GALVESTON’S HARBOR, A NAUTICAL DIVERSION FROM HOLIDAY SHOPPING

December 10, 2020

by Steve Alexander

Holiday shoppers are filling the stores in Galveston’s Historic Downtown District, an area stretching from the Strand to Postoffice Street. For those bargain hunters looking for a break, there’s a leisurely diversion just a short walk away.

Fresh fish for sale at Katie’s Seafood Market.

To get there, walk east to 20th Street and take a left toward the waterfront. After crossing Harborside Drive, it’s a short walk to Wharf Road. At the corner of 20th Street and Wharf Road is Katie’s Seafood House, a great place for lunch or dinner. At Katie’s, they pride themselves on serving fresh, locally caught seafood. Examples are displayed on ice just a few doors down at Katie’s Seafood Market. Make your selection and they’ll gladly pack your purchase on ice for the drive home.

Pier 19 has been home to Galveston’s commercial fishing fleet for over 150 years.

Walking past Wharf Road toward the waterfront provides a clear view of the Pier 19 harbor, home to Galveston’s commercial fishing fleet – an array of shrimp boats, charter boats and party boats. Pier 19 is listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, having served as home to Galveston’s commercial fishing fleet for more than 150 years. It’s a great place to spot brown pelicans year-round and the larger white pelicans in the winter, all vying to fill their bellies with discarded fish carcasses tossed out the back of fish markets.

The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum.

After taking in the sights of Pier 19, continue walking toward the waterfront to reach the long wharf that runs along the Galveston Ship Channel. To the right is a clear view of the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum. This retired oil rig and associated museum tells the story of the offshore oil and gas industry. It is now open for tours (see its site for pandemic protocols) and definitely worth a visit.

NOAA’s R/V Oregon II anchored along the wharf.

Head down the wharf and take in the views of a busy waterfront – the Pelican Island shipyards across the channel, the building and dock of next door’s Texas Seaport Museum, and the Pelican Island bridge in the distance. At times, your view of the channel may be blocked by a visiting ship anchored along the wharf, as was the case recently when a visiting Brazilian Navy frigate docked here in November.

Upon reaching the end of the wharf, a short walk along 21st Street will take you back to the Strand. I don’t think anyone will regret taking this relaxing break from holiday shopping. In fact, there’s a good chance this detour will provide some unexpected ideas for your next trip to Galveston Island.

Steve Alexander teaches wetlands management at Texas A&M University at Galveston and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council. He is the author of Exploring Galveston: A Naturalist's Guide to the Island.