Picture a small Victorian city, with gas-powered street lamps, historic homes and buildings, and warm residents who roll out the welcome mat for you and your pup. Now, imagine that charming town has 32 miles of dog friendly beaches where Fido is welcome year-round, as long as he’s wearing his leash. If that sounds like your ideal vacation destinations, let me introduce you to pet friendly Galveston, Texas!
Just 50 miles southeast of Houston, and situated on two islands in the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston has a long and interesting history. You’ll find few places where the past and present are so beautifully entwined, and as you stroll down the seawall or meander through the historic districts, you can almost feel the ghosts walking by. Stepping back in time will help prime your appreciation of the area’s unique qualities, so let’s take a quick look at Galvenston’s past.
The first European settlements were constructed here around 1816 by the French pirate, Louis-Michel Aury, to help the fledgling Republic of Mexico fight Spain. In 1821 that campaign was successful, and Mexico had her freedom. A few years later the Mexican Government established the Port of Galveston – the only deepwater port between New Orleans and Tampico, Mexico.
Galveston quickly grew into a bustling city with wharves, cotton warehouses, stores, and an opera house. Cattle ranching flourished on the islands, and cowboys could drive their herds directly down the seawall and onto the ships. In 1836, the Republic of Texas declared it’s independence from Mexico, and in 1845 Texas was annexed by the United States. Through it all, prosperity reigned in Galveston, and by 1899 the city had more millionaires per capita that any other US city! Elegant mansions lined the streets, and the most advanced technologies of the times, including electricity, telephone, and telegraphs, were common.
Everything changed on September 8, 1900 … Galveston took a direct hit from a massive hurricane. Believing the position of the islands would protect the city from serious damage, residents opted to ride out the storm, which still ranks as the deadliest in United States history, and an estimated 8,000 people perished.
In addition to the loss of humanity, the hurricane robbed Galveston of it’s commercial appeal, and soon Houston overtook it in the battle to become the state’s leading seaport. But Galveston is resilient. A new seawall was constructed, 500 city blocks were raised to protect them from future storm surges, and research, education, and tourism now keep the city’s economy ticking.
Nowadays the heart of Galveston is known as “The Strand,” and it’s recognized as a National Historic Landmark for it’s collection of 19th century architecture. Shops, dining, museums, and night life can be found here, and it’s easy to while away an afternoon exploring the boardwalked street, alleys, and park – though it’s prettiest in the evening when the gas street lamps bathe everything in a warm glow.
The masts of the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa pierce the sky down at the Pier, and here you’ll find a nice selection of waterfront restaurants with dog friendly patios, and Saengerfest Park, where you can admire Galveston Channel and keep an eye out for passing dolphins.
For art galleries, antique shops, and more eateries, head over to the Postoffice Street District. And, when you’re all shopped out, make your way to Mods Coffee House, where the shady outdoor seating area is pet friendly.
Of course, Galveston’s main draw is it’s 32 miles of stunning beaches! Leashed dogs are welcome year-round on all of the island’s beaches, and there are plenty of places to explore. East Beach is one of largest in Texas, Galveston Island State Park encompasses approximately 2,000 acres and stretches from beach to bay, and Stewart Beach with it’s volleyball tournaments and sandcastle competitions are just a few of the best spots to hit.
The seawall offers another opportunity to admire the beach and Gulf of Mexico, without getting your paws sandy. Running along Seawall Boulevard, at 10.3 miles, this is one of the longest continuous sidewalks in the world!
Don’t forget these tips for keeping dogs safe at the beach!
This was our first visit to Galveston, and we just shot down for the day from Houston – but we all had a fantastic time, and I can easily see us spending more time here in the future. Let us know if the comments below of any other Galveston attractions we should be sure not to miss!