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The Best Outdoor Adventures and Things To Do in Beaumont, Texas

March 21, 2023

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In the Southeast corner of Texas, you’ll find a city full of adventure, great food and a welcoming atmosphere. There is no shortage of great things to do in Beaumont, whether you are visiting for history, art, culture or adventure. It’s especially perfect for those seeking bird watching and outdoor activities, and I’ll be focusing on the outdoors for this blog.

Beaumont was once a booming lumber city. Lumber from the surrounding forests was shipped all across the country in the late 19th century. When oil was discovered, the city experienced another boom and grew quickly.

Today, Beaumont is once again growing quickly and offers a variety of historic sites, outdoor adventure and more. Its location makes it particularly unique. You’ll find yourself a stone's throw from the Gulf Coast, the Louisiana border and the city of Houston. Whether you’re seeking a weekend trip from Houston, a bird watching adventure or a relaxing paddling trip through the Big Thicket, you’re sure to find something to love about Beaumont.

Full disclaimer – This is a sponsored blog post by Visit Beaumont. As always, my opinions are unbiased and my own. I want to thank the Beaumont tourism board for their generosity!



Outdoor Adventures near Beaumont

Explore Big Thicket National Preserve

Located 30 minutes north of Beaumont, Big Thicket National Preserve is a must-visit if you enjoy the outdoors. This was one of the first national preserves (established in the same year as Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida) and protects several ecosystems, from bayous to pine forests to lowland swamps.

Looking at a green lake with cypress trees growing out of the water.
Kayaking with Big Thicket Outfitters

The national preserve is free to visit and includes over 113,000 acres of land. I will recommend a couple of hiking trails and an amazing place to paddle, but there are many more backcountry adventures to be had with more time.

Tip: Make sure to bring your insect repellant! The mosquitoes can be all over you in some areas of the Big Thicket.

Kayak in the Big Thicket

One of the best ways to experience the Big Thicket is by water, and a kayaking experience with Gerald from Big Thicket Outfitters is one that you won’t forget. Gerald was born and raised in the area and loves to share the magic of the Big Thicket with visitors.

A tree with a root that resembles a woman-like figure.Looking out at water and trees from the front of a kayak.
Kayaking with Big Thicket Outfitters

During my trip, we paddled down the Neches River, across calm lakes and through an oxbow of towering cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss. We saw some of the oldest trees in the area including stumps left from the gutting that occurred during the lumber boom of the late 19th century. We even saw the figure of a woman nicknamed Madonna, weathered out of the trunk of an old cypress tree.

The paddling adventure was structured as a loop and I found it to be a relaxing trip that is perfect for any level of experience.

If you do one outdoor activity near Beaumont, this is the one I recommend. You are sure to leave with fond memories and a new appreciation for the calmness and beauty in the Big Thicket.

Send an email or phone call to Big Thicket Outfitters to set up your own adventure.

Are there alligators in the Big Thicket?

Yes, alligators can be found in the freshwater swamps and marshes of the Big Thicket. I personally did not see any. You have a much higher chance of seeing them in Cattail Marsh, mentioned below! If you see one, be sure to always keep a large distance and give wild animals their space.

Hike in the Big Thicket

Big Thicket National Preserve is full of hiking trails that will allow you to explore the various ecosystems around the park. The preserve offers some of the best hiking in Southeast Texas.

Several "cypress knee" sticking out of some water in Big Thicket National Preserve.
Kirby Nature Trail
A boardwalk trail surrounded by some green plants with trees in the distance.
Pitcher Plant Trail

Start at the Big Thicket visitor center in Kountze to speak with a ranger and learn more about the park. They have a museum area that explains the various ecosystems and an informative video that will teach you some of the preserve’s history.

I enjoyed the Pitcher Plant trail and the Kirby Nature Trail. The Pitcher Plant trail will lead you through an area full of pitcher plants, a carnivorous plant that traps their prey and drowns them in nectar. The Pitcher Plants were just starting to bloom during my visit (they typically bloom in the spring). The trail consists of a boardwalk through a meadow of pitcher plants and then a flat walk through the forest to complete the loop.

The Kirby Nature Trail is a great way to see a variety of ecosystems that make the Big Thicket so special. You’ll see cypress sloughs, shallow wetlands and many trees. You can even see a Hercules’ Club tree, which is nicknamed the “Toothache Tree,” because early settlers chewed on the bark or leaves to treat ailments like toothaches.

