CRYSTAL BEACH — The reason why the beach house got the name Noisy Waves became clear the second we stepped out of the car.
The waves, whose view was obstructed by high sand dunes, sounded ferocious, as if they had been whipped up by a vicious storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. It sounded fantastic.
Upon further investigation, during a night beach walk, the waves proved to be more docile than the sound they made on the other side of the dunes. Somehow, the dunes, in concert with neighboring structures, created the right acoustics for channeling and amplifying waves for our cozy Noisy Waves beach house.
This served as one of myriad simple pleasures of the beach in winter.
With a few precious days to ourselves without children, my bride, Beth, and I decided to escape to the beach right before Christmas and wrap ourselves in solitude and simple pleasures.
Having longed to be on the beach in winter for years, I was surprised that the trip to Bolivar Peninsula exceeded expectations.
Swede’s, the predominant rental management company there, had plenty of properties from which to choose, so Noisy Waves got the nod thanks to its central location on the peninsula, being on the front row, its charm and, of course, its name.
Bolivar rental houses go for crazy cheap in the off season. In January and February, for example, Noise Waves rents for $200 for a weekend and $500 for a whole week. (Check houses and prices at www. swedesrealestate.com.)
With three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a couch that doubles as a pull-out bed, Noisy Waves can accommodate far more than just two people.
We hardly saw a soul on the peninsula during our stay, contrasting sharply with the noisy world of vehicles and people during a trip here during Memorial Day weekend.
Just because it’s too cold to go in the water or sunbathe doesn’t mean there is nothing to do here in the winter, although doing as little as possible was our primary getaway objective.
But for those who must have at least something to do, here are some suggestions, some of them Bolivar specific:
Sleep late. Too many beach overachievers vacationing in the warmer months feel the need to spring out of bed, load up a mountain of gear and stake out a beach spot just after dawn. Winter eliminates and simplifies recreational opportunities on the beach. So sleep late. But if you must hit the beach early, take nothing more than blanket, a travel mug of coffee and a lawn chair.
Beach walks. Sure, the rowdy beach activity of summer creates a festive atmosphere, with people watching serving as one of the best parts of beach walks. In the winter, it’s all about the solitude. The sound of waves and birds replaces Led Zeppelin blasting out of a thousand car stereos. During a late morning 5-mile beach run, I saw fewer than a half dozen people on the beach, with everyone keeping to themselves to preserve as much solitude as possible. It was great. With fewer people on the beach, shell availability increases.
Watch movies. Most if not all the Bolivar rental houses have televisions with DVD players. Many of them have Internet connections/Wi-Fi (Noisy Waves did not), so hook up your computer to the TV and watch whatever you want through Netflix, Amazon, etc. Nothing beats snuggling with your sweetie and watching movies in a beach house on a cold night.
Dine in. Beach houses have kitchens, and Bolivar has The Big Store in Crystal Beach. As the name implies, it has everything, so no need to stress over bringing stuff to the peninsula in bags and coolers to save a couple of bucks. Everything needed is here.
Dine out. Crystal Beach has all kinds of restaurants, and they’re anything but crowded in the winter. Just load up the Yelp app on your smartphone and look them up.
Our favorite dining experience of the trip was to the historic Gaido’s on Seawall Boulevard in Galveston. Take a romantic, scenic ferry ride between the peninsula and island to get there. Unlike peak times, when the waits can stretch for hours, lines to get onto the Bolivar Ferry in the winter don’t exist. (We drove straight onto the ferry a couple of times, and they run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)
Gaido’s is a Galveston icon, created in 1911. My parents took us there when I was a kid, and, of course, I had little appreciation for it, dining on chicken or fish sticks instead of the awesome menu items.
We started with goat cheese beignets and lobster bisque, the latter being about the best bisque on the planet. I had delicious blackened snapper, while my wife had grilled salmon topped with avocado and shrimp. The blue cheese grits turned out to be a terrific side-order call.
Entertainment came in the form of our loquacious waiter, David A., who took great amusement in me calling his crumbler a “scrape-ee thing,” which he was more than glad to demonstrate.
After all, this is a white tablecloth and scrape-ee thing kind of place.
Moody Gardens. We got a season pass there last year, so it was free to visit, hit the trail of a bazillion lights and watch “Polar Express” in 4D, complete with the smell of hot chocolate and seat devices that poked our backs when Santa cracked his whip on the reindeer on screen.
Of course, we didn’t spend any time looking at the rest of the spectacular, sprawling Moody Gardens.
Well, we’d done enough, and it was time to get back to Noisy Waves and do nothing.