One unique region that we are just starting to discover is the southwest Texas Gulf coast. It is ruggedly scenic with long stretches of beach which are free of residential and commercial clutter. The communities along the coast alternate among predominantly fishing, industrial and recreational. We drove from Houston and stayed in Port Lavaca, a midpoint from the areas wanted to visit.
Port Lavaca is a small fishing town which is little known to tourists. Great fishing opportunities abound, especially of redfish or flounder. Quiet beaches without the crowds are what you will find there. We discovered a home, a vacation rental through Airbnb that was wonderfully private and right on the water in the bay (See “Room With A View”).
Our first destination was Aransas National Wildlife Refuge The park is serene and loaded with wildlife. In March it was quiet, with few visitors on the trail heads or on the trails. The weather was cool so the alligators were inactive, but birds and deer were plentiful. Amazing views from the trailheads looking out at the bay, where deer linger at the water’s edge. Whopping cranes make this area their home from November through April. This refuge was set up to protect migratory birds and the endangered wildlife of coastal Texas.
After the park we headed for Rockport, a lovely coastal town lying on Aransas Bay. Rockport is more a tourist town (and priced accordingly). It is known for its fishing piers, Gulf Coast History Museum, The Fulton Mansion with gardens, and some unique shops and restaurants. We ate at the Paradise Key Restaurant with its great dockside setting. The views from our table were of the refuge with an abundance of birds including whopping cranes. The food too was delicious specifically the Paradise Grill Patter ,which included mahi-mahi, jumbo shrimp and a crab cake The prices were good for the quality and quantity of food. If you bring your own freshly caught and filleted fish with you, Paradise Key will cook it for you. We understand that during the high season diners do this quite a bit.
Our second day of sightseeing took us to inland Goliad. Goliad’s history boasts a mingling of Spanish explorer, Spanish missionary, and native cultures. There is an interesting example of the Spanish colonial style architecture in Goliad State Park and Historic Site. It is Mission Espiritu Santo, built in 1931. The original mission was founded in 1722 near Matagorda Bay, and relocated in 1749 on the San Antonio River. The original structure did not survive. The present mission is constructed of locally quarried stone by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The rest of the park has great hiking and biking trails and excellent places to picnic. You can even fish or paddle in the San Antonio River.
Presidio-La Bahia is a Spanish fort and site of the “Goliad Massacre” (where Colonel James Fannin and 341 Texian men were executed three weeks after the fall of the Alamo). La Bahia was founded by the Spanish in 1749. Our Lady of Loreto Chapel is the oldest building in the complex continuously in use since the 1700s. It is one of the oldest churches in America that still has its original “groin vault ceiling.” In a niche above the entrance is a statue of the Virgin sculpted by a Lincoln Borglum, who worked on Mount Rushmore. The fresco behind the altar was painted more recently.
For lunch, we stopped in Victoria, a scenic historical town founded in 1824 beside the Guadalupe River. Very fine architecture can be seen there. The county courthouse, built in 1892, is stunning in its Romanesque Revival style. The downtown area is full of Historic gems. Also downtown is an art deco style theater, and an antique car restoration garage with some one-of-a-kind art cars on display.
We ate at the historic Pump House Riverside Restaurant, located on the Guadalupe river. We had a romantic riverside table The food and service were excellent so was the value for the quality of food (See my TripAdvisor review). Surprisingly good prices for such good food in a scenic waterfront setting.
We plan to return to this part of Texas soon, when the alligators will be active, the birds will be nesting, and the colorful wildflowers will be in bloom.