With easy access to the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay, Galveston Island is the perfect place to book a dolphin-watching excursion.
The popular Texas vacation destination is known for its sandy beaches, the Strand Historic District, and the Historic Pleasure Pier boardwalk. However, it's also a prime locale for wildlife watching, especially when it comes to bottlenose dolphins, the only type of cetacean native to Texas bays!
You don't have to venture far out to sea to see these beloved marine creatures. Dolphins often swim through Galveston Bay and are easy to spot on wildlife-watching outings from Pier 21.
A dolphin-watching trip is a perfect excursion while staying at your Galveston vacation rental - unless you've been lucky enough to spot them from your beach or bay view deck!
We've rounded up top dolphin tours below, ranging from short group excursions on a pontoon boat to private charters for a few hours or a whole day of fun on the Gulf. There's even an insider tip for a free Galveston dolphin tour option.
Historic Harbor Tour and Dolphin Watch
- Book a Tour: galvestonhistory.org
- Tour Time: 1 to 2 hours, depending on the tour.
- Ages: All Ages
One of the most popular Galveston dolphin tours, the Historic Harbor Tour and Dolphin Watch, is managed by the Galveston Historical Foundation. Board the Seagull II, a twin-engine motor boat, for a fun cruise that lasts about an hour with a handful of departures throughout the day.
The outings offer an up-close view of the Galveston Harbor as you coast along in search of sea life, including bottlenose dolphins, with an expert tour guide. On board, you can shelter from the sun on the covered main deck or climb to the upper deck for open air and 360-degree views.
This tour is one of the best options for families with young kids touring Galveston, with children under five riding for free. The excursion runs year-round (with the exception of some holidays), and you can also book private charters for an exclusive experience.
Baywatch Dolphin Tours
- Book a Tour: baywatchdolphintours.com
- Tour Time: 45 minutes
- Ages: All Ages
Baywatch Dolphin Tours is another one of the most popular dolphin excursions on the island, taking guests out onto the Galveston Harbor on a fleet of four different pontoon boats with shaded seating and open sides for sightseeing.
The outings last 45 minutes and cover 3 miles of waterfront, so they're easy to squeeze in on a busy day of sightseeing in the Downtown Historic Strand Seaport Area.
As you cruise along, you'll be able to see Galveston's waterfront attractions, like Pier 21 and the 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA, while learning about some of the harbor's history. The narrated tour also includes info about the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that are frequently spotted in this area.
Tours are priced per person, but you can opt for private charters that hold up to 39 guests. The outings run seven days a week at 30-minute increments starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 7 p.m., so there are many chances to book a tour, even in the busy season.
Galveston Water Adventures
- Book a Tour: galvestonwateradventures.com
- Tour Time: 1 hour
- Ages: All ages
Galveston Water Adventures offers everything from thrilling rides full of splashes and bumps on a speedy jet boat to peaceful and romantic sunset tours in the harbor. For the best chance to see wildlife, you'll want to book one of the Galveston Dolphin Tours departing from Pier 21.
Hosted aboard an open-air pontoon boat called the Cruise-N-Time, the one-hour tour floats through the Galveston Harbor in search of marine animals and birds. The boat holds up to 37 passengers, so you'll have company unless you book a private charter.
Fishin Addiction Charters
- Book a Tour: gulfoffshorefishing.com
- Tour Time: 1 hour
- Ages: Depends on tour type.
Anglers interested in dolphin watching can combine the activities by booking a day out on the water with Fishin Addiction Charters. The company offers an array of fishing options near the shore or out on the deep sea that range from four to 12 hours, as well as a harbor dolphin tour that you can book by the hour.
Since their fishing outings are offered in half-day or full-day options, you'll have lots of time out on the water and a good chance of spotting dolphins, sea birds, and other wildlife. The charters include tackle, bait, and cleaning services for any fish you catch.
If you want to skip the fishing and stick to sightseeing, book the Sunset Cruise or Harbor Tour. The length of these trips can be customized for your crew, and you can focus on looking for dolphins that hang out near the island in the harbor.
- Book a Tour: gtxcharters.com
- Tour Time: 3 to 6 hours
- Ages: Enquire with the charter captain.
While it can be a little pricier than some other options, GTX Charters offers a bespoke way to tour the waters surrounding Galveston on a private boat. If you want a full day of outdoor fun, this company will show you a little of the best local flora and fauna.
The company provides a few charter options ranging from three hours to overnight, including visiting some of the most active dolphin spots in Galveston Bay.
The most popular option, the Standard Charter, glides through the Galveston Channel with views of the 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA, the S.S. Selma Concrete Ship, and Pier 21 on a three-hour tour.
To spend longer on the water, you can book a four-hour Offshore Charter to head further into the Gulf of Mexico or the six-hour Everything Charter to sail the entire coastline, crossing under bridges, through the Yacht Basin, and across the Galveston Channel.
Since the outings are private for your party of up to six people, you can focus on dolphin and sea life sightings on any trip.
Galveston Port Bolivar Ferry
The ride makes a great day trip to Bolivar Peninsula, providing stunning views of the surroundings and an opportunity to see dolphins in their natural habitat.
While dolphin sightings are not guaranteed, the ride is free, and the destination makes a great day trip from Galveston. On the Bolivar Peninsula, you can visit Fort Travis Park to see historical bunkers and check out the sandy shores at Bolivar Beach.
The ride lasts about 20 minutes in each direction, but you may have to wait to board depending on how heavy the traffic is, as you can't reserve a spot in advance. The ferry runs all day and night, and at busier times, up to five ferries may be in service at once with staggered departures.
The Perfect Galveston Excursion
Whether you're looking for a quick outing to learn about bottlenose dolphins and spot marine life in the Galveston Harbor or to spend a half day floating with your crew on a private boat, Galveston has a little bit of everything under the sun.
Our cozy and quiet Galveston vacation rentals on the West End make the perfect base for all your adventures on the island and out to sea.