Being the avid beach goer I felt drawn to the only beach that is close to Houston, That is the Galveston beach. I have been to many beaches in my life, Some have been fancy, a true paradise while others plain and secluded. Galveston beach is neither, some parts of it are almost five star with huge fancy hotels and beautiful landscape while other parts are almost ghetto-like. This might be because of the 52 miles the beach extends, the hurricane that devastated it a few years ago or the fact that so much is happening in one area that is a little overwhelming.
The thing that overwhelms you if this is your 1st visit to Galveston Island is the taste of the town. I am used to most of the beach towns collecting a certain type of person, the kind of middle to upper class hippies. You know the kind of person who has enough money to be eccentric and not think twice about who it bothers. Galveston is different. It looks more of a regular lower middle class town, filled with small plain homes, fast food and doughnut shops. As you reach the beach the first thing that hits you is the large street that separate the beach from the town. We are not just talking about a busy road, this particular Seawall blvd is so busy that most of the days you won’t be able to cross it without having to go to an intersection with a light.
The beach itself although long is not wide and it is boarded by a large sea wall. There are few entrances and you may have to walk couple of blocks to find one. While we were visiting Galveston, the beach itself was having a huge Algie growth problem, overtaking about the half of the beach making it was nearly impossible to get to the water. Besides, it smelled like rotten old fish. We asked the locales about the problem and we were told that it had been a problem for years but the city has been working on plans to get rid of it. I am not sure what the condition of it now but hope that they have resolved it.
The usual beach front hotels are located on one part of Galveston ranging from five stars to one star depending on what you are looking for you budget. Not far from them, you could notice the usual tourist shops with cheap shirts to useless souvenirs. There are also few rental shops where you can get anything from bikes to surf boards whatever you feel like wasting your day doing. The restaurants are the usual seagoing fare, anywhere from theme restaurants to seedy bars. This is what you would expect for the most part from a beach town for tourists, a place to get sun, ride a bike and eat some cheap seafood with beers on tap.
Moody gardens, spas, hotels and convention center are located a few miles down the road. This is more than 450 bed family style resort and it is home to three large glass pyramids that cost over 50 million dollars to build which house a rainforest and an aquarium. This along with the huge pool, the palm beach, a soft white sand and a crystal clear fresh water lagoons with waterfalls surrounded by lush exotic landscaping makes it a favorite resort among the tourist and locals alike. Although I only got to visit the aquarium, I think its the best part of the island. Few blocks up the way from Moody gardens is Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Water Park for those who crave a little wet adventure.
The pier is located on the opposite side of the island where all the large cruse ships dock. On your way to the pier, you cross downtown Galveston with almost nothing to see. By the pier, there are some high end shops and few other fun things to do. Because this area caters mostly to those embarking on a cruise ship it has a completely different feel.
If you visit the Galveston website, you will see all the new and exciting things they have going, from the pleasure pier( a pier with an amusement park) to changing activities such as art festivals and ghost tours, even a yearly bike rally. But the best part of this whole island is the tolerance to dogs. I admit that I have a lovable large yellow lab who loves to frolic in the ocean. Unfortunately for him, very few beaches are dog friendly but Galveston seemed to welcome him with open arms. He even got to run and play with other dogs enjoying sand and water. Seriously, even if you are not a dog lover your heart will melt watching them play like kids on the beach.
Although Galveston is not my favorite beach or beach town by any means, it does have a lot to offer, much more than I can mention here. Some may find the simplicity of the town a refreshing change from the swank of the other beach towns. For the time we were in Houston, it did fill a great need for us., the need to stop and smell the ocean, even if it smells like old sea weed and dead fish, If you are in the area , its worth the visit especially if you have a dog.