One of the best things about escaping to an island is the freedom of being surrounded by nature. With sea birds in the air, sand dunes by your feet and miles of coastal landscapes from beach to bay, Galveston Island allows you to have a remote getaway where you can finally breathe easy.
Just a 50-mile drive from Houston, the island’s 32-mile -coast is lined with thousands of beach houses, vacation rentals and socially distant activities for your next trip – whether you’re eager to explore or just in need of a refreshing change of scenery from the comfort of your home away from home.
pictured: Galveston's West End
Moody Garden's 242-acre property is home to numerous family and educational attractions, including three glass pyramids that house an aquarium, a living rainforest with free-roaming sloths, birds and monkeys, and a discovery museum.
While a modern take on the Galveston amusement park piers of old, Pleasure Pier stands over the Gulf of Mexico in the same location a similar pier stood in the 1940s.
With 32 miles of beaches, Galveston has plenty of sand for you to stretch out and enjoy, whether you’re taking the kids to Stewart Beach, horseback riding at East Beach, having a picnic on the West End or sunbathing along the seawall.
Galveston’s iconic Seawall is the perfect spot for staying active – on foot or on wheels. At more than 10 miles long, Galveston’s seawall is the nation’s longest continuous sidewalk and is a great spot for your daily run, walk, jog, skate or bicycle ride with its scenic view of the Gulf of Mexico.
For a picturesque adventure on horseback, guides with Galveston Island Horse & Pony Rides will lead you along the shoreline of East Beach. The trail includes a beautiful natural lagoon, teaming with wildlife on one side and a serene beachfront on the other.
Learn to surf or improve your surfing skills with a lesson with Ohana Surf & Skate. You’ll meet with an experienced instructor who will teach you proper technique and safety practices while showing you the best spots to surf on the island! Or try a standup paddle boarding lessons or rental with SUP Gulf Coast.
Galveston is a fishing enthusiast’s dream with plenty of fishing charters available year round. The bay offers opportunities for beginners and those wanting to fish from smaller boats while the Gulf of Mexico is the place to be for adventurous angling and challenging sport fishing. If you’re looking to stay on land, the fishing piers at Seawolf Park and along the seawall offer some of the best fishing locations on the island.
Did you know more than 300 species of birds reside or travel through Galveston every year? Or that the island is located on the trans-Gulf bird migration route? These are just a couple of reason the island is one of the top locations for bird watching in the United States.
Located on Galveston’s Pelican Island on a former immigration station site, Seawolf Park is the place to go for great views of Galveston Harbor plus one of the most popular fishing piers on the island. It’s also home to picnic sites, a playground and the American Undersea Warfare Center, an outdoor museum featuring a WWII submarine and rare WWII destroyer escort.
Covering a 690-acre area on the island’s West End, the Coastal Heritage Preserve is one of the largest unfragmented, undeveloped locations of its kind on Galveston Island. Here, you can go on a kayak tour with the non-profit Artist Boat to see several places of natural significance and learn about the organization’s work to preserve and restore 1,400 bordering acres from the beach to bay.
At the Galveston Island State Park, you can enjoy scenic sights of coast, dunes and birdlife while exploring hiking trails, kayaking through the bay or having a picnic at the beach. The state park is also a great location for camping, swimming and fishing.
This site located at Galveston’s most eastern point is a nature enthusiast’s paradise, offering a tranquil setting for kayaking, bird watching or just relaxing at the sensation of the island’s sea breezes. Considered the most ecologically significant stretch of undeveloped land on the island, the East End Lagoon Nature Preserve recently received a new nature trail (complete with interpretive signage) that allows you to better explore the lagoon’s 684 acres of coastal prairie.
Moody Mansion is a 1895 historic mansion, located on Broadway Avenue is open for tours daily and filled with opulent furnishings and heirlooms from one of Texas’s most powerful families.
In the Historic Downtown Strand Seaport District, majestic iron-front buildings house unique boutiques, coastal-inspired art galleries, gift shops and restaurants. Downtown’s main street, known as The Strand, draws visitors for shopping, architectural tours and attractions.
Tip: While exploring downtown, look for 1900 Storm markers on many of the buildings. These identify flood water levels during what is still the deadliest storm in U.S. history.
Stroll or bicycle through these quaint historic neighborhoods as colorful historic homes line the streets, featuring Victorian, Greek Revival, Queen Anne and other architectural styles dating back to the mid-1800s to early 1900s.
