Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Beaumont

By Patrick Reardon 10.18.22

Like other southeastern Gulf Coast towns, Beaumont is a paradisal blend of Texan and Cajun culture — but it wasn’t always known for its Creole cuisine and Mardi Gras parties. It’s been an official town since 1838, but it wasn’t until January 1901 when Beaumont burst onto the scene — literally.

Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, courtesy of Library of Congress Prints Photographs Division

The Birthplace of Spindletop

South of Beaumont is Spindletop Hill. In the late 19th century, the hill was famous for its natural gas seeps but was unsuccessfully drilled by its owners, Pattillo Higgins and his business partner Anthony Lucas. Lucas made a deal with a petroleum company in 1900 to cut Higgins out of the land, but the new wells weren’t any more lucrative than before — until Jan. 10, 1901.

Mud began bubbling from the hole. All was silent for a few moments, until – all of a sudden – a geyser of oil sprang out of the well. The fountain of black-gold, now called the Lucas Geyser, sent oil 150 feet in the air for the next nine days, gushing more than 100,000 barrels of oil per day until it was brought under control.

The Lucas Geyser at Spindletop was the most powerful gusher of oil the world had ever seen, and it marked the debut of the Texas oil boom. Beaumont burst into the national spotlight, its economy fueled by the oilfields that sprang up around it over the next few years.

History buffs can experience the century-old thrill of striking oil themselves by visiting the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown museum in Beaumont. A replica of the Spindletop oil well recreates the legendary gusher (though it only spouts water) for spectators seeking to dig into Texas oil’s history.


Cajun Cuisine and Culture

Beaumont is part of Texas’ southeastern “Golden Triangle,” along with its counterparts Port Arthur and Orange, which both lie on the Gulf of Mexico only a few miles from the Texas-Louisiana border. Beaumont’s cultural proximity to Louisiana has resulted in a boom of another kind: some of the most authentic Cajun-Texan entertainment and food you’ll find in the Lone Star State.

One of the most essential spots to taste the Cajun-Texan blend in Beaumont is at Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp. Along with fish tacos and gumbo, Tia Juanita’s also serves up New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp and their town-famous boudin quesadillas. Another joint to swing by for a Texas-sized feast of Cajun food is Crazy Cajun — their crawfish is hailed as some of the best in Southeast Texas. They serve up crawfish tails, crawfish mac and cheese, and crawfish etouffee, among a wide selection of other Louisiana-style seafood platters and meals.


Outside ‘the Beau’

If you’re looking to get outdoors while you’re in town, Beaumont is on the Neches River and sits just south of Big Thicket National Preserve. The area has more than 20 miles of kayak trails. South of Beaumont is Cattail Marsh, a scenic spot with 900 acres of wetlands to explore. The area is a haven for birdwatchers who might catch a glimpse of any number of the 350 bird species that frequent the pine trees of East Texas — just watch out for alligators that inhabit the area, too.

To explore more of the great outdoors in East Texas, browse our guide to the best state parks in the region.

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