In our Must Do Neighborhood series, we take look at Houston’s vast array of communities and neighborhoods to bring you five fun, tasty, and enticing reasons you should give each a visit. Originally published in 2016, we are now refreshing, updating, and adding to this series, including new neighborhoods and destinations.
Just east of Galveston Island, the Bolivar Peninsula is a narrow strip of land separating east Galveston Bay from the Gulf of Mexico. Home to the communities of Port Bolivar, Crystal Beach, Caplen, Gilchrist, and High Island, the area offers the stark beauty of the coast, high grasses, serene simplicity, and plenty of reasons to give it a visit.
5 Must Do Things on Bolivar Peninsula
- Hop aboard the Galveston-Bolivar Ferry – Each trip on this 500-passenger and 70-vehicle ferry takes approximately 18 minutes, spanning 2.7 miles and linking Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula. Offered 24 hours a day, the ride is totally free to all travelers and (both drive-on vehicles and passenger walk-ons are welcome). For the most scenic views, time your trip around sunset, when the colorful rays of the setting sun dance across the waves of Galveston Bay. You’ll have to time it correctly; To help, be sure to not move into any open right lane until directed by ferry staff (the lane is intended for medical emergencies, and unless instructed to move there, you’ll have to turn around and go back to the end of the line). Once the ferry leaves the dock, head to the observation deck and break out your camera.
- Soak up the sun on the beach – With 27 miles of shoreline, Bolivar Peninsula is a great place to sink your toes into sand. The 7-mile stretch of Crystal Beach is popular thanks to its ample opportunities for fishing (try out a boat charter) and its permitting for camping and campfires. Extending 5 miles into the Gulf and located about 2 miles from the ferry landing, the North Jetty is a popular location for fishing and crabbing. Vehicles are allowed on the beaches, but all must display a Bolivar Beach Parking Sticker outside of the free beach zone. Click here for details on purchasing a pass and free zone information.
- Go bird-watching at the Bolivar Flats – Marsh, mud flats, and beach offer a welcoming nesting habitat for thousands of birds, small fish, and crabs, helping the Bolivar Flats earn its designation as a Globally Important Bird Area. Take a serene stroll along the beach, woods, and marshland to observe the birds and other wildlife; and check out the First Saturday Bolivar Flats Beach Rambles, a free nature discovery program suitable for all ages.
- Unwind with food and drink – The laidback peninsula has plenty of island-style spots to grab good eats and tasty beverages. On Crystal Beach, Stingaree Restaurant & Marina offers wild-caught Gulf shrimp and oysters, fresh snapper, and Galveston Bay blue crabs in addition to steaks and more. Check out its Down Under Bar and Grill for burgers, po’ boys, and cold beers. Ocean Grille combines a family-friendly restaurant and full bar, rocking eats from boudain balls and seafood gumbo to shrimp quesadillas and chicken fried steak. Head to Tiki Beach Bar & Grill for fun, food and live music, with tiki treats including crab-stuffed jalapeños, shrimp kisses, fried seafood platters, burgers, and bar pies. HardHeads offers an icehouse atmosphere alongside cheap drinks and eats like wings, fried shrimp, and blackened fish tacos. For waterside dining with a view, check out Steve’s Landing, where you can nosh on Gulf shrimp cocktail, pecan-crusted snapper, and surf and turf.
- Snap a pic of the historic Point Bolivar Lighthouse – Built in 1872, this privately-owned lighthouse scrapes the sky at 117 feet above sea level. The cast iron beacon guided ships through the channel (using candle-power) for 61 years before it was retired in 1933. Today, its once black and white exterior is mostly black due to rust and erosion; but it still makes for a striking photo opportunity.