What do birds, pirates and anglers have in common? They have all called this waterfront city home
Port Aransas, also known as "Port A," is a working port town (population about 3,500) and one of the state's most popular tourist towns.
Port A is located on the northern tip of Mustang Island north of Padre Island and about 30 minutes across the bay from Corpus Christi. Take your choice of two ways to access the island. From Corpus Christi, the island is linked by the JFK Causeway, which climbs high above the Laguna Madre, making a direct line to SH 361 and Port A.
Alternately, take the "scenic route." The Port Aransas Ferry System (free) brings visitors to the island across the Corpus Christi ship channel. The ferries operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Often bottlenose dolphins accompany the ferries back and forth to the delight of those aboard. Seagulls and pelicans are frequent flyers along the short trip, too. It is indeed a scenic route.
During peak hours, some travelers may need to wait while the ferry makes the trip across the channel. A 24-hour radio message (AM 530) provides information about ferry regulations and can be used for live broadcasts for emergency situations.
Fishing has always been a staple in Port A, especially sport fishing for spotted sea trout and redfish. In fact, the city is known as the "Fishing Capital of Texas." It is estimated that some 600-plus species of saltwater fish inhabit the waters around the island.
Launch your boat from one of the many marinas or hire a private charter. For those that prefer to keep their feet dry, Port A has four public, lighted fishing piers and the popular south jetty for around-the-clock casting.
For instant gratification, bring your fresh catch to a local eatery and have them cook it up, just the way you like it.
Competitive fishing is big business in this little town. Port A hosts over 20 fishing tournaments during the summer months, including the oldest fishing tournament on the Gulf Coast, the Deep Sea Roundup held each July.
The beach at Port A draws thousands of visitors each weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There are 18 miles of uninterrupted public shoreline, open for street legal vehicles and all things beachy. Take to the water on a sailing charter, ride the waves on a surfboard or let the wind pull you on a kiteboard—beginners welcome!
Bird-viewing locations have been established by the city and state of Texas agencies. Kayak paddling trails established by the state also contribute to eco-tourism. Port Aransas has begun the construction of a multi-acre Natural Preservation area that will provide hiking trails and other nature-related tourist activities.
See the Whoopers
The Texas Coastal Bend is the only spot in the United States where the endangered whooping crane can be viewed at close range, and the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce celebrates this astonishing natural wonder with the annual celebration of whooping cranes every February. In addition, an awesome array of wintering migratory birds flock into the wetlands and onto the Texas shorelines of Mustang Island. During the celebration, birding tours by land and sea are available.
From about 1800 to the early 1820s, the Gulf Coast was a haunt of pirate ships searching for riches. Captain Jean Lafitte and his buccaneers spent time on the Texas coast, and Mustang Island was one of his favorite haunts. Lafitte used Mustang Island as a place to make camp and, according to legend, a place to hide his treasure. Legend has it that somewhere on the island is a Spanish dagger with a silver spike driven through the hilt marks the spot where Lafitte buried a chest of gold and jewels.
The Tarpon Inn
A major point of interest in the island is the Tarpon Inn, built in 1886 with surplus lumber from Civil War barracks. After the 1919 hurricane destroyed the main structure (and most of the town), the inn was sold and rebuilt in 1923 to resemble the old barracks. Two of the walls of the Tarpon Inn are covered with tarpon scales. Each of the scales has the signature and hometown of the angler who caught the tarpon as well as the size, weight and date of the catch.
In 1979, the Tarpon Inn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was recognized as a Texas Historic Landmark. Five other locations in Port A are identified with historical markers.
The Fine Arts
The Port Aransas Art Center is a local hub for artists young and old and is host to many activities, including the annual Songwriters Showcase and Art Festival held in May, First Friday showings each month and regular art classes.
The city supports the Port Aransas Community Theater, and the Port Aransas Museum captures the city's colorful past.
Campers should have no problems finding a place to spend the night as the island supports nine campgrounds. Many snowbirders call Port A their winter home.
Padre Island National Seashore is located approximately 22 miles south of Port Aransas and is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. The visitor's center is open daily except on Christmas Day. Features include a bookstore and exhibits, restrooms, rinse-off showers, first-aid and campsites. Park rangers offer a variety of interpretive programs throughout the week including beach walks, deck talks, Junior Ranger programs, family programs and star-gazing parties.
For More Information:
Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce
Texas State Travel Guide