Because of Galveston’s natural resources and year-round warm weather, the island is one of the top locations for nature enthusiasts in the United States. Much of this tourism is focused on the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay, making Galveston a popular location for birding, dolphin watching, fishing, kayaking, camping, and visiting nature parks. Travelers can explore on their own or as part of a tour. A popular attraction, Artist Boat ( www.artistboat.org), offers a variety of two-hour and four-hour guided interpretive tours to places of natural significance on Galveston Island and Galveston Bay via kayak.
Located on the trans-Gulf migration route, Galveston is a central location for novice and expert birders, offering more than 300 species of birds that reside and travel through Galveston during fall and spring migrations. Many birds find rest on Galveston Bay, a productive estuarine eco-system with busy harbors and salt marshes. The bay – along with the Gulf of Mexico – is the center of the area’s eco-tourism industry. Eco-tourists exploring on their own or as part of a tour in the bay area can go birding, dolphin watching, fishing, kayaking and camping or tour national wildlife refuges and nature parks. An annual event, FeatherFest attracts birders from across the country to Galveston each April for birding and nature photography workshops and field trips.
Sea Turtles & Marine Mammals
The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is commonly found on Galveston Island. During nesting season, female sea turtles swim ashore to lay their eggs on the island’s sandy beaches, in areas fortified by seaweed for camouflage. When the eggs hatch, the young turtles make their way to the ocean to begin their journey. The NOAA facility in Galveston offers unique educational opportunities for the public to learn about sea turtles, including free tours.
Marine Mammals: The Gulf of Mexico offers a valuable habitat for a variety of marine mammals. While visiting Galveston’s beaches, keep a close lookout for dolphins, sea turtles other marine mammals. Marine mammals are an important part of the marine ecosystem and many species are listed as threatened or endangered and must be protected.
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Most Galveston visitors don’t realize that just 115 miles off the Texas coast lies one of America’s ocean treasures, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. It contains some of the healthiest, most beautiful coral reefs in the entire Gulf of Mexico. From manta rays and whale sharks, to colorful tropical fish and invertebrates - this place teems with life! For more information, visit flowergarden.noaa.gov/
What is seaweed?
Seaweed, also known as gulfweed or sargassum, is a free-floating algae found in warm coastal waters. Seaweed provides crucial habitat for a wide variety of marine animals in the open ocean, as well as onshore for animals like sea turtles and marine birds. Fortunately, there have been minimal landings for the past two seasons.
When is seaweed season?
Seaweed season on the Gulf Coast fluctuates as Mother Nature sees fit. However, seaweed typically washes up on Galveston’s beaches May through July.
When are Park Board seaweed maintenance crews on the beach?
Seaweed maintenance crews operate as needed depending on seaweed levels (which can be daily during peak season). For safety reasons, the crews operate at low-traffic times for the beach parks, typically after 9 p.m. through the early morning.
If I represent a homeowners association or residence along the beach, how can I obtain a seaweed maintenance permit?
Private individuals and governmental agencies are required to submit permit applications to the City of Galveston to be processed by the city’s planning department and Texas General Land Office.