Residents of canal communities enjoy boating, tranquil views and good neighbors
Residents who live in canal communities on the upper Texas coast enjoy quick access to the waterways and watching the sun rise or set from their docks or decks. Coast Monthly visits some of the most popular canal communities in the region.
Bart and Julie Moore, along with their three children, Bailey, Avery and Trace, and their dogs, Pooda and Costa, are living their best lives.
The Moores live in Tiki Island, which spans about 1.5 miles or so.
Tiki Island began as a small fishing camp before evolving into a place for weekend homes, then into a village that was incorporated in August 1982. Today, it’s known for upscale homes on the waterfront.
The Moores’ 8,000-square-foot home features five bedrooms with five and a half bathrooms on four floors with decks overlooking Galveston Bay.
“No matter where you are, you can always find a breeze and beautiful sunsets,” Julie said. “Our master suite is super inviting as well, with a pretty phenomenal view.”
The home, which was previously a sports facility that included a racquetball court, sports deck and pool house, was renovated to include many amenities and features that are important to the family, she said.
The Moores have been in their home on the canal since November 2019 and love the tight-knit community where neighbors help neighbors and everyone watches out for each other, including during the early days of the pandemic, when residents were staying close to home, Bart said.
“We love the community and communal activities of Tiki Island and it also makes my commute into Houston so much easier,” Bart said. “Living on the canal, when you’re ready, you just go downstairs, hit a button, and the boat is in the water ready to go. During the shutdown, we didn’t have to worry about groceries because we have fresh seafood ready with a drop of a line. You just can’t beat that.”
COVID-19 didn’t stop the Moores and neighbors from enjoying all that comes with living on the water. They used that time to get their vitamin D and exercise, as well as participate in boat parades nightly, they said.
“What better way to social distance, go outside and in the end see a beautiful sunset?” Julie said. “The children were able to still get outside, skateboard and bike ride. It’s nice that our children have the safety of Tiki Island. We feel safe here.”
The Moores are hoping to continue raising their children on Tiki Island where Bart’s parents also have had a home for the past 20 years, they said.
“I would say as far as a place to quarantine, Tiki has been a very upbeat place to do so,” Bart said. “I would not have traded being here during a pandemic for sure. It’s just a great place to live.”
– Angela Wilson
Sunset Cove, a gated community nestled against West Bay just west of Jamaica Beach, offers a quiet respite for its residents.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the beaches in the summer, Sunset Cove’s residents enjoy easy access to the water and the activities that come with it, as well as the relative quiet.
“We’d owned two second homes before this one,” resident Robert Hooker said. “One in Sea Isle, and then another home after that in Kahala Beach. But as the kids got older, we decided to move over to the bayside. We enjoy it a whole lot more.”
Scott Sieffert, another canal community inhabitant, had a similar story.
Sieffert and his wife had a weekend house in Sea Isle and were driving around Sunset Cove one day in 2010 and decided to buy a home, he said. At the time, few people lived in the neighborhood and they relished the quiet.
Although more people own homes in Sunset Cove now, it’s still relatively quiet, Sieffert said. And Sieffert notices more wildlife and nature, he said.
“It seems to be flourishing,” he said. “You hear birds everywhere.”
Hooker and his family enjoy that the neighborhood is near the bay and how easy it is to take the boat or Jet Ski out for the weekend, he said.
Sieffert paddleboards most days out to the bay to watch the wildlife, including the birds, he said.
Most neighborhood residents are owners of second homes, so Sunset Cove is busiest on the weekends, they said. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a close sense of community.
It’s hard not to make friends when you’re a short golf cart ride away, or you pass by someone’s home on a canal while going out on a boat, Hooker said.
“Everybody’s really friendly,” Sieffert said. “It doesn’t feel like a neighborhood. It feels more like a vacation spot.”
The neighborhood also feels incredibly natural in its beauty, Sieffert said.
“The sunsets are awesome,” he said. “You’ll see everybody out on their boats” to watch the sunset, he said.
– Matt deGrood
Sometimes, the most divisive argument in Bayou Vista might be about what constitutes a “front yard.”
“Different people say different things,” said Barbie Miller, a Bayou Vista resident and local Realtor. To her, the front door is the door that leads to the canal. The side of the house away from the street is the front yard.
Regardless of what you call them, the yards that line the waterways of Bayou Vista contribute to a sense of community. When you’re near the water, it’s nice to see your neighbor, Miller said.
“We’re not enclosed for the most part,” Miller said. “When you’re outside, you’re seeing your neighbors more.”
Bayou Vista is a city of about 1,500 people who all live along 10 canals on the west side of Interstate 45. The canals lead into Highland Bayou, which in turn opens up into West Galveston Bay. The city began as a unincorporated housing development in the 1960s, and incorporated in 1985. By that measure, Bayou Vista is Galveston County’s youngest city.
You might think that Bayou Vista would be a destination for second-home owners, or vacation renters seeking to capitalize on the serene views of sunsets over Galveston Bay.
