Mona L. Hayden of “Louisiana Road Trips” visited Port Arthur for some aquatic fun. Here’s some of what she shared with readers:
Drive straight to Sea Rim State Park where you can dip your toes in the Gulf of Mexico waters along five miles of beach, paddle over 10 miles of trails in the adjoining marsh, or fish for drum, flounder and speckled trout. Nature enthusiasts will be enthralled with the three-quarter mile boardwalk trail through the marsh with front row viewing opportunities for spectacular wildlife including gators and birds. Some 290 species of birds adorn the blue skies throughout the year, almost guaranteeing a sighting. Sea Rim State Park is ideal for kayaking or just wandering along the shoreline.
Surrounded by Sabine Lake and the Intracoastal Waterway is Pleasure Island, where guests can utilize the Yacht Club and Marina, cabins and condos, hike and bike trails, or just picnic and play disc golf on the 18-mile stretch of land.
Port Arthur’s diverse culture is rich throughout the city. A sight to behold is the Buu Mon Buddhist Temple & Lotus Garden with a Zen garden and koi pond tucked beneath lush bamboo. Tee four-tier pagoda denotes tenets in the Buddhist faith and is enclosed by the fruit and lotus gardens.
The Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church respectfully established the Queen of Peace Shrine &U Gardens with a magnified statute of Virgin Mary as a grateful gesture for their welcome to Port Arthur years ago.
The 17-foot tall bronze Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is positioned on rocks transported to this very site from Mount Tepeyac in Mexico City where legend tells of the Virgin Mary appearing to Juan Diego.
Italian immigrants to Port Arthur also built a monument honoring “those who led us to a new country, a new life and a new beginning.”
The city by the water is a worthy road trip with attractions like the pink mansion built in 1900 by the “Barbed Wire King” (Isaac Ellwood). a reproduction of a circa 79 AD Pompeiian Villa. OF course, tours are offers for most sites in Port Arthur.
Another site is the tallest bridge on the Gulf Coast, the Rainbow Bridge, built in 1938, it peaks at 20 stories high wile clearing the river by 177 feet, a stately crossing over a scenic waterway.
One definite stop should be at the Museum of the Gulf Coast to better understand the history of this unique area, a shrimping haven with legendary natives like Janis Joplin and football’s Jimmy Johnson. Peer at the original Fresnel lens from the Sabine Pass lighthouse and 75 permanent music exhibits as well as seasonal and traveling productions sure to entertain and delight.
In close proximity to Port Arthur are three distinct and historical communities: Nederland, Groves and Port Neches. The Dutch and French settlers to Nederland are remembered with a 40-foot Dutch Windmill Museum with century-old relics of the past. The windmill-shaped structure also serves as the Tex Ritter Museum, honoring one of their own. There’s also Doornbos Park, a community recreation area with a rec center, swimming pool, pavilion, sports courts and fields, a duck pond and picnic areas.
Minutes away is Groves, known for its legacy of pecan trees. Here you can enjoy the Groves Pecan Festival each year, or better yet, pecan pie just about any time at Larry’s French Market and Cajun Restaurant. Fourth generation restauraneur Larry Judice serves up a lunch buffet and the likes of fried boudain balls, gumbo, etouffee and seafood fried, boiled, grilled or boldly tucked in delectable dishes. All-you-can-eat seafood buffet with live music and dancing is on the menu Thursday through Saturday evenings. Larry’s grandmother, Lariza, brought her boudain recipe to Port Arthur in 1927 and sold it at Judice’s French market and Grocery Store. His father, A.J., was affectionately known as the “Crazy Frenchman.”
Port Neches boasts a beautiful namesake river, Neches River, with idyllic spots for relaxing and just gazing at the water. Neches River Wheelhouse is just such a site with outdoor riverside dining. You’d be hard pressed deciding which is best – the panoramic view, the scrumptious po-boys and seafood or outstanding service.
When you find your way to Port Arthur, take time to absorb the diverse culture and reverence of generations past, where their pride and spirit of community is evident around every corner.