You could say that Port Lavaca is a historical tourist destination.
After all, the city has welcomed visitors since the 16th century, and its roots date earlier than that.
The Karankawa Indians were the first peoples living in the area.
They were also the first public who met the European settlers.
By the 1860s, the Karankawa tribe had disappeared, although a few experts believe a number of them fled to Mexico.
In 1591, Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda explored the seven bays of Calhoun County, becoming the first European to do so.
Many years later, in 1685, Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, visited present-day Indianola on Matagorda Bay.
He established Fort St. Louis, the first French fort in Texas.
Today, you can find a statue of La Salle in Indianola Park.
Do you want to know more about Port Lavaca, TX?
Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:
Climb up the Halfmoon Reef Lighthouse
If you want to go on a history tour of Port Lavaca, visit the Halfmoon Reef Lighthouse.
This six-sided building is the oldest surviving wooden lighthouse in Texas, made of cypress wood, mostly, and attached to iron piles screwed to the bottom of Matagorda Bay.
Port Lavaca built the light station in the late 1850s.
For several years, the lighthouse guided sailors navigating the tricky Halfmoon Reef, a shoal filled with mud and oyster shells on the east side of Matagorda Bay.
Many years after its retirement, the lighthouse got relocated next to the Bauer Community Center on Highway 35.
See a Show at the Port Lavaca Main Street Theatre
This historic theater on Port Lavaca’s Main Street has survived various hurricanes over the years, including its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s.
Old-timers fondly remember going to the theater to see the latest play, the latest movie, while snacking on popcorn.
However, the theater eventually fell to disrepair as the commercial area moved away from downtown.
No one went to the theater anymore, and it stayed empty for 30 years.
In 1983, Russell Cain bought the place and donated it to the Main Street Committee in 1992.
After undergoing heavy renovations, the Port Lavaca Main Street Theater opened its doors again in 1994.
Its first show was a piece of live theater.
Today, you’ll see several plays featuring local talent performing on the theater’s new stage.
The theater also has 263 seats and a refurbished balcony.
Besides plays, you can also catch fashion shows and concerts at the theater.
Bring the Family to Bayfront Peninsula Park
This wonderful waterfront park should be a terrific place for a quick family getaway.
You can easily make a day out of visiting the Bayfront Peninsula Park, with its full amenities and entertainment options.
For instance, you can bring your kids to the playground and sandbox, or you can join them in the splash pad.
Otherwise, you can hang out under the shaded pavilion or enjoy a nice lunch at the covered picnic tables.
If you feel like going on the water, you can rent a boat and launch off the boat ramp.
There’s also a lighted fishing pier if you feel like going out at night.
Catch the Sun at Light House Beach
One of the most fun things you can do in Port Lavaca is camping down at Light House Beach.
This campsite boasts the tropical comforts you want during a beach trip, along with 55 full hook-up sites for you to choose from.
During your stay, you’ll find many amenities and activity options.
For example, you can traverse the 2,200-foot boardwalk starting from the beach to the bird tower made of recycled materials.
Likewise, you can stay on the beach and enjoy a warm picnic.
Then, you can stroll along the sandy beach and take a dip.
Learn Local History at the Calhoun County Museum
The Calhoun County Museum is unique because it features shipwrecks and sunken treasure, making guests feel like ocean explorers of a bygone age.
If you’re curious about the history of Port Lavaca, you need to visit this museum.
During your visit, you’ll see exhibitions and displays featuring items gathered from Robert La Salle’s expedition to the New World, comprising gold and shipwrecks.
You’ll also find the remnants of the town of Indianola, which a hurricane destroyed in 1886.
However, the most famous artifact in the museum is the Fresnel lens used in the lighthouse on Matagorda Island.
This massive Fresnel lens uses a four-sided array of prisms surrounding four convex lenses called “bulls-eyes.”
In 1873, the Matagorda Island lighthouse attached this lens to its lantern room, where it remained until 1977.
Cast a Line at the Port Lavaca State Pier Park
The Port Lavaca State Pier Park was once a causeway standing over Lavaca Bay until the city retired it.
Afterward, the city converted the structure into a top-notch fishing pier, known today as the world’s longest fishing pier.
However, the bridge suffered two dramatic fires from lightning strikes and heedless campers, pushing it into the ranks of the world’s shortest fishing piers.
Today, you can go fishing at the new lighted pier.
During the summer and fall, you can expect to catch a few trout there at night.
You can also hope to catch other species like flounder, drum, croaker, and hard heads.
See the Birds at the Port Lavaca Bird Sanctuary
Follow a short distance, going east from TX 35, to reach the Port Lavaca Lighthouse Beach and Bird Sanctuary.
Just turn right before you reach the bridge crossing Lavaca Bay.
When you arrive at the sanctuary, you’ll find several paths available.
You can walk along the Formosa Wetlands Walkway and climb up the Alcoa Birding Tower.
Otherwise, you can check out the marsh bordering the walkway, and watch out for the seaside sparrow and the clapper rail.
During the winter, you might also catch the Nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow.
The birding tower allows you to see the whole bay, where you can spot brown pelicans, along with various gulls and terns.
After that, you can go back to your car and drive east across the Lavaca Bay bridge until you arrive at Point Comfort.
Walk along the old causeway and scan the bay and spoil islands for the common goldeneye, the common loon, the osprey, and the American oystercatcher.
If you’re lucky, you might even catch sight of the rare horned grebe.
