Shipwrecks, tempests, and war, as well as some of the happier aspects of life along the southern Texas coast, are the focus of the Museums of Port Isabel. Museum headquarters are in the Port Isabel Historical Museum, 317 E. Railroad Ave., Port Isabel (tel. 956/943-7602; www.portisabelmuseums.com); another is called the Treasures of the Gulf Museum; and there's also a historic lighthouse. These are in downtown Port Isabel, are within easy walking distance of each other, and make for a good activity on a rainy day. Allow a half-hour to 1 hour to visit each one.

The Port Isabel Historical Museum, located in a restored 1899 Victorian commercial building, houses exhibits that describe the history of the area from the time it was a supply depot during the Mexican-American War, through the Civil War, and the area's development as a shrimping and fishing capital. There are interactive exhibits, a large display of Mexican-American War artifacts, and a fascinating 1906 Victor Morales "Fish Mural." The displays about shipwrecks will interest kids and adults alike. Nearby, the Treasures of the Gulf Museum focuses on three Spanish shipwrecks which occurred in 1554 just off the coast. Exhibits include murals, artifacts, and various hands-on activities, including a children's discovery lab. There is also a theater and gift shop.

The Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site, at the west end of the Queen Isabella Causeway, is hard to miss. This 72-foot-high lighthouse, which helped guide ships through Brazos Santiago Pass to Point Isabel from 1852 until 1905, now affords panoramic views of Port Isabel, South Padre Island, and as far as the eye can see out over the Gulf of Mexico. Also on the property is a replica of the lighthouse keeper's cottage made from the 1850 blueprints for the original. The cottage contains exhibits on the history of the lighthouse, and there's a picnic area.

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Both museums are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm (last entry at 3:30pm), and the lighthouse and cottage are open daily from 9am to 5pm (last entry at 4pm). Admission to each site is $3 adults, $2 for seniors 55 and older, $1 for students with ID, and free for children 4 and under. Combination tickets for all three sites cost $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $2 for students.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.