Location: Galveston, TX
Smashed Penny Machine: We found one at Fish Tales Restaurant
I’m going to start by saying this is nowhere near a list of everything you could do on Galveston Island. I lived in the greater Houston area for over two years, made numerous trips to the island and still haven’t experienced everything I want to experience on this island. We had about 4.5 hours to enjoy the island before we were due back in the far west suburbs so this trip focused mostly on letting my kids and husband see the ocean for the first time and getting some good seafood.
We arrived on the island about 9:30 and drove to the local beach park of Stewart Beach. If you follow your GPS here, you are going to spend all your time on the main highway and get stopped at a dozen stop lights and see basically nothing. So ignore your GPS, take a right on 61st or 53rd Street (doesn’t matter which). Follow that until it dead-ends into Seawall Blvd. Take a left. Enjoy driving to the beach along the beach (just pay attention to the road, this is a busy 4 lane road with lots of pedestrians on it).
Stewart Beach is at the far East end of the island. There is a parking fee. Cost of the fee depends on season and day of the week. Off season weekend parking costs us $10 for the day. Now I’m going to be honest with you. Most people really dislike Stewart Beach and I fully understand their reasons. I agree the bathroom building is in need of some major repairs and the fact that you can’t leave the beach and come back throughout the day is very annoying. Despite these short falls I still recommend Stewart Beach. It’s easy to find. It’s farther down the island but not really remote like most of the beaches on the West end of the island. It has an actual bathroom/changing room facility. I’m sorry but when you’ve got two kids to get changed I don’t want to mess with port-a-potty and tiny changing huts. I need room to change a diaper. The park has picnic tables that are up off of the sand and depending on time of day have some shade. I’ve never found the beach to be dirty: the trash cans are never overflowing and you don’t have piles of trash on the sand. So I still say go to Stewart Beach just keep your expectations in check.
I will also be the first to admit that if you are looking for beautiful blue ocean waters with huge crashing waves, you’ve picked the wrong vacation destination. The waters of the Gulf aren’t nearly as rough as the Atlantic’s and for some reason (maybe it’s the tides?) the waters around Galveston always seem murky. However the water was still plenty warm this time of year (early October) and since we were there early on a Saturday morning in the off-season the beach was basically empty (us and 2 other families). We spent about 3 hours playing in the surf (which was actually a little rougher than normal thanks to a tropical storm way off cost; but also made the day a little overcast) and building sand castles. Around lunch time, we called it quits and rinsed the sand off as best we could and left the beach for some lunch. If you are planning a whole day at the beach, you can bring coolers to this park and there is a small snack bar (open seasonally) and plenty of picnic tables up near the restrooms.
We ate at one of my favorite Galveston restaurants, Fish Tales. Fish Tales is right on Seawall Blvd across from Pleasure Pier. I always ask to eat outside on the patio upstairs. It’s mostly covered and there is normally a good breeze coming off the Gulf so it’s fairly pleasant out there regardless of the weather. Plus one of the best parts of eating on the balcony is seeing the beach when you eat. The pier does obstruct the view of the water a little but not too bad plus you can people watch the people headed to the Pier. The food is always great and the staff is even better. Fish Tales shares a parking lot behind the building with Pleasure Pier. It is a pay lot but the restaurant will validate your parking after your meal so there is no cost. We also found a penny machine by the hostess stand and the staff was very gracious to turn a couple of dollar bills into change for me because I didn’t have any quarters.
After lunch we walked down the street to Murdochs. Murdochs is a huge gift shop that sits out over the water. It’s about a 4 block walk (one way) but I didn’t want to try to drive the car down there and look for more parking. Plus walking along the beach is always fun. After finding some fun souvenirs, it was time to walk back to the car and head out.
Overall impression: Like I said this is just a half day spent on Galveston Island. You could really spend several days on the island. Galveston is probably not my favorite beach destination but it isn’t as crowded as Destin or Panama City and it still has a small town feel even though it right next to Houston. You could easily get a hotel on the beach and do day trips to the great Houston attractions as well.