Crystal Beach Texas + Galveston Island Port Bolivar Ferry

A long time ago, I was a Navy Wife in San Diego.  I spent a lot of time on the large sandy beaches, in the cold Pacific Ocean water and watching the California girls rollerblading in bikinis.   I’ve since moved to Texas and can tell you that the Gulf Coast is a lot different.  And, it could not be any better for the Big Kid Small City crew.

My kids and I spent one day during Spring Break at Crystal Beach.  Our perfect day included a ferry ride, playing in the sand, splashing in the water and dinner in Galveston.

My friend and I loaded up 5 kids in my mini van and made the 1 hour drive down to Galveston.   We arrived at the ferry and were excited to find no wait.

If you head down to Galveston, check the traffic map HERE.    You can also find the cameras of the ferry landings HERE.

The Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry is the bridge between two segments of Highway 87.  The FREE ferry, run by the Texas DOT, is the only way a car can cross the water between Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island.   The 2.7 mile trip takes about 18 minutes.   The busiest time of year is Memorial Day to Labor Day

On our trip, the kids were very excited to drive our car right onto the boat.  About 70 cars crammed onto the ferry and everyone was able to get out of the van to enjoy the trip.  We took the kids up the stairs to the benches.  Here we had a good view of all the pirate boats (according to the kids).  When we caught sight of the Port Bolivar landing, we got the kids strapped back in their car seats and were ready to exit the boat.

We drove along Highway 87 for about 7 more miles until we reached Crystal Beach.  Crystal Beach is a small town with restaurants, a bank, a hotel, post office and supermarket.   As we drove in, we should have stopped at any of the shops for a beach parking permit.  They are $10 and are good all year.  (We did not get one but were able to purchase one on the beach when the Crystal Beach truck made their rounds.)

Crystal Beach is 7 miles long.  About midway through the town, we made a right hand turn and drove straight to the beach.  I was looking for a parking lot but was amazed at what I saw.  On Crystal Beach, you drive right up to the water.  I had never seen this in California.

I gave my van a pep talk, before joining the SUVs and trucks on the sand.  It turns out this was not needed because the sand is packed down and easy to drive on.  We found an empty spot, backed the van up to the water, opened up the tailgate, and looked like we had been doing this forever.  (Well, except for the missing parking permit that we bought later.)

Having cars on the beach is not pretty.  But it is fantastic for two moms with 5 kids and a whole lot of junk to haul.  We did not need to lug anything across the beach.  And we did not need to run back to the car when we forgot something.  Everything was right where we needed it.

The kids quickly got to playing in the sand and splashing in the warm water.  James played on a blanket and did his best to eat some sand.  There were a lot of families next to us and the kids built sand ditches and rivers and played all day.

One of the most entertaining parts of the day was the teenagers cruising the beach in big pick up trucks, with music playing and lots of girls in bikinis in the back. All day long the groups went up and down the beach. It made me feel like I was in the middle of a country song.


After a full day, we packed up at 6:00 and headed back to the ferry. Once again we were able to drive right on (but wait times had been up to 2 hours earlier in the day). Back in Galveston, we went to Joe’s favorite restaurant – Rainforest Cafe.

We really enjoyed our beach trip. What could be better than 2 ferry rides, parking on the sand, playing all day, living a country song and Rainforest Cafe? I love Texas.