Port Aransas is a casual beach town on the north end of Mustang Island, a barrier island off the Texas Gulf Coast near Corpus Christi.
Starting out as a fishing village in the early 1900s, it’s hosted countless beachcombers, fishing tournaments, wildlife and spring break activities over many decades.
Affectionately known as “Port A,” it holds a special place in the hearts of many generations as a slice of paradise on the Texas coast.
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1. Port Aransas Beach
With a little over 6 miles of sandy shores, the beach is one of the top things to do in Port Aransas.
Popular activities are swimming, sunbathing and shore fishing along the Gulf waters. Seaweed is usually minimal, and the waves are just right for boogie boarding and for dogs or toddlers to splash. The water temperature is comfortably warm, usually in the mid-80s during the summer months.
Easily accessible since driving along the beach is allowed. All you need for your vehicle is an inexpensive beach permit in order to drive and park on the sand. Permits are for sale at the local grocery store, most convenient stores and City Hall.
Remember to bring your cooler. Alcohol is allowed with the exception from midnight to 7am Monday – Saturday and midnight to noon on Sundays.
You’ll also need to create your own shade with a fold-up beach tent (I like this tent better than the one I have because it comes with sandbags to use for weights), as there is no shade on the Port Aransas beach.
Check out the Horace Caldwell Pier (230 N. On the Beach) if you’d prefer not to drive on the beach. Parking at the pier is free and it’s a paved parking lot. Once you park, you can just walk on to the beach. Additionally, there is a restaurant and souvenir shop on the pier.
2. Surfing & Water Sports
You might be surprised to know there is surfing in Texas!
Surfing in Port Aransas began in the mid-1960s and it’s still a popular attraction with several tournaments held for all surfing levels each year.
The summer months are great for learning how to surf when the surf is typically small. The waves do come in quickly, but if your knees and balance are good, you can pop up and enjoy a quick ride.
Texas Surf Camps offers private or group surfing lessons most of the year. Their summer camp is a great way to introduce kids ages 6 and up to the fun of surfing. Camp is offered on a daily or weekly basis and is a great activity to entertain the kids while you relax on the beach.
They also offer Standup Paddleboard lessons and with the calm summer surf, this is a fun way to view the sea life along the coast of Port Aransas.
If you’re already skilled in surfing or other board sports, several Port Aransas shops offer affordable daily board rentals, no need to worry about traveling with your own.
3. Texas Sandfest
The annual Sandfest every April draws tens of thousands of festival goers each year to the Port Aransas beach.
Sand Sculptors come from across the world to compete with their magnificent creations in several categories. Solo competitors, duos and teams compete and there’s even an amateur competition for sand sculpting enthusiasts of all ages.
Sand sculpting and looking at the creations aren’t the only things to do at Sandfest.
This event is a full entertainment festival and makes a great getaway for families. You’ll enjoy live music, yummy food trucks and vendor booths offering wares of all kinds. You can even take a break from the sun at the popular beer garden and there’s even a sandcastle building workshop if you’d like to learn how it’s done.
If you want to know more, check out my trip to Sandfest and find out more about this unique event.
If you’re not traveling during Sandfest but you’re looking for things to do in Port Aransas to build memories, why not take the whole family for a private sandcastle lesson from a local pro? Contact Mark Landrum, the Port A Sandcastle Guy and create a fun sand sculpture together and take lots of pictures!
Port Aransas is a haven for serious and occasional anglers with plenty of charter fishing, shore fishing, jetty fishing and dock fishing available.
Fishermen can travel several miles offshore or enjoy bay fishing and the variety of fish ready to be caught are abundant. Popular catches are red snapper, tuna, shark, trout, flounder and redfish.
There are approximately 50 fishing tournaments each year in Port Aransas, with some open to children, some only for women and most open to everyone. The biggest and oldest is the annual Deep Sea Roundup, now in its 84th year. They’ve recently added new category for Kayak fishing.
Fishing charter operators are abundant in the area and you’ll likely find one meeting your specific needs for 1/2 day, full day and even several days of fishing. For no-cost fishing, head to the Port Aransas South Jetty (1000 Lantana Drive) and cast a line.
The Horace Caldwell Pier (230 N. On the Beach) is also a great fishing spot. To walk the pier it is $3/person with additional fees for fishing and fishing pole rentals.
The pier also provides beautiful views of the shoreline and is a top spot for another favorite thing to do in Port Aransas, watch the spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
All fishing requires a Texas state fishing license which you can order before your trip online or purchase at the local Port Aransas grocery store (Family Center IGA).
5. Eat Seafood
What to do with all those fish that you catch from your fishing trip?
Many of the restaurants in Port Aransas will take your catch and cook up a feast for a nominal amount. Try one of my favorite restaurants, Moby Dick’s, which has a fun tiki theme and an incredible back story.
Happen to visit during the summer shrimp season? Shrimp season typically opens in mid-July and one of the best things to do in Port Aransas is to buy fresh shrimp right from the dock.
Make a point to visit the Polly Anna shrimp boat (301 J C Barr Blvd) at the city marina near Roberts Pavilion. If you get there before they sell out, you can score some just-caught shrimp for a super price. Find the latest news on their hours and availability via their Facebook page.
