There’s a part of Texas where the freshwater of the Sabine River mixes with the salt of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a place where cowboys, Cajuns, and the coast collide, making it feel as much like Louisiana as it does the Lone Star State. It’s time to pull your ship into port—Port Arthur, that is.
Museum of the Gulf Coast
This museum takes visitors on a journey through time, from prehistoric lizards, to the Spindletop oil boom, to modern celebrities who hail from the Gulf Coast. Folks from all over the world visit to trace Janis Joplin’s steps from her home in Port Arthur to rock ’n’ roll fame—and to see the replica of her Cabriolet Porsche with its distinctive psychedelic paint job. Art aficionados will appreciate the works from famed artist and Port Arthur native Robert Rauschenberg, but I prefer the sports room featuring local legends like Jimmy Johnson and Bum Phillips.
If you’re in need of some “pop swamp” music, cold beer, and a Cajun delicacy called boudin, then this is your spot. For 35 years, this small juke joint has been making its signature boudin, a sausage casing stuffed with pork, dirty rice, and “secret” seasonings. Placed on a cracker with some yellow mustard, it’s a treat for your taste buds. The brave can order real Cajun hog’s head cheese by the pound—don’t ask what’s in it, just enjoy.
Sabine Pass Battleground
Texas wasn’t a major battleground in the Civil War, and that’s partly because of what happened on this site. Visitors can walk the state historic site where a group of about 50 Confederates repelled a Union force of four gunboats mounting 18 guns and carrying 4,000 troops, keeping them from occupying Texas. Over 75 years later, the military used the site during World War II to store ammunition that supplied U.S. ships in the Gulf. The old artillery bunkers are still intact, making this a must-stop for military and history buffs.
Sea Rim State Park
One of the most remote state parks in Texas, Sea Rim is perfect for anyone looking for an uncrowded day on the coast. With 4,000 acres of marshland and
5 miles of Gulf shoreline, it’s easy to lose yourself and let your cares disappear. Take a stroll on the Gambusia Nature Trail Boardwalk, where you’re almost guaranteed to see alligators and some of the hundreds of bird species that migrate through. For surf fishermen, there may be no better place in the state.
Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp
This restaurant mixes Tex-Mex cuisine with Cajun flavors, a combination it calls “Mexicajun.” Start with the “oysters Juanita” for chargrilled oysters topped with bacon and jalapeño, then grab some charro beans prepared like Creole red beans and rice with local Zummo sausage. Then finish with some blackened gator tacos that taste like traditional fish tacos but with way more “bite.”
So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.
Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS. To view the Port Arthur episode, visit thedaytripper.com.
Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.