Port Arthur is a small city in Texas but with big-time travel destinations standing out in the Lone Star State.
Credit this to the geographical makeup of this city in Jefferson County: 77.15 square miles land, 67.02 square miles water.
Its near-shore deep waters are a valuable asset to this city, which hosts one of Texas’ world-class ports.
Sabine Lake, formed by the confluence of the Neches River and Sabine River, brings this advantage to Port Arthur.
This saltwater estuary and its river feeders, on their own, already deliver plenty of come-ons for Port Arthur.
Founded in 1895, this city also has a rich history and is one of the three cities in the Texas metro “Golden Triangle” that also includes Beaumont and Orange.
So, with all these, plan a trip to Port Arthur and enjoy these 15 best things to do in the city.
Go Camping at Sea Rim State Park
Enjoy the most out of the Great Outdoors camping at the Sea Rim State Park just south of Port Arthur.
This park, accessible via south Gulfway Drive and onward Texas State Highway 87, spreads adjacent to the McFaddin Wildlife Reserve.
There are 15 campsites with utilities at Sea Rim State Park, or you can opt to stay in its cabin.
Another alternative is to go primitive camping on the park’s 5.2 miles of Gulf shoreline that extends up to the pristine McFaddin Beach.
While camping, you can go not only fishing but also bird hunting or birdwatching at the park’s 4,000 acres of marshland.
The park also offers kayakers an easy 1.8-mile paddling trail and an option for a more challenging 9.5-mile path.
While on the park, check out its Gambusia Nature Trail, an elevated walkway of nearly a mile meandering through a coastal lagoon ideal for wildlife observation.
Visit Museum of the Gulf Coast
This museum is a must-visit for it showcases not only the city of Port Arthur but the entire Gulf Coast region.
Located on the southeast corner of Beaumont Avenue and Procter Street, this museum boasts three galleries.
One is the Music Hall of Fame honoring the region’s leading performers, including Grammy Hall of Famer Janis Joplin.
The museum also features a Sports Legends Gallery paying tribute to some 80 outstanding Gulf Coast athletes.
The museum’s third showcase is its Notable People Gallery highlighting 40 Gulf Coast natives’ professional achievements.
At this museum, you can also marvel at an exhibit of the innovative artworks of Port Arthur native Robert Rauschenberg.
Explore Pleasure Island
Get fascinated by Pleasure Island, accessible via a bridge on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Man-made, this island resulted from the construction of the Port Arthur Canal and the Sabine Niches Intracoastal Waterway.
The 18.5-mile-long island’s surrounding waters offer various recreational activities, including boating and fishing.
You can fish onshore at the 275-foot long Pleasure Island Pier overlooking Sabine Lake.
For boating, go to the Miracle Beach Boat Launch or the Pleasure Island Marina featuring 300 floating boat slips.
The marina also hosts the Port Arthur Yacht Club, where there is a clubhouse and adult sailing lessons are offered.
Aside from water-based recreational activities, you can also go biking and hiking on the trails on this island.
Pleasure Island likewise features the well-developed Berry’s Treasure Disc Golf Course, which has hosted major events.
Salute War Heroes at the Golden Triangle Veterans Memorial Park
This Memorial lists the 10,000 servicemen and women from Port Arthur and the other two cities of the Golden Triangle (Beaumont and Orange) who served in major conflicts like World War I and II.
The park’s centerpiece is a 50-foot Tower listing the 930 names of those who went missing or killed.
It also features static displays of military vehicles including an F4-D Phantom Jet, a UH-1 Huey Helicopter, and an M60A3 tank.
The other points of interest in the park are an oversize bronze Marine soldier statue, an assault landing craft, and an anchor from the last WWII merchant marine ship to be decommissioned, the Texaco 55 Mississippi.
This memorial is located on Texas State Highway 87 toward the southern approach to the Rainbow Bridge and Veterans Memorial Bridge.
The Memorial Bridge, the only cable-stayed bridge on a Texas highway, is also a Port Arthur landmark good to see.
