Whenever my family craves saltier air, I schedule a quick trip to the Texas Gulf Coast. I grew up in the Galveston area- eating raw oysters opened by my dad with his ever-ready pocket knife, fishing the red runs in the fall and learning how to identify all the flags on the ships going in and out of the ship channel. I also learned how to avoid stingrays and sharks when in the surf * and this has been very useful knowledge during our travels.
Galveston is an interesting area because it has so much Texas history to explore. There is evidence the area was originally inhabited seasonally by the nomadic Karankawa people.
In the early 1800’s, the French pirate Jean Lafitte developed a pirate colony on the island titled Campeche. It is rumored he buried treasure somewhere near this site right before he was forced by the American government to flee the island.
In 1821, there was a battle between the Karankawa and Lafitte’s men known as the “Battle of the Three Trees”, a State Historical Marker at the end of Stewart Road commemorates it. It is a sad story of stolen women, retaliation and death.
Very close to this marker you will find the Stewart Mansion, built in 1926, literally on the site of the battle. This area of the island is also where the Karankawas had their camps. Lots of ghost stories circulate about this plot of land as you can imagine. The tales of disembodied voices, floating orbs and ghostly apparitions are endless and anyone who grew up in the area circa 1960s-2017 can probably share personal experiences about their visit to Stewart Mansion as a teenager. Prior to 2017, the mansion was only in remains and it was a fascinating place to explore. You can still find pictures of it online and while the property has always been private property, it my understanding that it is now inaccessible and has been undergoing renovations.
At the other end of the island, you can find the remains of Jean Lafitte’s headquarters, which he called Maison Rouge because it was painted red. This house was situated to oversee the port of entry area of the island.
If you are in the area of the Maison Rouge, be sure to visit the Texas Seaport Museum and the 1877 ELISSA ship (I do not know why she is titled in all caps but she is). Have lunch or dinner on the strand. Our kids also enjoyed the Galveston Railroad Museum when they were small. There is a display of old-fashioned telephone booths and it was here where my boys learned what a rotary phone was.
Take a drive down Broadway Avenue and stop at some of the historical homes open to the public. The Bishop’s Palace is worth a stop as is the Moody Mansion (I got married here!).
Of course you should spend time on the beach, fish, canoe the bayous, bike or roller blade the seawall, surf, boogie board, relax, ride the Port Bolivar ferry, eat delicious seafood (see the blackened redfish recipe below) and maybe even do a little treasure hunting. Galveston island can easily fill a 2-3 day agenda or even longer.
*Shuffle feet in the shallows to avoid stepping on a ray; do not swim at dawn or dusk and avoid wearing anything glittery into the water to avoid sharks in the surf.
Gracy, David B. II (1964) “Jean Lafitte and the Karankawa Indians,” East Texas Historical Journal: Vol. 2: Iss. 1, Article 9. Available at: http://scholarworks.sfasu.edu/ethj/vol2/iss1/9
“Jean Laffite” accessed December 2, 2018; https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/
Butter, melted (enough to brush over each fillet)
Olive oil (monounsaturated option-heart healthy)
Lemon, cut into slices for service
- Preheat large skillet to very hot, turn on the range hood/fan
- Brush each side of fillet with melted butter; follow by seasoning each side of fillet generously with the blackened seasoning.
- Carefully place fillet(s) into pan, drizzle olive oil (or more butter) over each fillet. Note: lots of smoke and sizzling here
- Cook until bottom of fillet is charred, turn fillet over and repeat step.