Back when Matt and I were young parents with only toddler Christine in tow, we were gifted a trip to Port Aransas. Port A is located on Mustang Island near Rockport and Corpus Christi. I’ll be honest… having only been to South Padre Island and Galveston, I thought I had seen all there was to see of the Texas coast. I had heard of Port Aransas, but I had never thought of traveling there. Man, am I glad we were gifted that trip! We instantly fell in love with Port A’s cute beach town charm and laid back island lifestyle. And there are so many affordable things to do there! That trip made me realize that there are so many more awesome places along the Texas coast than most people realize. We’re looking forward to visiting a few Texas beach towns for the first time this summer, but if you’re also wanting to check out the Texas coast and not sure where to go, here is what we love about Port A so you can start planning your trip now.
Obviously, first thing’s first. You’re planning a trip to the coast for one thing… the beach! There are a few things that set Port A’s beach apart from other Texas beaches. The first thing that really surprised me about Port A is that you can drive right on the beach, which is a really fun experience. You can also park on the beach, but you should know that parking on the beach requires a permit that you purchase from the city. You can camp on the beach with a permit as well. I also found the water in Port A to be surprisingly clear. I think Texas beaches get a really bad rap. I was expecting the worst the first time we came here, but I was met with beautifully clear water. Sure, in the surf with sand getting stirred around it gets a little murky, but for the most part the water is blue and clear. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
Port Aransas Sandcastle Guy
Port A’s sand is perfect for sand sculpting. So perfect that they hold an annual festival here called Texas SandFest. But it doesn’t need to be SandFest for you to sand sculpt like a professional. Anytime of year Mark Landrum, the Port Aransas Sandcastle Guy, offers private lessons for a really affordable price. You may have read about Mark and how covid impacted his business in Texas Highways magazine. When you hire Mark for a lesson, he brings all the supplies and skills you’re going to need and you just come ready to learn and get sandy. The lesson starts with a water table demonstration where Mark shows you how you can build a sandcastle with just your hands. Then it’s time to start shoveling and filling buckets. And since I know you’re imagining little plastic shovels and pails, check out the pictures below to see the equipment he brings. Those are some serious shovels! Mark takes you through the steps and different techniques and then you get to take off building your own towering sandcastle. It is a ton of fun. Check out the Port Aransas Sandcastle Guy on Facebook or his website to schedule a lesson or book him for a special occasion.
Sunrise at the Seashore
Just west of Mustang Island is North Padre Island where you will find Padre Island National Seashore. Some would say this seashore is special because it’s the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. And they wouldn’t be wrong. But I say this seashore is extra special because of the conservation work they’re doing here to save endangered sea turtles. When nests are discovered on the seashore, the eggs are collected and incubated indoors until the hatchlings are ready to make their way into the big blue for the first time. We were lucky that our last trip to Port A was at the same time that hatchlings were ready to be released. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Port A to the seashore, so we woke up extra early and headed there for the sunrise release. No one wants to wake up early on vacation, but for baby sea turtles it’s worth it. And the best part is that it’s completely free! Check their Facebook page or website for hatchling release announcements. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll be there when one happens too.
Sunset over Aransas Pass
One of our favorite ways to end a day in Port A is to grab a snow cone or ice cream from one of the local shops and head to Roberts Point Park to watch the sunset. The park is adjacent to the city boat harbor and the ferry docks, so you’ll see plenty of boats coming into the harbor, as well as ferries crossing over and ships passing through Aransas Pass. There’s even a “pirate ship” that hosts nightly dinner cruises for tourists that you’ll likely see. And if you wait and watch long enough you’re sure to spot some dolphin. We have seen dolphin close to the sea wall and ferries, but if you’re lucky you can catch some of them playing in the big wake at the front of a giant ship passing through. Roberts Point Park has a nice playground that the kids loved playing on. The park is also where a lot of locals fish in the evening. It’s a really nice place to wind down the day.
Just like most small towns, its the people that make the place special. We loved exploring all over Port Aransas and checking out all the local shops and restaurants. Here are a few of the Port A businesses that we loved:
Winton’s Candies is the place to get all the nostalgic candy you can think of and the best homemade fudge on the island.
Fly It Port A is the place where all the coolest kites you’ll see on the beach probably came from.
Tortuga’s Saltwater Grill is where we found delicious seafood and steak.
Moby Dick’s is the touristy one-stop shop on the island where you find casual dining and souvenir shopping with pirate themed decor and atmosphere. It’s a fun place!
Port A Creamery was our favorite ice cream shop on the island.
Do you have any Port A favorites that weren’t mentioned here? Leave us a comment and let us know. Maybe we’ll try your recommendation next time we’re there. Make sure you’re following us on Instagram and Facebook for more Texas traveling adventures.