Visit the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site
This historic ground is at 6100 Dowling Rd. overlooking the Sabine River as it flows to the Gulf of Mexico.
This was the site of a significant Civil War battle in September 1863 where members of the Confederate Davis Guard held off a Union force.
A statue of Lt. Richard "Dick" Dowling, leader of the Confederate Davis Guard, is one of the main features of this park.
It also has a monument dedicated to the Union casualties in the battle, a scale model of the Civil War era Sabine fort, and other outdoor educational exhibits.
From this site, you can also view the historic Sabine Pass Lighthouse on the Louisiana side of the Sabine River.
Hunt or Fish at the Texas Wildlife Refuges
If you’re appropriately licensed, consider Port Arthur as a base for hunting and fishing in two national wildlife refuges: McFaddin and Texas Point.
Both refuges are accessible via South Gulfway Drive, and there’s an RV park too along this corridor, also serving as an entryway to the Sea Rim State Park.
Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge provides 3,600 hectares of coastal marsh habitat for hunting and fishing.
McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge offers an even larger area of 23,000 hectares featuring Texas coast’s largest freshwater marsh.
Both of these Texas wildlife refuges have and nature trails for hiking and wildlife observation.
At the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, you will have access to 8 miles of interior roads and boat ramps as jump-offs to wonderful outdoor adventures.
Watch a Show at Port Arthur Little Theatre
The performing arts thrive at Port Arthur, all thanks to the Port Arthur Little Theatre at 4701 Jimmy Johnson Blvd.
This Theatre has been staging season performances since 1939 and has presented more than 3,000 stage productions.
You are wont to be surprised at the energetic, high-quality theatrical performances of the local talents.
Attesting to the professionalism behind the Port Arthur Little Theatre, its presentations have drawn thousands, city visitors included.
The repertoire in Port Arthur Little Theatre includes entertainment fare for everyone, such as popular musicals, drama, and holiday programs.
You can buy a ticket at this Theatre online, so you can book a seat at one of its shows well in advance of your Port Arthur visit.
Tour the Texas Artists Museum
Port Arthur and its Gulf Coast region provide many inspirations for the painters’ brush.
Thus, it follows that the city became host to the Texas Artists Museum, which opened in the 1970s.
This museum is the brainchild of then Port Arthur Mayor Bernis Chandler and the Texas Artists Museum Society.
Fully restored after Hurricane Rita destroyed it in 2005, this museum is located at 3501 Cultural Center Drive.
It features three galleries to spotlight local artists, with red-letter days each second Thursday of every month.
Artist receptions open free to the public are held during these days also highlighted by music and dancing.
In this museum, you will also find its Concept Gallery featuring some 30 artists and their more than 200 artworks available for sale as well as purely visual enjoyment.
Visit the Historic Rose Hill Manor
Explore the waterfront area of Port Arthur for an appreciation of the historic homes witness in the early development of this city during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Among these attractions is the Rose Hill Manor, one of the oldest landmarks in Port Arthur and located at 100 Woodworth Blvd.
Built in 1906, this residence is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and boasts a 13-foot-wide wraparound porch where you can view the Gulf’s maritime traffic.
The Rose Hill Manor also flaunts plenty of antiques, a grand piano, and an elegant stairway that leads to spacious rooms.
A park was also developed in this historic home’s perimeter—the Rose Hill Park—featuring two tennis courts.
Stay at Port Arthur RV Resort
Visiting Port Arthur on an RV is convenient, as you can easily rent space at one of its popular camping spots, the Port Arthur RV Resort.
Located at 2950 West Farm to Market Rd., this RV Resort provides a total of 134 spacious sites.
This resort’s amenities include a Texas-shaped swimming pool, multiple shower and laundry facilities, free Wi-Fi, and playgrounds.
Port Arthur RV Resort also has a pavilion with large-screen TV, and there is free DIRECTV access as well.
All the streets and sites in the resort are concrete-paved and buffered by lush green areas.
