7 Amazing Autumn Adventures in Port Arthur, TX
Texas summers may be hot, but autumn in Port Arthur is worth the wait. Perfectly placed where the magnificent pines of the East Texas Piney Woods meet the peaceful marshes and beaches of the Gulf Coast, Port Arthur offers the kind of adventure you typically don’t find in just one place. Watch vibrant migrating songbirds dancing on tree branches, alligators basking in the sun or go kayaking in remote marshes among towering longleaf pines in a bald cypress-tupelo swamp, all while relishing fall’s appealing temperatures. A true destination for nature lovers, Port Arthur has everything you need for a memorable autumn road trip. See just what this Texas town has to offer below.
Experience the Best Fall Birdwatching in Texas
Dense woodlands, sun-soaked tidal flats, marshy wetlands, and the sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico. With such a diverse range of habitats nearby, Port Arthur is one of the Lone Star State’s best places to go birdwatching. That’s particularly true for the fall, when seasonal migrants stop by on their way down to Central and South America. Start your autumn birding adventure in the Sabine Woods, an area widely considered to be one of the most productive migrant stop-overs in the spring and fall along the entire Texas coast. Watch as hummingbirds flit among the lantana thickets in the early fall. Spy colorful orioles, tanagers, thrushers, and warblers among the large oak and mulberry trees from early September through late October. Keep an eye out for the magnificent white-tailed kite, a small, white and gray-feathered hawk native to coastal Texas and parts of California, Oregon, and Central and South America.
While there’s plenty to see in the Sabine Woods, you have more birding to do. Head just south of Port Arthur and you’ll find yourself in the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, where as many as 27 species of ducks and massive flocks of snow geese can be found from October through March. Explore the wooded areas and you may also find warblers and other songbirds, while an array of shorebirds can be spotted on the beach and in the mudflats. Find your way back toward town to visit Pleasure Island, a man-made island where neotropic cormorants, blue and green-winged teals, gadwalls, red-breasted mergansers and more can be found.
Of course, there are many other remarkable places you can go birdwatching in Port Arthur in the fall. Discover more Port Arthur birding hotspots here.
Enjoy First-Rate Fresh & Saltwater Fishing
Nothing beats a fishing trip, especially with autumn’s cooler weather and endless options. Home to rivers, bayous, fresh and salt-water lakes, and easy access to the Gulf Coast, Port Arthur offers some of the finest fishing in the Lone Star State. Grab your bait and tackle to try your luck at Sabine Lake, a 90,000-acre lake where flounder are plentiful in October. As the chillier temperatures of November and December set in, trout and redfish are found in abundance. The last month of the year is also a great time to hook blue catfish, which you can find in Port Arthur’s fresh waterways. With its miles of pristine beaches, Sea Rim State Park is the place to go for shore fishing, while Pleasure Island’s accessible piers offer the perfect place for a day fishing with your family.
Kayak fishing is a must-do while you’re here too. Paddle among the tidal flats and shallow freshwater lakes of Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge or the marshes of the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge. Surrounded by a wealth of great places to fish, Port Arthur is an autumn-angling hotspot.
Ready to plan your next fishing trip? Check out Port Arthur’s angler guide here.
Embark on an Epic Swamp Safari
Still waters shaded by towering bald cypress trees draped in Spanish moss. Alligators basking in the autumn sun as herons and egrets wade nearby. And most importantly, the peace and quiet that you can only get on one of Port Arthur’s swamp safaris. Zoom past the towering grasses of Bessie Heights Marsh as you watch alligators, wild hogs, and all birds of all kinds on a 90-minute or two-hour adventure with American Flag Airboat Marsh Tour. There’s much more wildlife watching to be done with Swamp and River Tours, which takes you on a 25-mile, 90-minute exploration of the most remote parts of the Sabine River Basin. With boats designed to be quiet, you’ll get a great view of the local flora and fauna.
In nearby Beaumont, you’ll find the Gator Country Adventure Park. A destination all its own, this park provides family fun adventure and an off-site boat tour for you to discover scenic Taylor Bayou on a magnificent one-hour swamp tour. From alligators to wood ducks and great-horned owls, there’s a wealth of wildlife you could spot on one of these excursions. Winding through a dense forest of hardwoods and pine trees, the picturesque Neches River is well worth discovering on its own. You can do so on Neches River Adventures, an educational sojourn in which you’ll find out about the river’s plant and animal life.
While these tours are available year-round, fall’s more inviting temperatures make it the ideal season to explore this part of what makes Port Arthur unique.