The city, however, has many long-term residents and a prohibition on people who rent homes for fewer than 30 days.
“We have more full-time citizens than not that live here,” Miller said. “We’re getting more young people that live here, and they’re getting involved.”
Because of that, Bayou Vista residents say their city feels like something from the past.
“If you’ve ever lived in a little community or cul-de-sac where all your neighbors are friends, the whole community is that way,” said Jim York, who grew up in Bayou Vista and moved back as an adult. “This community is like a big family.”
Residents enjoy the city’s annual traditions, like the summer festival that includes a cook-off and fishing tournament and a winter boat parade. Several groups make up the city’s social scene, including a garden club, Friday night dinner club and several wine clubs.
But as the name implies, it’s the water that’s one of the main draws of Bayou Vista.
“A lot of times we just go up and down the canals,” said Jeanne Kidwell, who has lived in Bayou Vista for 20 years. “Or we go to an open area and watch the sunset with a glass of wine.”
– John Wayne Ferguson
The natural beauty and serene waters of Laffite’s Cove on Galveston Island makes the neighborhood an incredibly relaxing place to call home, residents say.
“It’s one of the calmest, more tranquil, most beautiful canal neighborhoods,” resident Bet Jennings said.
Laffite’s Cove is named after the famous pirate Jean Lafitte. But during the marketing of the subdivision, a clerical error gave Laffite’s Cove its unique spelling.
The neighborhood was developed by island businessman and oilman George P. Mitchell and is notable for its nature preserve, a 32-acre area that’s home to many birds and other creatures.
Before Jennings moved to the neighborhood in 2007, she wasn’t much of a birder, but there’s so much wildlife in the community, she said.
“I’ve learned to appreciate them now,” Jennings said.
It’s just a relaxing placing to live, said Robert Rudin, a resident since 2006.
“My whole life has been suits, coats,” Rudin said. “We get to Galveston, it’s casual, which is nice.”
Residents of Laffite’s Cove enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities.
Janet and Ben Hock love to boat and spend a lot of time kayaking, they said. They’ll drive their golf cart to the country club or watch birds from their deck, Ben Hock said.
“We have an osprey that lives across from us and it’s fun to watch him,” Ben Hock said. “Janet can imitate the whistle.”
Rudin enjoys boating, too, sometimes visiting family members who live in the canal community Tiki Island by boating across the bay, he said.
The fishing is great, too, residents say.
Jennings chose the bay side of the island because her son loves to catch and cook fish, she said.
Residents get many chances to interact with the wildlife.
“We have rescued pelicans over the years,” Jennings said.
And sometimes, they will even encounter alligators, Ben Hock said.
“It happens more when the salinity of the bay changes because of heavy rain,” he said.
Aside from boating and enjoying the water, Laffite’s Cove residents have built a strong sense of community. The neighbors are close-knit, brought together by the canals.
As the Hocks sit on their deck, they can wave at people passing through the canals in their boats, they said.
“We have good neighbors,” Ben Hock said.
Residents also go on dinner cruises together, driving their boats from house to house for different courses of a meal, Rudin said.
“I just like the camaraderie out here,” Rudin said.
– Keri Heath
Clear Lake Shores
With its tranquil views of the water and small, close-knit community, Clear Lake Shores is a special place to live, residents say.
“Living on the water is one thing, living in Clear Lake Shores is another,” said Doris Sanders, who lives in the community with husband, Tom. “Clear Lake Shores is special. We actually own a big trawler that we’ve lived on and cruised around the United States in, and we’ve often said that this is as close as we can come to living on our boat. We can look out and see those masts and almost feel like we’re anchored out somewhere.”
Resident Dottie Cottingham’s corner house provides one of the best views in the city, where she can see all the way across Clear Lake to NASA Road 1 and the Waterford Harbor Yacht Club, she said.
“I just love it,” Cottingham said. “I’ve never talked to anybody who didn’t just love Clear Lake Shores. You have a view of the lake and all of the boats, and the sunsets are to die for. We just all stand around and say, ‘Aren’t we lucky?’”
A civic club frequently organizes neighborhood events, such as live music or cookouts at one of the city’s small park spaces, to help bring the Clear Lake Shores community together. Clear Lake Shores is known as the “Yachting Capital of Texas” and as the city with more boat slips than people, Mayor Kurt Otten said.
“It’s very social over here,” Cottingham said. “We all take care of each other, we love our views, and once you live over here, you won’t want to live anywhere else. You just won’t. You never feel alone because you have so many friends here.”
Residents fondly refer to the neighborhood as “the island” because a series of canals make the small peninsula jutting into Clear Lake technically surrounded by water. Golf carts are practically a must-have accessory for the residents to cruise through the neighborhood or make a quick trip to a nearby store or restaurant, Sanders said.
“There’s always something going on, but it’s quiet at the same time,” Sanders said. “If you decide to go for a walk or a golf cart ride, there’s always going to be somebody you see who you know who you can visit with.”
– James LaCombe