Galveston Island is a worthwhile day trip from the city of Houston, and a popular vacation destination in its own right. Boasting a remarkable history, unique maritime culture, and engaging coastal attractions along the sparkling Gulf Coast, the list of things to see and do in Galveston creates a Texas-sized challenge – Where to start? The best way to get the lay of the island is to take a tour of it!
If you’re feeling adventurous, there are many ways to explore the island on your own, but guided tours come with the invaluable insight of a knowledgeable local who’s anxious to show off the most popular spots and hidden gems of their hometown, providing a direct pathway to the sights and experiences that will make your getaway the very best one yet! Many tour operators offer private tour options as well! How will you discover Galveston?
Guided Tours – By Land
Galveston Historic Tou
2228 Broadway, Galveston, TX 77550 • 409-765-7834 • https://www.galvestonhistory.org
Galveston Historical Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to the preservation and history of Galveston County. GHF offers regular tours of the area’s most notable buildings and the history behind them. Sites overseen by the GHF include St. Joseph’s Church, Tall Ship Elissa, Bishop’s Palace, Menard Hall, Pier 21 Theater, and many others. Tours depart from the Galveston Visitor Center housed at Ashton Villa. History buffs with an appreciation for architecture are also encouraged to visit Moody Mansion at 2618 Broadway. This 1895 home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is also recognized as one of the most famous homes in the nation by the Travel Channel. Moody Mansion offers self-led audio tours, guided walking tours, and a one-mile “wellness walkabout.”
Segcity Segway Tours
519 25th St, Galveston, TX 77550 • (409) 692-6691 • https://segwaygalveston.com
SegCity Segway Tours of Galveston provides a variety of themed, guided tours. Your professionally trained tour guides will teach you the ins and outs of operating a Segway before you adventure out on your own two-wheeled machine. Tour options include a ghost tour, the Magical History Tour, the Tree Carvings Tour, the Pirates Tale Tour, the Rat Pack Tour, and multiple tours that include the Seawall and shorelines, including a sunset tour. Tours run anywhere from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours, and prices vary. Many tours depart multiple times each day. Encounter everything from spooky whispers of the past to dolphins playing in the bay!
Taste of the Strand Food Tour
2016 Strand St, Galveston, TX 77550 • (409) 599-5425 • https://www.tasteofthestrand.com
The “original walking foodie tours” invites you on a delicious adventure around the island. Culture and cuisine combine as guests are treated to exquisite food and drink pairings at some of the most beloved eateries in Galveston’s Historic Strand District. Tours last approximately two hours. Family-friendly and couples options are available. Why limit yourself to one restaurant when you can sample them all? You’re sure to leave with a smile on your face, a full stomach, and fresh local knowledge.
The Galveston Experience Company
1522 Seawall Blvd, Galveston, TX 77550 • (409) 741-3400 • https://www.galvestonexperience.com
The home of Radio Galveston and top-rated local information podcasts, The Galveston Experience Company is all about making the most of the Galveston experience, with more than 30 years of local knowledge to guide the way. Numerous tours are available, like family-friendly scavenger hunts along The Strand, interactive history bus tours, and “Red Light District” tours that reveal Galveston’s questionable mob history. Budding ghost hunters will appreciate the range of ghost tours offered by The Galveston Experience Company, including walking tours through cemeteries, bus tours from the Seawall, and the Galveston Ghost Hunt. Most tours last about an hour.
2528 Postoffice St, Galveston, TX 77550 • (409) 765-6951
Island Carriages’ Victorian Excursions offer a guided, in-depth look at Galveston’s East End Historic District. Enjoy the nostalgic elegance of a horse-drawn carriage ride as you cruise past the annals of history with all the grace of the island’s “Gilded Age.”
Ghost Tours of Galveston
2810 N Houston Dr N, La Marque, TX 77568 • (832) 892-7419 • https://ghosttoursofgalvestonisland.com
“Discover the dark side of Galveston” with Dash Beardsley: The Ghost Man. This walking tour explores the rich history of Galveston Island from a supernatural angle. Budget-friendly tours include routes along The Strand, Ashton Villa, and Galveston cemeteries, running from 2-4 hours.
Historic Galveston Ghost Tours
Meets on the corner of Sealy Avenue and 23rd Street • (832) 245-0492 • https://www.historicgalvestonghosttours.com
Local ghost tour guides lead you on a walking tour through the Historic Silk Stocking District and beyond, offering a unique look at the history of Galveston island and why it is considered the most haunted city in the United States. Tour options include the Strand ghost tour, and Galveston Red Light District Tours for a peek at the island’s scandalous past.
Guided Tours – By Water
Artist Boat Kayak Adventures
13330 Settegast Rd, Galveston, TX 77554 • (409) 632-0388 • https://www.artistboat.org
Artist Boat Kayak Adventures promises “inspiration and education through unique coastal experiences”, including original eco-art adventures. You’ll paddle out to scenic natural locales among the secluded inlets and salt marshes of the Coastal Heritage Preserve, combining an adventurous sightseeing tour with a little creative fun. Three and four-hour excursions include a plein-air watercolor art experience where guests observe and paint their surroundings – a great take-home souvenir! Additional kayaking routes available include Galveston Island State Park, East End Lagoon, Cypress Swamp, and more.
