A short trip along Texas State Highway 35 can reveal scenes and character that you can't get along the interstate. Expect to see skyscrapers and shacks, sprawl and space, and everything in between - and this is only a small slice of what there is to see in Texas.
This approximately 250-mile (400-km) itinerary is written for a three-day weekend trip, Friday through Sunday, especially about the second Saturday in June. Several of the listed attractions are available only about that time. Of course, by picking only a few of the listed items, a traveller can follow the full route in under a day.
While some locations are fairly remote, you'll never be too far from civilization. You'll need to use a private car (there are plenty of rental locations at either endpoint), so just make sure to stop for gas when you near a quarter tank. Aside from a basic road safety kit, you'll be able to meet any need that comes up with roadside resources. The most remote place on SH-35 is less so than some places on Route 66.
If you aren't already in the Houston area, it's closer to fly into Houston Hobby Airport (HOU IATA) - it borders SH-35. Alternatively, if starting this itinerary at the south end and heading north, then fly into Corpus Christi International Airport (CRP IATA).
While the "headwaters" of SH-35 are in Mason Park, on Bray's Bayou, safety, sprawl, standards, and one-way streets limit the practical starting point to SH-35 (Telephone Rd.) at I-45 (Gulf Freeway).
Houston to Pearland
Begin by heading south on SH-35 (here known as Telephone Rd.) from I-45. You'll quickly pass IH-610 and through Houston's Golfcrest neighborhood. This area was considered posh in the 1920s, but has since fallen and is beginning to gentrify. While there is little of specific historical merit along the road, the sights are worth seeing.
After you pass Hobby Airport and the urbanization fades, you'll pass pastures and feed stores before you even reach BW-8 (the Beltway). You will notice an abrupt rising of buildings again as you enter Pearland.
- William P. Hobby Airport, Airport Blvd. (The big open space with lots of airplanes flying real low). Home of Southwest Airlines, the second largest airport in Houston.
- Old Settlers Cemetery.
- Rice Dryer (the towering white structure of adjacent cylinders on the right). Now-defunct facility where rice was dried and hulled, a standing homage to one of the three staple crops of the area (the other two being sugar and cotton).
If you started in the morning, you might already be ready for something to eat. Among many great places to breakfast are the Busy Bee Cafe, if you have time to sit down and enjoy yourself, or Sonic if you're in a hurry.
- Busy Bee Cafe, 4009 Broadway St, Pearland (On the right, at Broadway St.), ☏ . Su-Th 6AM-11PM, F Sa 24 hr. Homestyle country cookin' & the best pies in Pearland. $10.
- Sonic Drive-in, 2519 S Main St, Pearland (On the left, after Broadway St.), ☏ . Generic fast food, but if you must stop here, try a vanilla Dr. Pepper.
Pearland to Brazoria
Take 521 after Angelton, cross the Brazos.
- Brazos River (FM-521 just before entering town). One of Texas' most important rivers, lending its name to one of the first state capitals, Washington-on-the-Brazos, which is near Brenham.
- Brazoria Public School Building, 214 W Smith St, Brazoria (SH-36 at Smith St.), ☏ . Depression-era school building, recovered and rebuilt into a community center. Houses some museum exhibits, classrooms, and community theater.
- Brazoria County Historical Museum, 100 E. Cedar St., Angleton (Cedar at Velasco), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-3PM. Housed in the 1897 Brazoria County Courthouse, there are wonderful exhibits from across the county. Free.
Brazoria to Bay City
- West Columbia Museum, 247 East Brazos, West Columbia, ☏ . W-F 10AM-3PM. West Columbia was the first capital of the Republic of Texas. See related exhibits at this branch of the museum.
- 1 Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site, 1702 N. 13th St., West Columbia (Just before you reach West Columbia, take FM-2852 north (right) to Park Road 51.), ☏ . W-Sa 8AM-5PM. The historic plantation site of the Hogg family. Activities include an interpretive tour, picnicking, walking, and seasonal festivals. $6/person.