The Galveston Railroad Museum is home to one of the largest restored railroad collections in the country with more than 20,000 railroad items, including more than 40 engines and cars.
This historic theater provides a stunning backdrop and intimate setting for its lineup of live shows and music performances with no seat further than 70 feet from the stage. One of the few remaining theaters of its era in Texas, it is also open for self-guided tours.Learn More
Home to the celebrated 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA, the Texas Seaport Museum tells the story of seaborne commerce and immigration in Galveston, which was the second busiest immigration port in the U.S.
Located on Seawolf Park, the Galveston Naval Museum is home to the USS Cavalla, a former U.S. Navy submarine best known for sinking the Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku (a veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack) and the USS Stewart, a WWII destroyer escort that is one of only three left in the world.
Take a leisurely, self-guided tour through the retired Ocean Star jack-up rig, which now serves as a museum and educational facility. Located at Pier 20.
Housed in a 1902 former orphan’s home, The Bryan Museum holds one of the world’s largest collections of historical artifacts relating to the American Southwest.
One of Galveston’s “Broadway Beauties,” the 1892 Bishop’s Palace is a stunning marvel (open for tours daily) designed by Nicholas Clayton, the island’s premier Victorian-era architect.
Explore the history of pirates in Galveston and along the Gulf Coast in this interactive museum that includes a variety of exhibits, a deck of a pirate ship, a captain’s cabin and actors portraying the crew of the notorious Jean Laffite who settled in Galveston during the early 1800s.
Although the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte burned his home down when he was forced to leave his settlement in Galveston in 1821, you can still see his original home site at Harborside Drive between 14th and 15th streets.
The historic Reedy Chapel was the location of the first documented Juneteenth celebration in America – a holiday that marked the day the last slaves in the United States learned of the Emancipation Proclamation.
If you love turtles, you’ll see plenty of them in Galveston – and on land at that! The island’s new public art tour, Turtles About Town, showcases 20 different turtle monuments painted by local and national artists. You can spot these gigantic turtles at various locations throughout the island’s downtown, neighborhoods and beachfront.
A popular destination for walking or bicycle tours, the East End Historical District is home to the Galveston Tree Sculptures, a group of sculptures carved from Oak trees that were damaged during Hurricane Ike. Take a self-guided tour and try to spot them all!
Yes, there are dolphins in Galveston! And these playful creatures are almost always up for a photo-opp. Leaving from Pier 21, you can catch a boat ride with Galveston Water Adventures, BayWatch Dolphin Tours or the Galveston Historical Foundation to see dolphins up close and learn about the island’s historic seaport.
You could spend hours just admiring the unique architecture and buildings in historic downtown Galveston. But doing so is even better with a tour guide from Galveston Historic Tours that can share history and insights related to this important district once known as “The Wall Street of the South.”
On the Galveston Hurricane Tour, you’ll see before-and-after scenes from the infamous 1900 Storm, still the deadliest storm in United States history. You’ll visit the site of Galveston's forgotten Grade Raising Canal, learn about hurricane impacts on the island’s many immigrants and come to understand the importance of elevating historic homes.
If you’re interested in all things spooky, try a tour with Dash Beardsley, the island’s premier paranormal expert. Beardsley offers a variety of ghost tours tied to the island’s history of pirates, deadly storms and other tragedies in historic downtown Galveston and beyond.
The Seawall Interpretive Trail, also known as Project S.I.T, consists of 70 concrete benches covered in hand painted mosaic tile that form a trail along Galveston’s historic Seawall that interpret the ecology, economy, and history of the Texas Coast.
You can never go wrong with The Spot, the island’s premier beachfront American grub. Here, you’re in for an indulgent meal of burgers, sandwiches, wings and great cocktails with an open-air deck and Gulf views.
Come for the pizza, stay for the impeccable service. Mario’s Seawall Italian Restaurant offers authentic Italian cuisine at its finest; think hand-tossed pizzas, pastas, and mouth-watering cannoli.
Mosquito Café is a fast and casual American eatery that serves a menu of fresh, homemade breakfast, soups and salads, sandwiches and pastas, in an 1870s building complete with a sunny patio.
