Galveston. NOT Gone with the Wind…
If everyone knows about Texas, and almost everyone knows about Houston, not many people have heard about Galveston, and I embellished the reality a little bit. I didn’t know much about this Texas town myself: that it was the port of call for cruises, and that there were some serious hurricanes here. That was the end of my knowledge before it had even begun.
Going on a visit to a new city without knowing anything at all about it doesn’t interest me, and finding something informative and useful about Galveston is a difficult and sometimes insurmountable task. But we did manage to find some things, and from these scraps of information and detailed study of the map, was born our route around Galveston, which fits into one port day.
To be fair, we should admit that on one cruise we managed to visit Galveston three times – on the day we boarded the ship, on the day of the first and second cruise and on the third, when our Caribbean vacation came to an end. Wandering around the city on the first and last day we had no time, but the docking day we spent with the benefit of seeing everything we found on the map. I’ll tell you about it now.
The city of Galveston is amazing and for good reason. And you can also call it lucky and unyielding – and you deserve it, too. Quiet and cozy is as much about Galveston as it is restless, however contradictory that may sound. And while Galveston’s present is nothing particularly striking, its past (not very distant, but very tumultuous) evokes very different emotions.
On the narrow island of Galveston, open to all winds and hurricanes, in the Gulf of Mexico, a city once grew, which was given the same name as the island, in honor of the Spanish viceroy Bernando de Galvez y Madrid. I don’t know anything about the viceroy, either because he didn’t have a lot to show for it, or because I managed to skip a few pages in a fascinating book about the past centuries.
Long before the Viceroy arrived, the natives of the island, who were not known for their friendliness and hospitality, had happily dined on Spanish sailors who had been carelessly caught in a storm. Then the natives seemingly had another bite of their favorite dish from the Spanish sailors, but the discoverers did not stop such trifles, and Galveston was first officially opened (I mean the island), and then got our familiar name (I mean the city).
The first shack here was built by pirates who helped the Mexicans fight the Spaniards and got pretty good at selling weapons. They declared the island a “pirate state”, but were soon expelled from the island by the U.S. Navy, which by that time had gained strength.
From there Galveston began to prosper and become world-famous as the largest port in the world, the city grew and expanded, became (briefly) the capital of Texas, and during the South-North War made history with the Battle of Galveston, the victory of the Confederate forces, and even survived a blockade by the North’s army. After reading this milestone in the city’s history, I became interested in it with renewed vigor, and realized that I wanted to see Galveston as a living illustration of the novel “Gone with the Wind…”
The nineteenth century was a golden age for Galveston, but the next thing I knew, the city was in trouble.
First came the hurricane, destroying everything that had been built and becoming the most tragic for the United States. But the city waited for the elements to calm down and began to restore its former grandeur and beauty.
Having lost its status as the largest port, Galveston gained the title of a tourist city, with the help of a couple of mobsters, who quickly figured out where to quench their passion for alcohol and gambling, after they had banned them in the country. I don’t know how they managed to establish their illegal business, but within a couple of decades Galveston became famous as “Sin City”, and the mafiosi made a handsome capital on human vices and weaknesses.
The lucrative business was shut down, and I won’t go into details of how the mobsters were forced to leave the city, and you know about Las Vegas, which took the baton of sins from Galveston, without me. But the city remained a tourist destination, and it is now a famous Texas resort, with beaches, hotels, restaurants, museums, and attractions that take you back to a time when America was divided into North and South – at least, that’s how I imagined Southern cities when I read Margaret Mitchell’s novel…
If you think that’s the end of Galveston’s ordeal, you’re wrong. There was another hurricane in the beginning of this century and Michael Wanderer wrote very well about what was happening in Galveston, after which I wanted to see the city with my own eyes.
There was another hurricane that happened quite recently, when we were preparing for our trip and threatened to destroy not only the city, but also all our vacation plans. And it’s quite possible that I missed some of the hurricanes, completely overwhelmed by their number and the stubbornness with which they try to wipe the city off the face of the earth. But in any case, Galveston, even after being blown to smithereens by the furious elements, is rebuilding itself in its former place, a narrow strip of land squeezed by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the ocean on the other. And this fact commands great respect for the unbroken city…
Our ship entered the port of Galveston in the early morning, when the new day was just beginning. The fact of mooring at the scheduled time for Galveston is not the rule, but rather the exception. Weather often messes up the plans, sometimes by throwing up a terrible fog and forcing the ship to dock until the horizon clears (which can take several hours), and then all departure and docking schedules go up in tatters. Or it can be a storm or, worse, a hurricane, and then the ship with all passengers will take shelter in a nearby port to wait out the trouble. The time of the ship’s call to Galveston is a conditional unit, and it made us anxious and wonder if we had not taken the ticket for the return trip too early. The fog also played a cruel trick on us, delaying us at the roadstead for several hours of indefinite waiting, but it was at the very end of the cruise, and we still made it to the plane…
On the day between cruises, Galveston greeted us with sunshine and such a stiff wind that we had to wrap up in a windbreaker, despite the warm weather. This wind, which knocked huge branches off the disheveled palm trees and tried to tear Texas flags from the many flagpoles, picked us up to lead us through the quiet streets of the city, allowing us to stop at the prettiest and oldest houses. Even now, when I think of Galveston, I hear the wind whistle first, and then I remember the smells, the colors, and the streets we wandered, carried away by the wind…
The main street of all cruise ship passengers is the Strand. Here you have a variety of stores, forcing you to splurge and buy all sorts of things as a souvenir or a gift to friends and acquaintances. Here you can catch WI-FI and try to get in touch with your homeland, sitting on one of the many benches in a sheltered place from the wind. It’s also interesting to just walk around and see, because Galveston is unlike any other city precisely because of its ancient buildings. However, all the historical houses here have been restored with great care and sensitivity, and remembering the hurricanes, this fact is not questioned (the Internet has a large number of pictures, clearly showing what became of the city after the outbreak of the elements).