The Kirby Nature Trail has an inner loop and an outer loop, so you can make it a 1.5 mile or 2.5 mile loop. It has a bit of elevation change but is still considered an easy hike.

I had cell reception on these trails in the Big Thicket, but it’s always a good idea to download offline maps or carry a paper map just in case. Also be sure to bring plenty of water along with the rest of the 10 hiking essentials and insect repellent.

Look for Wildlife in Cattail Marsh

What began as the final phase of the Beaumont wastewater system is now an incredible wetlands area that is home to over 290+ species of birds, alligators and more. The Cattail Marsh covers 900-acres and has over 8 miles of gravel roads that can be used for biking, hiking and more.

A large alligator laying on top of a swampy area. A few bits of greenery are on it's back.Three baby alligators on top of a cement area in the Cattail Marsh.
Alligators at the Cattail Marsh

I had the chance to take a van tour around the Marsh and was blown away by the amount of wildlife I saw! My guide John was knowledgeable about the wildlife and I learned a lot.

I saw 19 alligators and countless birds including egrets, roseate spoonbills and more. Van tours of the marsh are typically offered Tuesdays and Thursdays and select Saturdays, and are completely free. Check out the Cattail Marsh Facebook page to stay up to date with their offerings.

Also be sure to visit the Wetlands Education Center, where you can get a birds eye view overlooking the marsh, borrow binoculars and learn more about the area.

Whether you only have time to visit the boardwalk or are able to take the van tour around the marsh, this is a must-visit for your Beaumont trip if you enjoy seeing wildlife!

Tip: You may get a chance to meet Ken, the resident wildlife photographer, if you visit the Wetlands Education Center. Check out Ken’s incredible work and get a taste of the wildlife you may see on his Instagram, @capturedbyken.

Explore More of Tyrell Park

Cattail Marsh is located inside of Tyrell Park, a large city park that has something for the whole family. In addition to the marsh, you can visit the botanical garden, play golf on the 18 hole course, play disc golf, visit the archery range, have a picnic and more.

A courtyard area with a pool of water in the center at the Nature Center in Tyrell Park.The head of a fish coming out of a wall made of seashells in Tyrell Park.
The Nature Center at Tyrell Park

I highly recommend a stop at the Nature Center. The building was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the late 1930’s and features a building technique that includes shells, artistic elements inspired by the ocean and other intricate details. The building was set to be torn down, but the CVB (Convention & Visitors Bureau) saved it from demolition and began renovations. The center hosts events for the community, plus has a small gift shop and a historic exhibit.

Future plans for the Nature Center include an educational museum display that will feature the plants and animals found in the area, outdoor awnings and more. Stop in and ask Rebecca about the history of the building and you’re sure to gain an appreciation for the work that has gone into preserving the structure.

Shangri La Botanical Gardens

The Shangri La Botanical Gardens are located in the nearby town of Orange, about 30 minutes east of Beaumont. This impressive garden area is free to enter and is a beautiful place to see wildlife, flowers in bloom and a variety of plants native to the area.

A pathway surrounded by flowers and greenery inside of a greenhouse at the Shangri La Botanical GardensA close up shot of a bee and pink flowers at the Shangri La Botanical Gardens
Shangri La Botanical Gardens

The Shangri La Botanical Gardens are located in the nearby town of Orange, about 30 minutes east of Beaumont. This impressive garden area is free to enter and is a beautiful place to see wildlife, flowers in bloom and a variety of plants native to the area.

A lake with a reflection of trees at Shangri La Botanical Gardens. An alligator lays on a floating island in the distance.A large frog on a log at Shangri La Botanical Gardens
Shangri La Botanical Gardens

Don’t miss the greenhouse, where they showcase different plants each season, or the Dancing Sisters Bottle Tree Statue near the entrance. There are so many beautiful pockets around the gardens to explore.

Explore Village Creek State Park

Just minutes outside of Beaumont, you can visit another gorgeous section of the Big Thicket: Village Creek State Park. This Texas state park includes peaceful hiking trails, access to swimming, campsites with views and scenic paddling trails.

A river surrounded by a sandy shore at Village Creek State Park
Village Creek State Park

I hiked portions of the Village Creek Trail and the Village Slough trail and both had shaded forest sections and water views. The Village Creek Trail has overlooks of the Village Creek and ends at a sandbar where you can take a dip in the cool water.

The Village Slough outer loop includes a section where you will walk among tall grasses, so you’ll get to see another unique ecosystem inside of the park.

