The first lesson every nature-loving Galveston visitor needs to learn is that each beach offers different gems. But, you might be surprised to learn that Galveston has several freshwater hot spots to explore and a few other outdoor adventures.
Galveston Island State Park
State parks are always a great place to begin a trip! Not only is this park a great place to enjoy the beach and observe wildlife from one of two observation towers, but it’s also an excellent spot to RV or tent camp (for less than $25 a day), hike, saltwater and freshwater fish, kayak, and even surf. Plus, it’s dog friendly! A $5 fee lets you hang out in the park all day or leave and come back. Keep in mind that alcohol is not allowed in the park, so you’ll have to go to one of the pocket beaches nearby if you want to enjoy a cold beer. Oh, and don’t forget the bug spray! Mosquitos tend to be especially hungry on the bay side of the park, which is also a great spot to kayak.
Be sure to make a stop at family-friendly Stewart Beach. This beach offers all sorts of amenities—such as volleyball nets and a pirate-themed playground for the little ones—that make it extra fun. Plus, the beach looks just as pretty from above, as you can see if you take one of their brand-new helicopter rides! It’s a great way to explore the outdoors in many different ways.
Catching a sunrise at East Beach—appropriately named because it’s the eastern-most beach on the island—is a must-do for early risers. As is the case with Stewart Beach, you’ll pay $8 to park and $35 if you want to rent an umbrella and chairs, though you’re welcome to bring your own to both beaches. You’re allowed to bring alcohol to East Beach, which means it can get a little busier on the weekends. But, there’s some really amazing fishing near the south jetties, an activity that pairs perfectly with an ice-cold brew. You can expect pretty solid wave action here, too.
Galveston Island Horse and Pony Rides
There’s nothing quite like a horseback ride on the beach; it’s a really special way to explore the sandy shores of the island. Started by a Galvestonian native, this tour outfitter exhibits a passion for riding that is downright contagious. Check their website to fall in love with the horses before you sign up, and get the scoop on special VIP deals while they last.
Extreme Water Sports
If you’re searching for an adrenaline rush, look no further than Extreme Watersports. Here you can blast off over the water on your very own flyboard or hoverboard! Water-propelled jetpacks and boards allow you to glide underwater at incredible speeds and launch yourself into the air above the Gulf. (Keep in mind that you must take a quick introductory flight course before participating in either activity.) If you want something a bit more chill or family friendly, Extreme Watersports also offers Go Float! and Jet Ski rentals.
You easily can spend more than a couple hours at Seawolf Park, between touring the USS Cavalla SS-244 submarine and learning about the other three WWII vessels on-site. The park also features one of the island’s most popular piers and offers great fishing opportunities. If you have any luck fishing, stick around to use the community grill to fire up your fresh catch of the day!
61st Street Fishing Pier
Novice fisherman, or those who just want to experience a true Galveston tradition, will enjoy the 61st street fishing pier. It’s open 24/7 from March until December (although hours vary depending on weather conditions), and offers fully rigged rental rods at the rate of $8 per day, including bait. If rods, reels, and bait aren't your thing, you can grab a hot dog and a beer as you watch the fishing action or marvel at the beautiful sunset, but note that there’s a $10 entry fee to get on the two-level pier. And, be forewarned: This is strictly a cash-only zone.
Galveston Sea Ventures
Ready for some real deep-sea fishing action? Sign up for a sea adventure with Captain Shane (or one of the other friendly and well-experienced captains) at Galveston Sea Ventures. You can catch anything from huge red snappers to king mackerel, or you can sign up for specialty shark- or tuna-fishing charters. Nothing really compares to being out at sea with an expert guide to introduce you to the rich variety of marine life thriving in the waters below.
BayWatch Dolphin Tours
If angling isn’t your angle, perhaps frolicking with the dolphins is more your speed. Baywatch Dolphin Tours head out to sea a handful of times a day, but you’ll have your best luck spotting the playful creatures during the last tour of the day while sitting on the left side of the boat, as the dolphins like to follow the boat’s wake. Tours are $10 a person and leave from Pier 21, where you can grab a fresh seafood meal and sneak in a little bit of people-watching before you call it a day.
Divers definitely should make time to see the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The exceptionally clear waters allow you to see an extensive array of marine life against the backdrop of some of the area’s healthiest coral reefs, even at just 70 or 80 feet. After being greeted by barracudas, you’ll pass chubs and jacks on your way down to the bottom, where as much as 51 percent of the Gulf’s floor is covered by live coral that is teeming with life of all shapes and sizes. Diving at the sanctuary is on par with some of the best in the world. You’ll definitely want to take notes from their online species list before diving in.
For the art-loving naturalist, Galveston provides the Artist Boat, a truly unique collaborative conservation project between artists and scientists who are dedicated to protecting the Coastal Heritage Preserve. You can choose from a range of eco-tour destinations, such as the East End Lagoon, and learn about wetlands up close and personal. During the tour, you get to stop and create a small watercolor painting and enjoy lunch on one of the nearby tiny islands. Pre-registration is required, though, and kids have to be at least seven years old to join in the fun.
All these adventures are certain to make you hungry, so don’t forget to take some time to savor the delicious restaurants in the area. BLVD. Seafood is a kind of delicious sanctuary. Their cocktails are expertly crafted, and whether you’re having the wedge salad (which is outstanding), the shrimp and grits, or the perfectly seared scallop starter, you’re bound to leave happy. Leave room for the Crème Brûlée Trio—it’s perfect for sharing.
The Waterman Restaurant
Head to Waterman’s Restaurant if you’re looking for more of a surf-and-turf combo. The food is well prepared and the deck is gorgeous, and you might even catch a live band. They’re open for lunch, and the view is always awesome, no matter what time of day you visit! Plus, if you caught anything fishing off one of Galveston’s piers, you can bring it in to Waterman’s and have them prepare it for you!
It’s pretty easy to see that Galveston packs enough of a punch to keep any outdoor enthusiast entertained for days. Whether you’re hoping to check a few things off your bucket list, aiming to see a little bit of wildlife, or just wanting to kick back and unwind, Galveston is a perfect pick for your vacation!
The siren song of breaking waves draws visitors to Galveston Island’s beaches generation after generation. Warm breezes and year-round temperate seas complement the city’s rich historic districts, unique attractions, and bustling shops. Galveston’s relaxed island atmosphere is only 50 minutes from Houston, yet a world away in spirit.
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