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Galveston Seawall

Both An Engineering Marvel and Promenade
of Restaurants, Amusements, & Gift Shops

Back in the early 1900's Galveston suffered one of the most destructive and merciless hurricanes to ever hit the US. The 1900 Hurricane killed over 6,000 residents, and destroyed over 50% of the city. The biggest threat from any hurricane is the Storm Surge. This is a wall of water that is forced inland by the hurricane and is far more of a threat than the wind and rain.

Galveston Seawall Design And History

After this storm it was decided that if Galveston was going to survive, there had to be some type of structure that could protect against these Storm Surges. At the time of the 1900 Hurricane the majority of the city was less than 9 feet above sea level. Long story short, the first section of the Galveston Seawall was constructed by 1904. This protective barrier is a reinforced concrete seawall that is 17 feet above sea level and 16 feet wide. In addition to the concrete barrier, the ground behind the seawall would be built up to slope upward for 200 feet to raise the land 4-5 feet higher than the top of the seawall.

Initially it was built from the east side of the island to around 39th street. Over the next 60 years it was extended all the way to 99th street where it ends today. The last section was completed in the early 1960's. I won't dwell on the engineering challenges but suffice to say it was a formidable task and Galveston would not be here today if it had not been built. The current length is over 10 miles long and has proved itself many times. 

There have been three Hurricanes that made a direct hit on Galveston Island in recent history. Hurricane Carla in 1961 (Cat 5 - 175 mph winds), Hurricane Alicia in 1983 (only Cat 3 but huge storm surge and damage). and the most recent Hurricane Ike on September 13th, 2008. Due to the direct hit and storm surges these hurricanes caused huge losses and many deaths but probably would have erased Galveston if the famous Galveston Seawall was not in place.

I was here for both Alicia in 1983 and Ike in 2008 (I did evacuate early in both cases). And trust me, it's a good idea to evacuate, and do it early. There are only two ways off Galveston and both get overwhelmed in the last 2-3 days before landfall. Plus, even if you do manage to make it through the storm unscathed, the aftermath is insufferable and you may not be able to get off the island for several days. I lost a boat and dock from Alicia, and a house from Ike.

The Galveston Seawall Promenade

Enough about hurricanes and how and why the Galveston Seawall was built. Galveston Island can be split into three major areas of interest. The Strand shopping and Historical District, the Galveston Seawall, and the west side with all the beach houses.

The good news is that the Galveston Seawall is probably the largest and most famous Seawall Promenade in the US. There are so many ways to have fun on the Galveston Seawall, it would take weeks if not months to do it all. From kids of all ages to our Senior Citizens, there is something for everyone.

There are many excellent restaurants from fast food to the best steak or seafood dinners to be enjoyed at every price level. If you're into souvenirs, there are dozens of great shops big and small. And if you partake in alcoholic beverages, there are many excellent bars to sit and watch the ocean surf, people, or weather while enjoying your favorite beverage.

Like adventure? There's a place where you can take a Segway Tour of the seawall, rent surfboards, bicycle buggies for tooling around, rent jet skis and kayaks, an amusement part on a pier with rides and games, fish off a pier or beach, roller skate or roller blade, swim or snorkel along the beach, and much more. There are several historic sites and monuments to visit, or just stroll along the beach, catch sunrise and sunsets that amaze, or just sit in the shade and people watch.

The beach is a fun place to be in good weather or bad. One of my favorite breakfast places is the Ihop on 53 street in the winter months. Watching the sunrise, enjoying some great coffee and warm atmosphere is a great way to start your morning. Sitting in any of the many restaurants or bars and watching a storm come in over the water anytime of day or season is fun too. It's pretty easy to find something to enjoy along the Galveston Seawall, regardless of the weather, season, or time of day.

Here's a video of a ride from the far west side of the Galveston Seawall to the east end. This video was made to show many of the great spots and features of the seawall. It was shot in 2010 to show the area recovery from Hurricane Ike in 2008. You can click on the square in the bottom right corner to see the video full size. They did a good job of editing and choosing the music. There have been some changes since 2010 (it's now 2013 as I write this) but you can certainly get the feel for all there is to do and see along the seawall in Galveston.

The biggest change to the Galveston Seawall is probably the re-opening of the Galveston Pleasure Pier in June of 2012. At about 3:06 you start to see a clear shot on the right side of the old Flagship Hotel. This is now the site of the new Galveston Pleasure Pier. You can see pictures and more information about the Galveston Pleasure Pier if you go to our website home page here.


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