Summer’s just around the corner. Time to pack your beach bags and load the kids up in the car for a Galveston beach excursion kids will treasure the rest of their lives
By Sara G. Stephens
Family Vacation Critic named Galveston Island one of the “Top 10 Family Vacations” in 2013, putting it in the company of such destinations as Montreal, the Bahamas, and Park City, Utah. Topping the list of reasons to visit Galveston was the island’s plentiful offerings of tranquil, family-oriented beaches. Here’s a directory of the finest, in our opinion, with comments from HFM readers completing the picture.
Galveston Island State Park Earlier this year, Galveston Island State Park was named one of the top five “Best Gulf Coast Beaches” by the Travel Channel—the only Texas beach to make the list.
Published on the Travel Channel’s website, the article describes Galveston as feeling like “a major resort destination,” able to attract visitors from across the country to its beaches. It dubs the Galveston Island State Park a “quiet oasis” where visitors can break from the masses to enjoy outdoor activities like bird watching, biking, picnicking, fishing and beach camping. The state park is located on Galveston’s West End, providing access to both the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay.
We love this seaside beach resort community on Bolivar Peninsula. Drive the kids to Galveston and hop the ferry to this peaceful beach, where you can spend the summer days fishing, shelling, crabbing, and bird watching. It’s a very family-oriented destination and one of the few beaches where driving on the beach is still permitted. Your kids and family history buffs will be fascinated by the peninsula’s most recognizable landmark, the Bolivar Lighthouse. Crystal Beach offers soft turf and wide undeveloped beaches, perfect for building sand castles. And when grumbling tummies dictate it’s time to eat, you’ll be delighted to explore the peninsula’s generous offering of food fare and eateries. HFM reader Carol Cudd loves taking her family across the ferry. “You can park your truck on the beach and have everything you need: shade, a place for the little ones to cool off, and a place to change them so they are somewhat cleaned up and don’t get sand rashes on the way home.” Emily Scallan, another HFM reader, recommends getting off the ferry and checking out Fort Travis, constructed in 1898. The fort was heavily damaged during the 1900 storm and was repaired to include a 15-foot seawall around the fort. During World War I, Fort Travis garrisoned troops defending the Port of Galveston and unwanted intruders.
Billed as one of Galveston’s premier family beach parks, Stewart Beach sponsors family-oriented events, such as volleyball tournaments and other special events, throughout the summer season. The park features umbrella and chair rentals, volleyball courts, an outdoor pavilion with an elevator, snack bar, souvenir shop, restrooms and showers. The beach is ideal for families, as alcohol is not permitted. For this reason, the crowds are thinner and less rowdy, consisting mostly of families enjoying good old-fashioned beach fun. Some budget friendly tips: parking is $8, and if you leave the beach to grab a bite to eat and return, you will have to pay the $8 again. Consider packing your food and eating at the beach to get your money’s worth. You might consider bringing your own chairs/umbrella and spare your wallet the $30 rentals.
Nestled between three beautiful bays and the Gulf of Mexico, water surrounds Jamaica Beach on all sides, so you really feel like you’ve escaped to some exotic paradise far, far away from the rest of the world. Besides enjoyment of its warm Gulf waters, this beach offers a host of beach-related activities. Family reunion organizers can rent the beach’s outdoor pavilion for an event that will be remembered fondly for years to come. The Regatta Basin Public Boat Ramp offers access to the interesting network of Jamaica Beach canals. You can also use the boat launch to enjoy tours of the area and great Texas fishing. The Pathways Project has created a variety of walking, cycling, and jogging trails that make exploration irresistible. The paths are dotted with shaded parks ideal for bird watching or just relaxing while taking in the extraordinary views. Jamaica Beach is a free, public beach, which makes it easy on the pocketbook. But take note that there are no lifeguards patrolling the area. Families should be extra cautious with kids’ swimming activities. Overall, the beach is situated in a vibrant community with a small, but appealing, selection of dining and shopping options, as well as other convenient amenities.