Tip: The mosquitoes were ruthless in this park, make sure to bring your insect repellant! I love Ranger Ready because it uses Picaridin instead of DEET. I also saw a snake cross a trail, so keep your eyes peeled.

Besides hiking, Village Creek is a wonderful place to canoe. The Village Creek Paddling trail is 21 miles in total length and a portion of it passes through the park. The park offers canoe rentals and a ramp to launch your own watercraft.

Village Creek State Park also has wonderful options if you’re interested in camping near Beaumont. There are walk-in campsites that directly overlook Village Creek, plus an area for RV hookups and a cabin available to rent.

Whether you come for a couple hours or a couple nights, Village Creek State Park is a peaceful escape and a great addition to your explorations in the Big Thicket.

Village Creek State Park costs $4 per adult per day. I recommend a Texas state park pass if you’ll be visiting many parks throughout the year (it will cover all of the passengers in your car!).

Have fun at Gator Country

If you’re fascinated by alligators, it’s worth a stop to explore Gator Country, a wildlife sanctuary and adventure park located right outside of Beaumont. They take in alligators (and other animals) that were called in as nuisances as well as injured animals.

Two alligators laying on top of eachother at Gator CountryTwo tortoises at Gator Country
Gator Country

They have about 500 alligators living here, so you are guaranteed to see many!

During a visit, you can feed the alligators ( hot dogs on a fishing pole), watch their feeding show, take a swamp boat tour or visit several other reptiles in their indoor area. It’s a fun place for kids and adults alike.

You can even feed lettuce to giant tortoises, which I thought was really special.

While I generally don’t prefer seeing animals in captivity, I’m glad that so many nuisance and injured alligators have been given a safe home.

Head to the Coast at Sea Rim State Park

This park is a bit further from Beaumont (a little less than an hour's drive) than the other places on this list, but it’s definitely worth visiting if you have time!

A boardwalk trail surrounded by water at Sea Rim State ParkA boardwalk trail with several birds standing along the edge.
Sea Rim State Park

Sea Rim State Park is located on the Gulf Coast and offers beach access, plus thousands of acres of marshlands to explore. One of the most unique and accessible parts of the park is the Gambusia Nature Boardwalk Trail. The boardwalk is entirely over water and is a great place to see birds and fish.

You can also walk the Dune Boardwalk trail to reach the beach, or drive on the beach. Keep an eye out for crabs, I saw so many!

Across the road from the main area of the park, there are miles of paddling trails. You can even paddle out to a floating campsite for a really unique camping experience.

While I didn’t see any, the park is home to both alligators and feral hogs. As always, be careful to stay aware of your surroundings and give wildlife its distance.

Whether you will be relaxing on the beach, bird watching or paddling, Sea Rim is a really unique Texas state park and makes for a fun day trip from Beaumont.

Sea Rim State Park costs $3 per adult per day. I recommend a Texas state park pass if you’ll be visiting many parks throughout the year!

Beaumont also makes a great weekend getaway from Dallas! Check out my list of 40+ weekend getaways from DFW.


Where to Stay in Beaumont

Holiday Inn Beaumont Plaza

The Beaumont Plaza Holiday Inn & Suites is a reliable option for good quality and a convenient location. They have a tall atrium (that even has a waterfall!) with the hotel rooms on the outside edge. This means you’ll have a cool view of the entire lobby whenever you exit your room. If you add on their breakfast, you get a mix of table service and buffet with higher quality food than I typically see in US chain hotels.

A bed with artwork on the wall next to it inside Holiday Inn Beaumont PlazaA tall lobby surrounded by hotel rooms at Holiday Inn Beaumont Plaza
Holiday Inn Beaumont Plaza

The hotel tends to be affordable and makes the perfect base for your adventures in Beaumont.


Where To Eat in Beaumont

Here are a few of the best restaurants in Beaumont (and they’re all vegetarian friendly)!

Rao’s

Rao’s has to be the best place for breakfast in Beaumont! The restaurant opened in the 1940’s and is still family owned. They have now expanded to multiple locations, but still operate from their original location in downtown Beaumont. Visit the original spot if you can - it’s small but full of energy, and tends to serve as a meeting place for the community.

A large muffin on a plate at Rao’sA half eaten breakfast burrito next to a cup of salsa at Rao's
Rao's

At Rao’s you can enjoy a variety of breakfast, lunch and dessert options. Enjoy kolaches, donuts, pie, sandwiches, frozen coffee and much more. The black bean breakfast burrito was perfect to fuel my days of adventure.

Each location has some gift items for sale too, so you can find seasonal decor, dishware and other gems.

