4 Best Scenic Drives Near Houston
Several major roads converge in the city of Houston from all directions, meaning there's an abundance of scenic drives that are easy to take from anywhere in the city. Several of these destinations, while great on their own, are also to be found along routes that offer much of the fun and beauty of the region.
Trips out of Houston can easily be made into day trips, with just a few hours on the road. However, there are also so many great stops along the way that road trips throughout the region can quickly become weekend excursions. These four scenic drives showcase the beautiful landscapes and cultures that surround this sprawling city. These trips will take drivers from freeways in Houston to beaches, forests, lakes, and much more. Keep reading to discover four scenic drives from Houston.
Table of Contents
- Catch an Island Breeze: Surfside Beach to Galveston via San Luis Pass Road
- Explore Washington County
- To Brazos Bend State Park and Back
- The Scenic Route to Huntsville
- Nature, History, and Fun Just Outside of Houston
Catch an Island Breeze: Surfside Beach to Galveston via San Luis Pass Road
Anyone looking for a cool drive along the Texas coast should hop on the 288 South Freeway in Houston towards the coast. From there, a driver has almost a straight shot along miles of the beautiful Texas coastline, including nearly the entirety of Galveston Island. This trip wraps up on Interstate 45 in the Galveston area. This will clock in at about 3 hours non-stop, but there are plenty of places to try out along this route. It is easy to end up taking a weekend to enjoy all that this circuit has to offer.
Highway 288 Highlight: Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge
This coastal refuge is a great place to watch many animals native to the region and escape the big city just for a bit. It is home to many different life forms such as frogs, crocodiles, fish, and an incredible variety of birds. Visitors can enjoy fishing, hunting, and animal watching at this over the 40,000-acre refuge.
Highway 332 Highlight: Surfside Beach
From the name, it is pretty apparent that this is a great place to soak up the sun and enjoy a beach day. The consistent waves along the coast here make it one of the most popular areas in Texas for surfers. Fishing, swimming, and boating are also popular in this part of the Gulf of Mexico. With over 4 miles of coastline, Surfside Beach has a lot to offer to water lovers.
It also has miles of trails for hiking. One of these trails is called the Bird & Butterfly Trail, a great place to see Monarch Butterflies in their natural habitat. There is also a replica of Fort Velasco, one of the first battles of the Texas War for Independence. The museum at the site details the history of this lesser-known battle of the war.
San Luis Pass Road Highlight: Downtown Galveston & Seawall
Far from being just a simple beach city, the city of Galveston is one of the most vibrant and historic cities in Texas. In downtown, the area known as The Strand is a top-rated shopping destination, home to several top brands. There is also plenty of fun along the seawall. Pleasure Pier, a pier over the ocean featuring restaurants and rides in a carnival atmosphere, is one particular area of note. Galveston is also home to Moody Gardens, a large complex with features such as a large aquarium and a rainforest greenhouse for visitors to explore.
This is one of the most scenic drives in the entire state. Setting aside the great attractions along the route, just rolling down the windows and enjoying the miles of beachline is worth the trip. The straight roads and low traffic make driving along the coastline fun and relaxing for those looking for a quick road trip just off of I-45 South. It is also a potentially fascinating road trip, with plenty of great stops along the way.
Explore Washington County
Washington County is one of the most historic and fun counties in the state. Luckily, the trip from Houston to the county is short and scenic. This trip will take travelers along US 290 west from Houston. At just about an hour and a half, this is an excellent drive for a fun day out of the city. The best months to make this drive are March and April, where the vast fields of bluebonnets will be on full display throughout the area.
TX-6 Highlight: Navasota, TX
This small Texas town is also very historic. Navasota has its roots in the railroad industry, and in many ways, has preserved the feel of a 19th-century city. Mansions adorn Washington Avenue, including some in the Victorian style. Lovers of historic architecture will also want to visit Railroad Street.
Much of the late 19th and early 20th century stylings in the buildings along Railroad Street has been preserved, showing off the town's history as a bustling railroad hub. Several of these mansions are open to the public for tours. Additionally, the Navasota area is home to no less than the three alpaca ranches, making it a great place to come and interact with alpacas. There is also a bee farm in the area that offers all kinds of honey treats and lessons on beekeeping.
TX-105 Highlight: Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site
Washington-on-the-Brazos is the site of the historic signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence. It is a must-see for scholars of Texas history. Much of the history of the period are preserved in the Star of the Republic Museum. Visitors can also take a tour of a replica of Independence Hall, where the declaration was signed. The area also includes a large park for picnics and bird-watching.
US-290 Highlight: Brenham, TX
Brenham is the county seat of Washington County and is itself a fascinating place to visit. Brenham has plenty of tasty attractions that appeal to a variety of palates. First of all, Brenham is home to several breweries and wineries. It is also home to Blue Bell Creameries & Ice Cream Parlor, where visitors can view the company's history, grab a souvenir, and of course, get a scoop of ice cream. Brenham is also a center of Texas BBQ culture. The town's "BBQ trail" has seven restaurants, including some of the most prestigious in the state.
The Antique Rose Emporium is also an essential stop in Brenham. This 8-acre facility is a plant nursery with plenty of choices for filling out a garden. The collection of flowers in the park also makes this a beautiful place to take a walk. The Antique Rose Emporium also has structures such as gazebos and a chapel for events, particularly weddings.
Washington County is a great place to visit. The history, culture, and natural beauty of central Texas are on full display in the area. It offers plenty of opportunities for sightseeing, shopping, and tasting. Easily accessible from Houston, the region is an excellent choice for a weekend excursion.
