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Get on the Water in Bay Area Houston: Your Guide to Boating, Fishing and More

Make a Splash in Bay Area Houston, TX

Here, there’s more than one way to go with the flow

By Kim Harris

It doesn’t matter which month you were born in. Everyone is a water sign when they visit Bay Area Houston. In these waterfront communities, your days will always include making memories so fun they’ll come to be part of your family’s traditions. Whether it’s kayaking on Clear Creek, fishing in Clear Lake, or yachting around the gulf waters of Galveston Bay, everyone eventually comes to know Bay Area Houston is a treasure trove for water sports and activities. Read on to find out where and how you can get out on the water.

Keep It Fresh

While a salty sea breeze blesses the entire Bay Area, we’re also home to miles of freshwater paradise that’s just begging to be explored. Visit the Kayak Shack for your pick of single, tandem, or even child-sized kayaks. They rent out child and adult paddleboards, too. It’s always paddlers’ choice in Bay Area Houston, where the meandering 5.5-mile-long Clear Creek Paddle Trail and the biodiverse wetlands beckon. Keep your eyes peeled for tropical plants — such as giant elephant ears — and a year’s worth of wildlife sightings. If you’re lucky, you may even spot an alligator in the distance—they tend to be shy and disappear quickly.

This area is home to hundreds of species of birds — including egrets, pelicans, and osprey. For an immersive educational experience, board Armand Bayou Tours’ beloved Bayou Ranger II. Choose from narrated morning, sunset, or even night-time cruises when nocturnal creatures, including bats, bullfrogs, and gators all come out to play. This eco-friendly pontoon boat is powered by electricity. In other words, it’s so quiet you can hear the hum of the insects. On that note, don’t forget bug spray! But leave the binoculars at home. They provide the high-powered optics, and your guide can help you identify what, or better put, who, is staring back at you.

Of course, you can always pilot your own pontoon boat with a ready-to-go rental from South Shore Boat Rental. If your idea of a good time on the water involves drinking adult beverages, reserve Windward SeaVenture’s game-changing Wayward Pub. It’s unofficially Clear Lake’s coolest UFO (ultimate floating object). Enjoy a pint on your private floating pub — complete with barstools and a lounge area — while someone else is behind the wheel. In the spring and summer, scheduled tours are offered Wednesday nights so pub patrons can watch Clear Lake’s seasonal sailboat races. Have a need for speed yourself? Rent one of WABOS’ Watersports exhilarating Yamaha WaveRunners. Just know that once you try a Jet Ski, you’ll probably want to buy a Jet Ski.

Put Some Salt On It

Is the sea calling your name? Set sail for adventure with boat rentals and Bay cruises galore. Just don’t be worried if you spy the Jolly Roger flag — Captain Kidd’s schooner in Galveston Bay is a 19th-century replica. What’s more, the crew is friendly to a fault. Sunset cruises — often with multiple dolphin sightings — are offered daily. In June and July, Friday night sailings include floating front row seats to the Kemah Boardwalk’s weekly fireworks display. Meanwhile, Houston Party Boats are available year-round (give them a call to inquire), departing from South Shore Harbor Marina. Book one of their boats boasting state-of-the-art sound systems and lighting features for a private mobile bash shared with up to 75 of your closest friends.

For 25 minutes of pure adrenaline, grab a seat on the Kemah Boardwalk Beast. It doesn’t matter where you sit, though—you will get wet. You will get wet. Hold onto your hats because the aptly-named Beast reaches speeds up to 40 mph! And make room on your playlist. The accompanying high-beats-per-minute soundtrack will have you adding new songs the second you dock.

If sailing is your jam, or you want it to be, head to Windward SeaVentures where the rental fleet has something for every level of sailor, and the sailing school is ASA-certified. Alumni even enjoy discounts on future charters. Here, you can charter everything from the 23-foot “Windy Gypsy” tiller boat to the 46-foot “Mayan Mistress” catamaran.