15 Best Beaches in Galveston
Texas has very hot summers, so it’s understandable that many people head to the beach during these sweltering months. The city of Galveston offers visitors plenty of options when it comes to cooling off at the sea. The city is just over an hour south of Greater Houston, so there is a large audience that runs out of town in search of cooler shores… Add the number of tourists who visit Texas and its Gulf Coast, and the beaches become very attractive. Galveston itself is a major port — one of the largest in the United States. It is located on the islands of Galveston and Pelican, not far from the Texas mainland. The population is modest; only 50,000 live here and enjoy the coastal location and numerous beaches. Some vacationers make Galveston their base and others come to Galveston on weekends. At some point, they can all go to at least one of the top 15 beaches in Galveston.
1. Surfside Jetty County Park, TX77541
Source: Duane Gore / Shutterstock Surfside Jetty Park With a playground on the beach, you can take the family to this free park that covers 15 acres. Winding up the slides on the playground is a lot of fun. There is plenty of parking in the picnic area and there are restrooms nearby. There is a beautiful beach to explore. You can expect to see lots of birds, while fishing and swimming are other ways to spend time. Historically, this region was an important port area; Old Fort Velasco is near the park and Battery Velasco is within.
2. Seawolf Park, TX77550
Source: Cire notrevo / shutterstock Seawolf Park This park on Pelican Island North is named after the USS Seawolf, which was accidentally sunk during World War II. Another World War II submarine, the USS Cavalla, and the destroyer USS Stewart are now tourist attractions at the park. It’s not the best place to swim, but there are plenty of other things to enjoy. Of course, there is the beach itself and the fishing piers; flounder is the most common catch. You might be able to catch lunch, but it’s not guaranteed. Picnic spots are on hand, and kids will enjoy the park’s playground. Check out the recommended hotels in Galveston, Texas (TX)
3. east beach, TX77550
Source: Ken Schulze / shutterstock East Beach was an accidental creation back in the 19th century. After the port and harbor were developed, East Beach remained and is now one of the best beaches in town. It’s the largest beach in Texas, so it’s very busy in the summer, although there’s always plenty of room. You can expect regular events – including concerts and festivals. East Beach is a public beach, and alcohol is allowed, unlike most others in Galveston. There are changing rooms, showers, and a cafe. Activities on the beach include horseback riding and volleyball.
4. Stewart Beach, Texas 77550
Source: TexasTravelGal.com / Flickr Stewart Beach Stewart Beach is a good choice for families. There is parking next to the hotel. Lifeguards are on duty during peak season, and chairs and umbrellas are available for rent on the beach. You’ll find showers, locker rooms and a pavilion in the clean rooms. Kids can join in the fun; there’s a playground and even lessons on how to build sandcastles. There are sand volleyball courts, a snack bar, and a store where you can buy anything you might need during your visit. Alcohol is not allowed on Stuart Beach.
5. Beachtown Development, TX77550
Source: Arsheffield / Flickr Beechtown, Galveston Public Beach 1A on the east end of the island has a great cafe, great ice cream and beach house rentals behind the sand… There is a parking lot next to the beach where you walk across the dunes to find a place to have a nice time… It’s never too busy, even in high season and on weekends, because it’s pretty far away. You can take your dog with you, while others prefer to fly kites. The sea is safe for swimming, and your dog might enjoy the splash as well.
6. Porretto Beach, TX77550
Source: Zabethanne / Flickr Porretto Beach Porretto Beach on Sea Boulevard is a great place to enjoy sunsets; in fact, sunsets are beautiful along this entire shoreline. The boulevard is frequented by people of all ages – you can meet everyone from hippies and cowboys to bikers and fishermen… There are rentals near the beach, so consider making Porretto your base so you don’t have to drag your stuff from the parking lot to the sand. There are a number of hotels and restaurants where seafood is always recommended.
7. Crystal Beach TX77550
Source: Seizethedave / Flickr Crystal Beach It’s worth buying a parking permit for only $10 because it’s valid until the end of the year. You can get very close to the sand and then just walk along the beach to find your niche for the day. Take a ferry ride to Crystal Beach; there’s even a chance to see dolphins on the trip. Shallow patches of water are suitable for small children, and the beach is clean, with trash bags given out to visitors so you can easily take your trash home with you. Facilities are limited, but it’s an inexpensive day.
8. Kids Beach, TX77551
Source: www.booking.com Babe’s Beach Babe’s Beach, with its lifeguard presence, is a small piece of manicured shoreline. You can just relax and unwind here. Of course, kids will love it, and surfers and fishermen have fun in the water. The bird life is varied and interesting. West of 61st Street, this beach is named for A.R. “Babe” Schwartz – a former member of the Texas Senate – who always had an interest in Galveston and its beaches; he was a lifeguard in his youth. The beach was named for him in 2016, when he was approaching 90; he died two years later at age 92.
9. Pirate Beach, TX77554
View this post on Instagram peekAboo #dunes #parhs #piratesbeach #galveston #coastalliving # islandlife #instalike A post published by MissCmissyMiss (@melrosecalle) on September 2, 2018 at 4:42 pm PDT
This beach in Galveston Bay is a great place to get away from any crowds. The parking lot is just a block away and you walk through the beach houses to the beach… Sunrise and sunset are great times of day here. There are several facilities if you want to spend the day, so you will need to bring a picnic or snacks and drinks. Seaweed sometimes builds up, in which case it is cleaned off, but not before checking for nesting sea turtles. There are plenty of accommodation options for those who want to stay put.
10. City of Jamaica Beach, TX77554
View this post on Instagram Early to watch the sunrise Post shared by Minh. (@dabroninja) on October 25, 2017 at 5:31 PDT
It’s the perfect place for families with safe seas even for young children – although there are no lifeguards. The town of Jamaica Beach is clean and friendly without being busy. There are beach houses for rent, giving you a chance to enjoy the sunrise and sunset without getting up early or leaving for dinner. There can be strong winds at times – even at night – but they won’t spoil your enjoyment of urban Jamaica. Local restaurants are great for lunch and dinner, and seafood is a popular choice. Check out the recommended hotels in Galveston, Texas (Texas)
11. Galveston Island State Park, 77554
Source: Yinan Chen / Wikimedia Galveston Island State Park This state park has been open for over 40 years and offers a great day at the beach for families… Swimming is perfectly safe, while kids will also enjoy the sand. There are piers for fishing as well as trails for biking and hiking. There are interesting canoe channels, although you will need to bring your own canoe… The entrance fee is minimal, and once you’re inside, you’ll find restrooms, showers, and picnic tables throughout the park. If you want to stay, there is a campsite as well as cabin rentals.
12. San Luis Pass, TX77554
Source: K I Photo / Shutterstock San Luis Pass San Luis Pass Park is on the west side of Galveston, with beautiful sandy and natural wetlands… In addition to just enjoying the beach, you’ll find a wide variety of birds, beautiful picnic areas and decent infrastructure… You’ll find chairs and umbrellas for shade. Operate a kite or swim in the warm waters. An outdoor shower will wash away the sand before you leave. You can bring your car to the park parking lot, and you can always find a spot – even in high season and on weekends.
13. Terramar Beach, TX77554
Source: Galveston.com / Flickr Terramar Beach Terramar Beach is maintained by the beach community behind the sands. That means it’s a clean beach and pretty secluded – certainly not like some of the busy places in town. It’s certainly no problem to relax here. You have to bring everything you need for the day because there are no local vendors. That means you can have all kinds of food and drinks, as well as a paddle board or snorkeling gear. Luckily for the kids, the ice cream truck comes several times throughout the day.
14. Galveston Pocket Park 2, TX77554
View this post on Instagram A post posted by Dan Phillips (@ reignman75056) on October 16, 2017 at 8:43 pm PDT
This beach is great for families and people of all ages. In high season, there is a vendor who rents chairs and umbrellas, but you can bring your own. Parking is free, and the local restaurant, Tipsy Turtle, is worth a visit. This beach with free admission and showers and bathrooms makes for a cheap day of fun on the sand and on the water. It’s never too busy, even during high season and weekends. Dogs are welcome as long as they are kept on a leash.
15. Beach Access Point 11, TX77554
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It’s a small designated beach that sits behind the Spanish Grant homes. There’s a designated parking lot and generally the place isn’t too busy… However, don’t park in the restricted areas because you will be towed away. Several houses are located along the beach, although it can’t be called overdeveloped. You can leave your trash in the trash cans provided, but there are no showers or toilets. Bring your own umbrellas and food during the day before you enjoy the sun and the environment.