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Getting to High Island from Houston

Houston is served by two airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). All international flights to Houston arrive in Bush, whereas many domestic and budget carriers use Hobby.

Getting to High Island is pretty simple from Bush Airport and takes about two hours.

Exit the parking lot onto JFK Drive and go south. Look for the purple signs with yellow lettering for the Sam Houston Tollway (locally known as Beltway 8). Be sure to have some cash for the toll; booth operators can make change. Go east on Sam Houston Tollway until your reach I-10. Take I-10 East out of the city and continue until you get to the town of Winnie. Winnie is approximately 52 miles from the Sam Houston Tollway and I-10 intersection. At Winnie take the state highway 124 exit. Go south on Hwy 124 approximately 18 miles to High Island. In High Island turn left (east) on 5th Street (you’ll see the post office on the southeast corner). Drive three blocks to the Tropical Birding Visitor's Center on your left, look for the birding tower. 

An alternate and less direct route, but one with more birding options, is to exit before the town of Winnie. From the airport, follow the above directions to reach I-10 east. Take I-10 east to the small community of Hankamer, which is approximately 37 miles from the Sam Houston Tollway and I-10 intersection. Take exit 812 onto state highway 61. Go south (right) for a few miles. You will come to a four-way intersection. Hwy 61 is to the right (west), hwy 65 is to the left (east) and hwy 562 is straight ahead. Continue straight through the intersection to Hwy 562. Continue south on Hwy 562 to the small community of Double Bayou. Just past the town, the road forks. Hwy 562 is to your right (southwest) and will take your to Smith Point and offers various birding opportunities. Route FM1985 is to your left (east) and will take you past the entrance to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, which can have great birding in any season. If you have time, stop and bird Anahuac, otherwise carry on east on FM1985 until you reach hwy 124. Turn right (south) onto Hwy 124 and go to High Island. Turn left (east) onto 5th street per directions above. 

Where to Stay

High Island
The Gulfway Motel (409-286-5217) is the only one in town. They also have a nice restaurant that is open to the public for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is only available to guests of the motel.

There is a wonderful house called “The Roost” for rent directly across from Houston Audubon’s Boy Scout Woods Sanctuary. While you would have to be lucky indeed to find vacancy during spring migration, it is often available during the rest of the year with a bit of advance notice. For bookings, call Winnie Burkett at 832-385-7551, but chances are slim there will be space in April.

There is an RV park in town with camping and a few slots with hookups. The location is very good for people wanting this type of accommodation. See their website at www.highislandrvpark.com.

About 19 miles north of High Island, just off I-10, is the town of Winnie. You will find your normal set of chain motels there including: 

Studio 6 409-296-3611
Holiday Inn Express 409-296-2250
Quality Inn 409-296-9292
Winnie Inn and Suites 409-296-9247

Locally owned motels include Ricelands Motel 409-296-4121 or the Sands Motel.

Where to Eat

High Island

The Gulfway Motel has a restaurant that is open to the public for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is only available to guests of the motel. There is a small shop at the gas station where you can pick up sandwiches and snack food.  The local Methodist church puts on a BBQ lunch every Saturday and Sunday during April (with the exception of Easter Sunday). The High Island town association offers up a superb and good value gumbo that is also served at the local Methodist church on Weeks Avenue. Free (and very good!) coffee will be available from the Birder’s Information Center across from the Boy Scouts entrance on 5th street. Look for the tower; it is pretty hard to miss.

Besides the normal fast food that is found at most I-10 exits, there are now three very good alternatives in Winnie. Please let the people serving know that you are birders supporting the local economy.

Our favorite is the steak and seafood restaurant Papa's Place that recently re-opened (particular favorites there are crawfish, and they also do a mean smoked brisket). Papa's is just south of Winnie, alongside the 124, signed on the right side of the road (as you are heading toward HIgh Island). There is also a good Mexican restaurant called Machos on the west side of the road (i.e. right if heading south and left if heading north from High Island). This is only two miles south of Winnie’s I-10 exit. The food here is very good Tex-Mex fare, with a full meal coming in under $15, and many options under $10.

For Cajun food lovers, there is Al T’s on the eastern side of highway 124 near I-10 in Winnie. This restaurant can be packed, but is worth the 20-minute wait. They do steak and seafood in Cajun style, and the dirty rice is fantastic. You should leave there paying around $20 to $25 a head.

For more information, check out the Winnie website. 

Crystal Beach
Crystal Beach has mostly recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Ike in September 2008. The Big Store sells groceries as well as many other items, and there is a fantastic taco stand in the parking lot. Stingaree is a great restaurant, offering excellent seafood and other dishes, and the bar underneath it is great for a more casual dining environment. The Tiki Bar & Grill offers a laid-backed enviroment and also serves food. For more information, check out the Crystal Beach website.