Not long ago I was in Corpus Christie, Texas with an end destination of Charlotte, North Carolina. The most efficient route according to my GPS was going to take me through Houston, Texas and continue on I-10. On this particular day, I had a good deal of extra time on my hands, so a decision was made to see if there was an interesting alternate route. I grabbed my trusty Rand McNally Motor Carrier Road Atlas while sitting in my Cascadia’s driver’s lounge area to chart some alternate routing options.
The route I decided on hugged the coast and brought me back to I-10 near Beaumont, Texas. The reason for picking this course was that I am often close to the Gulf Coast but had never been along this particular coast line. After reviewing the route the project was nearly abandoned after discovering that there was a ferry involved from Galveston to Port Bolivar to reach my destination.
After researching the ferry via the internet here is some of the information which was found:
- Tractor Trailer less than 80,000
- Less than 80 feet in length
- No hazmat
My research on the free ferry was followed up with a phone call as it sounded too good to be true. I was informed to “bring it on”, as the ferry is considered to be part of the Texas highway system, and as long as I met the conditions I could indeed ride for free.
I started my journey in the morning, with very little traffic, and very nice roads. Before I got to Galveston I saw many different water views but I was still anticipating my ferry ride.
Upon rolling into Galveston there were many spectacular estates and mansions that appearing to be from the roaring twenties era.
Finding my way to the ferry port was easy and I lined up with the other vehicles waiting for the ferry to arrive. While I sat in the staging lanes the security approached to look inside my trailer to ensure I was not hauling hazardous materials. When the ferry arrived, I waited my turn and drove New Blue onto the ferry. Once on board I set my brakes and when the signal was given, I exited my cab. During the short cruise to Port Bolivar I wandered around the ship and found my way to the viewing deck to take in the scenery.
While doing research for this blog I learned that I had just crossed one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. At one point, we had a Carnival Cruise ship next to us as well as many cargo ships waiting their turn to approach Port of Houston. After we docked at the other end it was a simple matter to drive off of the ferry and my route continued to hug the coast line. Quite literally in many places the beach was directly adjacent to the highway. As I approached the end of my beach front tour I found a wide spot where I could safely pull of the highway and stop for a break.
It was a very nice relaxing diversion from my normal routing. This shoreline drive would not be a good choice if your goal is to save time. I added the out of route mile for taking the “scenic” route and turned out to only two to three miles farther then the suggest route. Counting loading and loading time it was probably two hours longer to go on the scenic route. The scenic route may have been just as fast as going through Houston at rush hour, so I will keep this route in the back of my mind for future use.
Interesting Facts on the Galveston to Port Bolivar Ferry
- No Smoking
- Pet have to stay in vehicles
- No oversize
- Can feed seagulls at back of boat
- Cannot swim or dive from Ferry
- Distance 2.7 mile
- Time approximately 18 minutes to cross
The Ferry system on this route started in the 19th century with a skiff for paying customers. In 1929, the route was sold to a company which kept the two ferries till the end of the year when Galveston county purchased the service. In 1929, the ferries once again where sold, this time to the state that has operated then free of change since. The ferries consist of six crewmen, and the boats are double-ended with a pilot house at both ends. The captain changes from one pilot house to the other depending on what direction the ferry is going.