Let me tell you about my favorite place—a little Texas hideout where time slows down and you are likely to meet a friendly face everywhere you go. It’s a total come-as-you-are kind of town, where you leave completely refreshed—the funky island town of Port Aransas, or “Port A” as we, the locals, call it. With a friendly smile, you’ll be doing as the locals do before you know it. We’re probably some of the few who rejoice the end of summer, but only for one reason. We’ve fallen in love with Port A.
Resort to your hideaway
Port A blends old with new -- stilt-legged houses with high-rise condominiums, and motels amidst decades-old fishing cottages. Your choices for accommodations are plentiful, and as local hotelier Deven Bhakta shares with us, "fall has the best rates." Many attractive options exist from luxury condos and cozy cottages to boutique hotel rooms and private rental homes, but the more adventurous can find dedicated campsites on the beach. Come on down and relax.
If you’d like to catch an early morning sunrise on the bay and cast a line toward a redfish or trout, then this is the place and time of year for you. Looking for some solid fishing tips? Ask one of the locals who regularly frequents the fishing hot spots. Lucky for us, every spot is a gem. Charlie Fisher, Port A harbormaster, says fall is when “redfishing is at its best,” and adds, “Port A also has the best spots that’ll fry, grill or blacken your fresh catch.” What could be better than that?
Even if we don’t fish every morning, it’s too pretty this time of year to stay inside. Luckily, there’s lots more to Port A than fishing. We like to rent a standup paddleboard in the morning or take a dolphin watch cruise in the afternoon. If you like the idea of kayaking, hire a guide to kayak the miles of mangrove-lined Lighthouse Lakes Trails. For more adventure, go parasailing over the Lydia Ann Channel, or for even greater exhilaration, explore your sense of adventure skydiving for a view of the whole island.
Heights not your thing? Stroll the beach for shells or treasures. You might stumble upon local sand sculptor, Mark Landrum. A treat to watch, you’ll usually find him giving lessons on how to turn sand into castles, dragons or anything the heart desires.
Bordering the beach is the Palmilla Beach Golf Club, the only links-style course in Texas. A links-style course harks from the Scots and refers to a course with natural rises or ridges such as an area of coastal sand dunes, which Port A certainly is. The challenging course is situated Gulf side, offering a stunning vista and fabulous coastal breeze.
Scrumptious seaside dining
There’s nothing like fresh air and the outdoors to work up a healthy appetite. Port A is the seaside mecca for locally owned scrumptious eateries from walk-up windows on the water to fine dining—albeit in coastal casual, flip-flop attire. No need to pack anything fancier. Come on down and prepare to feast.
Get a bird’s eye view
As a barrier island with the ocean on one side and bays and estuaries on the other, Port A is a playground for nature enthusiasts. The resident varieties of shorebirds are stunning to watch in their habitat. Or, catch a glimpse of the magnificent seasonal migration down the central flyway. Grab your binoculars and check out the numerous options for observation around town: Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, the 1,217 acre Port Aransas Nature Preserve, Port A Jetty, Joan & Scott Holt Paradise Pond and the UTMSI Wetlands Education Center to name a few.
The festivals and events in Port A are as unique as they come. There are a few lined up this fall that are truly noteworthy.
Farley Boatworks’ ply Wooden Boat Festival is a testament to the island’s heritage and offers a family boat building class, handcrafted wooden boat exhibit, nautical flea market and more October 8-10. Rick Pratt—local historian, boat builder and director of the Port Aransas museum—provides great insight into the rebirth of Farley Boatworks plus some good storytelling if you see him around town.
Take in the sight of a fleet of 100+ spinnaker sails making their way into the Port Aransas harbor for the Annual Harvest Moon Regatta. The regatta is the longest port-to-port sailboat race starting in Galveston and ending in Port Aransas every mid-October under the light of a magnificent full moon. The course is 150 miles long and starts on a Thursday afternoon. Folks in Port Aransas watch the race fleet make their harbor finish the following day. Great vantage points are from the granite rocks of the South Jetty, Robert’s Point Park and even the Port Aransas beach.
Port A Shop Around, the weekend of November 19-20, is a total bag-your-limit savings and ‘shop till you drop’ extravaganza put together by the Port Aransas Chamber local merchants. Take it from one local, Susan Castor, “It’s a great time to find fabulous buys for yourself or others on your list.”