Sea Center Texas
A must-see attraction in the Brazosport Area is the spectacular Sea Center Texas (300 Medical Dr. in Lake Jackson, 979/292-0100, www.tpwd.state.tx.us, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat., 1–4 p.m. Sun., free). Sea Center Texas is a multi-use facility combining several aquariums, an education center, and a fish hatchery along with an outdoor wetland exhibit and a kids’ fishing pond.
The education center’s main exhibit is a 50,000-gallon aquarium containing Gulf of Mexico marine animals such as nurse sharks, Atlantic spadefish, red drum, gray snapper, and an enormous moray eel. Other large aquariums house tropical species found in area salt marshes, coastal bays, jetties, and artificial and coral reefs.
Kids will love the center’s “touch pool” where they can gently handle marine animals such as several varieties of crabs, snails, and anemones. Outside, the wetland exhibit is accessible by a long boardwalk over several marsh areas. Families can bring along a nature checklist and activity book to identify species in the area including green tree frogs, turtles, and a wide variety of birds.
The adjacent hatchery has the capacity to produce 20 million fingerlings each year (mostly spotted sea trout and red drum) for release into Texas coastal waters. Tours are available by reservation only.
Center for the Arts & Sciences
Regional culture converges at the Center for the Arts & Sciences (400 College Dr. in Clute, 979/265-7661, www.bcfas.org, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 2–5 p.m. Sun., free). This all-inclusive facility is home to the Brazosport Art League, the Brazosport Museum of Natural Science, the Center Stages Theater, and Brazosport Planetarium. With so many cultural activities sharing space under one roof, you’ll find an amazing array of attractions, from a colossal collection of sea shells to an art gallery and studio to a theater staging regional productions.
Perhaps most impressive is the natural science museum, containing wildlife, fossils, and an aquarium. Be sure to check out the exhibit featuring the Lightening Whelk (Texas’s state shell) and the planetarium, which offers public viewings and occasionally serves as a training facility for astronauts from NASA’s nearby Johnson Space Center.
Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge
The sizable Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (4430 Trammel St. in Freeport, 979-239-3915, www.fws.gov) contains protected habitats offering safe harbor for animals, particularly birds. Its prime location on the Gulf Coast draws more than 200 bird species, one of the highest counts in the nation. In winter, more than 100,000 snow geese, Canadian geese, teal, ducks, and sandhill cranes fill the numerous ponds and sloughs.
In summer you’ll find herons, egrets, white ibis, spoonbills, seaside sparrows, and scissor-tailed flycatchers. Alligators occupy the refuge year-round on Big Slough and in ponds. Look for their trails through the mud and “gator holes” in drier months.
San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge
The other major refuge in the Brazosport area is San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge (6801 County Road 306 in Brazoria, 979/849-6062, www.fws.gov). This 24,000-acre protected area is a haven for snow geese, warblers, herons, egrets, ibis, gulls, and terns. Most of the refuge is closed to the public, but the accessible three-mile car tour and several miles of hiking trails offer access to high-quality wildlife viewing.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition