This boating-crazy area has the best of both worlds: cozy small-town neighborhoods and access to big-city attractions in nearby Houston.

By Steve Millburg
March 30, 2004
This boating-crazy area has the best of both worlds: cozy small-town neighborhoods and access to big-city attractions in nearby Houston.
Karim Shamsi-Basha

Looking at Seabrook, Texas, from the water, you see rows ofwooden houses on stilts―some of them quite grand―plusmarinas, seafood restaurants, and a whole lot of boats.

From the two main highways through town, Seabrook appears to bea place of small shops and strip malls.

Each view tells part of the story. But to reach the real heartof the town, you must venture into the residential neighborhoods.There, you'll find America's suburban dream: well-kept brickhouses, mostly new, often with boats in the driveways. You're neverfar from water. And you're never far from a park full ofchildren―or a hiking/biking trail full of adults.

"It's a very family-oriented community," says real estate agentCarla Wade, a resident. "The bulk of the neighborhoods are mainlysuburban-type subdivisions."

Seabrook sits quietly along Galveston Bay just a few milessoutheast of Houston. That sprawling, hustling metropolis plays abig part in the lives of most Seabrook residents. They shop there,attend ball games, visit museums, enjoy concerts and other culturalactivities, even work there.

But as a place to live, they prefer Seabrook. Fishing andboating seem to be universal recreations. Children attend thehighly rated Clear Creek Independent School District. You can startthe day with sunrise over Galveston Bay and end it with sunset overClear Lake, an arm of the bay harboring some impressive boats.

Jack Fryday, mayor of Seabrook, sums up his town's appeal quitesimply: "It's a good neighborhood to live in, and it's close to alot of stuff."

Before its incorporation in 1961, Seabrook had been a fishingvillage and a weekend retreat for Houstonians. Growth since thenhas been tightly controlled through zoning. Nearly all commercialdevelopment is restricted to the business corridors along NASA Road1 and state Highway 146, plus an arts-and-antiques area just off146 known as Old Seabrook.

"In the 1960s, a lot of NASA people built here," says MayorFryday. "They were very influential in local government, and veryprotective of their neighborhoods."

NASA employees from the nearby Johnson Space Center still makeup a sizable chunk of the area population, though Fryday (who usedto be one of them) estimates the numbers are down from 85 percentin 1966 to 10 to 15 percent today. Seabrook does remainpredominantly white collar.

Boating is the local obsession. The Clear Lake area claims to bethe third-largest boating center in the United States. Seabrook hasthree major marinas with 1,250 slips, and the Lakewood Yacht Clubhas made at least one top-10 ranking among America's yachtclubs.

In the evening, you can sit on the deck of Sundance Grill andwatch the parade of yachts, cabin cruisers, and simple runaboutsheading back to their moorings on Clear Lake. Dawdling over a glassof wine and an excellent crawfish bisque, listening to the breezerustle palm fronds, watching the falling sun paint the water ablazing red-orange, you can't imagine living anywhere else.

(published 2001)