HOUSTON – Sail away (figuratively, and in some instances literally) when you visit these nautical Houston area attractions as informative as they are entertaining.
From a 19th-century ship meticulously restored to a late 20th-century oil rig retrofitted as a museum, each attraction tells a story of the Houston area’s relationship with the ocean.
This is a great option for parents with small children. Let’s be honest, a museum just won’t capture the mind of a toddler in quite the same way an animal encounter and boat tour would so hop aboard a BayWatch Dolphin Tour. The 45-minute tour offers adults and kiddos alike the opportunity to hit the high seas and get a closeup of dolphins in their natural habitat. Baywatch Dolphin Tours offers tours daily and is situated at Pier 21.
2100 Harborside Dr, Galveston, (832) 859-4557
Galveston Naval Museum is located in Galveston’s Seawolf Park on Pelican Island, formerly a welcoming point for immigrants arriving at the turn of the century. The WWII museum offers a look inside the WWII submarine the USS Cavalla and one of only three destroyer escorts in the world, the USS Stewart. The remains of the WWI tanker S.S. Selma, the largest concrete ship constructed, can be seen northwest of Seawolf park’s fishing pier.
The museum hosts annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day remembrances, patriotic light displays during the Holiday season and honors those who served at military ceremonies, reunions and reenactments.
After you finish touring the museum, explore Pelican Island, a popular fishing spot. And when you’re hungry, claim a picnic table at Seawolf Park and dig into your bagged lunch while you enjoy the ocean breeze.
100 Seawolf Park Blvd, Galveston, (409) 797-5114
The Texas Seaport Museum is currently undergoing renovations as it prepares for the launch of a new interactive exhibit, Ship to Shore, while the museum plans to debut in 2021. The exhibit will focus on Galveston’s immigration history. During the construction, the museum will remain closed to the public but it will continue offering Harbour tours and tours of the 1877 tall ship Elissa daily.
The Elissa, an iron-hulled, three-masted barque, is one of the oldest ships still sailing. She launched in 1877 from Aberdeen, Scotland, and for the next 90 odd years, the ship lugged commercial cargo to and from North America, South America, Europe and elsewhere. Through the years, the ship changed hands and names multiple times, sometimes going by Fjeld, Gustaf, Christophoros and Achaios, according to the Texas State Historical Association. Elissa docked in Galveston in 1883 and again in 1886.
In 1978, the Galveston Historical Foundation brought the ship from Greece to Galveston, restored the vessel and converted it into a floating museum. Now berthed at Pier 21 in Galveston, the ship is one of the island's most-visited attractions (aside from its beaches) and receives some 60,000 visitors each year. Fun fact: In 1978 the ship became the first item outside the United States to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
2200 Harborside Dr, Galveston, (409) 763-1877
The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum is a retired jack-up drilling rig retrofitted as a three-story education center situated along the Galveston shore. It manages to show and tell, making it the perfect spot for young and old kiddos alike. The oil rig operated in the Gulf of Mexico from 1969 to 1984 and drilled over 200 wells. The rig’s pipe deck houses several exhibits on the oil and gas industry while the rig floor has been configured to display the drilling machinery. While the original living space on the rig was renovated into museum space, there is a large, mock-up living space depicting life on a rig.
First-timers visitors, consider watching the museum’s 15-minute educational video about the rig before venturing off on your own self-guided tour. Museum staff recommends setting aside at least an hour and a half if you aim to explore the entire facility.
2002 Wharf Rd, Galveston, (409) 766-7827
The Port of Houston offers a free educational boat tour of the Houston Shipping Channel. During the 90-minute round-trip tour, passengers will spot international cargo vessels and learn more about the Port of Houston, one of the nation’s busiest ports.
Operating as Port Houston’s public tour vessel since its inaugural voyage on July 30, 1958, the M/V Sam Houston has welcomed over 2 million visitors over the last 60 years, according to the City of Houston.
7300 Clinton Drive, Houston, (713) 670-2631