Day Trip Galveston to High Island Rookery

What an awesome adventure this turned out to be!  We had a great day trip Galveston to High Island Rookery.

Galveston – Bolivar Peninsula Ferry

We began this adventure by driving onto the free Galveston Bolivar Peninsula Ferry. The ferry terminal is just over an hour’s drive from the center of Houston, not a long journey.

The ferry trip is 15-20 minutes long and free to the public. It operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, weather permitting. You can expect to wait over an hour or longer in mid-summer and be able to drive right on with no wait during January or February.

We were randomly selected for a vehicle security check and that caused a brief wait, but we were on board with minimal delay. You can check current ferry wait times at the Houston Transtar website or by following Galveston Ferry on Twitter. 

day trip - Galveston to High Island Rookery
day trip - Galveston to High Island Rookery
Ferry approaching Bolivar Ferry terminal

A ferry ride is a must-do for most visitors to Galveston Island and is particularly popular with young families. You can sit in your vehicle, the engine turned off, for the duration, or get out of your car and walk all around the ferry.

Don’t forget to bring stale bread along to feed the seagulls from the back of the boat! Stairs lead to a walkaround upper deck for marvelous views of Galveston and the sea. Keep a careful watch, and you might see a dolphin or two! There are even bathrooms available for passengers on the upper deck.

Stingaree’s Restaurant & Marina

We were starving when we drove off the ferry at the Bolivar Peninsula and headed straight for our lunch destination, Stingaree’s, one of our favorite restaurants in Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula.

Here you will find great seafood, icy cold beverages, fun, friendly service, and views of commercial barge and recreational boat traffic right out the window.  This restaurant is situated next to the Intracoastal Canal.

My favorite meal here is the Avocado Delight, a very filling crab or shrimp stuffed avocado that includes a cup of delicious seafood gumbo and a small salad. Good luck turning down the desserts here also. The East Galveston Bay Webcam at Stingaree’s has a view of East Galveston.

Stingaree’s is a 20-minute drive from the Bolivar ferry landing but worth the trip in my opinion. Steve and I often go to Stingaree’s in our boat, which takes about 45 minutes and is about how long a car trip takes.  Either way is a fun day outing.

Smith Oaks Rookery – High Island

day trip - Galveston to High Island Rookery

After our lunch, we continued our drive along State Highway 87 which is now named the Jane Long Memorial Highway after Jane Long, the “Mother of Texas.” The Jane Long story is a very interesting history nugget.

We followed this road, the only highway on the Peninsula, along the shoreline for less than half an hour until we reached High Island, one of the most significant birding areas in the country.

Here you will find five different Audubon-sponsored birding sanctuaries: Boy Scout Woods, Smith Oaks, Eubank Woods, S. E. Gast Red Bay, and the Rookery. The entry fee is $8 for a day pass. Children and students are free and it is possible to purchase an annual entry for $30.

These bird sanctuaries are unfortunately not pet-friendly. Birds and dogs do not often mix well. Please check here for more information: Smith Oaks Rookery.

High Island has been a stopping-off place for migratory birds for thousands of years. Each year, in the spring, millions of birds make their way to High Island from Central and South America, which is the first land they encounter after migrating over 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico.

Very often, usually after a fast-moving cold front, a “fallout” will occur when thousands of these migrating birds drop from the sky, exhausted and hungry, but finally across the ocean and on land. A “fallout” usually takes place sometime in April and provides an exceptional birding experience.

If you have an interest in birding at all, you should try not to miss this sight.

day trip - Galveston to High Island Rookery

March is just a bit early for birding, but today’s trip was to the Rookery only, and only to see the waterbirds building their nests in preparation for laying eggs.

Birds roost here at night throughout the year, but during the spring and summer, the birds build their nests on this predator-free island where a food source is nearby and they can safely raise their chicks.

This roosting area IS predator-free, but alligators are in the water surrounding the island, always waiting for a bird that gets too close or a chick that falls to the ground. See one of the gators below.

day trip - Galveston to High Island Rookery

We took the long walk into the Rookery, where the nesting birds are. I did not expect to see so many birds there already and we saw no eggs or chicks, but lots of birds.

At the end of our walk, we arrived at the bank directly across from the island and could see roseate spoonbills, egrets, herons, and cormorants roosting in the trees. There are fantastic photo opportunities because the birds are up close in front of you — a professional photographer’s paradise.

We hope to return later in the year to see the chicks and perhaps visit one of the other sanctuaries we did not go to today. We try to make at least one trip here each year.

After spending some time watching the birds and listening to their never-ending conversation, we left the Rookery and headed back toward Galveston. We stopped briefly along the beach to look for driftwood. The driftwood search was unsuccessful but we had a nice walk on the beach!

Fort Travis Seashore Park

Fort Travis, named in honor of William B. Travis, was the Republic of Texas’ first fort and was built to protect the Galveston harbor. The building of this octagonal-shaped fort began in 1898 but was not completed until 1943.

Army recruits, as well as slave labor, were tasked with the construction of this fort.  Fort Travis was in use during both world wars and served as a shelter for residents during devastating Category 5 Hurricane Carla in 1961. Eventually, the fort was made into a public park in 1973. 

The fort is a vast green space situated on the shoreline about a mile from the Bolivar ferry landing.  The park has picnic facilities, restrooms, and a playground for all to enjoy.

Without even considering the intriguing history this fort has experienced, it is an excellent spot for a family day picnic, kite-flying, birdwatching, and an amazing ocean view!  

Our Galveston to Bolivar Rookery trip was a very low-key meandering day trip for us.

Although this is not a lifetime bucket list trip, it was truly an enjoyable day out in nature with my husband and a good friend, far away from crowds.

Day Trip Galveston to High Island Rookery

2 thoughts on “Day Trip Galveston to High Island Rookery

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