Maritime history of the Gulf Coast told at museum

Exciting retellings of the history behind the Texas Gulf Coast can be found at the Texas Maritime Museum in Rockport.

The early days of exploration and settlement by the Spanish and French to the modern search for oil can be found in this one-of-a-kind museum.

A short ferry ride and drive from Port Aransas, the museum has been designated by the Texas Legislature as the official maritime museum of the State of Texas.

The museum has four permanent exhibits: Early exploration and settlement; the search for oil and gas; boat and shipbuilding, and commercial and sports fishing.

Executive Director Justin Parkoff said he plans to replace and expand on these exhibits with eight new ones intended to be more kid-friendly, including a fully functional 17th century yardarm that kids can manipulate and interact with, an exhibit on the Karankawa indigenous people and an exhibit on the lost Spanish treasure fleet of 1554.

The exploration and settlement exhibit continues with the ill-fated odyssey of French explorer Sieur de La Salle, who met his end on the Texas coast, as well as the “Age of Steam,” which covers the development of maritime communities and how commercial traders used the ports of the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil and gas exhibit features such things as the technology used to extract petroleum from several thousand feet below sea level and includes a scale model of Bullwinkle, one of the largest offshore drilling platforms in history, which was built in nearby Ingleside.

The boat and shipbuilding exhibit surveys the different shipbuilders and shipyards along the Texas coast that have played an important part in the local economy, including Port Aransas’ Farley Boat Works and others that built ships specifically for the coastal waters.

The exhibit on commercial and sportfishing, the “Allure of Fishing,” reviews the development of outboard motors, fishing lures and tackle. The exhibit also explores how the large-scale fishing and shrimping industries developed along the Texas coast.

Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and active military, $3 for children 3 to 12, and free for children under 3.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The non-profit museum is closed on Sundays, Mondays and some holidays.

For more information call the museum’s toll-free number, (866) 729-2469, or (361) 729- 1271, or visit the website texasmaritimemuseum.org.