Set Out on an Unforgettable Paddling Adventure
From the gently rolling tides of the Gulf of Mexico to the tranquil inland bayous, rivers, and lakes, Port Arthur’s diverse waterways are great for much more than fishing. This part of the Lone Star State is a mecca for kayakers, and there is a multitude of remarkable paddling trails around that firmly belong on your bucket list. With its salty sea breezes and sandy beaches, Sea Rim State Park is the coastal escape you’ve been looking for.
The park is home to more than five miles of shoreline and 4,000 acres of marshes, both of which you can discover as you follow one of several paddling trails. For a quick trip, follow the 1.8-mile Easy Paddling Trail which is ideal for beginner kayakers. To truly test yourself, make a day of it by traversing the Advanced Paddling Trail. This 11.7-mile trip takes you through the park’s network of marsh channels, allowing you some first-class wildlife watching as you savor nature’s pristine stillness.
Don’t have your own kayak? No problem. Take advantage of the park’s automated kayak rental and you’ll be paddling in no time.
There’s more kayaking to be done at Village Creek State Park. Located north of Beaumont on the edge of the Big Thicket National Preserve, you’ll trade towering wetland grasses and abundant sunshine for imposing hardwoods and just the right amount of shade. The star of the show here is the Village Creek Paddling Trail, a 21-mile route that runs north from the park to just east of Kountze.
As a more bite-size alternative, the Collier’s Ferry to Lake Bayou Paddling Trail is no less spectacular. Take in all the rugged beauty of the Big Thicket National Preserve as you kayak or canoe along the seven-mile, out-and-back loop pathway. Finally, follow the Cooks Lake to Scatterman Paddling Trail (pictured above) and you’ll find yourself immersed within an otherworldly cypress-tupelo slough on a brief 4.8-mile loop trail that you can tackle in a day.
Although paddling is a year-round adventure, autumn’s more inviting weather makes it far more enjoyable.
Bike, Sail & Explore Pleasure Island
Stretching for more than 18 miles within view of downtown Port Arthur, Pleasure Island lives up to the name. A hotspot for outdoor fun, you can do it all here. Grab your family and savor all the scenic views as you wander along the Pleasure Island Boardwalk. Cast your fishing line from the Pleasure Island Pier or Walter Umphrey State Park. Home to a lighted fishing pier, the park also has a boat launch, RV facilities, and spaces for tent camping when you want to sleep under all the shining stars of the Texas night sky. Watch as ships pass through the Sabine Channel as you savor a picnic and the refreshing fall weather.
If you’re a disc golf fan, the rolling hills and lush trees of Berry’s Treasure Disc Golf Course provide a remarkable backdrop for a great day on the course. Biking is hugely popular here, too, as the long north and south levee roads provide the perfect space for long morning rides. No matter what kind of adventure you’re looking for, you’ll find more than you could’ve asked for on Pleasure Island.
Savor Locally Made Craft Beer & Whiskey
Award-winning brews and palate-pleasing spirits are already great, but they’re even better when they’re locally made. The Port Arthur area is home to its own craft beer country, and one of its major players is Buckstin Brewing Company. Purveyors of a mouthwatering variety of craft brews light and dark, including a saison and a blonde ale that won medals at the 2020 US Open Beer Championship, this is the kind of place you want to order a flight and try them all. Regardless of what you get, it’ll match perfectly with a giant pretzel served with housemade beer cheese or a pizza made with a traditional or cauliflower crust; just what you need to refuel after a day exploring Port Arthur.
Check out Neches Brewing Company, Struggle Street Brewing Company and other local breweries here.
New on the Port Arthur scene, Clifford Distilling is a veteran-owned outfit that makes its whiskeys and rums in honor of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, respectively. Stop by for a tasting of its flavorful spirits, each inspired by the stories of the Texas Revolution. Learn the ins and outs of their distilling process, then raise a glass in celebration of the Lone Star State.
Treat Yourself Along a Food Trail
Have enough of these amazing fall adventures and you’ll likely get a Texas-sized appetite at some point. You’re in luck. Home to folks from around the world, the Port Arthur area’s food scene is as diverse as it is delicious. To beat that autumn chill, there’s nothing better than a steaming bowl of delectable pho. With its large Vietnamese community, there’s no shortage of great spots to savor it for yourself. Since Port Arthur isn’t far from Louisiana, there’s plenty of tantalizing Cajun fare to tuck into as well, particularly if you’re looking to warm up with a hearty serving of gumbo. Of course, there’s far more to eat here in town. All you need to do is come hungry.
Already dreaming of your next amazing autumn adventure? Port Arthur is just the place for you. With its first-class birdwatching, fishing, and other ways to enjoy some time outdoors, it’s the perfect destination for when you need to get away. Plan your Port Arthur visit here.