Oceans of Fun: Port Aransas and Mustang Island

Come to Port Aransas and Mustang Island and discover the island life

Long a favorite with Winter Texans, Port Aransas offers many activities from walking the beach in search of seashells to taking a tour boat, a deep sea fishing charter, or a sunset dinner cruise.

Port Aransas ferry © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s been said, “In a small town there ain’t much to see, but what you hear makes up for it.” Not so with “Port A,” as the locals call it. Sun, sky, sea, and sand best sum up this waterfront town.  A short drive from Corpus Christi, you can visit Port A via the JFK Causeway (South Padre Island Drive) or by traveling through Aransas Pass and taking the 24 hour ferry across to Mustang Island.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The original island life destination, Port Aransas and Mustang Island is 18 miles of shoreline and wide, sandy beaches—with everything you need to plan the perfect beach vacation. But this is no ordinary island. Just ask the locals and visitors who’ve ranked it one of the best beaches in Texas.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This gulf coast island offers year-round outdoor activities from sport fishing and parasailing to birding, dolphin watching, kayaking—and the only seaside links-style golf course in Texas. Stroll through town on a rented golf cart, explore the shops, galleries, and enjoy an array of restaurants, from “cook your catch” to roadside taco stands to fine dining.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as the “Fishing Capital of Texas”, Port Aransas boasts the best in all areas of the sport. Anglers can take an off-shore excursion, fish the bays and channels, and cast a line in the surf or from one of the lighted public piers. Fishing tournaments abound during the summer, with one nearly every weekend, ranging from kids to women only and billfish to redfish tournaments.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll find year-round festivals and events, including the annual BeachtoberFest, the Whooping Crane Festival (February 20-23, 20200, and Texas SandFest (April 17-19, 2020).

Watch for low flying birds! Located in the heart of the Central Flyway, Port Aransas and Mustang Island are a birder’s paradise. Hundreds of species of resident birds and thousands of migrants can be found here. Encounters with Coastal Bend species such as the roseate spoonbills, least grebes, reddish egrets, black-bellied whistling ducks, tri-colored herons, and stilts bring birding enthusiasts back to this island sanctuary time and time again.

With six sites along the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: the Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond, Port Aransas Nature Preserve, South Jetty, Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, UTMSI Wetlands Education Center, and Mustang Island State Park, Port ‘A’ hosts many must-see lookouts for avid birders and wildlife photographers. Boardwalks and observation towers are built over wetlands with vegetation pockets specially designed to attract birds.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Birding Center, Wetlands Park, Paradise Pond, and the Nature Preserve were designed to give birders the “up-close” ability to observe hundreds of species in their natural habitats. From the natural wetlands, inlets, and 18 miles of natural beaches and dunes to the rock jetties, piers, and marinas, the island offers dozens of perfect vantage points to marvel at the magnificent migrating birds that consider Port ‘A’ the perfect rest stop.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the best ways to enjoy Port Aransas’ awesome natural beauty is the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center. A long, well-maintained boardwalk with benches, free telescopes, and an observation tower makes for excellent up-close views of local wildlife including alligators, crabs, redfish, and a huge variety of birds.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Port Aransas Nature Preserve encompasses 1,217 acres of undeveloped land in an area formerly known as Charlie’s Pasture where early island residents once grazed their cattle. Features at the Nature Preserve include over three miles of hike and bike trails, a pavilion, boardwalks over algal flats, crushed granite trails on the uplands, covered seating sites, and two towers overlooking wetland areas around Salt Island.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Discover why Port Aransas and Mustang Island is ranked one of the top 10 best family beaches in the U.S. by Family Vacation Critic (TripAdvisor’s family travel site) and celebrated by Fodor’s Travel as one of America’s 25 favorite beach towns.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

No matter how far we may wander, Texas lingers with us, coloring our perceptions of the world.

