If you are looking for places to visit in Texas, Galveston Island remains a great choice! Recently, my oldest daughter relocated to Houston, so now I have the opportunity to explore and rediscover some of my favorite places to visit in Texas, the state where I was born.
When I made my recent return visit to Galveston, I could see that the island had grown and changed. Despite this, Galveston Island remains an enchanting paradise, full of adventure and fun activities. It’s also just about an hour outside of Houston, which makes it convenient to visit.
Before you travel to the island, make certain to visit the Official Website of Galveston Island, Texas Tourism and Marketing. The site contains helpful information such as current festivals and special events that are happening on the island now, as well as provides links to deals and specials at a wide variety of places to stay, dine and shop.
Things to Do on Galveston Island
There are over 32 miles of beachfront and shoreline in Galveston, so the most obvious things to do when you visit the island are beach and ocean related: relaxing on the beach, sunbathing, or strolling along the shoreline. The island also boasts several opportunities for other ocean related activities such as surfing, swimming, kayaking, salt water and deep sea fishing, scuba diving, sailing and more.
There are 5 public beach areas on the island, including the three West End Pocket Parks, East Beach and Stewart Beach. You can also access the beach from Galveston Island State Park. Each of these beaches has its own “flavor” or atmosphere, with Stewart Beach and the West End of the Island being a bit more family friendly. The West End of the island is also where you will find Moody Gardens and the indoor and outdoor water parks of Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Water Park.
Moody Gardens (1 Hope Blvd, Galveston, TX 77554. 409-744-4673), is a nature reserve and theme park, all rolled into one. A key feature of this attraction includes its large glass pyramids, which house an aquarium and rain forest. It also contains a zip line and ropes course, 3D, 4D and Ride-film theaters, Discovery museum, paddle-wheel boat cruise, golf course, and on site hotel. The Palm Beach section of the resort offers white sands, a lazy river, water towers, wave pools, slides and more. At different times of the year, this park has special activities and celebrations. During the winter holidays the site lights up the cool nights with the Festival of Lights. This summer there are also special concerts with live music and fireworks. Annual family memberships are $380 and yearlong memberships for the individual are just $99.
Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark (2026 Lockheed Road, Galveston, TX 77554. 409-770-9283), is next door to Moody Gardens. It features over 35 water rides, and visitors are able to travel throughout the park in special waterborne tubes; so that guests never have to leave the water unless they want to.
Galveston Island State Park (14901 Farm to Market 3005, Galveston, TX 77554. 409-737-1222), is less developed than other attractions on the island. This feature is a big plus if you are a nature lover and prefer a more relaxed, laid back visit to the beach. This is our favorite place to visit on the island. The biggest drawback to this particular park, however, is that it does not offer lifeguards for its beaches. If you take your children there, especially small children, make certain that you watch them closely when they are playing on the beach and have them wear a life jacket. Even if your child is a strong swimmer, this beach tends to have quite a strong surf at times, there are sudden drop offs in places, and as mentioned before, the state park does not have a lifeguard.
While it doesn’t have lifeguards, Galveston Island State Park is the place to go for both fishing and bird watching, as the park has several bayous, marshland, dunes, freshwater swales, walking trails and photo blinds that make it the perfect place to observe birds and other wildlife. The State Park also participates in the Angler Education and Tackle Loaner Program , which makes it easy to fish in the park if you don’t want to have to lug around a lot of fishing gear to and from your home when you go on vacation. There are plenty of places to fish at the State Park, as it provides an easy access point to the Gulf of Mexico as well as Galveston Bay, in addition to its beaches.
Another big advantage the State Park has over some other sites on the island is that the entrance fee is very low. It’s just $5 for adults to enter, and the park has over 60 day use sites. There are also 180 overnight campground sites. Fees for camping range from $15 to $25 a night, and other facilities, such as restrooms, are available nearby.
Regardless of which beach you visit on the island, you are likely to find an abundance of seashells. According to the popular site, Coastal Living, the western end of the Island is best for shell hunting in the winter months. So far, we’ve found the best shells and bits of unusual sea glass in the early morning hours, with a typical haul containing a few intact lightning whelks, various mollusks, as well as an occasional angel wing.
The East End of the Island is known for the charming, Victorian architecture found in its historic district. If you have time, a short walking or biking tour of this area is definitely a must! Historic homes on Galveston Island that you will want to see include Ashton Villa, Bishop’s Palace and the Moody Mansion and Museum. The famous Galveston Post Office Street is located in this area, and is home to the Island’s art and entertainment district and is the place to enjoy a malt beverage in a pub, or discover a hidden prize in one of it’s many antique shops. The Grand 1894 Opera House (2020 Post Office St, Galveston, TX 77550. 409-765-1894), is located in this area, and features live entertainment and shows throughout the year.
At the northern end of the island is the 8 mile long Galveston Seawall, which was originally built after the devastating 1900 hurricane that killed between 6,000 and 10,000 people on the island. Lifeguards are available along the wall, and it is a relaxing site from which to view the ships coming in and out of Galveston Harbor. Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier (2501 Seawall Blvd, Galveston, TX 77550.855-789-7437), is located close by, and features rides, shopping and dining. Boat cruises and Ferry rides to the Bolivar Peninsula (502 Ferry Road, Galveston, Galveston Island, TX. 77550. 361-749-2850), are available in the area, and can be a great way to see more of the ocean as well as possibly spy dolphins and other sea creatures.
Other fun things to do on Galveston Island, Texas, include watching old fashioned Salt Water Taffy being made at LaKing’s Confectionery (2323 Strand St, Galveston, TX 77550. 409-762-6100). Visitors can also try one of their 36 flavors of gourmet ice cream! The Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast (2313 Harborside Drive (Rear), Galveston, Texas 77550. 409-762-6677) exhibit features a year round pirate exhibit and ghost tour that’s fun for kids.
There are also several museums that provide interesting side trips. Lone Star Flight Museum (2002 Terminal Dr, Galveston, TX 77554. 409-740-7722), allows visitors to ride in classic planes from WWII. You can see what life was like sailing the high seas on the 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA at the Texas Seaport Museum (Pier 21, Galveston, TX 77550. 409-763-1877). Additional Galveston Island museums include the Galveston Railroad Museum, and Ocean Star Drilling Rig Museum.
With all of these great sites and fun activities, it’s easy to see why Galveston Island remains one of the best places to visit in Texas!