Located an hour away from Houston, Galveston Island is a stunning gulf coast destination perfect for individuals looking to escape the bustling city and enjoy some laidback fun.
Galveston Island has an endless array of fun things to do and see and if you’re looking for free fun, riding the Galveston Ferry is an excellent choice. Here’s what you need to know about riding this popular vessel before you hop aboard.
A Little Background on the Galveston Ferry Service
The Galveston Ferry Service first opened its doors to the public in 1929. It was municipally owned until the Texas Highway Department took over the reins in 1985. Today, the service operates six diesel-powered ferries 24/7.
Each ferry is about 185ft long, with a speed of 12 knots, and can complete each trip in about 18 minutes. It has an upper observation deck and a sitting area with windows all around, so you can enjoy scenic views, whether sitting or standing.
The Galveston Ferry takes nine minutes to load but may take longer depending on traffic. The vessels can hold about 70 vehicles, 500 passengers, and six crew members per trip. The maximum weight limit for all vehicles is 80,000 pounds.
Riding the Galveston Ferry: Typical Schedule
The Galveston Ferry ride is the only link between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula. One vessel operates round the clock, while the second one comes in at 6.30 a.m. The third Galveston Ferry opens its doors in the afternoon, and during peak seasons, you may find all six ferries in operation.
The ferries take turns ferrying passengers to the other side, and the operating schedule is spaced out depending on traffic for maximum efficiency. Although the night schedule varies, the first-night ferries depart from their respective docks at midnight. Visit the Houston Transtar website for specifics on the schedule before you head out.
How to Get to the Galveston Ferry
The Galveston Ferry is relatively easy to find. From Houston, take Interstate 45, and stay on it until it turns into Broadway at Mile Marker 0. Heading east, continue driving on the Broadway, and you’ll soon notice signs leading you to the Galveston Ferry Landing.
Note, queues can get quite crazy, especially during summer, and because their boarding process is a bit complex, car queues are always long. So, unless you have a lot of time on your hands, it’s best to park your car at the Galveston Port and board the ferry as a passenger.
Besides the queues, coming with your car is quite hectic since you’ll have to drive around Port Bolivia looking for a route you can use to turn and go back to the return ferry.
Why Ride the Galveston Ferry
Galveston Island is a beautiful out-of-town destination, and riding the Galveston Ferry is the best way to feel its rhythm. Here are good reasons to ride the Galveston ferry:
Incredibly Scenic Views, Dolphins, and Other Unique Attractions
The Galveston Ferry ride might be only eighteen minutes long, but it’s enough to create memories that last a lifetime. Enjoy panoramic views of the breathtaking ocean on the upper observation deck, or take an evening ride for a picture-perfect sunset.
Watch the giant ships sail in and out of the Houston Ship Channel and snap pictures and videos of dolphins following shrimp boats for free shrimp dinner.
You’ll also see The Selma, an experimental concrete oil tanker built during the First World War. It sank in the early 1920s, and all that’s remaining is a picturesque concrete vessel sticking out of the water.
If you’re more interested in interacting with nature, you’re welcome to spend your eighteen-minute ferry trip feeding seagulls from the back of the ferry. Dolphins sometimes accompany Galveston ferries during the entire ride, making the trip even more fascinating.
On your way back from Bolivar, grab snacks and munch away as you enjoy unobstructed views of the Bolivar Lighthouse and Fort Travis. You’ll also see Sea Wolf Park, the U.S. Coast Guard Station, and the Galveston Yacht Basin on the way back.
Initially, the Galveston ferries were only available for paying customers. After Galveston County sold the ferries to Texas, the boarding fee was increased to 25 cents to manage traffic. However, the service was made free in 1949, and now today, you can enjoy riding the Galveston Ferry without spending even a penny.
Hop on the Galveston Ferry Today
Riding the Galveston Ferry is truly a unique and fun experience. The trip is only eighteen minutes long, but it’s an opportunity to experience nature at its best. What’s more, it’s free and is only an hour away from the city, so you have no reason not to go.
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