- 2 [dead link] South Texas Project, Wadsworth, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Tours are not available, and it's a ways off SH-35, but how many times do you get to see an operating nuclear plant?
- Matagorda County Birding Nature Center, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Gates open all hours, Visitor center open 9AM-6PM. See a vast number of birds and variety of wildlife in nature. Bring sunscreen and bug spray! $3/person or $5/vehicle.
- Riverside Park, 7330 FM-2668, Bay City (take SH-60 south (left), turn west (right) on FM-2668, go two miles, turn right on Riverside Park Road), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 100 acres (40 hectares) park on the Colorado River. Free.
If you didn't catch lunch in Brazoria, there's a couple more places not far down the road in Old Ocean.
- Hickory Barn, 6836 S FM 524, Old Ocean (FM 524 at SH-35), ☏ . Local barbecue, makes a great lunch. $10.
- Fresh Catch, 6836 S FM 524, Old Ocean (FM 524 at SH-35), ☏ . Tolerable seafood. $10.
Bay City has several decent places too.
- Diamond S Restaurant, 3608 Avenue F, Bay City, ☏ . Family-style eating.
- Tk's, 1601 7th St, Bay City (At Ave E.), ☏ . Family dining.
- Main Street Coffee Bar, 1822 7th St, Bay City, ☏ . M 8AM-5:30PM, Tu W 7AM-7PM, F 7AM-8PM, Sa 7AM-5PM. Coffee and snacks.
Bay City to Palacios
Take SH-35 South to Palacios. Stay on Business 35 (1st St., then Main St., then follow it right). If you've been visiting most of the listed attractions, it will probably be coming up on dinner time. Take a couple of hours for a good meal, walk along the water, and look around at some of the history.
- City by the Sea Museum, 401 Commerce St., Palacios, ☏ . F Sa 10AM-4PM, Su 1-4PM. Housed in the R. J. Hill building,
- Luther Hotel, 408 S. Bay Blvd., Palacios. "The Palace of Palacios", originally the Bay View Hotel, has been a fixture of the community since 1903. Check in to see its history, including movie stars, war heroes, and the pier.
- Tres Palacios Bay Shrimping Fleet, 1602 Main St., Palacios, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Palacios is known as the "Shrimp Capital of Texas," see the fleet that gives this reputation.
- Texas Baptist Encampment, Main St. at Welch Ave., ☏ , fax: , ✉ Info@TexasBaptistEncampment.org. Founded in 1906 as the "Baptist Young Peoples Union," this camp is still in operation.
- Hotel Blessing Coffee Shop, 128 10th St, Blessing, ☏ . Daily breakfast 6-10AM, lunch 11AM-2PM. The restaurant entrance is on the side, if you come in the front you'll find the hotel lobby. While you'll pass Blessing before you get to Palacios, the breakfast might be worth the fifteen minute backtrack. $5-10.
- [dead link] Outrigger Restaurant, 515 Commerce St, Palacios, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 8AM-6PM. Local seafood and more. They'll probably have live music on Thursdays and Fridays, and most Saturdays, out back in the barn. $5-15.
- Lighthouse Seafood, 9 8th St, Palacios, ☏ . Local seafood on the water.
- Marisela's Cafe, 906 Main St, Palacios, ☏ .
- Courtyard Houston Pearland, 112000 Broadway Suite 2000, ☏ . Ideal place for meetings, weddings, and banquets. Within walking distance to food, grocery, and public transit including transit across the bay to Palo Alto and Menlo Park. $119-129.
- Luther Hotel, 408 S. Bay Blvd., Palacios, ☏ . While there are several places to get a room in town, you won't get a better local feel than the Luther. $60-120.
- Hotel Blessing, 128 10th St, Blessing, ☏ . A restored hotel. It's about 15 minutes back north on SH-35. The front door is the hotel lobby.
