A day at the beach

Despite a rainy forecast, people still chose to spend their Saturday afternoon at the beach. Though the weather caused the numbers to dwindle throughout the day, many people used the time they had to swim, kayak, fish, throw a football or just stroll down the beach.

With more than 350 miles of coastline, Texas is bound to hold some hidden hamlets with all the appeal of the big beach towns — minus the cacophony that comes with the summertime crowds that flock like seagulls at a cookout.

Surfside Beach is one of those coastal communities perfect for people trying to escape the chaos of everyday life. It still maintains its small-town feel, while offering an abundance of activities for tourists and visitors.

The village is located in Brazoria County near Freeport. It’s approximately 40 miles down the coast from Galveston; just close enough to attractions such as Moody Gardens, Schlitterbahn, additional restaurants and shopping. But for anyone looking to fish, swim, surf, boat or just soak in the salt and sun, they need travel no farther than Surfside.

The locals call it “the island” and it certainly feels like it. The easiest way to gain access is to follow Texas Highway 332 across the Intracoastal Waterway, a wide stretch of water that separates the barrier island from the mainland. The bridge across the impressive stretch is tall enough to allow ships and large oil tankers to easily travel under, but its height also provides a magnificent first view of the village and the Gulf of Mexico to drivers as they reach the peak.

When viewed from this elevated position, Surfside appears as rows and rows of colorful beach houses stretched along the coast.

Off to the right, the long, narrow jetty sticks straight out into the ocean, marking the entrance to the Freeport Harbor Channel. To the left are sprawling wetlands and bayous. Out in the gulf, ships ride at anchor on the horizon line.

Once across the bridge, cars can turn left onto Bluewater Highway or right onto Fort Velasco Drive to access beach houses, restaurants and the rest of the village; going straight will put you directly onto the beach and, if you’re reckless enough, out into the gulf.

Surfside Beach has maintained a constant presence along the Texas coast, despite taking a near-direct hit from Hurricane Ike in 2008, which literally changed the coastline. Houses that once sat on prime beachfront property suddenly had their stilts permanently stuck in the tide after the storm blew through. Even now, some skeletal structures still stand in the surf, though many have since been torn down.

But a hurricane out in the gulf doesn’t always mean gloom and doom. After all, a beach called “Surfside” has a reputation to uphold, and a storm out at sea usually means more action close to shore. Even during an afternoon thunderstorm, you can usually spot some daredevil on a surfboard out in the crashing waves.

More than 10 years after Ike, the village is continuing to bounce back. New people and small businesses are arriving every year, giving tourists more options to enjoy.

The weekends are when the beach is bustling and lines of cars parked on the sand can be seen for miles. But on weekdays, even in the middle of summer, there is ample space for beachgoers to spread out and set up canopies, coolers, cornhole sets or horseshoe stakes, fire pits and all the other necessities to enjoy a day outdoors.

Spending time at the beach means visitors can partake in any activity they desire, whether it’s swimming, fishing, bodyboarding, sailing, lawn games or simply relaxing and enjoying the sound of the waves. The ocean itself can provide enough entertainment to fill up an entire day, but Surfside and the surrounding area still have more to offer.

The village’s roots in early Texas history can be explored at the Surfside Historical Museum, located on the top floor of City Hall. Visitors also can check out the replica of old Fort Velasco, located near the mouth of the Brazos River. Velasco, Texas was founded in 1831 where present-day Surfside is located. Ten years earlier, the first of Stephen F. Austin’s colonists landed at the site. During the Texas Revolution, the town was made a temporary capital of the Republic of Texas, and government records were housed at Fort Velasco until the first capital of the republic was established at Columbia. In the aftermath of the Battle of San Jacinto, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco on May 14, 1836.

For those interested in learning more about the wildlife on the coast, Sea Center Texas in nearby Lake Jackson offers a chance to get up close with aquatic nature without having to strap on a snorkel. The Texas Parks and Wildlife marine museum features touch tanks, large aquarium exhibits, outdoor wetlands with a boardwalk trail, and a marine hatchery.

For anyone who enjoys being out in nature, the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is home to a diverse assortment of plants and animals. The wildlife conservation area contains more than 44,000 acres of rich habitat for more than 400 bird species, 95 species of reptiles and amphibians and 130 species of butterflies and dragonflies.

For those who want to stay within the village, Surfside also maintains a crabbing pier and several parks and trails, including the Bluewater Highway Trail, perfect for golf carts, cyclists and joggers, and the recently completed Bird and Butterfly Trail.

Whether it’s a weekend visit or summer vacation, a trip to the beach can be fun and adventurous, or relaxing and restorative. Surfside Beach is perfectly equipped to provide both, along with the charm and hospitality that can only be found in a Texas Coast community.