Surfside Beach Texas is a good alternative to Galveston Island. You get the same beach and water, but the community is smaller.
Surfside Beach is much much smaller than Galveston, with a population in the hundreds. There are a few restaurants, hotels/houses, Jetty Park and a long beach.
At the beach, you can park for free and walk in, or buy the season pass and drive on.
Drive On Beach vs Walk On Beach:
On our last trip, we were going to drive on (like we do at our favorite West Beach), but at the main entrance (at the end of 332) the gate attended suggested a minivan go to another entrance with packed sand. (So check on the sand before you drive on!)