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Port Aransas

Enjoy a barrier-island blast in a Gulf Coast playground

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AlbertHerring

Port Aransas sits on Mustang Island, one of the long, thin barrier Islands that protect the Texas mainland from the ravages of storms raging in the Gulf of Mexico. For visitors, this coastal gem and surrounding land are valued not for their practical function, but the ample fun and adventure found on the island’s unblemished shores. Port Aransas serves up an eclectic mix of aquatic sports and quaint, seaside fun. From fishing to kayaking to learning about wild Texas history, Port Aransas is the place to be.

A two-hour drive from Corpus Christi via the scenic John F. Kennedy Memorial Causeway, Port Aransas is a magnet for lovers of aquatic sports. Charter a cruise for 200-pound tarpon, or simply drop a line off the pier. You can also bring your own boat from one of the many marinas along the city. Known as the “Fishing Capital of Texas,” anglers can reel in redfish, flounder, black drum and trout.

Lovers of land-based pursuits can stroll the town’s quaint streets and browse the many galleries and shops in town. When the sun sets, the town comes alive with bustling nightclubs and superb restaurants. If you want to expand your horizons, explore San Jose Island to the North or Padre Island to the south, both of which are part of the long chain of islands that stand line the coast. After a day of wandering, return to Port Aransas for a hearty meal—you can even have the local restaurant prepare the fish you caught just hours before.

Pirate’s Booty and Big Fish

The first known human occupants of Mustang Island were the Karankawa Indians, who fished off its beaches about 4,500 years ago. It wasn’t until 1528, and the island earned its name from the wild horses left there by the Spanish in the 1800s. Pirate Jean Lafitte made some stops on the island, and, according to legend, the buccaneer left a chest of gold and jewels beneath the ground marked by a Spanish dagger with a silver spike driven through the hilt.

Commercial shipping took advantage of the natural pass through the island leading to the mainland, and the town of Port Aransas quickly developed along this channel to support the vessels and their crews that were sailing through. Forts were established in the area during the Mexican War and the Civil War, but in the subsequent years, fishing became the town’s main industry. At the turn of the century, the village enjoyed a thriving business exporting seat turtles, some as heavy as 500 pounds.

Today, fishing continues to lure legions of anglers to the town to catch some of the estimated 600 species of saltwater fish inhabit the waters off the island. It’s no surprise, then, that Port Aransas is the home to the oldest fishing tournament in Texas, the Deep Sea Roundup held every July. The fun-filled event features competition in offshore, bay surf, fly-fishing and junior division categories. A free Piggy Perch contest lets small children get in on the action. You don’t have to participate to enjoy the action. Watching the weigh-ins of hefty fish is often a thrill unto itself.

If you prefer mammalian aquatic life, sign up for a dolphin tour and see these fascinating creatures up close. Port Aransas is known for its large populations of dolphins, and a chance to the playful, inquisitive animals in their natural habitat shouldn’t be missed.

Away from the Gulf waters, miles of inland waterways snake through the island. Island tour guides take kayakers on a trek to Lighthouse Lake Trails, a compelling journey that leads to the Lydia Ann Lighthouse, dating back to 1857. Built to protect ships from running aground on the island’s tricky passes, the brick lighthouse was fought over by the Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War and is now under private ownership. While taking the kayaking trip, visitors might be treated to the sights of jumping fish and the occasional shrimp boat.

Seeking souvenirs? Hop on a jetty boat and for a trip to the unspoiled coastline of San Jose Island. Among the treasures lying untouched in the sand are lightning whelks, shark’s eyes, sand dollars and many other species.

Fun in the Aransas Sun

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Gloria Bell

Port Aransas has no shortage of festivals to keep visitors busy. In addition to fishing tournaments held nearly every weekend throughout the summer, the city hosts the Texas Sandfest every August. Sand sculptors and sandcastle architects of all ages are invited to use the beach as a blank canvas and put their creativity to the test. Win prizes or simply have a great time as vendors serve up delicious food (just don’t let any sand get into your meal). Watch majestic sailboats glide into harbor during the Harvest Moon Regatta, held every October. This race brings some of America’s best sailors to the Gulf each fall.

For those who prefer a more sedate pursuit, the area’s 18 miles of public beaches invite strollers and swimmers to enjoy uncrowded shores. Bring a Frisbee of volleyball and frolic in the sand.

Visitors can get to the mainland via the Port Aransas Ferry System, which offers free transportation service seven days a week. The ride connects Mustang Island and Port Aransas with the mainland via the Aransas Pass—vehicles longer than 85 feet are prohibited. On land, the Port Aransas shuttle travels daily through the city, giving visitors a ride to shops, restaurants and more in this island paradise.

For More Information

Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce

800-45-COAST

www.portaransas.org

 

Texas State Travel Guide

800-452-9292

www.traveltex.com