As you approach Texas from the East, Port Arthur is one of the first towns you will come to. It is 100 miles East of Houston. This Gulf Coast town is home to the largest oil refinery in Texas and several other oil companies. Petroleum is still a vital industry, and the culture is based around black gold. Port Arthur has beaches, serene waterways, fun attractions, educational sites, and fantastic birding trails. Here is what you can do with only 24 hours in Port Arthur, Texas, a place you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
What to Do in Port Arthur
First, visit the most popular tourist attraction in town, the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Here, you will find treasures and exhibits covering Port Arthur’s oil-entangled history, famous residents, and area history. The Museum of the Gulf Coast also has a great Texas Navy maritime exhibit.
A cool part of the museum is the tribute to noteworthy Port Arthur (and surrounding areas) residents. Would you have guessed that nearly 200 people are featured in the museum displays? These included George Jones, “The Big Bopper,” Jimmy Johnson (head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and two time Super Bowl winner), and Bum Phillips (head coach of the Houston Oilers/Saints), to name a few. They even have an Academy Award.
The Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Snell Gallery features a lovely selection of antique glassware from around the world as well as interesting furniture. Robert Rauschenberg, a world-renowned painter and graphic artist, also has a gallery at the museum he helped create. It is said that his early works helped bring forth the pop art movement. Robert was an idol to pop icon Andy Warhol.
Janis Joplin: Port Arthur’s Most Famous Resident
Legendary singer Janis Joplin, a singer who was and is still one of the most influential artists and considered the “Queen of Rock” is from Port Arthur. Two of her biggest songs, “Piece of My Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee,” earned the soulful singer #1 on the Billboard charts and a place in her fans’ hearts, many who travel internationally to Port Arthur to see the attractions.
You can see her childhood home still standing in Port Arthur at 4330 32nd Street. The Gulf Coast Museum has an impressive display of her artwork, photographs, and memorabilia on display permanently.
A Gorgeous Mansion
Next, head over to the Pompeiian Villa. This early 1900’s home was built by Isaac Elwood, the barbed wire king. Elwood sent architects to Italy to research the style of elaborate home he wanted, and this villa replicated just that.
The Pompeiian Villa, in a beautiful shade of pink, is filled with elaborate antiques, beautiful decorations, and a docent (Monteel) who offers fantastic stories about the grand home, which was purchased by the Port Arthur Historical Society in 1973. Ask her about her connection with Janis Joplin if that interests you.
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One of the unique things to see and do in Port Arthur is to stroll through the Buu Mon Buddhist Temple’s gardens. The lush landscape is adorned with towering bamboo, koi ponds, lotuses, rose gardens, and many beautiful blooms. If you take the tour, expect the monks to lead you through the temple and meditation areas. The giant seven-foot-tall golden Buddha statue will amaze you! The photo-ops at Buu Mon are more than impressive.
It may come as a shocker to see such a massive Buddhist attraction in Port Arthur. The story is that the Vietnamese landed in Port Arthur in the early 70s to work shrimping jobs. They have made it their home since. Port Arthur weaves a lovely blend of cultures.
Beaches and Parks
Another Port Arthur Treasure is Sea Rim State Park. Did you know that there are beaches here? Located on the Gulf of Mexico, you can enjoy the sand, paddling, swimming, fishing, and other outdoor attractions. Sea Rim is also a fantastic camping spot with five miles of uncrowded beaches, plus you can drive on the beach! Or, you may prefer to hike the Gambusia Nature Trail and take in the scenery.
In the marshy areas, be on the lookout for gators, coyotes, and wild pigs. Port Arthur is notorious for magnificent birds and is well-known around the country as being a top birder’s paradise.
Where to Stay in Port Arthur
The TownePlace Suites is in a convenient part of Port Arthur and showcases all of the wonderful features from Marriott Hotels that you would expect: a stylish lobby, swimming pool, and gym, plus a functional room with plenty of space. Wi-Fi and parking were included with our stay, and a tasty hot breakfast buffet.
Rooms have either King or two Queen beds, attractive bed linens, a table with chairs, kitchen, and sitting area. There are plenty of plug-ins and lights–great for working. The sink area is outside of the bathroom, making it more convenient for two people to share a room. Finally, the TownePlace Suites staff is exceptionally friendly and attentive.
Where to Eat in Port Arthur
Port Arthur has delicious dining options, including Tex-Mex, casual, fine dining, mom and pops, plus kolache shops, a Texas staple.
Seafood and Tex-Mex
For lunch, head over to Reel Cajun Seafood Restaurant and Bar. Though the menu is enormous and lists every kind of seafood you can imagine, there are also lunch priced items to save a few dollars.
The Grilled Chicken Dinner paired with cajun creamed corn and green beans is an excellent choice. Homemade goat cheese sauce over the chicken really elevated this late to another level. If you haven’t tried cajun corn, it is a must—spicy, creamy, and unusual. Save room for one of Reel Cajun’s honkin’ big desserts.
Another great lunch (or dinner) choice is Rodair Roadhouse. It is a locals’ favorite and has an exceptional menu with mouth-watering delicious dishes. Start your dining experience with the Fried Green Tomatoes, one of Rodair’s specialties. If you like Cajun food, go for the Red Beans and Rice, nearly as good as New Orleans, or the Cajun Fried Ribs, a big seller– St. Louis pork ribs, breaded and fried. Mmm, mmm, good! Rodair’s country-west setting and decor appeal to the eye, and the restaurant features live music nightly.
Mexican and Steakhouse Dinners
For dinner, get your Mexican food fix on at Rancho Grande or enjoy Saltgrass Steakhouse, a chain restaurant with your classic steakhouse favorites.
At Rancho Grande, start with creamy White Queso, warm tortilla chips, and salsa. The Chicken Fajita Flautas and Quesadillas are both good choices. The flautas are served with rice and beans and a small side of yellow cheese dip.
If you choose Saltgrass Steakhouse, a steak is a must. Go big and try a steak, preferably the six ounce Filet Mignon. Don’t miss the side of luscious, creamy macaroni and cheese. Steaks are cooked to order while the macaroni and cheese is a mouthful of deliciousness. Another recommended dish are the Cheese Fries, made with chunky potatoes rather than fries, and loaded with bacon, cheese, green onions, and a tangy Ranch dipping sauce.
Port Arthur: Worth A Look
Port Arthur is a nice laid-back place to road trip Texas. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Thanks for the Port Arthur CVB for hosting our trip through the area. As with all of my posts, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.