Remember the City’s Roots at the La Salle Monument
Located on the western shore of Matagorda Bay, between Indianola and Indian Point, you’ll find the granite statue dedicated to the French explorer Rene Robert La Salle.
The town erected the monument in 1938, honoring the man who established the first French fort in Texas, Fort St. Louis.
Moreover, the statue stands on a high rise, looking over Garcitas Creek, a few miles above the point where it flows into Lavaca Bay.
The statue contains inscriptions about La Salle, proclaiming him as a bold explorer with boundless energy.
It adds that Fort St. Louis granted the United States a claim to Texas as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Grab Fresh Seafood at Miller’s Seafood
For over 40 years, the family-owned Miller’s Seafood has offered only the highest-quality and freshest seafood to everyone who visits.
Every day, the family goes to sea in their own boats to catch buckets of fresh shrimp and oysters.
Then, they haul the day’s catch to their facility, carrying licenses from local, state, and federal inspectors.
If you don’t like shrimp or oysters, you can choose from their variety of fish, scallops, snowcrab legs, crabmeat, lobster, and many other seafood items.
Spice up your cooking by grabbing some Cajun spices from their store, too.
If you ever thought all seafood stinks, you thought wrong.
Smell for yourself at Miller’s Seafood.
Practice Your Golf Swing at the Hatch Bend Country Club
You might not think of Port Lavaca as an excellent golfing destination, but a surprise awaits you on your visit.
Look for the semi-private Hatch Bend Country Club, a course that golfers usually overlook in favor of the more popular courses on the Texas Gulf Coast.
However, if you want to get your rounds in with friends, then Hatch Bend is the place for you.
It’s a peaceful and relaxing course where you and your friends can swing to your hearts’ content.
This course opened in 1958 has open fairways and average-sized greens.
It also has two sets of tees, allowing you to experience different looks on your second go-round.
Roll a Strike at Beau’s Billiard, Bowling & Arcade
If you want to try something else besides exploring nature, you might want to visit Beau’s Billiard, Bowling & Arcade in Port Lavaca.
Bring your friends and family and enjoy a night of bowling and billiards.
Besides bowling, you can also bring your kids to the arcade for retro gaming fun.
The arcade also hosts special events from time to time.
After playing, you can grab a snack to fill your belly before heading to the lanes again.
Camp under the Stars at Magnolia Beach
On the other hand, if you want to live the beach bum lifestyle, go camping at Magnolia Beach.
You’ll need to choose a campsite properly, though, since the beach has a high tide line.
Strong winds and hurricanes can raise tides and flood your camp.
Once you’ve pitched your tents or parked your RVs, you can explore the fine and serene Magnolia Beach.
Bring your family here and explore the coast together.
Your kids can let loose at the nearby playground while you prepare your picnic.
The beach also hosts a volleyball court, so bring your friends, too, for some friendly competition.
Catch Photo-Worthy Fish at the Indianola Fishing Marina
They say fishing is the most relaxing activity in the world.
If you believe that, then let all your worries go at the Indianola Fishing Marina, where you might even catch a giant fish like the anglers who came before you.
Celebrate your big catch by taking a photo at the end of the marina pier.
What fish can you catch at the Indianola Fishing Marina?
You can fish for redfish, trout, and flounder there.
Likewise, you can launch your boat for the jetties if you want to go on deeper water.
The Indianola Fishing Marina also features cabins on-site, RV hookups, and a restaurant that hosts frequent live music performances.
You can even buy fishing licenses there.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Explore the Outdoors at Boggy Nature Park
Drive about 30 minutes from Port Lavaca to Port O’Connor, where you can find the Boggy Nature Park.
It’s open throughout the year, and it allows you to explore the Matagorda Bay and Boggy Lake Creek for a variety of activities.
For example, you can observe wildlife or see the birds.
Likewise, you can go fishing, windsurfing, or kayaking at the bay.
During your visit, you’ll find extensive nature trails and an observation deck where you can check out the wildlife.
Various species of resident and migrating birds stop by at the park area, such as sandpipers, plovers, and many shorebirds.
You can also see ducks, geese, and grebes on the lake in winter, as well as herons, egrets, pelicans, spoonbills, and cormorants throughout the year.
The waters are terrific for wading or kayak fishing, too.
You can catch red drum, speckled trout, and southern flounder there.
Likewise, you can find blue crabs and oysters in the water.
The saltmarshes are home to periwinkle snails, ghost crabs, hermit crabs, raccoons, and skunks.
Enjoy Nature at the Guadalupe Delta Wildlife Management Area
You will need to call ahead before visiting this place because it restricts access.
Likewise, once you get there, you can only stand on the observation platform, which is open all year.
The wildlife management area itself is closed to the public, and it only grants access during scheduled events.
However, going through all that just to see magnificent animals is worth it.
You can find several species of waterfowl and shorebirds at the Guadalupe Delta’s freshwater lake and marshes.
For example, you can see various herons and egrets there.
Between late summer to early fall, the marshes teem with herons, egrets, White-faced Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, and the Least Bittern.
Late spring sees the arrival of the trilling Marsh Wren.
Port Lavaca is a charming town that’s filled with various marine attractions and historical landmarks.
You might even trace the history of the United States by visiting this place and seeing the La Salle Monument or the Calhoun County Museum.
Otherwise, you can simply sit back on your folding chair and wait for the fish to bite at several terrific spots like the Indianola Fishing Marina.
Book your Port Lavaca getaway today!