Visitors from a Distant Sea Bring Tiny Treasures to Texas Beaches

Visitors from a Distant Sea Bring Tiny Treasures to Texas Beaches

Small quantities of a seaweed called sargassum wash ashore all year long. But every few years, beginning in April, the sargassum arrives en masse—a deluge of amber-colored stems, leaves, and tiny gas bladders that help the plants stay afloat (and pop when squeezed). This relatively unpredictable event seems to occur after huge blooms of sargassum in the Atlantic Ocean, some 2,000 or more miles away. While piles of sargassum might hinder swimming and sunbathing, they also provide opportunities for families and other beachcombers to find seahorses, strange shrimp, and other tiny creatures that hopped a ride to Texas.

Photo: Clouds Loom Over Follett’s Island

Photo: Clouds Loom Over Follett’s Island

Even when clouds loom, any day is a good day on Follett’s Island, which features about 11 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. Free access to the beach is available at multiple points between Surfside Beach and San Luis Pass along Bluewater Highway. During the summer, the water temperatures are usually a balmy low- to mid-80 degrees—perfect for fishing, swimming, horseback riding, birding, and camping on the beach.

Escape to the Mother Lagoon for a Quiet Coastal Getaway

Escape to the Mother Lagoon for a Quiet Coastal Getaway

There are few places in and around Texas where the visible fish—plus dolphins, peregrine falcons, and brilliant-pink roseate spoonbills—outnumber the people viewing them. The Laguna Madre is one of those places, the only body of water in the state that truly qualifies as extreme.

The Daytripper’s Top 5 in Port Aransas

The Daytripper’s Top 5 in Port Aransas

When the Texas summer starts cooking, my favorite form of relief is to dive into the largest body of water I can find, which is often the Gulf of Mexico. This is where Port A comes in—with its near-endless beaches, historic appeal, and laid-back attitude. Port Aransas is one of my favorite places to hit the Texas coast, and with its ongoing recovery from Hurricane Harvey, it’s got more Texas grit and personality than ever.

Book it to the Big Country for The Children’s Art and Literacy Festival in Abilene

Book it to the Big Country for The Children’s Art and Literacy Festival in Abilene

My children stepped foot in Abilene for the first time in their short lives last June for a quick three-night visit. Now, even though it’s been a year, mention Abilene to them and you’ll get a happy earful of stories.
This fond association traces directly to the Children’s Art & Literacy Festival, an annual celebration of all things picture books. Most people know Abilene as the capital of the Big Country, a dusty railroad outpost thick with steakhouses and Churches of Christ. But for three days every June, the festival (known as CALF) cloaks downtown Abilene in an imaginative world of colorful characters and fanciful tales—and ice cream vendors aplenty.

Photo: Vintage Postcard Depicts Galveston’s Seawall Boulevard in the 1940s

Photo: Vintage Postcard Depicts Galveston’s Seawall Boulevard in the 1940s

The balmy excitement of a summer evening on Seawall Boulevard suffuses this vintage Galveston postcard. While the image is undated, the buildings point to the era of the 1940s and ’50s. Existing landmarks include the seawall, which the city constructed after the hurricane of 1900; the 1911 Hotel Galvez, still in operation; and Murdoch’s Bathhouse, a souvenir shop that has been rebuilt multiple times since the late 1800s. The postcard also depicts landmarks lost to time: the wooden Mountain Speedway roller coaster, built in 1921 and knocked down after Hurricane Carla in 1961; the 1929 Buccaneer Hotel, an 11-story building demolished in 1999; and, stretching over the water, the 1923 Balinese Room, a pier that succumbed to Hurricane Ike in 2008 and was famous for its history as an illegal casino.
Know of any fascinating vintage Texas photographs? Send copies or ideas to letters@texashighways.com.

Battling Snakes, Rapids, Mud, Spiders, and Heat While Training for the Texas Water Safari

Battling Snakes, Rapids, Mud, Spiders, and Heat While Training for the Texas Water Safari

I can distinctly remember telling a friend a decade ago that I’d never compete in the Texas Water Safari, a grueling 260-mile paddling race from San Marcos to the coastal Texas town of Seadrift.

“Sounds horrible,” I said. Snakes, rapids, mud, spiders, heat, and sitting on a hard plastic canoe seat for two or three days? No thanks.

How to Make the Most of Texas Peach Season

How to Make the Most of Texas Peach Season

As summer begins, so will annual pilgrimages to roadside stands and farmers markets where popular varieties of Texas’ succulent freestone peaches arrive in successive waves through Labor Day. Those peaches set a national standard for sweet-ness, and—here’s the really good news—they are mostly reserved for Texans.

One Man’s Half-Century Project to Heal a Hill Country Landscape Created a Legacy Reaching Far Beyond His Fenceline

One Man’s Half-Century Project to Heal a Hill Country Landscape Created a Legacy Reaching Far Beyond His Fenceline

In 1969, a San Antonio fried-chicken tycoon was struck by a life-changing idea: He would find, buy, and heal “the sorriest piece of land in the Hill Country.”
Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Bamberger Ranch Preserve sprawls across 5,500 acres of grassy hills and wildflower meadows in Blanco County. When visitors arrive May 5 for the annual family day and picnic, they will repeatedly drive across a perennial stream that cascades through a series of waterfalls and d

Three Country Stores that Hark Back to Old-Time Texas

Three Country Stores that Hark Back to Old-Time Texas

Small country stores once dotted the state’s landscape. Today, many have either disappeared or else sit abandoned at lonely road crossings, but some mom-and-pop shops have found ways to thrive while carrying on rural commerce. Here are three such markets where travelers can drop in for a snack, some conversation, and a taste of old-time Texas.

Balmorhea State Park is Ready for Summer Visitors

Balmorhea State Park is Ready for Summer Visitors

Sometimes the best summer moments are unplanned—a spontaneous road trip, a lazy day at the lake, or an impromptu backyard barbecue. But some of our state’s most memorable summer diversions require advance planning.
Balmorhea State Park’s star attraction, the pool, reopened March 1 after being closed nearly 10 months for repairs, and visitors are already returning in droves to cool off in the aquamarine water of the world’s largest spring-fed
swimming pool.

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