Galveston Island: Not Just A Place To Catch A Cruise Ship

For as long as I can remember I have taken my two sons to Galveston for a few days every summer. My youngest and I like it more than anyone else in the family and we aren’t really sure why. Over the years we have added parents, husbands and fiancés as well as best friends. We certainly don’t go for the clear water or the soft sandy beaches because the water usually looks like the desert after a summer storm; brown and murky and the sand in some parts are soft but the majority is tougher than a teenagers stubborn brain…it’s something unexplainable I guess. Maybe it’s because it’s a quick trip or maybe it’s because we like seeing where the land stops and the water that covers the earth begins.

A woman walks through a passageway opened in the debris, on 19th Street, Galveston, Texas. In the distance stand homes spared complete destruction during the Galveston Hurricane of Sept. 1900

Galveston has been the title of a Ben Foster Movie in 2018 and country singers like Glen Campbell, Tanya Tucker, Tim McGraw as well as “the king” George Strait have made it popular with the island being in a lyric or making “Galveston” #4 on the Billboard Charts. But Galveston is primarily known as the city that barely survived the Great Storm of 1900. Still known as the deadliest natural disaster in American history, it is said to have killed almost half the island population in as little as 12 hours.

Galveston was once the playground for millionaires, captains of industry, American presidents, and celebrities. Jean Lafitte may be its most famous celebrity or the most famous pirate to have ever called Galveston home. He came to live at the island in 1812 after being run out of New Orleans. The United States government forced Lafitte to evacuate Barataria Bay in spite the fact he did not actively attack U.S. ships. Lafitte was known to prey upon Spanish and English vessels. He continued his exploits until again driven from the island in 1821 by the U.S. Government. It is said that when he left, he loaded up all of his gold and headed out to sea after he burned his little part of the island down to the ground. Some say that he buried his treasure on Galveston Island and there have been accounts of dredges occasionally coming up with gold or silver in the spoils as they work on the shipping lanes of Galveston Bay. I can’t tell you everything about him because part of the treasure hunt is finding out all the details I left out and then going to see it for yourself.

Besides being a place where pirates lived and hurricanes have trampled over, Galveston is also home to the world’s largest continuous sidewalk, at 10.4 miles, the seawall lines the Gulf of Mexico which attracts walkers, joggers, bicyclists, surfers, sunbathers, skaters, and it is by far the best place to people watch. There are many beaches to choose from, some are more populated than others, but whichever one you pick, the waves sound the same. Some hear the crashing and splashing where children giggle and try to stand up to the force of wave after wave, and then there are some who hear soothing sounds of the ocean singing them a distant song as the white foam finds their feet.

There are many places to stay while visiting Galveston Island, from cozy B&B’s, to the fancier places like the Hilton, The Tremont House, or The Hotel Galvez and there are the in-betweens like where we stay. Casa del Mar beachfront suites on the Seawall has always been our choice when visiting. All the suites have a kitchenette, queen size bed, a pull-out couch and bunk-beds. Plenty of room for 4 and reasonably priced in case you need to book more than one. They have 2 large pools on the premises and a guest laundry room, and the beach is literally across the street, with easy access to and from local stores, places to visit and many places to eat.

Tortuga’s Mexican Kitchen is where we like to eat at least once while we are there. The burrito is huge and sometimes a grown man can’t seem to finish it, and the drinks always taste like an island dream.


“The Spot” is also a good burger/wing place to eat, that is, if you can find a spot to sit. It’s always busy, maybe because of its open-air deck seating and gulf view. If you are a beer drinker or just a taste tester, Galveston Island Brewery has an onsite tap room that is open 7 days a week, and I know you can find just the right brew for you! If you have a sweet tooth, then please make your way over to La Kings, a confectionery and ice cream parlor that lets you step back into time. The building itself is nearly 150 years old, but the “Purity” ice cream they serve goes back even further because it was the first ice cream manufactured in Texas in 1889 right there on Galveston Island. The old-fashioned soda fountain can make you a malt, shakes, ice-cream soda, or even a sundae. If the cold stuff isn’t what you want, they also have taffy, lots of chocolate and a huge assortment of candy.

Moody Gardens Amusement Park and Aquarium or Schlitterbahn Waterpark is a great place to take the kids if having sand between your toes doesn’t sound appealing. Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier has a ride for everyone, and you can always stop in at Bubba Gump’s for a little trivia and good seafood, but I suggest eating after you ride the rides! There are plenty of museums to visit, but our favorite has always been the Galveston Naval Museum which you can see if you take the ferry over to Port Bolivar which is just a fun thing to do anyway. By taking the ferry over to Port Bolivar, you might find that the beaches are less crowded, a little softer and more laid back. If laying by the water isn’t your thing and you would rather be in it, then you could always go deep sea fishing or take surfing lessons if you’re feeling spunky! Personally, I would stick to walking The Strand, window shopping, or going on a ghost tour.

This time while in Galveston, there were four of us in two vehicles. My husband and I and my youngest, who is 19, and one of his buddies. The hubs and I went and did our thing and left the boys to do their own… I think we all left learning something new, because of seeing and experiencing various things. I watched a man cast a net in thigh high water for more than an hour to catch little fish by the bay only to take them back over to his wife where they had their places staked out along the beach with huge fishing rods; I assume they were trying to catch the “big one”. He made his task seem effortless, but made me feel like I was watching an artist perfect his craft. I watched people help others and saw the looks of relief when that help came. I saw women of all shapes, sizes and ethnicity along the beach loving who they were, embracing their flaws or facing their fears, whichever category they fell into, they were doing it with grace and dignity.

We laughed at the kids as they came up with crazy things to do or stories they came back and told us. They were enjoying every second of their youth. I laughed and smiled as I received a picture from my kid as he and his buddy visited the other part of the island, it was of him and 2 elderly women who looked smitten that a young man would want to take a picture with them. I have always known that meekness, insecurities or being timid were not a part of his personality, and his ability to make others smile was. I hope those two bathing beauties remember him forever.

I saw dolphins race along the ferry like I have every time I board, I fed the seagulls and snapped their pictures, I watched pelicans, ducks and cranes chase their supper. I watched the sky change colors over the water as the sun set and as the waves seem to soften their melody. Galveston beaches are far from the whitest or the softest, and it’s still me and my youngest who like it better than the rest of the family, but I suspect we, along with others in our circle, will find a few days next summer when we will return, where we will stay at the same place, probably eat at some of our favorite places, where we’ll ride the ferry, see new faces but yet the same ones, where we’ll swim, soak up the sun in that place called Galveston, where we will enjoy ourselves and the memories we bring home with us each time.


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