Port Lavaca's food, shopping and bay view await visitors
Video: Tour of historical downtown Port Lavaca
A few months after Texas became a state, the first legislature created Calhoun County from southern portions of Victoria, Jackson and Matagorda counties. Port Lavaca, known simply as Lavaca until 1887, became the county seat.
Now, almost 170 years later, the 14-square-mile area is inhabited by about 12,000 residents who work primarily in construction, chemical, agriculture, fishing, hunting, plastic and rubber production, metal and metal production and public administration industries.
The white sign at the town's entrance reads, "Welcome to Port Lavaca, Paradise on the Bay," in royal blue letters with a sailboat silhouette that reaches beyond its rectangular edges. Rich in Texas history and coastal character, the town is situated near the center of the Texas Gulf Coast on the west side of Lavaca Bay.
A 30-minute trip from Victoria opens up all kinds of opportunities. Driving into town from Victoria on U.S. Highway 87, which turns into Main Street, turn right on South Ann Street. Travel two blocks to the Calhoun County Museum,
301 S. Ann St.
Hours: 10:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; closed Sundays, Mondays and holidays.
Established in 1964, the museum is the place to stop and brush up on the town's rich history before proceeding on the walking tour of Main Street.
Exhibits include a collection of items from La Salle's 1687 shipwreck, the Fresnel lens from the 1852 Matagorda Island Lighthouse, and an 8-foot diorama of the town of Indianola, among other items such as Native American tools and photographs of Port Lavaca through the years.
Drive east on Leona Street, which intersects with Ann at the museum, until it dead ends into South Commerce Street. Turn left, and pull over to the right to read the three side-by-side historical markers overlooking the bay just before Main Street. The markers commemorate the Alsatian immigration through Lavaca Bay, the Civil War bombardment and Civil War torpedo works.
Drive northwest on Commerce Street to Main Street, and take a left. Drive three blocks and park near Virginia Street. Walk up Main, stopping in the eclectic souvenir, gift and antique shops along the way that include:
Before It's a Quilt & Gifts
119 E. Main St.
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and closed Sundays.
This haven for quilters also appeals to shoppers searching for out-of-the-ordinary gift items. In addition to quilting and sewing supplies, this cozy shop offers cards, tote bags, puzzles, soaps and socks. Check out the summer camps for children and quilting classes.
Indianola Trading Co.
130 E. Main St.
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday
Antique enthusiasts can escape modern-day monotony in this refuge of European furniture, jewelry, china and wrought and cast iron decorative garden items. Vintage, designer, one-of-a-kind finds include driftwood crosses and rustic wooden cap/coat racks embellished with seashells.
The Green Iguana Grill
137 E. Main St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. weekdays, closed Saturdays and Sundays
This purple stucco facade with lime green accents opens to a funky interior with built-in booths and a metal-sign-covered wall. The grill offers a laid-back dining experience with chicken spaghetti, chicken-fried steak and king ranch chicken lunch and dinner specials. Regular menu items include burgers, sandwiches, salads and soups. A party room and enclosed outdoor patio provide festive backdrops for private parties.
Main Street Texas Traditions Cafe & Bakery
234 E. Main St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-8:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. Open all day during the summer.
Stop here for a homemade ding-dong on the way up Main Street and hear the owner ring a bell to commemorate the sale. A decorative metal sign anchored to the mustard stucco exterior reads, "Welcome Friends." Inside, light-colored, wooden tables and chairs with chunky carved legs and star motifs fill the large room, which is warm and welcoming for its size.
Return sometime for their chicken fried steak, Angus heavy hand-cut beef, or chicken and dumplings. Cap it off with pie or cake prepared daily from scratch by the pastry chef. Customer favorites include Jack Daniel's pecan, coconut meringue, buttermilk, chocolate and apple crumb pies.
Tropical Home Furnishings
320 E. Main St.
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Fun coastal furnishings fill this seafoam green wood-frame historic structure, once a bayfront hotel. Vibrant Adirondack chairs made from recycled milk jugs and hand-carved and painted wooden chairs and benches welcome customers.
Inside, original oil and acrylic paintings created in Bali surround islands of jewelry, Tervis tumblers and bowls and utensils carved from coconut wood. Other imports from the Indonesian island include a hand-shaped teak chair, coconut screens, a driftwood birdhouse, sarongs and caftans.
Nautical Landings Marina
106 S. Commerce St.
End the tour with some R & R on this man-made peninsula, overlooking Lavaca Bay. Kick back at one of the covered picnic tables or hang your legs over the edge of the lighted fishing pier.
Playground equipment complete with pirate's ship and a small splash pad offer entertainment for the children.