Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or a nature lover, Port Arthur (Jefferson County) has something for everyone. In this post, we’ll highlight 15 fantastic things to love in Port Arthur, TX, including where to find them and how to get there.
Port Arthur, Texas, is a small yet vibrant city located on the Gulf Coast 100 miles east of Houston. It is home to several unique attractions, delicious restaurants, and breathtaking outdoor spaces, making it the perfect destination for a memorable road trip. And let’s not forget the most famous previous resident — Janis Joplin or the fact that it is home to the largest oil refinery in Texas.
1. Museum of the Gulf Coast
The Museum of the Gulf Coast is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of the Gulf Coast region. The museum features exhibits on local industry, music, Port Arthur’s oil-entangled history, and more. You can find it at 700 Procter Street, Port Arthur, TX 77640.
An exciting part of the museum is the tribute to Port Arthur’s residents. Would you have guessed that nearly 200 are featured in the 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 for your viewing pleasure.
The Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Snell Gallery features a lovely selection of antique glassware from around the world and interesting furniture. Robert Rauschenberg, a world-renowned painter and graphic artist from Port Arthur, also has a gallery at the museum he helped create.
Legendary singer Janis Joplin, who was and still is 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 of 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.
2. A Gorgeous Pompeiian Villa
If you’re a fan of architecture, you won’t want to miss the Pompeiian Villa. This stunning mansion was built by Isaac Elwood (the barbed wire king) in the early 1900’s and has been beautifully restored.
The Pompeiian Villa, in a lovely shade of pink, is filled with ornate antiques and beautiful decorations. I had a docent, Monteel, who offered great stories about the grand home purchased by the Port Arthur Historical Society in 1973. Ask her about her connection with Janis Joplin if that interests you
Four dollar guided tours of the villa are available, but you’ll need to make a reservation. The Pompeiian Villa is located at 1953 Lakeshore Drive, Port Arthur, TX 77640.
3. Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp, 3400 Jimmy Johnson Blvd.
With a memorable menu and funky atmosphere, Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp is a must-visit for seafood fans, offering fresh Gulf seafood cooked in a variety of styles. Indulge in the creamy and delicious Blackened Shrimp and Crab Bread Bowl, something I still dream about, or check out their tempting oyster and taco selections.
And don’t forget to treat yourself to a tasty adult beverage – their margaritas are divine. The 190 Octane is a fan favorite. Many nights feature live music, and it is a kickin’ good time!
4. The Faith Trail and Buu Mon
The Buu Mon Buddhist Temple is an oasis of peace and tranquility in the heart of Port Arthur. Visitors are welcome to explore the temple’s beautiful grounds, lush landscape, and attend services. On my visit, the grounds were bursting with towering bamboo, lotus flowers, rose gardens, and koi ponds. Expect the monks to lead you through the temple and meditation areas if you take the tour.
The seven-foot-tall golden Buddha statue is the focal point of the garden.
You can find the temple at 2701 Procter Street, Port Arthur, TX 77640. Other properties on the Faith Trail are the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and Queen of Peace Shrine and Gardens.
Fun Fact: It may come as a shocker to see a massive Buddhist attraction in Port Arthur. The story is that the Vietnamese landed in Port Arthur in the early 1970s to work shrimping jobs. They have made it their home since. Port Arthur weaves a lovely blend of cultures.
5. Sea Rim State Park
For outdoor enthusiasts, Sea Rim State Park offers miles of unspoiled beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, hiking trails, and opportunities for premium birdwatching. Other fun opportunities include fishing, swimming, paddling, and building sand castles.
Sea Rim is also a camping destination with five miles of uncrowded beaches. You can even drive on the beach like at Ormond Beach, Florida. Be on the lookout for brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, terns, laughing gulls, and black skimmers at Sea Rim State Park. Watch for gators, coyotes, and wild boars in the marshy areas.
The park is located at 19335 S Gulfway Dr, Sabine Pass, TX 77655, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Port Arthur.
6. Pleasure Island
Perfect for beach lovers, Pleasure Island (18.5-miles-long)offers serene views of the Gulf of Mexico and is bordered by the Intracoastal Canal. Take a long walk along the beach, go for a boat ride, take a swim, or enjoy a picnic with your loved ones or four legged friends. Walk out or fish from the 275-foot long pier which overlooks the enchanting Sabine Lake.
An added attraction is the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site located nearby and a perfect place to explore for those interested in history. Admission is $5 per vehicle, and it’s open daily 8 AM to 5 PM.
7. The Great Coastal Birding Trail
The Great Coastal Birding Trail is a network of birdwatching sites that stretches across the Texas Gulf Coast. In Port Arthur, you’ll want to stop at the Sabine Woods and the Texas Ornithological Society’s Hawk Watch at the Smith Oaks Sanctuary. Both sites offer excellent birdwatching opportunities.
Spring and fall migrations bring many beautiful creatures to the Texas Gulf Coast, offering a peaceful place to rest and relax.
8. Rao’s Bakery, 2596 Memorial Blvd
You can’t visit Port Arthur without stopping by Rao’s Bakery, which has been serving delicious baked goods since 1941. And I might also mention that their delicious King cakes could give any bakery in the country a run for their money.