Tee Off at the Babe Zaharias Golf Course
Golfers visiting Port Arthur, the ladies especially, shouldn’t miss out on playing at the Babe Zaharias Golf Course at 3500 Jimmy Johnson Blvd.
This course honors Port Arthur native Babes Zaharias, who’s considered as one of the greatest all-time female athletes, excelling not only in golf but also basketball, baseball, and track and field.
A 150-acre public course that opened in 1978, this 18-hole championship layout plays at par 72 over 6,867 yards from its longest tee and with 15 bunkers as hazards.
Golfers here also have access to a practice green and a driving range with about 20,000 square feet as tee-off space.
This golf facility likewise provides men’s and ladies’ restrooms and a golf shop with food service.
Tour the White Haven Mansion
Book a tour of the White Haven, a historic mansion at 2545 Lakeshore Drive that is more than 100 years old.
This splendid white house was built in 1915 for an early local physician and British Consul. Dr. H. D. Morris.
Originally, it was designed in the New England Colonial architectural style, but subsequent owners revamped it in the Southern Greek Revival design.
The splendid rendition that eventually turned out included large porches, sprawling verandas, and majestic columns.
The mansion’s furnishings are worth crowing about, such as a French screen from the Empress Carlotta of Mexico, candelabras from the Shah of Persia, and original Wedgwood china pieces.
Marvel at the Pompeiian Villa
Built in 1900, this historic house mimics the design of the villas in ancient Pompeii and hence the house’s name.
It was originally built for an Isaac Elwood of Illinois, but it was sold in 1901 to a James Hopkins of St. Louis, who leased it as a hunting and fishing getaway.
In 1903, Texas Co. (now Texaco) major share shareholder George Craig bought the Pompeiian Villa and paid it with his 10 percent holding in the oil company.
After Craig passed away, the Villa was sold again to Capt. & Mrs. Arne Pedersen, who lived in the home till their death in 1969.
The Port Arthur Historical Society eventually bought the house in 1973 and had it renovated extensively.
Consequently, the house earned a Texas Historical Marker and a Historical Building Medallion in 1973.
Book a visit to the Pompeiian Villa well in advance, as just 12 persons are allowed here per tour.
Discover Port Arthur’s Faith Trail
A remarkable Faith Trail is a source of inspiration in a visit to the Port Arthur area, where there is a variety of places of worship for different faiths.
The peaceful aura and architectural marvel that these religious sites convey are at once evident at the Buu Mon Buddhist Temple at 2701 Procter Street.
This temple’s ground at once impresses with its serene garden with a golden Buddha by its pool.
A similar inspiring ambiance will greet you at the Queen of Peace Shrine & Gardens at 901 9th Avenue.
This place, which was set by Vietnamese Catholics in Port Arthur, features Stations of the Cross leading to a pagoda with a centerpiece statue of the Virgin Mary atop a globe.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church & Shrine at 3648 9th Avenue is a landmark of faith for Mexican-Americans in Port Arthur that’s also inspiring to visit.
It commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to Juan Diego, represented by his 17-foot sculpture atop rocks taken from the Mexico apparition site itself.
Dine at the Gulf Coast Seafood
Cap your hectic exploration of Port Arthur with dinner at the Gulf Coast Seafood at 6137 West Port Arthur Road.
This restaurant built its reputation from its servings of fresh catch from the Gulf of Mexico delivered to it daily and prepared with hand-picked ingredients.
Gulf Coast Seafood boasts over a hundred selections from its menu, with dining service fast and friendly.
At each lunch hour, this restaurant also offers a Chinese steam table for a hot meal served quickly.
Thus, besides seafood, you’ll have a choice of Chinese egg rolls, fried rice, and chicken and pork dishes.
A trip to Port Arthur promises an inspiring experience of touring historic sites and varied cultural attractions.
Your exploration of this city can also include exhilarating outdoor adventures in some of the most pristine areas of Texas.
There won’t be a dull moment in your Port Arthur visit, for sure, so better prepare for an extended stay in this city.