Galveston, Texas is an island on the Gulf Coast of Texas that’s a popular vacation spot. There are lots of activities, museums, water sports, restaurants, and sightseeing available. Most will cost you to participate but there are a few good and absolutely free things that are available too. Here’s a quick list of fun and free things to do next time you’re in Galveston, Texas.
Galveston is well known for its miles of beaches. There are a few paid beaches (on the east side) but most beaches that are along the seawall after 16th street are free. There are no bathrooms but you can park free along the seawall. Towards the western end of the island after 61st and the end of the seawall there are numerous beach areas with blue signs that say Beach Access. Be aware there is no lifeguards at most of these beaches and the following rules apply:
No overnight camping
No glass containers
Pets must be on leashes
No open fires
No four wheelers
Another great pastime is bird watching. There are many locations along the bay side of the island (north side) that offer great places to watch all the different wildlife on the island. One of the most popular for the birds to hang out is along the Pier areas on Harborside Drive. Pier 19 is where the fishing boats dock and is a good area to go visit to people and bird watch as the fishing boats go out in the mornings and come back at noon or early evenings. The Cruise Ship Terminal is on Harborside Drive to and is worth a visit. At any time of year there are around 200 different species of birds and during the fall and spring migrations, as many as 300 different species. There is an abundance of other animals natural to the habitant and dawn and dusk are a great time to see many of them.
I shouldn’t even mention this since you will be on holiday but you can check your email for free at the Rosenberg Library on 23rd and Sealy. Actually the library does have a lot to offer and has paintings and historical items. The library is open 9 – 9 on Monday through Thursday and 9 – 6 on Fridays and Saturdays. You can also get free Internet access if you have a laptop along the seawall at restaurants from 7th street to 37th. Just turn on your WiFi and you’ll pick up available networks.
Go windows shopping in the Strand Street and downtown area that has a variety of specialty shops, antiques, and souvenir stores. There are some great old and historic buildings and houses to see and is also good for people watching. Parking is an issue; since you will need to pay for the time you park your vehicle in most areas downtown. Parking meters are popular for short trips but you should use one of the paid lots if staying over a 2 hours since they are much cheaper.
Galveston has one of the only Sea Turtle Research facilities in the country and offers free tours. Just east of 53rd street on Sias Drive. The tours last about 30 minutes and are guided by expert Biologists and provide some great insights on Sea Turtles and the hundreds of different species. You get to see all the different varieties of Sea Turtles and if you visit late in the summer may get to see some hatching. The facility is open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for tours hourly from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
There is a Ferry service from Galveston Island to Bolivar Island at the east end of the Galveston. The ferries (there are several) transport people and cars to Bolivar and back every day. I’d like to tell you there is a schedule but there really isn’t other than to say it comes and goes as it fills with cars. On busy days it can take about 30 to 45 minutes in line and about a 20 minute crossing time. You can get out of your vehicle and even feed the seagulls that follow the ferry. No animals are allowed out of the vehicles, there is no smoking, fishing, or sitting on the rails. Once you get to Bolivar you can enjoy the wildlife areas to the northern side of the island.
Fishing on both the beach side and the bay side is free in many places. You can also go crabbing on the bay side and in the canals at many places. Most areas are posted if you cannot fish or crab. State licenses requirements apply. Crabbing can be done with a few chicken wings, string, and a container for the crabs. Surf fishing on the west end of the island right before St Luis Pass is usually very good, best times are dictated by the tides. You want an incoming tide for the best conditions but outgoing can also be good. There can be two tides a day or more so if you stop at a bait shop they usually have the latest information on when the tides are coming and going out.
The activities mentioned above can provide some great free entertainment and are available year around. There are also many annual events that offer a lot of free things to see and do. Just check the local paper or Tourist Visitors Center at 2027 61st Street for additional information.