If you’re cruising along the Simon Bolivar Peninsula, don’t be surprised to see cattle drives with Texas cowboys moving their herds over two-lane highways crossing the ICW. The wide Texas beaches on the coast hide cattle country and oil derricks and slowly give way to raised beach houses with names like “Gulf Breeze” or “Jolie’s Hideaway.” The inevitable one-horse beach shop with their airbrush artisan and seashell wind chimes are also there, but sail past historic Fort Travis and the Bolivar Lighthouse rising on the western tip of the peninsula, and Galveston Island beckons with her historic architecture, beaches and maritime culture.
Once known as a gambling mecca until the Texas Rangers raided the town, Galveston was also the largest port on the Texas coast, pulling down cotton and cattle from the interior and ushering in generations of Indian fighters and future Texas land barons. Crossing the Houston Ship Channel to the island is spectacular, with its never-ending run of modern freighters bypassing Galveston and heading into Houston or sailing to points unknown. This leaves the island town with a different sort of nautical energy today—one of history, charter
captains and resortwear.
Located on the island’s northwestern edge, the Galveston Yacht Basin is a full-service private marina and an ideal transient slip location to begin an exploration of the island. Filled with charter fishing vessels, the piers hum with skippers tinkering on their boats or, more likely, catching naps in the ubiquitous land tenders—their golf carts lining the marina. Dockside restaurants are sprouting up around the marina, and certain piers in the channel will get transients within easy walking distance of the historic downtown and seaport.
Palm Beach, Florida, has been built on its exclusivity and made famous as the indulgent stomping grounds of the “One Percenters.” Just across the Flagler Bridge over the ICW from West Palm Beach this ritzy four-square-mile island has been preserved and celebrated for over 100 years. Perfectly manicured landscapes and Queen Palms line streets named Cherry Lane or Angler Avenue. With easy access to three notable marinas this is a cruiser haven for the likes of those who crave luxury, history and all things fine—even for those of us in the 99 percent group. But it’s when you discover who and what lies behind the prestige of this illustrious island sprinkled with decadent eateries, high-end designer shops and magnificent mansions that Palm Beach leaves a lasting impression.
In 1892, Henry Flagler shifted his focus from Standard Oil to establish this lush coastal area—at the time known as Lake Worth—into a high-end resort town for Northerners. He immediately had investors support the construction of hotels, residences and shops, soon referred to as Palm Beach Island. His expansion of the Florida East Coast Railway tracks provided easy access, and soon the South Florida shore bustled with antsy vacationers—it hasn’t stopped since.
Palm Beach’s rich history is as deep as the checkbooks that frequent Worth Avenue, and while the authentic feel of the posh, resort glamour is preserved, nowadays it adapts to the individual lifestyles of its guests. While it is still geared toward the fortunate few who can treat Worth Avenue as a playground, even the most modest cruiser will enjoy the sightseeing, history, dining, and activities offered on this island that’s bordered by a peach and white scalloped seawall to guard against the Atlantic’s waves.