—Elmer Kelto

Corpus Christi: Sparkling City by the Bay

It is no wonder that Corpus Christi bills itself as the Sparkling City by the Bay

There’s no denying that Corpus Christi is one of the most beloved destinations in Texas, and for good reason. However, among the well-known ways to enjoy a day on the bay, Corpus Christi is packed with plenty of hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path surprises.

I headed to this bay-front city in search of my own adventure.

USS Lexington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stroll along a scenic soft sandy beach. Watch sailboats glide on the bay. Step inside a legendary World War II aircraft carrier or tour an aquarium that provides insight into the creatures inhabiting the Gulf. These are among the many experiences you can have when you visit Corpus Christi, the largest coastal city in Texas.

Corpus Christi Bayfront Seawall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With miles of pristine beaches and numerous attractions, Corpus Christi combines outdoor adventure with big-city culture to create something that any traveler will love.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although there are many ways to enjoy a trip to Corpus Christi, the city is known for its beautiful beaches. There are a total of nine beaches to choose from, each of which offers its own set of experiences.

North Beach, Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For some of the best fishing around, look to Padre Island Balli Park and the 1,240-foot-long Bob Hall Pier.  For surfing and people watching, check out North Packery Beach. To see some of the birds and wildlife that live in the region visit Indian Point, Mustang Island State Park, or Padre Island National Seashore.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of Corpus Christi’s most prominent attractions is the USS Lexington, a historic aircraft carrier that served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Stand on the flight deck and take in a spectacular view of the downtown area then explore the rooms below. Follow the path below decks and you’ll see the captain’s cabin, combat information center, dental clinic, sick bay, and engine room restored to look just as they did during World War II.

Texas State Aquarium © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk a few blocks south on North Shoreline Boulevard and you’ll be at the Texas State Aquarium, where you’ll get an up-close look at the diverse aquatic animals that live in the region. Watching Atlantic bottlenose Dolphins play, touching, and feeding stingrays, and marveling at majestic sea turtles are just a few of the things you’ll do at the aquarium, a popular place for the entire family.

Corpus Christi Bayfront Seawall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located along scenic Shoreline Boulevard, Corpus Christi Bayfront Seawall and promenade is a sight unique to Corpus Christi. The sea wall was constructed in such a way as to open the city to the Bay rather than to form a barricade. Steps lead down to the water and to the popular “T” head docks for pleasure boats. You can jog, bike, or simply meander along the 1.5 miles of path while taking in some great views of the waterfront. Sink your feet into the sand on McGee Beach overlooking Corpus Christi Bay.

Heritage Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heritage Park is the site of twelve historical Corpus Christi homes, the oldest dating back to 1851. Many of the homes are recorded Texas Historical Landmarks and each is beautifully restored and a tribute to the ethnic diversity and culture of the area. The Galvan House hosts and supports many art and cultural activities and events. The Multicultural Center includes the Galvan House, the Courtyard, Central Plaza and the Lytton Memorial Rose Garden. Make a stop at the Visitor Information Center in the Heritage Park Merriman-Bobys House for more information about the park and Corpus Christi.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are numerous other things to see and do on the south side of the bay. The 180-acre South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center allows visitors to wander a network of walking trails along Oso Creek and then enjoy the center’s gardens which focus on bromeliads, roses, orchids, palms, and other native and foreign species.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stop by the Corpus Christi Museum of Science & History to learn about the cultural and natural history of this part of the Texas Gulf Coast. Head across Bayfront Science Park to The Art Museum of South Texas where regional fine art, photography, ceramics, and textiles are on display. Visit the Selena Museum founded in honor of Corpus Christi resident and top recording artist Selena Quintanilla Perez.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All of this may sound like a lot to see and do but it’s just a few of the unforgettable sights and sounds of Corpus Christi! How can anyone resist a visit to this Sparkling City by the Sea?

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

No matter how far we may wander, Texas lingers with us, coloring our perceptions of the world.

