by Jackie Hutto
Photos courtesy of Port Aransas CVB and Palmilla Beach
Located on Mustang Island between the Gulf of Mexico and Corpus Christi Bay – also called the Coastal Bend – Port Aransas is an island paradise. Known among locals and veteran visitors as “Port A,” this vacation destination is ideal for families looking for a relaxing beach vacation with beautiful water; accessible, clean beaches; tons of activities for the whole family; and plenty of accommodations and dining selections for every budget and palate.
Still recovering from devastating damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Port A has made remarkable progress in a short time. The tight-knit community is a testament to the power of pulling together in the face of adversity. Their heroic response to what could have been a paralyzing situation should serve as a model for communities facing recovery from similar natural disasters.
Rather than waiting for state and federal help to arrive on a white horse, this resilient town rallied to generate support for the immediate and long-term needs of local businesses and residents. Ambitious community leaders and dedicated volunteers created a foundation and developed an innovative plan to fund and execute the restoration of their community.
The result is a thriving, vibrant vacation destination for more than 5 million visitors a year.
“Port A’s recovery from a Cat 4 Hurricane less than two years ago has been nothing short of amazing,” says Port A/Mustang Island Tourism Bureau & Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Jeffrey Hentz. “Tourism is our only industry on the Island and our business community deserves so much credit for their tireless rebuilding efforts that has us and all of our tourism sectors open for fun.”
Everywhere you look there are adorable, newly renovated accommodations. There are currently 5,000 units available in Port Aransas, including beachfront resorts, hotels, fully furnished condominiums, luxurious vacation homes, charming cottages, and full-service RV parks.
WHERE TO STAY:
There are lots of choices when it comes to lodging in Port A. From beachfront cottages to luxury vacation homes, there’s something for every size group and budget. You’ll find lots of options, but here are a few to consider:
Small lodging and cottages: Double Barr Cottages, Shark Reef Resort and Old Town Cottages on Main Street in Port A.
Condo hotels: Beach Gate Condos, Coral Cay and Aransas Princess.
Traditional hotels: are seeing record bookings and include the Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, Sea Shell Village Resort and Best Western.
Vacation homes: Cinnamon Shore and Palmilla Beach Resort & Golf Community. Plus, the popular 11th street district of Port A features thousands of vacation homes managed by premium service companies including Silver Sands Vacation Rentals, Port A. Escapes, Starkey Properties and Turnkey Rentals.
THINGS TO DO:
The 18 miles of uninterrupted public beach on Mustang Island offers a vast playground for visiting families who can spend a lazy day relaxing in beach chairs, building sandcastles and cooling off in the clear, aqua water. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can partake in parasailing, kiteboarding, surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, windsurfing and boating. Camping and bonfires are permitted on the beach, as well as leashed pets!
Hiking and biking, wildlife observation and dolphin watching are local favorites. Check out the 1,217-acre Port Aransas Nature Preserve, featuring hike-and-bike trails, covered viewing areas and educational signage. The South Jetty is one of the best spots to see dolphins and sea turtles!
The Port Aransas Wetlands Park overlooks coastal wetlands and attracts wading and shore birds. Located on the Central Flyway, Port Aransas offers visitors ample opportunities to see hundreds of species of resident and migratory birds. Birders should explore spots like the Joan & Scott Hold Paradise Pond and the new boardwalk at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center.
The “Fishing Capital of Texas,” Port Aransas offers offshore excursions and bay and channel fishing. Or you can fish directly in the surf, the Charlie’s Pasture bulkhead, the Robert’s Point Park bulkhead or from the rocks of the South Jetty.
SHOPPING & DINING
Locally owned, mom-and-pop shops and restaurants cater to visiting families. You can browse the charming boutiques and galleries and devour local seafood (including “cook your catch”) as well as authentic Italian and Mexican fare, bar-b-que, burgers and pizza.
At just about four hours from Houston, Port Aransas should be on your bucket list this summer. Go to VisitPortAransas.com for more information about attractions, accommodations and upcoming events, as well as all the details you need to plan your trip.
PORT A TRAVEL TIPS:
- Pick up a golf cart at one of the rental shops on the island. Whether it’s cruising up and down the beach, getting to the pool or puttering around town, it’s definitely the most efficient (and FUN) way to get around!
- Plan to ride the ferry from the mainland to the island! Arrive on 361 at Aransas Pass, and take the short ferry ride across to Mustang Island. It’s free and the kids will love it. You might even see some dolphins playing in the wake.