At the end of January, we wrapped up our month in Texas with a week on the Gulf Coast, split between Rockport and Galveston. We spent a few days in Galveston last year and wanted to return to the beautiful campground and the interesting town (and to see the brewery kitty). As for Rockport, this was our fourth visit, but our first time returning since Hurricane Harvey leveled the town in August 2017. As you might imagine, things have changed.
We discovered the charming town of Rockport and beautiful Goose Island State Park back in 2009 on one of our epic Texas crossings. We have fond memories of camping in a lush canopy of gnarled live oaks, exploring nearby coastal refuges, and enjoying abundant birdlife, including close encounters with rare and endangered Whooping Cranes.
It was with some trepidation that we returned to the park. The beach campsites are gone, the wonderful pier that extended a half-mile out into the bay was destroyed by the hurricane, and the centuries-old live oaks are a shadow of what they once were. “There were no leaves left on the oaks—they were snatched bald by the storm,” said a local bartender.
We heard tales from hardy locals who have returned to rebuild their community. They told us heartbreaking stories of thousands of pelicans and shorebirds who perished in the storm and washed ashore. The Whooping Cranes and other migratory birds were more fortunate. They had not yet returned to Texas from their summer nesting grounds when the hurricane hit.
Things are a bit sparse around Rockport these days. Recovery takes time. But the sunsets are just as beautiful as we remembered. And the Whooping Cranes are thriving. Apparently, the hurricane stirred up the estuaries and increased the population of blue crabs, the favorite food of the cranes. The cranes no longer depend on supplemental grains from humans—which means they stay far away and are more difficult to photograph. But it’s much better for the cranes.
I was happy to see that Pop’s Place, a local dive bar, made it through the storm. It’s worth stopping in for a beer just to see the unique mosaic artwork made from thousands of beer bottle caps. (Just don’t expect craft beer.)
Click on any photo for a larger image
We had three things we wanted to do this time in Galveston: 1) Kayak the bay in the park; 2) Tour the historic Bishop’s Palace in town, and 3) Visit the brewery kitty at the excellent Galveston Island Brewery. We managed two out of three.
We really like Galveston Island State Park, especially the campground on the bay side, and especially the sites that back up to the marsh. Our few days at the park were made even better by our neighbors, Tom and Stacie of RV Texas Y’All. We had a great time hanging out with them, and are looking forward to seeing them again when we return to Texas. They were intrigued that we’ve been on the road for six years and did a video of us. If you’re interested, you can see it here. It is hilarious. This is why you will never see us with our own YouTube channel.
We happened to be in Galveston on Museum Day, a once-a-year event that offers free admission to many of Galveston’s most popular historic attractions. We decided to join the masses of bargain hunters and toured two of the historic homes in the East End district. We had seen the Bishop’s Palace when we were wandering around the historic district last year and wanted to see the interior.
Built in the late 1800s as a private residence, the stone Victorian mansion was bought by the Roman Catholic diocese in 1923 and became the bishop’s home for decades (hence, the chapel). The chapel is beautiful. The rest of the mansion is quite possibly the darkest, most depressing place we’ve ever visited. I’m glad we went on a free day because we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
The Moody Mansion, on the other hand, is beautiful. Built in the late 1890s, it was home to the wealthy and philanthropic Moody family before they generously donated it to the state in 1986. The mansion is meticulously restored, with original furnishings, and the self-guided audio tour provides engaging backstories of the family.
On a calm, perfect day we set out to kayak the Galveston Island State Park Paddling Trail. The waters are shallow here, and you want to choose your time wisely, lest you end up stranded in the marsh. This is an excellent place to see the wading birds of the Gulf Coast.
We got to do everything we wanted to do in Galveston, except for visiting with the Galveston Island Brewery kitty. We were bummed. It was so crowded at the brewery (don’t go on a weekend!) that the kitty was hiding under the deck. We bought a couple of big bottles of their Balinese Imperial Smoked Porter and went home to enjoy it by the bay. (That beer is in the running for the tastiest beer we’ve ever had—or at least in the top five.)