7 Reasons to Discover Port Arthur this Spring
Start your day with a contemplative walk through the tranquil gardens of a Buddhist temple. Then hike on shaded paths as you watch for colorful birds, experience the life and times of an iconic rock ‘n roller, or soak up the sunshine as you sip on a locally made craft beer. Spring is a magical season, especially if you’re in Port Arthur. Home to a remarkable confluence of cultures and landscapes, there’s nowhere quite like this Texas Gulf Coast destination. With an abundance of things to see and do this time of year, here’s why you’ll want to discover Port Arthur this spring.
It’s Crawfish Season, Baby
Whether you’re from the South or you’ve visited here before, you probably know all about crawfish season. From January through July, this is the perfect time to taste everyone’s favorite freshwater crustacean. That’s especially true when you come to Port Arthur, home to a multitude of local restaurants that serve up their own unique takes of this savory seafood. Peel to the sound of live music at Rodair Bar & Grill, a rustic Cajun restaurant famous for its crispy, fried green tomatoes and smoked deep-fried ribs.
If you adore the taste bud-teasing flavors of Vietnamese food, you’re in luck. Sink your teeth into Sweet Basil’s Vietnamese-style Cajun crawfish topped with a garlic butter glaze in either a banh mi or a steaming bowl of pho. Don’t leave without trying Sweet Basil’s hot mess fries covered with rib-eye meat and seasoned with sweet soy sauce, spicy aioli, and scallions. Reel Cajun Seafood Restaurant and Bar serves up tasty Viet-Cajun fare that you can enjoy during happy hour at the large bar. Craving a different taste of Southeast Texas? Order the crawfish dishes at Tia Juanitas, where the flavors and aromas of Cajun and Mexican cuisine delightfully dance on every entree. While you’re here, sip on a Texas-sized colorful drink as you take in the lively atmosphere and all the funky art placed floor to ceiling.
Each restaurant is more than worth your while, but this is just a nibble of all the delicious crawfish fare you can have here in Port Arthur. With all these good eats, you’d better come hungry.
You Can See Memorabilia of a Rock and Roll Icon
Here’s some Texas trivia for you: what game-changing rock ‘n roll hall of famer was born and raised in Port Arthur? Famous for hits like Me and Bobby McGee and Piece of My Heart, Janis Joplin was one of the 20th-century’s most important artists. Joplin’s legacy is preserved at the Museum of the Gulf Coast, where you’ll find a captivating collection of her artwork and other memorabilia. Wander into the exhibit and the first thing you’ll likely see is a replica of her psychedelic 1965 Porsche 356 Cabriolet. Then admire her acrylic paintings, drawings, cartoons, a portrait of her sister, and even art she made when she was a child, as well as her high school yearbook and concert tickets.
Don’t leave without exploring the Museum of the Gulf Coast’s gallery dedicated to Robert Rauschenberg, a fellow Port Arthur native and one of Joplin’s friends also known as the Father of Pop Art. After taking a deep dive into the Texas icon’s life through her art and memorabilia, browse the vast array of Janis Joplin merchandise in the museum’s gift shop (including a brick from her birth home).
While you’re at the museum, make sure you check out the Music Hall of Fame that showcases the careers of Gulf Coast musicians like George Jones, Mark Chesnutt, and ZZ Top.
Experience the Many Cultures of the Faith Trail
A melting pot of Cajun, Hispanic, African American, Italian, and Vietnamese culture, Port Arthur’s corner of the Gulf Coast is one of the most diverse in all of Texas. One of the best ways to discover this for yourself is by following the Faith Trail. Start at the Buu Mon Buddhist Temple, where you can embark on a contemplative stroll through a lush garden full of bamboo and fruit trees until you encounter a statue of Buddha overlooking a reflective pond. Not far away, the Queen of Peace Shrine & Gardens is a peaceful oasis surrounding a statue of the Virgin Mary built by the Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church’s parishioners.
Meanwhile, the St. Anthony Basilica’s stately columns and impressive clock towers make it look like it would be right at home in medieval Europe. Full of stunning mosaics and stained-glass windows from France and Germany, the more than 100-year-old church is one of only four Minor Basilicas in Texas. Head east to Orange and you’ll run into many other stunning examples of historic architecture, including the spectacular First Presbyterian Church. An outstanding example of Greek Revival architecture, right down to the imposing triangular pediment and the magnificent Texas pink granite facade. The church also has the only opalescent glass dome in the country, making it truly one of a kind.
Visit these and the other spots along the Faith Trail and you’ll go on a journey around the world, no passport required.