Located in the heart of Galveston’s historic East End, The Sunflower Bakery & Café offers fresh baked good, plus an all-day menu of down-home American meals such as fresh Gulf seafood, fish and chips, and beef stroganoff in a homie setting with a patio.
Located in the heart of historic Downtown Galveston, Riondo’s offers an Italian cuisine notable for the founder’s “farm to fork” and “sea to table” values, and notable wines in a sophisticated, airy setting with sidewalk seating.
If you’re on the hunt for a more sophisticated experience, Rudy & Paco’s restaurant is one of the few with a dress code, plus a Central and South American menu of steaks and seafood.
At Taquilo’s you’ll find authentic Tex-Mex cuisine made with the freshest ingredients. Make sure you try its Certified Angus Beef fajitas and award-winning specialty margaritas in a fun and upbeat atmosphere.
If you’re craving authentic New Orleans cooking, Little Daddy’s brings the expertise in steam kettle cooking with offerings such as traditional gumbos, seafood stews, and cioppino.
Brick House Tavern & Tap is a modern sports bar that offers a deck with outdoor seating, and high-concept bar food and a huge selection of beer.
Fisherman's Wharf offers beautiful waterfront views, and a menu of local seafood, grilled meats, and signature cocktails. Make sure to try its famous Shrimp Kisses, bacon-wrapped and stuffed with jalapeno jack cheese.
Located in the Galveston Yacht Basin, Marina Bar & Grill offers an array of delicious seafood, breakfast plates, sandwiches, and more. Make sure to try its fried mushroom, smothers chips, and beer battered Brussels sprouts.
Katie's Seafood House is a local staple that offers seafood coming right off its boats to your plate, complete with delicious cocktails and stunning waterfront views.
Waterman's Restaurant is located right next to Waterman’s marina. The restaurant serves seafood and specialty cocktails with the most spectacular sunset view on the island.
Located in the beautiful Pelican Rest Marina, Number 13 boasts an upscale atmosphere with sweeping views of the water, and a business casual dress code.
Located along the Galveston Fishing Pier, Jimmy’s offers a Southern and Country-influence menu full of comfort food and breakfast-to-dinner American eats.
Nick's lively joint offers a pool bar and live music, along with fresh seafood, juicy burgers and indulgent po’boys, and a self-proclaimed best selection of beer on the seawall.
The majority of Galveston’s beachfront and beachside vacation rentals can be found on the West End stretching for miles and miles past the Seawall. Here, you’ll experience a remote atmosphere, natural sand dunes and tranquil beaches.
Galveston Bay offers some of the best views of the island from waterfront homes nestled along its calm waters, boating and fishing.
While Galveston’s East End is home to the East Beach public beach park, you can also find more secluded beach areas at its luxury vacation rental properties.
Central Galveston can be bustling with activity if you’re near the Seawall, but tucked into its many neighborhoods you’ll find charming historic districts, from the Silk Stocking District running along 25th Street to the East End Historical District surrounding the iconic Bishop’s Palace. Here you can find everything from modern bungalows a few blocks from the beach, to colorful Victorian homes with stand-out ornate details.
Known for its long-stretching views of the Gulf of Mexico, Seawall Boulevard is home to a wide variety of hotels and condos, from small family-owned establishments to award-winning resorts like The San Luis Resort and the historic Hotel Galvez. Here, you’ll be in close proximity to some of the island’s best attractions, restaurants and more.
Known for its majestic Victorian architecture, historic downtown Galveston is home to iron storefronts housing boutiques, antique shops, coastal art galleries, restaurants and attractions in the most walkable area of town. Downtown also provides easy access to Pier 21 and Galveston Harbor entertainment. The Quarters is a luxury extended stay option located across from the iconic Tremont House hotel.
Where the Texas Coast begins.
by Mellanie Perez
by Mary Beth Bassett
by Visit Galveston
by Clayton Kolavo
by Mellanie Perez
Mellanie Perez is a lifestyle, beauty and wellness writer and editor based in Houston, Texas, and—occasionally—Puerto Rico. Her travel articles have been published in National Geographic Traveler, Texas Highways, Korean Air's MorningCalm. She has been on staff at Modern Luxury Houston, and Sunday Riley, where she mastered the art of clean copy and tight deadlines. When not preoccupied with getting through the 10 books on her nightstand or getting in her daily workout, she can be found writing essays and poetry and learning trending dances on Tik Tok.