To really turn heads, charter the 62-foot, 50-ton Lone Palm Yacht. After several successful years of cruising around the Caribbean, she’s retired here. It makes sense. Between all the privately-owned yachts and businesses like Yachtcations and Lakewood Yacht Club, Bay Area Houston is basically the St. Tropez of Texas.

Houston Party Boat sets off from the Kemah Boardwalk dock in Bay Area Houston
A group of sailboats on a sunny day in Bay Area Houston
A boy and girl sit aboard a rented speedboat with their mother in Bay Area Houston
The Texas flag is silhouetted against the lake and a beautiful sunset in Bay Area Houston
Two friends pose on the deck of a boat with the rides of Kemah Boardwalk in the background in Bay Area Houston
Two small sailboats race across the bay in Bay Area Houston
Colorful ships in Bay Area Houston

BYOBoat

Boat owners visiting with their own vessel can have fun, too. Bay Area Houston offers all of the amenities needed for a bring-your-own-boat getaway. Rent a covered slip within walking distance of Seabrook dining and shops at Blue Dolphin Marina. Refuel on gas, diesel, snacks, bait, and boating supplies at Blue Marlin Fuel Dock. For free WIFI, laundry, and fitness facilities, book one of the 650 slips, including floating docks, at Seabrook Marina & Shipyard. It’s the largest marina on the Texas Gulf Coast and a convenient gateway to Galveston Bay. Looking to just launch into Clear Lake for the day? The public boat ramps in League City and Clear Lake Park are both easily accessible. Should you decide to extend your visit by a day or two, the Kemah Boardwalk Marina is another great option, known for its ease of reserving a slip, dock staff that offers hands-on help and close proximity to boardwalk delights.    

If you don’t have a boat (or even if you’re just looking for an overnight upgrade), consider treating yourself to a night on a sleek, spacious and fully staffed vessel. After all, this is your baycation! Yachtcations and Sail Galveston Bay Charters offer unforgettable “boat and breakfast” packages. Pets are even allowed! Enjoy a sunset cruise on Galveston Bay before your captain drops anchor for the night. Whether or not you choose to sleep in a comfortable stateroom or lay out on the deck under the stars is up to you. After all, how often are you the guest of honor on a luxury yacht? In the morning, savor the flavors of your made-to-order breakfast before heading back to your own boat.

Hook, Line, & Sinker

It’s easy to underestimate the biodiversity teeming beneath the surface of Bay Area Houston’s different bodies of water. What you see is not necessarily what you get. In fact, the marine life here is so abundant the Bay is the country’s second largest estuary seafood producer. Whether you’re an aspiring angler or a pro with well-established bragging rights, the fishing opportunities are endless. You don’t even need a boat!

For lake fishing, drop your line directly from the wooden t-shaped pier at Clear Lake Park. Lake Nassau can be fished along the shoreline at the beautiful David Braun Park. For bayside-fishing, head just off Main Street in Seabrook. Here you’ll find plenty of parking and an area that’s popular with fisherpeople of all ages and abilities. What’s more, as long as you have a fishing license, there are plenty of local public parks and piers to fish from.

Bay Area Houston’s blend of saltwater and freshwater boasts very healthy populations of fish. Commonly caught species include croaker, perch, redfish, and what some consider the holy grail of flatfish, flounder. If it’s a trophy fish you’re trolling for, book a chartered fishing trip.

With a professional guide by your side (call them The Rodfather if they insist), there’s a good chance you’ll set a new PR. At the very least, you’re likely to go home with a full cooler of fresh fish. In waters this fruitful, what you catch will probably be a keeper. But just because you reel it in doesn’t mean you have to dust off your apron and chef hat while on vacation. Award-winning local restaurants like Top Water Grill advertise “you hook it, we cook it” specials.

OK, technically, they’re not specials. What visitors find extraordinary here — especially if it’s water-related —is just how Bay Area Houston does life. All day, every day.

Set sail for fun in Bay Area Houston

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