To Brazos Bend State Park and Back
The trip to Brazos Bend State Park and back takes only about two hours from Houston, but the journey is so packed with incredible destinations that a well-rounded road trip this way may take a day or more. This journey will take travelers south down TX 288 and then westward towards the park and back on The Southwest Freeway to Houston. Along the way are a great variety of attractions. These stops include lakes, shopping, dining, and much more.
Farm-to-Market 1462 Highlights: Thurmond Lake, Rancho El Escondido, Skydive Spaceland Houston
Farm-to-Market 1462 has several attractions for road trippers. One of the first stops likely to be encountered on the road is Thurmond Lake. This lake is shallow and popular with anglers. Another stop along the way is Rancho El Escondido. This large venue is frequently the home of live music, especially mariachi and country. It also often plays host to rodeo and has lots of space for horseback riding.
One more stop for the adventurous traveler is Skydive Spaceland Houston. This skydiving school is one of the busiest in the nation, offering both tandem and solo skydives. Solo skydiving requires a license, which Skydive Spaceland Houston can get done in as little as a week.
Farm-to-Market 1462 Highlight: Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park is a wetlands refuge that is home to many species native to southeast Texas. The park has several trails available. The Creekfield Lake is a half-mile paved path with rest areas and an observation deck. There are also 13 miles worth of other trails used for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The park offers primitive campsites for horse owners. Fishing at the lakes in the park is also popular. There is also the George Observatory within the park. The observatory hosts events such as Saturday night stargazing.
Brazos Bend State Park made our list of the best places to camp near Houston, so Houstonians who want to grab a tent for the weekend should check out that list too!
Southwest Freeway Highlight: Sugar Land, TX
Originally a company town for Imperial Sugar, the city of Sugar Land has grown to become much more. The city is home to several museums. The history of the region is told at the Fort Bend Museum. The city is also home to the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land.
The nearby George Ranch Historical Park is a working ranch with four distinct homesites. Sugar land is also known for its shopping opportunities, particularly at the town square. For relaxation, visitors can try the well-appointed Venetian Nail Spa, which offers services such as massage in an elegant environment. There is also the Smart Financial Centre, an arena that has hosted world-famous acts such as Mariah Carey and Willie Nelson.
While the Brazos Bend State Park is an excellent destination in and of itself, the many stops along the way help make this one of the most fun road trips out of Houston. The variety of attractions in this area means that there will be plenty to do in any season and for any interest. The circuit is also short enough that it can easily be done in a day, but can easily offer several days' worth of fun for longer trips.
The Scenic Route to Huntsville
It is possible to take I-45 North to Huntsville, and this is usually the fastest option. However, taking TX-105 W out of Conroe and cutting through the western portion of the Sam Houston National Forest can make the trip more enjoyable. This longer drive means a little over two hours on the road, but it's worth it for the lush forest scenery and fun stops along the route. For a pleasant trip to Huntsville, this route is worth considering.
Texas 105 Highlight: Dining on Lake Conroe
Visitors to the area will want to visit Lake Conroe for all kinds of water activities. Fishing, boating, swimming, and bird watching are all popular along this extensive lake. After enjoying the water, travelers may be hungry, and Walden's Lakeview Dining is a great place along the lake to eat. As the first restaurant built on Lake Conroe, this lakefront restaurant offers seafood and steak right by the shore. Its outdoor patio provides a great view of the lake, particularly at sunset.
Texas 149 Highlight: Hiking in Sam Houston National Forest
Along the road to Huntsville, drivers will move through the western end of the extensive Sam Houston National Forest. Several trailheads in the forest are easily accessible along the route. Sam Houston National Forest has over 85 miles of trails. These trails are mixed-use and open for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, and even driving off-road vehicles. Along the trails, hikers may find the endangered woodpeckers that live in the forest. The hunting of deer and ducks is allowed in the woods with proper licensing. The forest also has areas for activities such as fishing and boating. There are also developed campgrounds in the woods with electric and water hookups.
I-45 Highlight: Sam Houston Statue
The final stop on the road to Huntsville is the statue of Sam Houston. This steel and concrete statue honors the first President of the Republic of Texas. At 67 feet tall, this statue is hard to miss, especially as it stands atop a 10-foot-high pedestal. It has been proclaimed as "the world's tallest statue of an American hero." Known as "Big Sam" to residents, the statue is officially named "A Tribute to Courage." The nearby visitor's center offers information about the figure and a gift shop with unique souvenirs.
Officially dedicated to the city and visible for over six and a half miles from the south, the statue signifies drivers that they have arrived in Huntsville. The quick way to Huntsville skips over much of the scenery that makes the trip an enjoyable experience. Taking the scenic route allows drivers to enjoy some of the best views in Texas and the fun stops along the way. Between Lake Conroe and the Sam Houston National Forest, this route takes travelers through some of the greatest sources of natural beauty to be found in the state. It is a drive worth considering for a trip to Huntsville.
Nature, History, and Fun Just Outside of Houston
These four trips out of Houston offer a great variety of experiences along the Texas roads, making the city an excellent hub for exploring the state. In particular, many of the stops showcase the lush natural beauty of southeast Texas in its beaches, lakes, rivers, and forests. They also feature some of the state's history through museums, statues, and replica frontier houses.
Enjoying these road trips is a great way to experience some of the best of what the state of Texas has to offer, whether you're driving an RV near Houston or looking for a family-friendly Houston getaway. When you're not enjoying all of the fun things to do in Houston, venture out on the freeways for a new adventure. Deciding on a fun road trip out of Houston is as easy as picking a direction and hitting the road!
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