butterflyThe most shocking thing about my recent trip to Galveston was how clear the water was. We waded in over our knees and we could still see our feet. I’ve gone to Galveston lots of times. I love Galveston, but I’ve never seen the water there this clean.

For anyone who’s visited the Caribbean or even beaches along the east or west coasts, that’s not much of a boast. But this was Galveston with some of the ugliest beaches and brownest water I’ve ever seen along an open coastline. OK, so the Galveston Chamber of Commerce probably won’t be linking to this piece.

Not only was the water clean, but so was the beach.

What’s also surprising whenever I go to Galveston is just how seedy it is. With Houston just 40 miles away, I’m always surprised the gay community hasn’t snapped up some of the great old buildings and turned them the island into a showplace. But that hasn’t happened. The LGBT community on Galveston is very small.

Still, a number of great old buildings have been preserved. The Opera House is undergoing another renovation. Buildings along the Strand — one of my favorite streets in Texas —  are filled with fun stores to browse.

The old Flagship Hotel, the only hotel in the U.S. built on a pier entirely over water, is gone and the pier is now an amusement park. Roller coasters and a ferris wheel are lit with LED lighting and have become the island’s new landmark.

We had dinner at Gaido’s, a Galveston institution that’s one of the state’s best seafood restaurants. At Mosquito Cafe, have the lemon dream cake.

Also worth the trip is a visit to Moody Gardens’ three pyramids. The aquarium pyramid is closed currently for renovation. The rain forest is home to colorful tropical birds, butterflies who like to pose for pictures and a particularly ornery monkey. He’s happy to pose from a comfortable distance of five or six feet.

So why do I love a trip to Galveston? Even when the water isn’t this clear, I love the sunrises and sunsets over the Gulf. Despite hurricanes that have tried to wash the island off the face of the earth, many older buildings — some more than 100 years old — survive. The seafood is always fresh — waiters will warn which fish had to be flown in or are farm raised.

Despite how seedy, there’s so much beauty on Galveston, it makes a wonderful, relaxing weekend getaway.