It’s a classic harbor scene – ships with sails, pleasure boats and waterside views. Galveston’s Pier 21 has restaurants, an exclusive hotel, marina, theater, harbor tours and attractions. And when a cruise ship is docked along the pier, the area bustles even more.
There’s so much to see and do at Pier 21, and when including the Historic Strand District just a short walk away, it would be easy to spend an entire day or weekend in the area alone. Some of Galveston’s most popular attractions await visitors who make their way there.
Texas Seaport Museum. Flanked by the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, the museum explains the island’s story as a center for immigration, welcoming more than 133,000 newcomers to the United States through the so called “Ellis Island of the West.” And walk on deck of the iron-hulled Elissa which traversed the world during her 90 years of transporting cargos. The ship supports 19 sails which are maintained by dedicated volunteers who help her sail on the Gulf of Mexico every year.
Pier 21 Theater. This small theater shows documentaries highlighting some of Galveston’s most important history including The Great Storm of 1900, and the life of the island’s most famous pirate, Jean Laffite in the 18-minute documentary, Pirate Island. With a somber tone, The Great Storm runs 27 minutes and explains how the island was walloped by a hurricane that remains the country’s deadliest natural disaster. The presentation tells the story of the storm through photos, letters and articles. A third documentary shown is the 56-minute PBS production Galveston-Gateway on the Gulf showcasing Galveston’s welcoming more than 133,000 immigrants.
Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum. Located over the water, the Ocean Star is an actual jack-up drilling rig that was once used in the industry. Today, the museum features interactive displays and other exhibits on three floors detailing how oil and gas is extracted from the ocean floor.
Galveston Boat Tours. Different companies offer different tours. Most dramatic are the spinning jet boats of Galveston Water Adventures, the high-powered watercraft spinning 360 degrees while splashing water in all directions. That tour operator also has both a Sunset Cruise around the harbor and an Eco-Tour to see dolphins, seabirds and other marine life. BayWatch Dolphin Tours also looks out for dolphins and marine life, while the Texas Seaport Museum’s Harbor Tours leads visitors on harbor sightseeing with a focus on educational excursions.
Hotel. Because of its location to the cruise ship terminal, the 42-room Harbor House Hotel and Marina is ideal for cruise ship passengers who want to spend more time on their own on the island. The hotel’s waterside docks feature nine boats slips for pleasure craft, so visitors can enjoy the hotel and pier. A courtesy bus transports guests to sister properties for use of their amenities, the Hotel Galvez & Spa along the Seawall and the Tremont House Hotel in the Strand District.
Restaurants. Pier 21 has long-standing seafood restaurants with excellent reputations and extensive menus. Seafood houses include Willie G’s Seafood and Steaks and Fisherman’s Wharf. The Olympia Grill stems from Greek immigrants and serves up in particular Greek-style cuisine.