By Veronica Bagnato
When you’re ready to go beachcombing, there are plenty of options in the Galveston area. Shark teeth, shells, sea glass, arrowheads, and sea beans are found in abundance, if you know where to look.
From the East End of Galveston you can hop on a free 30-minute ferry that takes you right to Port Bolivar. Once you get off the ferry, drive north on Highway 87 to the stoplight at Stingaree Road, turn right, and head to the beach. The beach is great for finding shark teeth, shells, and sea beans. You’ll find “Hamburger” and Nickernut sea beans on the debris line and plenty of bull shark teeth in the shell beds close to the water. If you’re lucky, you’ll find sea glass in the shell beds by the water or at the high tide line.
The official state shell of Texas is the Lightning Whelk (Busycon Perversum Pulleyi). You’ll find an abundance of these off Stingaree Road, some as small as your thumb and some shells as big as your hand! Always check to see if sea critters are still inhabiting these shells. Other popular shells found here include Moon Shells (Naticidae), Sand dollars (Clypeasteroida), Olive Shells (Olividae), Angel Wings (Cyrtopleura Costata), and Cockle shells (Cardiidae).
Just a few miles north on Highway 87, past two cell towers on your left, is an area called Gilchrist. If you have a four-wheel drive truck, you can drive right onto the beach. Otherwise, park on the side of Highway 87 and walk across the soft sands. You can find big chunks of exotic colored sea glass, including reds, purples, and sea-foam Coca Cola pieces. Gilchrist is great for birdwatching, with the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge right across the water.
If you are up for a more challenging—and rewarding—beachcombing adventure, head north to High Island, where Highway 87 ends and Highway 24 heads north to Winnie. Never go to this beach alone, check the tides before you go, and watch out for snakes! During high tide, the drivable part of this isolated beach is covered with water. Water moccasin and copperhead snakes make their homes here, so thick boots are recommended, and all locals adhere to an unspoken buddy system and never beachcomb alone.
If you can get past all the “scary” parts, you will find a beautiful open beach with no one in sight for miles. Along with sea glass, you might find arrowheads from the Karankawa people. This tribe of Native American people lived along the Texas Coast for thousands of years and called this area “Doe Island.” You can find Karankawa arrowheads made from local stone, plus beautiful sea-tumbled antique bottles from European settlers who arrived in the late 1800s.
Texas City Dike
Last but not least! The honey hole of beachcombing in Galveston County, and where I score some of my most precious finds, is the Texas City Dike. On weekdays and in winter, access to the dike is free. On weekends during summer months it is $5 per car to drive on.
The Texas City Dike, a five-mile jetty jutting into Galveston Bay, boasts spectacular views of Galveston Island, Bolivar Lighthouse, and the skyline of oil refineries, which form the heart of the Southeast Texas economy. Since dumping regulations in the early 20th century were quite lax, and the area is one of the largest ship channels in Texas, the dike is home to some of the best beachcombing in Galveston County.
You can stop at many small patches of beach along the Jetty. Check between the smaller rocks, but watch your step as some are not as sturdy in place as they seem and fishing hooks and other dangerous debris linger among the rocks.
It’s a great place to find whole beautiful old worn bottles, plus purple, aqua, white, and brown bottle stoppers, and colorful sea glass beads. I always come home with a bag full of sea glass and I almost always find a red or purple when I comb this spot!
But the most cherished find from Texas City is the four-pound chunk of slag glass I found (below). I actually tripped over it while walking on the beach portions of the Dike.
Galveston is truly a one of a kind. It is the heart and soul of the Gulf Coast of Texas, full of history and culture. You absolutely will not regret coming to visit and your sea glass collection will thank you later!
Learn more about visiting Galveston Island ›
This article appeared in the Glassing Magazine November/December 2018 issue