Weekend Getaway

Cruising from Port Arthur to Galveston Bay


Everything is BIGGER in the Lone Star State, and the Texas coastline stretching along the northwest edge of the Gulf of Mexico is no exception. Measured on its own, the coast clocks in at just 387 miles, but add in all the islands, bays, river mouths and inlets, and there are more than 3,300 miles of beautiful waterfront to explore - not to mention hundreds of attractions and annual events.

Port Arthur

Port Arthur is a great place to start a weekend cruise through the area. Set on Sabine Lake, just nine miles from the Gulf, the destination draws birders and anglers year-round. The town also hosts a lively, family-friendly Mardi Gras celebration that attracts more than 100,000 revelers. And don't miss the Museum of the Gulf Coast (700 Procter St., 409-982-7000), which takes an often unconventional approach to the region's history - its tagline is From Jurassic to Joplin. The current exhibition explores the extraordinary history of the region with a variety of exhibits. One permanent exhibit highlights music luminaries from the region, including Janis Joplin, George Jones and J.P. The Big Bopper Richardson.

There are two excellent marinas in Port Arthur. The Sabine Pass Port Authority Marina has 87 slips and is next to a historic park. The sailboat-oriented Pleasure Island Marina sits on nearby Pleasure Island, an 18.5-mile-long man-made strip in Sabine Lake.


About 80 miles south of Port Arthur along the Intracoastal Waterway is Galveston Bay, where the shoreline is dotted with towns perfect for dining, recreation or repairs. Galveston itself is a multifaceted city with a colorful history.

Jean LaFitte, one of the most feared pirates of the 19th century, lived here for a time, and the city was also an important site during the Texas Revolution and the CivilWar. The Strand, a 36-square-block historic district, has Victorian houses, shops and cafes and is lined with gaslight street lamps.O'Malley's Stage Door Pub (2022 Post Office St., 409-763-1731) is a popular watering hole that serves more than 100 imported bottled beers. The Mosquito Cafe (628 14th St., 409-763-1010), tucked away in Galveston's charming East End, is a local favorite for its inventive salads, sandwiches and pastas. Cafe Michael Burger (11150 Termini San Luis Pass Rd., 409-740-3639) is a beloved beachside joint with first-rate burgers, German beers and terrific gulf views. Moody Gardens, one of the largest and best known attractions on Galveston Island, features a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium pyramid, a 3-D IMAX theater and a tropical rainforest pyramid. A 180-degree wraparound theater makes for thrill-ride-type fun (1 Hope Blvd., 800-582- 4673).

While visiting Galveston Bay, dock at the Galveston Yacht Club, which can accommodate vessels up to 100 feet and is conveniently set along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Clear Lake Recreational Area

Less than a half-hour's cruise up the western shore of Galveston Bay is the Clear Lake Recreational Area, home to the Disney-designed Johnson Space Center and often called the boating capital of Texas. Along its shores are pleasant communities such as Kemah, Seabrook, Clear Lake Shores and League City, plus several largemarinas.

The Kemah Boardwalk Marina offers transients slips close to the town's gated entrance, with easy access to downtown shops and a dynamic boardwalk. There are water gardens, themed restaurants and other attractions for the whole family. The Bayside Grille makes fantastic beignets at breakfast. Farther down the boardwalk, the Aquarium has macadamia-crusted trout, grilled ribeyes, enormous floor-to-ceiling aquarium tanks and breathtaking views. Don't miss Texas's own Blue Bell ice creamat Sweet Scoops (boardwalk, 281-334-6939). There are fireworks on the boardwalk every Friday night during summer.

Seabrook, just north of Kemah, will mark its 50th anniversary with a big parade on October 22, 2011. The town has a quaint shopping district, Old Seabrook, filledwith boutiques and antiques stores. Seabrook Marina, a family-owned business since 1939, is a busy full-service repair yard. The marina has deep water and can accommodate boats to 78 feet, and there are wide slips for multihulls.Everything is bigger in Texas - enjoy yourself, and remember, there is another two-thirds of Texas coastline to be explored.

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