The Local Brews are Delicious
What goes better with spring’s abundant sunshine? A pint of your favorite kind of beer, of course. When you want to taste something local, you’ll have plenty of breweries to choose from in and near Port Arthur. Sip on a refreshing Italian pilsner, strawberry blonde ale, or one of the other more than 20 brews on tap at Buckstin Brewing Company. While you’re here, treat your palate to a giant pretzel or build your own pizza with your choice of a traditional or a cauliflower crust. Full of artistic charm, Neches Brewing Co. has more than 20 light and dark beers of its own on tap that are among a selection of more than 70 ales and lagers.
To indulge on a warm spring afternoon, settle into a spot in the beer garden at Pour Brothers Brewery. Stop by the bar and you’ll see an enticing range of Belgian and German-style beers that are part of the brewery’s year-long and seasonal rotation, so no two visits here are the same.
For you stout and sour beer enthusiasts, Struggle Street Brewing Company might be your place. The brewery’s extensive list of brews on draft includes single-batch beers that you may only see for a short time. All these breweries near Port Arthur serve plenty of great beer, and taking the time to try them all is an adventure in itself.
Travel Tip: Keep an eye out for the grand opening of Hop Avenue Brewing Company, the newest craft brewery in the Port Arthur area.
Spring is Peak Birdwatching Season
Whether you’re a birdwatching enthusiast or you love being outdoors, you won’t want to miss one of Port Arthur’s main seasonal attractions: birds. Located in two migratory flyways and providing easy access to a wide range of habitats, from beaches to marshlands and pine forests, this part of the Lone Star State is a dream destination for birdwatchers. Pack your binoculars and explore the natural hiking trails that weave through the forest of oaks and mulberry trees known as the Sabine Woods. Take your time and you just may see orioles, flycatchers, warblers, vireos, orioles, and other neotropical migrants. Not far away, escape to the marshlands of McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge and Sea Rim State Park, both of which welcome clappers, king rails, and other birds each spring.
As amazing as spring is, fall is just as spectacular. Yet thanks to Port Arthur’s array of landscapes, it’s one of Texas’ finest birdwatching destinations year-round. Ready to get started? Check out this handy guide.
Port Arthur Has Some of Texas’ Best Fishing
Just as Port Arthur resides at a convergence of cultures and landscapes, it’s also located at the intersection of rivers, bayous, salt- and freshwater lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico. This combination of places to cast your line makes this destination a fantastic place to go fishing. Greet a breathtaking coastal sunrise as you wait for a bite at Sabine Lake, a 14-mile long and seven-mile wide lake where flounder, redfish, and speckled trout reside in abundance. Spring’s warmer temperatures bring many of the fish to shallower waters, making this the start of peak angling season in Port Arthur.
You’ll find an entirely different angling experience on the shores of Sea Rim State Park. Listen to the crashing waves as you try to hook a king or Spanish mackerel, seatrout, or amberjack, which are among the many types you can snag here. Of course, this barely scratches the surface of all the fishing you can do here. Head to the Pleasure Island Pier, a popular fishing and birding spot that extends 275 feet into Sabine Lake. To make an adventure of it, try your luck from a kayak or book a chartered fishing trip. Whether you’re fishing from the shore of the deck of a boat, you’ll enjoy it all as you soak up all the beautiful Texas spring sunshine.
Some of the Gulf Coast’s Coolest Experiences Are a Short Drive Away
Kick back on a sandy beach, meander through spectacular gardens full of spring blooms, and escape to the Pineywoods. You can do it all within a quick cruise from Port Arthur. Bring a towel and work on your suntan at either McFaddin Beach or Sea Rim State Park, both of which have miles of untouched coastline. In nearby Orange, the Shangri La Botanical Gardens & Nature Center is a lush oasis full of more than 300 plant species. Explore the 252-acre garden and you’ll pass through areas like the Wetland Demonstration Garden and the Hanging Garden, which is full of tropical and sub-tropical flowering plants like birds of paradise and Lily of the Nile.
For a spring hiking excursion, head to the Big Thicket National Preserve. Covering 113,000 acres of dense pine forests, creeks, bayous, and the Neches River, the preserve has about 40 miles of trails for you to discover. Take your time as you explore, as the springtime birding here is unparalleled. After all, the preserve is designated by the American Bird Conservancy as a Globally Important Bird Area with about 185 resident or migratory species spotted here.
Port Arthur’s coastal terrain also makes it well-suited for a compelling round of golf, so make sure you bring your clubs. The winding fairways and warm sea breezes at the 18-hole Babe Didrikson Zaharias Memorial Golf Course create an inviting backdrop balanced out by the gusty winds and challenging layout worthy of the course’s namesake, one of the greatest athletes of all time. For more golf, book a tee time at Bayou Din Golf Course, the Brentwood Entertainment Complex Golf Club, or any of Beaumont’s other public golf courses.
Can’t wait to plan your next spring getaway? With its spectacular birding, first-rate fishing, and other ways to enjoy the season, Port Arthur has some of the best the Texas Gulf Coast has to offer. Plan your visit here.