Galveston is an island off the coast of Texas. It is a long narrow barrier island that is about an hour or so south of Houston. Galveston was hit by a destructive hurricane in 1900, killing over 6000 people, and it changed the town forever. Once the largest immigration port outside of Ellis Island, it was also once the largest financial center of the US as well, but the hurricane changed all that.
Because Galveston island is so long, it hardly ever feels crowded even on a summer weekend. The hurricane encouraged the city to build a sea all that now extends 10 miles out of the 27 miles of coastline. While the beach is the main attraction, there are plenty of things to do in Galveston besides swimming.
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Tour Bishop’s Palace
The Gresham family built this large stone house in 1892. The house survived the 1900 hurricane with minimal damage and served as a refuge for many after the hurricane.
In 1923, the house was sold to the Catholic Church for the Bishop of the Catholic Church of Galveston, which is how it got its name of the Bishop’s Palace. It was the Bishop’s house until 1963 when it was opened to the public, and the Galveston Historical Foundation now owns it. Except for a few changes the bishop made over the years, the house is still original including the stainless windows in the entryway, except for the one the bishop replaced with an image of Mary. He also changed the dumb waiter to an elevator. Bishop’s Palace is beautiful and definitely transports you back in time. Be sure to walk outside to the wrap-around porches.
Eat at Fisherman’s Wharf
This is not the Fisherman’s Wharf of San Francisco fame but a large seafood restaurant on the bayside of Galveston. They have plenty of outdoor seating, so my recommendation is to sit outside even if it is hot. It is worth watching the boats go by and watching for cruise ships!
A friend who goes to Galveston all the time recommended the lobster bisque in the bread bowl. It was terrific and has bits of crab meat inside as well. The service was outstanding, and if I had been staying longer, I would have gone back for dinner.
Visit the Texas Seaport Museum and Elissa Tall Ship
Right next door to Fisherman’s Wharf is the Texas Seaport Museum. The museum highlights the naval history of Texas. Did you know that Texas had its own navy? Texas was its own country from 1836 to 1846. On the ground floor, the museum tells the story of the immigration port of Galveston.
However, the best part of the museum is the Elissa Tall Ship. The Elissa was built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland. She was abandoned in the Greek port of Piraeus in the 1970s, and after several years of refurbishment, she was towed to Galveston in 1977 for complete She is a beautiful ship, and you can explore most of it. Elissa is still operational and goes on sails several times a year. If you are going to be in the Galveston area for an extended period of time, you can volunteer to train to sail with her!
Have Some Cajun Greek Food
A local told me about the Cajun Greek on the first day I was in Galveston. The name intrigued me, so I went to give it a try. Due to the location, it is isn’t a tourist destination. You will most like need a car to get here as it is further west than most of the tourist spots in Galveston.
The restaurant isn’t fancy inside, but the food was excellent. I ordered the salmon dinner that came with spinach and rice. The salmon was glazed with a sweet sauce topped with avocado! While I was waiting, someone got their meal, and it looked like a Greek salad with shrimp on the side, which sounds fantastic. They had a good wine selection as well. The food was a little expensive but worth it.
Take the Ferry to See Dolphins
There is a ferry that runs from Galveston to Port Bolivar and is supposed to be the best place to see dolphins. The best part about the ferry is that it is free! You can take your car on, but if you do, you have to get off the ferry and get back in line to return. There isn’t much to see in Port Bolivar, so my advice is to get on as a foot passenger and just stay on to return. I did see dolphins but only for a little bit. They tend to hang out more near Port Bolivar, so be on the lookout when arriving and departing in Port Bolivar.
Eat some Shrimp N’ Stuff
Texans are known to be friendly, but the people of Galveston seem to be extra helpful, and this was another place recommended to me by a local during a random conversation. There was a line out the door even! When you get in, you order at a counter, and they give you buzzer for when your food is ready. Even though there was a line, I didn’t have to wait too long for my food.
Almost everything is fried, so be prepared. I ordered coconut shrimp, hush puppies, crab balls, and spicy boiled potatoes. The coconut shrimp was so good! I wish I had ordered just that. They were sweet and crunchy. The hush puppies were good, but there were too many of them. I could have done without the crab balls and spicy boiled potatoes. The potatoes were way too spicy outside and plain inside. It is definitely a place you need to visit a few times to find your favorite.
Drive West to See the Sunset
Due to the position of Galveston Island, the sunset is behind the island. This means you can’t go down to the beach to watch the sunset. One evening I drove west so that I could see the sunset. I really wanted to find a great spot to watch it, but I left too late and had to pull over to view it. The one good thing is that further down the island are public beaches that you can drive onto. Look for the blue beach access signs. Because I was past much of the development, I could see the sunset from the beach here. The sunset I saw was a beautiful fiery red and orange and definitely worth the drive.
Have Breakfast at the Sunflower Bakery and Cafe
On my first morning in Galveston, I had driven in from Houston and needed more coffee and breakfast. I did a quick search of breakfast places in Galveston and found this gem. This was another place where the line was long, but since I was alone, I was able to sit at the community table with no wait. All the food sounded amazing and I ordered an omelet and coffee. The coffee came in a large mug, which this coffee lover appreciated. The omelet was large and tasty. The other diners I spoke to at the table said their lunches were also good. The Sunflower is only open for breakfast and lunch and closes at 5 pm, so get there early.
Go to The Beach
Of course, no visit to Galveston is complete without a visit to the beach! The beach runs almost the whole length of the island so there is plenty of places to sit and even during the height of summer it won’t be crowded. There is parking along most of the seawall but you do have to pay with an app to park there. If you go further west, you can find free parking on the beach or next to it. The beaches on the east end are paid beaches and the fees go to beach conservation and maintenance. If you come in the summer, I recommend going to the beach late in the day to avoid the worst of the heat as it is light out until at least 8 pm.
Galveston is a great getaway that has plenty of things to do and a beach to enjoy. To me, you can’t beat that kind of vacation spot. Have you been to Galveston? What is your favorite thing to do there?
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