Galveston’s East Beach can feel positively remote during the off-season. On an early spring day, visitors can pull into one of the tiny parking lots and follow a narrow path through the dunes onto the sand for endless unobstructed views of the Gulf, nary another human in sight. It’s a far cry from the summer, when the crowds take over, drawn by regular concerts, special events like the popular AIA Sand Castle Competition, and, especially, the freedom to crack open a cold one—this is the only beach park on the island that allows alcohol.
9 a.m.: Beach Time
From March through October, East Beach has all the amenities a beachgoer could ask for—chairs and umbrellas for rent, bathrooms, showers and the like. Admission is $10–$12 during spring and $12–$15 come summer.
Noon: Porch Café
Back in 2007, Beachtown on Galveston’s East End was poised to be the next Seaside or Rosemary Beach, a luxury coastal community with historically inspired architecture and a picture-perfect, small-town vibe. That was before the double whammy of the recession and Hurricane Ike. A decade later, only a fraction of the development plan has been completed, though the community has experienced a bit of a renaissance in recent years, and is still definitely worth exploring. The tiny town center now boasts a bike-rental shop, an ice creamery, and a refined bistro in the Porch Café. Wraparound patios boast incomparable sea views to savor along with your wine, and the indulgent Sunday brunch features Southern favorites and an incredible Bloody Mary bar.
The eastern tip of the island is one of the best places for a back-to-nature experience, with 684 acres reserved as an untouched coastal habitat. Although the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council’s future plans for the area include an education center, kayak rentals, boardwalk, and network of nature trails, currently, visitors will find only a few rough, sandy pathways. They are nonetheless worth a hike from the area along Boddeker Drive to Big Reef, one of the best spots on the island for birdwatching.
4 p.m.: Fort San Jacinto Historic Point
All that’s left of this one-time fort on the northeastern tip of the island is a round concrete base that once held a gun emplacement. Fortifications have existed here since the early 1800s—they were called Fort Travis by the Republic of Texas and Fort Point under the Confederacy—but the citadel was decommissioned and demolished after World War II. The point still draws in visitors, less for the history and more for the views of enormous oil tankers and other ships heading to and from the point, and the promise of great fishing and crabbing from its rocky shore.
On your way back home, stop by this iconic eatery on the easternmost end of the Seawall, whose pizzas and pastas have long been an island staple.