Road Trips

Christmas on the Peninsula

The Bolivar Peninsula is a barrier Island extending 27 miles alongside the northeast Texas Gulf Coast. Its serene beaches are among the very few in the country where you can drive your vehicle directly along the shore beside the breaking waves. Huge migrations of birds through the area make it one of the top ten birding locations in the country.

From Interstate 10, which runs the breath of Texas, take Highway 124 south at Winnie. The route passes by Anahuac, a scenic 34,000-acre National Wildlife Refuge of prairie land bordered by a coastal marsh with meandrous bayous full of waterbirds, turtles, and alligators.

Slightly north of reaching the peninsula, you pass High Island, home to Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary. The sanctuary is particularly popular in April and May, when waterfowl, herons, cranes, egrets, storks, ibis, spoonbills, and other species nest by the hundreds. You will hear the mass of noisy birds and crying chicks before seeing them as you hike up to the observation platform. Birds and their offspring nest in the trees on a tiny island in the middle of a pond. Circling the island are alligators, waiting for an unfortunate chick to fall from its nest. You will probably also see dozens of birdwatchers and photographers, some with very hightech cameras, tripods and telescopic lenses maneuvering to get the best photos.

Bolivar Peninsula can also be approached from the southern Gulf Coast by taking the Galveston Ferry across the inlet to Galveston Bay. To reach the ferry, you will drive along Broadway in Galveston and pass some majestic vintage homes. Or you can divert to Harborside Drive and Port Industrial Boulevard to see the historic port, or to Seawall Boulevard for a drive along a touristy strip on your left and the beach on your right.

The 18-minute, 2.7-mile ferry ride is free of charge for vehicles and pedestrians. On the ferry you can see giant tankers, barges, fishing boats shrouded in seagulls and followed by dolphins waiting for a nibble of fish, and the occasional cruise ship leaving Port Galveston for tours of the Caribbean. During peak hours and peak season, the wait to get a car on the ferry can be formidable. Seagulls and pelicans often follow the ferry, and you can get out of your car to get a better view of the water. You cannot reach Bolivar Peninsula from along the northern gulf coast: roads end at Highway 124.

We have stayed in the area numerous times on the Bolivar Peninsula, which is so much less crowded and developed than Galveston. We really enjoyed the privacy and view from our latest stay in a beach house in Gilchrist. Shores-uh-Bliss is located nine miles from Crystal Beach. It is more private than most beach areas and that is why we picked this location. No beach houses on either side of the house just one directly behind. Like most buildings on the peninsula, it is built on stilts so as to avoid hurricane storm surge, and thus the view of the Gulf is from an elevated height. If you book during hurricane season (June through October), keep an eye on weather reports. See a Room with a View for a review of this unique property.


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