- [formerly dead link] Moonlight Bay Bed & Breakfast, 506 S. Bay Blvd., Palacios, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 3-7PM, check-out: Noon. Waterfront rooms in a hundred year old home. $95-150.
- Peaceful Pelican Bed & Breakfast, 317 East Bay Blvd., Palacios, toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Upscale, restored 1910 waterfront home, bay views, luxury rooms, wireless Internet, opened 2008. $135-185.
Palacios to Seadrift
Get up, grab breakfast (you might consider heading back up north to Blessing to eat at the Hotel), and get on the road. The Half Moon Reef Lighthouse was moved from Palacios to Port Lavaca several years ago for preservation. It's appropriate that you'll pass right by it.
Seadrift is well worth the detour, though getting there can be an adventure. Follow SH-35 south again. FM-185 makes a staggered cross of SH-35 a few miles down the road. Take FM-185 south (left). You'll pass through Long Mott (if you even notice it), and find yourself deep in the middle of nowhere. Press on! You'll eventually pass The Captain's Quarters on the left, and come up Main St. Take it south (right) to reach the water.
If you happen to come into town on the weekend of the second Saturday in June, you're in for a treat. Shrimpfest is held on Friday and Saturday night, and the Texas Water Safari finishers begin to come in Sunday evening. Both of these events are at the pavilion in Bayfront Park. If you stay for the festivities, you might need to spend a second night on the road. Be aware that lodgings in Seadrift on that weekend are usually completely booked a year in advance, and plan accordingly.
You might otherwise consider chartering a fishing trip on the bay.
- 3 Half Moon Reef Lighthouse, SH-35, Port Lavaca.
- Seadrift Bayfront Park, Bay St.. Explore Seadrift's Bayfront Park, go fishing, or just sit under the pavilion in the breeze. free.
- Seadrift Murals. Scattered about town, though several are in Bayfront Park.
- Shrimpfest, Bayfront Park, ☏ (ext 21). Seadrift's annual festival commemorating one of the biggest industries of the area. June. free admission and parking, $25/person entry for events.
- Texas Water Safari finish, Bayfront Park. Billed as the world's toughest boat race, it finishes at the flagpole in Seadrift. June.
- Harbor Inn Restaurant, 102 W. Bay Ave., Seadrift, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. W-M 6:30AM-9PM, Tu 6:30AM-2PM. Great spot for a local lunch. The chicken fried steak comes recommended, along with the seafood. $10.
- Kookies Cafe, 416 S Main St, Seadrift, ☏ .
- El Comal, 322 S. Main St., Seadrift, ☏ . M-Tu Th-Sa 9AM-9PM, Su 7AM-4PM. Mexican fare, breakfast served all day.
- Barkett's, 321 W. Broadway, Seadrift, ☏ .
- Bay Flats Guide Services, 391 Bayside Drive Seadrift, toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Fishing and waterfowl hunting.
- Bay Rat Guide Service, Seadrift, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Redfish Roundup Guide Service, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Capt. Ranier Brigham
- Fishin' Tales Guide Service, 602 N 4th St Seadrift, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Seadrifter Inn, 106 W Bay Ave, Seadrift, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: Noon. A local inn on the bay. All rooms tend to be booked a year in advance on the weekend of the second Saturday in June (Shrimpfest and Water Safari weekend), so call ahead.
- Captain's Quarters, 201 SH-185 N. (On 185 just north of Main St.), ☏ . All rooms tend to be booked a year in advance on the weekend of the second Saturday in June (Shrimpfest and Water Safari weekend), so call ahead.
Seadrift to Rockport
Get out of Seadrift in the morning (unless you dally and get some morning fishing in). Take FM-185 north (left) to SH-35, Then SH-35 south (right) through Tivoli (don't blink, you might miss it!) to Rockport. Rockport began as a cattle packing town about the time of the civil war, but became a fishing village in the 1920s. Its primary industries now are fishing (and shrimping) and tourism (and recreation). You'll be able to rent a jetski or sailboat, swim, and explore the town.
- Guadalupe River. You'll cross this river just before Tivoli. You can hop out and look at the river, but beware of gators!
- 4 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, 1 Wildlife Circle, Austwell (about one mile past Tivoli, take FM-239 south (left) to Austwell; FM-239 becomes FM-774 at the curve; take a right at the stop sign, a right at the end of the street, left on FM-2040, and enter the gate six miles after), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Refuge open 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, Visitor center open 9AM-PM every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. See a huge variety of wildlife, including the Texas Whooping Cranes (at least in the early spring).
- Rockport Seafair, 404 Broadway, Rockport, toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. If you come through Rockport at the right time (early October), you'll catch the Seafair. There's a whole mess of food, dancing, boat races of all sorts, and even a crab race.
- Rockport Beach Park, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. These beaches have a reputation for being clean and safe. $5/day or $20/year parking permit, admission is free.
- Duck Inn Restaurant, 701 Broadway, Rockport, ☏ .
- Boiling Pot Restaurant, 201 S. Fulton Beach Rd., Fulton, ☏ . Seafood.
- Waffle Cone Company, 2722 SH-35 North, ☏ . Dessert!
- Los Comales Mexican Restaurant, 431 SH-35, Rockport, ☏ .
Rockport to Corpus Christi
Follow SH-35 South one last time. It will take you to straight to Corpus (which, despite being Latin for "body", is regularly used as the city's nickname).
- 5 Texas State Aquarium, 2710 N. Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christi, ☏ , fax: . 9AM-6PM daily, closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. See water-related exhibits and creatures. You can even work with a dolphin trainer if you contact them ahead of time (and spend a lot of money). $8.95 Children, $13.95 Adults, $3.50 parking.
- 6 USS Lexington, 2914 N. Shoreline, Corpus Christi (the huge ship in the bay!), toll-free: , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Winter: daily 9AM-5PM, summer: daily 9AM-6PM, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. World War II aircraft carrier become museum. See naval life, the ship, and aircraft complement. Adults $11.95, children $6.95, parking $3.
- Corpus Christi Hooks. Minor league baseball team play during the season. They are the AA affiliate of the Houston Astros.
- Water Street Oyster Bar, 309 N Water St, ☏ . Gulf seafood fresh daily. Nice place to eat in the marina area of CC. Kind of loud. $20-30.
You might need to catch up on sleep after seeing the sights in town.
- Best Western Marina Grand Hotel, 300 North Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christi, ☏ , fax: . This 12-story tower on the marina is out-of-the-ordinary for the Best Western chain. Nice views up and down the coast from most rooms, easy access to CC downtown. Free breakfast in roof restaurant. $80-150, seasonal.
- Omni Corpus Christi Hotel Bayfront Tower, 900 North Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christi, toll-free: . In Corpus Christi's downtown Marina District. The AAA Four-Diamond hotel offers sweeping views of the Corpus Christi Bay, award-winning dining at the Republic of Texas Bar and Grill and complimentary high speed wireless Internet access.
- Omni Corpus Christi Hotel Marina Tower, 707 North Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christi, toll-free: . In Corpus Christi's downtown Marina District. This luxurious hotel is the perfect location for a vacation getaway. The hotel is ideally located near the Texas State Aquarium, the USS Lexington and offers easy access to deep sea fishing, sailing and jet skiing.
- [formerly dead link] Christy Estates Suites. Featuring long term lodging and spa rooms.
- Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Corpus Christi, 1442 South Padre Island Dr., ☏ .
- Las Brisas Condominiums, 4000 Surfside Blvd, Corpus Christi, ☏ . Right on the beach, with a breath-taking view of the bay and the city. Tennis courts, a swimming pool. Close to downtown and the marina, next to the South Texas Aquarium and the Lexington Aircraft Carrier. One-, two-, and three-bedroom condos for a lease of at least three months.
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