Finally, be sure to check out their seasonal offerings. Their King Cake is super popular around Mardi Gras!

Whether you visit for a quick coffee or a full meal, Rao’s is a must for dining in Beaumont.

Lucy’s Cafe

Lucy’s Cafe and Bakery is an excellent lunch spot to pair with a trip to Shangri La Botanical Gardens. This buzzy diner serves some delicious sandwiches, salads and soups. I really enjoyed the gourmet grilled cheese with 3 cheeses and garlic butter.

Two plates on sandwiches and chips from Lucy's CafeA tall slice of strawberry pie topped with whipped cream.
Lucy's Cafe

If you have room for dessert, be sure to order a slice of pie! The strawberry pie was perfectly light and sweet. They also have lemon buttermilk pie, caramel fudge cheesecake, carrot cake, key pie pie and many more options.

JW’s patio

JW’s Patio is the place to go for a delicious Mediterranean-inspired meal. The restaurant feels high end enough for a special event, but still casual enough to come in after a day hiking or kayaking and not feel too out of place.

Two margarita's next to an appetizer of fried eggplant and artichokes.Looking down at a salad, a grain bowl and stuffed mushrooms from JW's Patio
JW's Patio

They have some great vegetarian options, including several bowls with a mix of flavors, vegetables and proteins. I really enjoyed the Buckshot Bowl, which is full of couscous, roasted peppers, spinach, asparagus, sundried tomato pesto, mushrooms and red pepper sauce. Plus, it was topped with crispy parmesan. It was the perfect mix of textures and super delicious!

I also loved the eggplant and artichoke appetizer and the Spicy Margarita cocktail. Sit outside on the patio and enjoy an excellent meal in good company.

Carmela’s Mexican Restaurant

Carmela’s is a wonderful, family-owned, neighborhood spot for Tex-Mex and great service. They are known for some of the best queso in the area and have a large menu full of variety. Their queso was perfectly creamy and the salsas had great flavor too.

A couple colorful plates of Mexican food, next to a bowl of chips,  at Carmela's. There are enchilada's served with rice and beans and quesadillas served with guacamole, sour cream and pico de galo.A bowl of chips next to salsa and queso sitting on a colorful table.
Carmela's

I enjoyed the cheese enchiladas and loved the fun atmosphere. They also have some delicious margaritas and offer online ordering.

Struggle Street Brewery

If you enjoy breweries, Struggle Street Brewery is a must during your Beaumont getaway! They specialize in sour beers and always have something new on tab. Come in and try unique flavors like Cucumber Lime, Pina Colada, Peanut Butter and Jelly and many more!

A flight of four colorful beers from Struggle Street BreweryA pizza topped with red hot sauce spiraling around the pizza.
Struggle Street Brewing Company

They also do something that I’ve never seen before - mixers created by their bartender Haylee! There are bound to be 10+ unique creations that mix two of their beers for a completely new combination.

As you can probably guess, this is the perfect place to order a flight so that you can try multiple flavors.

When you get hungry, order a pizza from their food truck outside. We had their teriyaki pizza with jalapenos on a cauliflower crust and it was the perfect compliment to trying different beers.

Whether you like unique beer flavors or something more classic, be sure to stop in Struggle Street Brewing Company for a fun night in Beaumont.

More Things To Do in Beaumont

Here are some other fun things to do in Beaumont if you have extra time or are looking for other types of adventures!

  • Beaumont is a city full of beautiful murals! Check out this Beaumont mural guide to discover all of the best ones to see.
  • If you’re a history buff, learn about the oil history in Beaumont at the Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum.
  • Beaumont is home to the World’s Largest Working Fire Hydrant! The hydrant has dalmatian spots and was actually donated to the Fire Museum of Texas by the Walt Disney Company. Come for a photo op and stay to check out the museum!

Final Thoughts

I hope this helps you plan the perfect Beaumont itinerary full of outdoor adventure, delicious eats and plenty of wildlife spotting. I was truly blown away by the wildlife, welcoming people and all of the gems in this corner of Texas. Whether you are passing through on a Texas road trip or you live in Texas and are looking for a unique getaway nearby, be sure to add Beaumont to your list!

For more Texas vacation ideas, check out these blogs. Happy Exploring!

Fun Things To Do in Wimberley, Texas

The Best Adventures in Dripping Springs, Texas

The Perfect Fredericksburg Weekend Itinerary

The Ultimate Big Bend to Marfa Road Trip (West Texas)

The Best Things To Do in the North Piney Woods of Texas

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