If you miss the rush at the Polly Anna or if you’re looking for fresh fish, there are a couple of fish markets in town which carry wide varieties of fish, crabs, oysters along with fresh shrimp.
For eating out, you can find fresh seafood at most of the popular restaurants. I recommend Beach and Station Street Grill (235 Beach Ave), Moby Dick’s (as I mentioned above, 517 S Alister St) and Seafood & Spaghetti Works (910 TX-361).
6. Red Dragon Pirate Ship
Ready for some pirate frolicking on the high seas with the kids?
The Red Dragon Pirate Cruise (440 W Cotter Ave, Slip A) sails from the City Marina area as often as three times a day during the summer. Children will enjoy the interactive pirate show from the moment they board the boat which is a ringer for a Disney-style pirate ship.
Sword fights, treasure hunting, water gun fights and pirate dancing are all things you can expect your kids to enjoy. Sometimes there’s even a sideshow in the water if a few dolphins decide to cruise along for a few minutes.
Parents can enjoy a cash bar (with rum included, of course) and the jaunt lasts over two hours. An added bonus is the sunset views if you take the evening cruise.
There’s never a dull moment onboard and there is plenty of humor for both kids and adults.
There are several areas in Port Aransas to view the profuse species of birds that call Port A home, either year-round or seasonally.
Port Aransas Nature Preserve offers multiple sites for bird watching with nature trails. Several sites are still closed due to damage from Hurricane Harvey. Here are two great locations currently open:
- Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center (1356 Ross Ave.): Free to visit and is a popular area to see local birds and even an occasional alligator. There is a short nature walk along a wooden boardwalk that ends at a viewing platform overlooking the wetlands.
- Charlie’s Pasture (700 Clark Pkwy): Also free, offering a paved path approximately 1 mile long through the coastal prairie habitat beyond the community park. The path ends at a birding gazebo overlooking Charlie’s Pasture. You can learn about local birds and area through a 2 hour guided tour offered every Saturday morning at 8am.
The biggest draw for out of town visitors is the annual Whooping Crane Festival. This February festival celebrates the annual return of the endangered cranes to their wintertime habitat at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge.
The Whooping Crane is the rarest of cranes and the Texas Coastal Bend area is the only place where you can see the world’s last naturally-occurring population.
8. Sea Turtle Releases
Rehabilitating birds and sea turtles in Port Aransas are cared for at the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) which is part of the University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute.
Rescued birds and sea turtles often arrive at the rehabilitation center with issues that keep them from living a healthy life. These animals will undergo a variety of surgeries. From removing ingested fishing hooks to repairing fins deeply cut by fishing nets. ARK cares for these animals until they are ready to return to the wild.
On average, ARK cares for 800 birds and 275 sea turtles each year. Occasionally, they also care for land turtles and small mammals such as rabbits.
Several times a year ARK announces planned sea turtle releases and these are a joy to observe. Watch for announcements on ARK’s Facebook page and hopefully, you’ll be able to attend a sea turtle release during your visit.
9. Live Music
For a small town, there is a plethora of live music throughout the year in Port Aransas.
Some venues are seasonal, such as the Back Porch Bar, which draws big musical names like Gary P. Nunn.
Other local establishments offer live music every weekend and Giggity’s even boasts of live music every night. A partial current list of live music performances can be found at Port Aransas Live.
The annual Port A Live Music Fest occurs in late September or early October with ticket sales starting in July/August. Uniquely, this two-day festival features Texas artists and performances are at various venues around town.
One of my favorite boutique music events is Pirates and Poets Songwriters Invitational featuring Beach and Trop Rock music. It’s a weekend full of beachy and boozy escapism music, ideal for the Port Aransas beach setting.
Where to Stay in Port Aransas
Budget Friendly: Captain Quarters Inn is a newly remodeled motel that has always been a popular place to stay on the island. The rooms are clean and spacious and include extra amenities such as a mini-fridge and a free continental breakfast. The location is excellent. You can walk to local restaurants, bars and the city marina and the beach is a very short drive.
Family Resort on the Beach: Port Royal Ocean Resort is a playground for both adults and kids. The pool here is the big attraction for the resort. There is a splash pad for the kids, four water slides, a hot tub and two swim up bars for the adults.
The resort offers 1, 2 and 3 bedroom condos overlooking the beach or the pool. You’ll have a full kitchen and access to BBQ grills on the property. You can also dine at the onsite restaurant or order from the food truck.
The Resort is located about seven miles from town so the beach isn’t crowded. If you want to visit shops or restaurants it’s a 10 minute drive.
Beachfront Condo: There are plenty of gorgeous 2 bedroom beachfront condos with a pool. With large and roomy balconies. Full kitchen, washer and dryer and all the amenities of home. Enjoy Port Aransas in comfortable luxury.
Ready for your Port Aransas Vacation?
With all the unique and fun things to do in Port Aransas, you’re sure to have a great vacation in this little Texas beach town. Hopefully, I’ve given you a few great ideas to make your trip the best!
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