—Elmer Kelto

Discover Why Rockport is the Charm of the Texas Coast

The Native Americans figured it out first, as far as we know

Find yourself in Rockport-Fulton and discover why Rockport-Fulton is the Charm of the Texas Coast. You’ll find a sandy beach, a birder’s paradise, a thriving arts community, unique shopping, delectable seafood, unlimited outdoor recreation, historical sites, and great fishing.

Rockport harbor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life around Rockport-Fulton changed dramatically August 25, 2017 when Hurricane Harvey, a powerful Cat 4 hurricane, made landfall directly across the area.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The quaint fishing village of Rockport has been a favorite coastal hideaway and snowbird roost for many years. Rockport’s recovery since Hurricane Harvey two years ago counts among the great feel-good stories in Texas history. Rebounding in stunning ways, this little art colony beloved by visitors since the 1950s for its fishing, bay setting, and frequent festivals feels fresh again.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the shores of Aransas Bay, the Copanes—a band of the Karankawas—made the most of coastal resources to support their lives as nomadic hunter-gatherers. They wadded the shallow lagoons, spearing redfish with bows-and-arrows. They scooped up oysters, tossing the shells into middens that grew over decades into mounds 65 yards long. They ventured inland on the coastal prairie tracking deer and foraging for berries and cactus fruit.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The region provided sustenance enough to support them and their predecessors for thousands of years. Even today, the Coastal Bend’s natural resources and moderate climate remain the primary attraction for visitors to the Rockport-Fulton area. Be it sportfishing, bird-watching, seafood, shopping, the arts, water recreation, or simply relaxing in the shade of wind-sculpted live oaks life here still revolves around Aransas Bay.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Think of the Copanes as being the original Winter Texans. They would spend their winters here along the shorelines feeding on a diet of oysters, shrimp, and other seafood. And then during the spring and summer months they’d travel up the rivers and streams and hunt game.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rockport-Fulton offers a range of activities to keep you busy for a week or so. Many visitors find the area inviting enough to stay for longer. During the cold months, Winter Texans nearly double Rockport-Fulton’s population of 10,000 residents.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A common starting point for visitors is the Rockport-Fulton Visitor Center. A timeline of local history spans a wall of the center and highlights important moments such as Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Piñeda’s mapping of the Texas coast in 1519, U.S. General Zachary Taylor’s 1845 encampment on Live Oak Peninsula en route to the Mexican War, and the establishment of tourist attractions such as the Texas Maritime Museum in 1989.

Texas Maritime Museum, Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Maritime Museum sits across the street from the Visitor Center among a cluster of tourist sites adjacent to Rockport Harbor. The museum covers various subjects including the tale of French explorer La Salle’s ill-fated expedition to Texas—illustrated by a striking five-foot-long wooden scale model of the shipwrecked La Belle and artifacts from the shipwreck such as knives and axe heads. The museum also delves into other seafaring topics including navigational devices, boat-building tools, the Texas Navy, and offshore drilling.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also at Rockport Harbor, the Rockport Center for the Arts hosts a wide variety of exhibits, special events, education workshops and classes for children and adults, performing arts, sculpture garden, and much more. The Center is a hub for The Arts in the beautiful coastal Rockport Fulton area. After 48 years, the Center re-established operations on South Austin Street in the wake of devastation sustained to the original building from Hurricane Harvey. The new facility is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and admission is free. 

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Aquarium at Rockport Harbor was destroyed in Hurricane Harvey. Plans are in the works for a new and improved center with exhibits about local habitats as well as the creatures that thrive in the rich blend of fresh water and seawater including oysters, blue crabs, and whooping cranes.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come evening, after a day of exploring Rockport-Fulton’s coastal scene, a fitting way to reflect on the experience is from the shade of one of these magnificent live oaks. As the bright orange sun sinks into the horizon, a gentle breeze blows ashore, and the aroma of fresh fish smokes from the grill, it’s easy to understand why the Copanes chose this stretch of the Texas coast for their home and why others have followed them ever since.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan