Friday, January 29, 2016

Galveston Island Ferry - Galveston, Texas


Description: The channel between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula is too large to build a bridge across.  The Texas Department of Transportation uses ferries as a cost effective way to connect State Highway 87 across the channel. These ferry rides are free and can hold up to 20 cars.  The ride across the channel takes about 20 minutes which allows you enough time to get out of your car and take a stroll around the ferry.  Chances are you'll even see dolphins while you are crossing the channel.

Location: On Galveston Island the ferry landing is on the north side of the island at the end of Ferry Road (State Highway 87.)  On the Bolivar Pennensula the ferry landing is on the southern tip of land.

Cost: Free - though there might be a bit of a wait.

Operating Seasons and Hours: There is one ferry in operation 24 hours a day.  During peek times like the summer and holidays there can be up to 5 vessels operating at a time.

Official Website: http://www.txdot.gov/driver/travel/ferry-schedules.html

Date of Visit: Thursday, November 6, 2014

This was the third stop of the sixth day of the Texas Coastline Road Trip that my husband and I took our kids on in November of 2014. We finished up with our  Harbor Tour at the Texas Seaport Museum.  But, we weren't done with the water yet because our next stop was to take the Galveston Ferry across the channel.


As with many things in the Houston/Galveston Area, I heard about the Galveston Ferry from my sister.  She and I had planned several times to go to Galveston and take the kids on the ferry. However, those plans never panned out.  So when I started planning the road trip with my husband and kids I made sure to add the ferry to our list of things to do.

I wanted to go on this ferry because it sounded exactly like the kind of thing my family likes to do.  It was low cost because it was free, it was interesting because we might see dolphins, and to us it was very unique.  My husband and I grew up in a land locked state so sailing on the water seemed very exotic to us.

Earlier in our trip we'd taken the ferry between Port Arkansas and the main land north of Corpus Christi. That trip had only been about 5 minutes long and so we didn't have time to get out of the car.  Still the kids had seen a dolphin, and had thought it was really cool to float on the water.  I was looking forward to how fun this 20 minute ferry ride would be.

Originally I imagined that we'd get all the kids out of the car, and have a nice enjoyable time standing at the edge of the boat watching the water go by.  I was hoping we'd even get to see dolphins.  And on a different day I'm sure that's what would have happened.

As it turned out we'd added a Harbor tour to our ticket at the Texas Seaport Museum.  We'd just spent an hour sailing around the Galveston Harbor. We'd even seen a lot of the same sights that we'd pass on the ferry.  We'd also already seen dolphins. Heck we'd even seen the ferry boats. So a lot of the magic of the ferry ride was already used up.

Also it was cold.  It wasn't super cold as evidenced by our lack of jackets most of the morning.  But it was getting cool enough that once we got back into our car after the harbor tour we didn't want to get back out.

So when we drove our car onto the ferry boat we decided that the best thing to do was to just keep the kids in the car - plus I seem to remember that at least two kids were done with pants for the day.

So the kids and I stayed in the car while my husband took the camera and walked around the ferry.  He was able to climb up some stairs that led to an observation deck at the top of the ferry.   This is the picture from the stairs. Seawolf park in is the background.  I'll talk more about Seawolf Park at the bottom of this post.
The observation area was like a long hallway with windows along one side.  This would have been a great place to take the kids because we wouldn't have had to worry about them falling into the water. 
This is the view of the shore on the Bolivar Peninsula.  The ferry landing is on the left side and the Point Bolivar Lighthouse is on the right side.
This is the view of looking back at Galveston Island, and the large wake of the boat.  It's a little unnerving to be floating in the middle of all that water.
The kids through the ride was pretty cool.  We could feel the rocking motion of the boat even though we were in the car.  The kids thought it was interesting to sail away from one shore and watch the other shore get larger.   
Soon we got close to land, and my husband got back into the car.  When we pulled up to the landing the workers on the ferry directed us with driving off the ferry.

I'm glad we finally got to go on this ferry ride.  Even though we didn't get out of the car it was still a fun experience.

Recommendation: The Galveston Island Ferry is a very inexpensive option for experiencing a boat ride in the Galveston Area.

Directions: On Galveston Island the ferry landing is located at the end of Ferry Road.  Ferry Road branches off from Seawall Boulevard.  There are signs to help you find the ferry.  On the Bolivar side the ferry landing is located at the end of State Highway 87.


Places Nearby: I mentioned that we sailed past Seawolf Park where the American Undersea Warfare Center is located. I've never been there, but there are two ships located there that you can tour. One is a submarine from World War II called the USS Cavalla. The other is the a World War II era destroyer escort named the USS Stewart. We had plans to visit another battleship, the USS Texas, later in our road trip or else we might have planned a stop at Seawolf Park.
Next Stop: Fort Travis Seashore Park

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I would love to hear what you think. Did I get it right, or was I dead wrong? What was your experience like?

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