Galveston Island Horse & Pony Rides
1929 Boddeker Rd, Galveston, TX 77550 • (409) 256-0663 • https://www.gihpr.com
Ride beside the Texas beachfront on horseback for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s worthy of being on your bucket list. The trail follows the shoreline along the outskirts of the East Beach area around to the ship-channel side of the park, passing a natural lagoon. It’s quite common to spot dolphins playing in the surf near the end of the 30 and 60-minute tours! Galveston Island Horse & Pony Rides was founded by long time Galvestonians with a passion for horses, the Gulf Coast, and public service.
Galveston Duck Tours
2415 Seawall Blvd, Galveston, TX 77550 • (409) 789-5035 • http://galvestonducktours.com
Take to the waters AND the streets on The Duck, an open-air land and sea vessel departing from the Pleasure Pier on a 40-block journey along the Galveston Seawall and through the bayous, which are teeming with wildlife and thriving habitats. This 6-hour tour is informative, clever, and fun for all – and easily a half-day experience that’s worth the time. For a unique way to see Galveston by land and sea, this is certainly one of the best tours around!
Colonel Paddlewheel Boat
Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd, Galveston, TX 77554 • (800) 582-4673 • https://www.moodygardens.com/attractions/colonel_paddlewheel_boat
For a boat tour with a slice of vintage class, hop aboard the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat at Moody Gardens. Enjoy hourlong cruises aboard the elaborate 1800s replica triple deck sternwheeler on the weekends, or make reservations for an evening dinner cruise on select dates. The Colonel is also available to host private events.
Galveston Water Adventures
2100 Harborside Dr Pier 21, Galveston, TX 77550 • (409) 276-6116 • https://www.galvestonwateradventures.com
Breathtaking sunset cruises and dolphin tours are just the beginning of the coastal experience provided by Galveston Water Adventures. For a more exhilarating time on the water, consider their thrilling jet boat ride, complete with the signature “Hamilton Spin”, a maneuver that spins the boat 360° on its axis throwing a head-high wall of water into the air. Your journey may last anywhere from 25 minutes to two hours, depending on the tour you choose. Galveston Water Adventures operates seasonally.
Historic Harbor Tours and Dolphin Watch
2228 Broadway, Galveston, TX 77550 • (409) 765-7834 • https://www.galvestonhistory.org/sites/historic-harbor-tour-and-dolphin-watch
See Galveston Harbor up close aboard Seagull II Texas Seaport Museum’s 50-foot twin-engine motor vessel. The boat’s open upper deck allows for stunning panoramic views. Sunset tours are held Saturdays from 6:30-8:30 PM, and are limited to guests aged 21+ only. Dolphin tours and sightseeing tours for all ages run daily.
Baywatch Dolphin Tours
2100 Harborside Dr, Galveston, TX 77550 • (832) 859-4557 • http://www.baywatchdolphintours.com
Open-air pontoon boat tours from Baywatch Dolphin Tours provide daily 45-minute tours allowing guests to view the dolphins in their natural habitat during an informational tour of the harbor. Tours depart from Pier 21 behind Willie G’s,
Guided Tours – By Air
Galveston Helicopter Tours
201 Seawall Blvd, Galveston, TX 77550 • (409) 750-1699 • https://galvestonhelicopters.com
With flights from just $35 per person, Galveston Helicopter Tours are an exciting way to see Galveston from a new perspective. Choose from a 7-mile Beach Tour along the Seawall, or extend your journey to the Port of Galveston and Downtown on the Ships & Shore Tour. The Around the Island Tour offers the full experience, from Moody Gardens and Schlitterbahn to the port, harbor, and the Seawall, with more than 20 minutes of air time. For a dramatic (and romantic) spin on the helicopter experience, consider the Sunset Tour!
Be the master of your own adventure…. with a little help from the locals. Set out on your own mission of discovery, and take your time getting to know Galveston on your own terms. Choose the mode of transportation that works best for you! Rent a bicycle from Island Bicycle Company or an E-bike from Galveston Zipp E Bikes, hitch a ride on the Galveston Island Trolley, pick up a Galveston Golf Cart rental, or simply set to strolling! Curated, self-guided tours from Galveston.com include popular sights in an array of themes, with maps designed for mobile devices:
- Find the various Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle statues around the island. This public art project was designed to raise awareness of Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles that call the Texas Coast home.
- For additional inspirational installations, check out the whimsical tree sculptures that replaced the majestic oaks destroyed by Hurricane Ike, most of which can be found in the East End Historic District.
- Discover 70 concrete benches graced with hand painted mosaics depicting the ecology, economy, and history of the Texas Coast along Galveston’s historic Seawall.
- Explore the diverse habitats of the island – from wetlands, grasslands, and woods to ponds, beaches, and bays – to discover prime birding locations throughout Galveston Island.
- Nearly 200 historical markers are placed on the island, spotlighting the stories of important people, historic buildings, and more. Dive deeper on focused tours to discover Galveston’s rich African American Heritage and the renovated structures and new establishments created in memory of the past, as well as the “gifts of Henry Rosenberg.”