventing flooding is located on the Galveston Bay tributary.

Moreover, the City of Houston also includes areas around the Houston Ship Channel that flow to Galveston Bay.

Although, in all fairness, Greater Houston’s metropolitan area includes cities that are located by the coast, and for that reason, one could argue that Greater Houston is indeed a coastal city.

Added to the fact that Houston is so massive that it’s sometimes difficult to know whether you are in Houston or an adjoining city, Houston is prone to claiming significant highways that lead out of the city, which are not part of the city.

So, it’s no wonder that people often refer to Houston instead of the Greater Houston Area. But, ultimately, it depends on what people mean when they refer to Houston.

Then some believe that the south-western region of Greater Houston is coastal due to its subtropical climate if a bay area can be classified as coastal. So it was coupled with that Galveston, part of the Greater Houston region, has its coastline.

Moreover, the Port of Houston is the second biggest in the USA in terms of its cargo tonnage; therefore, even though most of the sprawling metropolis is 20-40 miles inland, it could be considered coastal due to its sub-tropical climate.

However, others would argue that the 30–40 minutes drive to reach the Gulf of Mexico means that Houston can not call itself a coastal city.

Is Houston Texas Considered a Coastal City 01

Houston’s Great Coastline

Whether you agree that Houston is a coastal city or not, the fact is that a gorgeous coastline surrounds Houston with pristine beaches that are just waiting to be explored. 

How Far Is Houston Texas From The Coastline?

Galveston, approximately 40 miles from Houston in a southerly direction, features a magnificent coastline with all the necessary amenities to enjoy a sunny day at the beach.

While on the eastern side of the city, you can enjoy a refreshing dip in the ocean at the infamous East Beach, the region’s most extensive seashore. 

Which Texan Cities Are Coastal?

Apart from Galveston, there are several coastal cities throughout Texas, most notably: Freeport, the Bolivar Peninsula, Port Aransas, Rockport, Corpus Christi, Padre Island, Kemah, Port Arthur, and Port Lavaca.

What Are The Best Beaches Surrounding Houston, Texas?

In closing, you can’t leave Houston without having enjoyed some lazy sunny days at the following top 5 beaches that surround Houston:

  1. El Jardin Beach in Seabrook
  2. Sylvan Beach in La Porte
  3. Stewart Beach on Galveston Island
  4. Surfside Beach
  5. The Bolivar Peninsula


While it is perfectly understandable that Houston, Texas, would be considered a coastal city from a geographical perspective, it is easy to understand why some would argue that this sprawling metropolis does not deserve that status. So, which camp are you in?