From their heavenly donuts to their freshly baked bread, Rao’s Bakery is the ideal spot for breakfast, brunch, or an afternoon snack while road tripping. Try the savory chicken salad panini or the famous cinnamon rolls and pecan sticky buns, which are too good to be missed. I never leave town without a bag full of goodies.
9. Reel Cajun Seafood, 7500 Twin City Hwy.
Chow down on top-notch seafood at Reel Cajun Seafood Restaurant and Bar. Delight in a mouthwatering menu of Cajun-style dishes, such as gumbo, shrimp and grits, and crawfish étouffée. Not only does the enormous menu feature every kind of seafood imaginable, there are also affordable lunch options (M-F 11 AM to 3 PM), such as the Grilled Chicken Lunch, served with cajun creamed corn or green beans.
The chicken is elevated to another level with homemade goat cheese sauce, while the spicy and unique cajun corn is a must-try. Don’t forget to leave room for their honkin’ big desserts.
10. Robert Rauschenberg Gallery
Art lovers won’t want to miss the Robert Rauschenberg Gallery at the Lamar State College-Port Arthur campus. The gallery features works by the renowned artist, who grew up in Port Arthur and helped bring forth the pop art movement. Robert was an idol to pop icon Andy Warhol and also a sculptor, printer, performance artist, and photographer.
You can find the Robert Rauschenberg Gallery at 1500 Procter St, Port Arthur, TX 77640.
Fun Fact: Rauschenberg’s art was used on the Talking Heads Speaking in Tongues album cover, which won a Grammy in 1984 for Best Album Package.
11. McFadden National Wildlife Refuge
For a chance to see some of Texas’s most majestic wildlife, head to the McFadden National Wildlife Refuge, featuring over 80,000 acres of wetlands, prairies, and forests. McFadden is home to alligators, waterfowl, and more.
There have been 285 species notated at the McFadden National Wildlife Refuge, plus a host of ducks and geese. A few easy to recognize birds include snowy and great egrets, heron, white ibis, and the cute little American coot. Ones to get to know include indigo bunting, the belted kingfisher, nighthawks, and osprey.
Also at McFadden are nearly two mile and ten mile kayaking trails.
12. Saltgrass Steakhouse, 7945 Memorial Blvd.
Looking for a great steakhouse experience? Look no further than Saltgrass Steakhouse, the original Texas steakhouse and one of my Texas favorites! With mouth-watering menu items ranging from juicy USDA Prime steaks to delectable fresh seafood and hearty sides, Saltgrass is “all that and a bag of chips”.
Their signature Mac and Cheese is velvety and delicious, some people would say “to die for”, while the cheese fries are doused with bacon, cheese, and green onions. Order a double batch of the ranch on the side.
For a real meal, of course the steaks are fantastic, but I also like the chicken fried chicken and chicken tenders. Pair them with green beans and mashed sweet potatoes. Nom!
13. Rose Hill Manor
If you are looking for a taste of history in Port Arthur, Rose Hill Manor is an excellent place to start. Built-in 1906, this 20-room mansion boasts an abundance of original artworks, rare artifacts, and elegant antiques. The grand piano is gorgeous!
Rose Hill Manor is a museum that showcases the lifestyle and extravagance of the early years of the 20th century. The museum, one of the oldest in Port Arthur, offers guided tours (appointment only) Tuesday through Friday from 11 AM to 5 PM with professional docents.
14. Babe Zaharias Golf Course
Consider teeing off at the Babe Zaharias Golf Course – a historic 18-hole golf course that stands in honor of the legendary Babe Zaharias, another Port Arthur native. This championship course offers picturesque views of the lush greens, challenging terrain, and diverse water hazards over 150 acres.
Suitable for male and female golfers of every skill level, this public course (par 72) is a must-visit spot for a round of golf in Port Arthur. And speaking of, do you need to sharpen your skills? Take a class at the onsite Mitch Duncan Golf Academy.
15. Neches Brewing Co.
Neches Brewing Co. is the perfect place to grab a beer while appreciating well-crafted brews. The brewery doesn’t just produce premium craft beer, it also offers lunch items like burgers, muffulettas, and fried chicken.
Entertainment at Neches Brewing include ladies night, live music, karaoke, and more. They are closed on Sundays.
Where to Stay in Port Arthur
Discover the perfect choice for your Port Arthur stay at TownePlace Suites. Experience the renowned hospitality of Marriott Hotels, with all the desirable amenities you expect: a chic lobby, sparkling pool, and fitness center, plus spacious and functional rooms.
With free Wi-Fi and parking, our guests get everything they need plus a delicious hot breakfast buffet to start their day off right. Rooms feature either a comfortable King or two Queen beds, cozy linens, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a comfortable sitting area.
With plentiful outlets, lighting, and workspaces, you can easily stay productive while on-the-go. Plus, the bathroom sink is conveniently located outside the bathroom for easy sharing.
Thanks for the Port Arthur CVB for hosting my first visit. As with all of my posts, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
Whether you’re looking for history, nature, or great food, Port Arthur, Texas, delivers. From exploring the Museum of the Gulf Coast to watching the birds at the Great Coastal Birding Trail, there are plenty of ways to spend your time in this charming Gulf Coast town.