Approximately 27 miles long and 3-1/2 miles wide at its widest point, the Bolivar Peninsula was named in honor of Simon Bolivar (1783-1836), considered the George Washington of Central and South America for his fight to free these lands from Spanish rule. He was the friend of Jean Lafitte, the pirate who frequented the waters of Galveston.
Major tourist pursuits are swimming, sunbathing, fishing, hunting, beachcombing, shell hunting and bird watching. Extending the length of the peninsula at its northwest side is the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
Bolivar’s five residential communities include: Crystal Beach, Port Bolivar, Caplen, Gilchrist and High Island. The population more than doubles during the summer months as owners of beach homes and tourists arrive to enjoy the beach, sun, bay sunsets, fishing, relaxation and the many attractions of the Bolivar Peninsula.
Port Bolivar is a community at the western tip of Bolivar Peninsula. It was one of the first ports established on the Texas Gulf Coast and was recognized as the center for seafood trade, fishing and cattle. Port Bolivar is home to the historic Bolivar Lighthouse, which once guided ships entering Galveston Bay. The lighthouse was built in 1872. It served for 61 years before being retired in 1933.
Crystal Beach, originally known as Patton, stretches seven miles along State Highway 87 in the middle of Bolivar Peninsula. Crystal Beach is a perfect place to visit, live, retire or get away! Soulful activities include walking, running, sunning, sailing, surfing, shelling, birding and just plain resting. With its small-town, quaint charm, the beach is relaxing and far away from the stress of “Life in the City”. The local businesses and residents are friendly and will welcome you to the beach.
Farther east, Caplen Texas is a residential area of Bolivar Peninsula. Caplen has been a resort since the late 1800’s and was eventually named for John Caplen, a property owner who surveyed the area in 1909. In earlier years, the site reportedly was a favorite of Indians, who left a burial ground there. Several important archeological finds have led to detailed excavations at the Caplen Site.
Gilchrist Texas is located seventeen miles east of Port Bolivar. The community was named for Gibb Gilchrist who relocated and rebuilt the rail line from High Island to Port Bolivar. A notable feature of the community is the Rollover Pass, which divides Bolivar Peninsula as well as Gilchrist and carries water between East Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It is regarded among sportsmen as a very popular fishing location. The pass is named for the practice of ship captains from the days of Spanish rule through prohibition, who, to avoid the Galveston customs station, rolled barrels of import or export merchandise over that part of the peninsula.
High Island Texas is on a tall salt dome on Bolivar Peninsula at the extreme eastern end of Galveston County. Its thirty-eight-foot rise above sea level makes High Island the highest point on the Gulf of Mexico. High Island was a boom town during the oil hey day. The small community is home to several Houston Audubon Society bird sanctuaries and draws birding enthusiasts from around the world.