Things to do in East Texas and the Gulf Coast
Adventurer & Photographer
Discovering East Texas
Start / End
Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas
At least 14
This route is perfect for those who want to experience the culture and beauty of East Texas. When you think of Texas, more times than not your thoughts are drawn to the dusty plains where vast open spaces are long between water holes and cowboys and bandits and quick-draw lawmen are sharing dusty saloons. But that is West Texas, East Texas is a land of sparkling lakes and Big Piney woods that stretch on for miles. It’s a land of green trees and BBQ that like of which you have never had before. It’s the kind of place where on any given evening, on any given porch on any given main street business, you’ll find live music. In this itinerary you will start and end in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and from there you will be following the eastern border all the way down to the very tip of Texas, before making your way back up north through Texas Hill Country.
We recommend approximately 14 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, so we suggest spending at minimum a day at each stop. This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to fully experience the area, with overnight stops in the towns along the way. Plan your trip accordingly so that you experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, but the outdoor life that typifies East Texas Culture will not be as active. On the other hand, summertime temps in these places can often exceed 100 degrees, so take that into account as you decide your travel dates. The majority of this trip will be short drives between stops, but this is to allow you the most time at all the amazing places that you have traveled so far to see. Though this itinerary is a day to day guide, it is only a guide and you should feel free to adapt it however you want, taking as much time as you need to fully experience this wonderful part of the world.
LAND IN DFW, TRAVEL TO PARIS
1 HOUR 52 MINUTES/112 MILES
This is a shorter day for a good reason. We suggest arriving early into Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport and renting your car from the airport and setting out east toward your first stop, Paris. It is the perfect town to get prepared and excited to start your road trip. Paris sits on the edge of the Piney-Woods region of East Texas, is a great way to acclimate yourself to the region’s unique culture. One of the first things we recommend doing when you get into Paris is to head to the Eifel Tower (yes we are still talking about Paris, Texas, it has a red cowboy hat on it) and get a selfie. It would be a great way to kick off your trip.
THE OLDEST TOWN IN TEXAS
3.5 HOURS /180 MILES
Nacadoches is a great town, one that combines the two distinct cultures of the Hispanic and the Southern, and does it in a seamless way. The reason why they call it the Oldest Town in Texas, is because there is evidence the area has been continually inhabited for over 10,000 years starting with the Cado Indian Tribe. Before you roll into Nacadoches, though you have two stops to make. The first stop is to Sulpher Springs so you can visit the only public bathroom in the America with see-through walls. It is of course totally up to you whether or not you would like to use these bathrooms…but stop and see you must! The second stop will be in Tyler. Make sure you have and appetite, because you are going to eat at possibility the best BBQ joint in the world, Stanley’s. Once you pull into Nacadoches, head to the Fredonia Hotel for the night. You won’t regret it.
BEAUMONT AND THE PORT ARTHUR COAST
3 HOURS/118 MILES
Today you are going to get a chance to see Texas Untamed. Your route is going to take you on Highway 103 through Angelina National Forest and the Sabine to Milam. The Sabine has a storied history in East Texas. Located right on the border with Louisiana, it was the haunt of smugglers and bootleggers and now is home to countless bayou-centric wildlife. When you get to Milam, head to Martin’s Corner and get you some fried fish straight from the banks of the Sabine. From Milam, head down Highway 87 to Beumont and Port Arthur. Head to Port Arthur first and Texas Point to get your first look at the Gulf of Mexico.
Best Museum-Port Arthur:
Best scenic drive-Port Arthur:
Can’t miss it-Port Arthur:
Best place for a stroll:
Best place to people watch:
Best place to have dinner:
1.5 HOURS/109 MILES
The biggest city in the biggest state in the lower 48. That is Houston in a nutshell. It prides itself on being at once a world-class metropolitan city with a hip, happening vibe. Home to around 2.4 million people and the location of the Johnson Space Center, the Museum District, the Art District, the Theater District and numerous fun neighborhoods with great boutique shopping and restaurants. As with any big town, your first stop should be to head downtown to the Visitor’s Center. As always, they will have any of the things you need to make your stay in Houston everything it can be.
3.5 HOURS/230 MILES
Today you are heading to the true gulf town of Corpus Christ. Sitting on the shore of Corpus Christi Bay, this is a true Texas town, in that it is an amalgamation of Hispanic and Anglo culture that makes Texas so unique. But we are going to send you on a little side quest to get there. When you get to Victoria, hang a left on Highway 87 and head to Port Lavaca. Once you get there, head to Don Julio’s and get breakfast. From Port Lavaca, head south on Highway 35, and follow the Gulf all the way into Corpus Christi. Upon arrival, head to the Emerald Bay Hotel. It’s right on the beach and a beautiful place to stay.
THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY AND SOUTH PADRE
1 HOUR 45 MINUTES/95 MILES
Today you are headed south to the Delta of the Rio Grande and Brownsville. Make time for a breakfast stop at Mr. Jaime’s Taqueria in Kingsville. They have the best breakfast in town. Once you get into Brownsville, you will realize first hand that you are definitely in a border town, not because of the dynamic cross-cultural vibe of the city, but because you can see the evidence of the border between the countries by heading to Alice Hope Wilson Park. It will give you great views of the border wall, the Rio Grande and Mexico beyond. One side-trip that you can’t miss is to South Padre Island. South Padre is not just a party stop for college students on Spring Break. It’s a world renowned sanctuary for wildlife of all kinds. One can’t be missed experience would be the turtles at Sea Turtle, Inc. This rehabilitation and conservation organization will be an educational highlight. Speaking of things to do in East Texas, make you sure you swing by Pier 19 for the best seafood in the coolest setting, period.
DAY 8: THE STREETS OF LAREDO
4.5 HOURS/200 MILES
There is a song, written long ago, extolling the dangerous life of a cowboy on the Streets of Laredo. Sung by cowboy crooner Marty Robbins, it doesn’t really offer any insight into Laredo itself, but it’s still kinda neat. Anyways…Laredo sits right on the border with the Mexican town of Nuevo Laredo, but before you get there we are are going to take you on a little tour of the United States Border as it follows the Rio Grande. After that, continue along Old Military Highway 281 until you reach the Santa Anna National Wildlife Refuge. It’s worth a stop and definitely remember to take your camera. Once you pull into Laredo, head to the La Posada Hotel. Our itinerary does not extend any further south than Laredo, but you are right on the border, and if the pull of Mexico proves too much, here are some things you should know about crossing over.
REMEMBER THE ALAMO IN SAN ANTONIO
2 HOURS/150 MILES
San Antonio holds a unique place in the annals of American history. The Alamo, an 18th-century Spanish mission preserved as a museum, marks an infamous 1836 battle for Texan independence from Mexico. The defenders were wiped out, but the legend lives on in the famous battle cry, “Remember the Alalmo”. But San Antonio is not the sum of its history, its a progressive, modern metropolis, in which, you are going to have a lot of fun. Speaking of fun, one thing you can’t miss is Six Flags Fiesta Texas. It is one the greatest amusements parks in the world. Though there is enough to do in San Antonio to last a lifetime, your first stop when you get to town should be the San Antonio River Walk. Filled with shops, restaurants and galleries, it is the cultural and economic hub of the city.
THE COOLEST TOWN IN TEXAS
1 HOUR/80 MILES
Your next stop is the hip town of Austin, the state capital and the home to the flagship campus of the University of Texas. Like Portland, San Francisco and Brooklyn, Austin is usually considered to be one of the epicenters for the Youth of America these days. Yet with nearly a million people within its borders, Austin has enough for everyone: a booming music scene, cheap and tasty food, lots of unique shopping and cultural opportunities, and a unique local vibe around every corner.
THE HEART OF TEXAS
1.5 HOURS/100 MILES
Founded in 1850 along the banks of the Brazos River, Waco has a long history as an important economic hub for the center of Texas. Today, Waco is the home of a number of one-of-a-kind museums like the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and the Dr. Pepper Museum. Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex includes a natural history museum and a historic village. One can’t miss experience is a visit to Waco Mammoth National Monument. After all that learning, head to Schmaltz’s Sandwich Shop to refuel.
D-TOWN AND THE METROPLEX
1.5 HOURS/90 MILES
Welcome to Dallas! Long associated as the financial heart of the Texas Oil Boom, the town has grown a lot from it’s wild younger days. It is now a city that prides itself on its dedication to history and culture. Downtown’s Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza commemorates the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. In the Arts District, the Dallas Museum of Art is a world-renowned institution. Dallas has a number of great and eclectic neighborhoods all waiting for you to explore. Though Dallas is a great town, make sure you leave time for Fort Worth. Originally the last stop on the Chisolm Trail, today, it’s a modern city. Fort Worth has acclaimed museums, fantastic modern architecture and an array of wonderful dining and shopping opportunities. The Fort Worth Stockyards are home to rodeos, and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors the pioneers that made this area great.