A Port Aransas Vacation

beachSince Lisa posted about her Outer Banks vacation on Friday, I decided that today I would talk a little about Port Aransas, Texas.  We just got back from a five night trip to this wonderful little island and I have to say that for the first time in years, I was not ready to come home at the end of our vacation.  Ian even whined on the way home that he wanted to stay and swim for five more nights!

Port Aransas is a little town on Mustang Island about 45 minutes west of Corpus Christi, off the west coast of Texas.  Surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, this little island is a gem.  It is not a high tourist area, even in the middle of summer.  While there are a lot of families clearly vacationing on the island, there is never a problem with traffic or loud and boisterous groups. It’s just a nice, easy place to be with no chain restaurants and a lot of really nice local people.

We spent most of our time in Port Aransas on the beach or in the pool.  Unlike Galveston (where we go quite often for day trips to the beach), the water in Port Aransas is clear, has less seaweed, and the sand is finer.  There are also fewer people on the beach.  We had our choice of places to set up.  Another one of the beautiful things about Port A is that you can just drive right up to your spot.  We literally set our EZ-Up shelter up right by the car.  It’s perfect when you have small children and a ton of stuff to take to the beach.  The water along the shoreline was also very shallow, allowing even our 10 month old to play and crawl around safely in the water.

We parked right by our shelter.

We parked right by our shelter.

This was the second year we went to Port Aransas and our favorite restaurant there has become Castaways.  I had the stuffed flounder, which was amazing, and Ian very graciously helped me eat it.  Colin chose the blackened tuna sandwich and rates it among his top three tuna experiences.  This is saying a lot given that he tries tuna steaks anytime he has the opportunity.  There were also plenty of fried options if that’s your thing.  The hushpuppies were incredible.  Another important thing for us is that Castaways is very family friendly.  We didn’t feel as if we were too loud or too troublesome, even with a three year old and a ten month old in tow.  We also ate at Shell’s Pasta and Seafood.  We had read enough reviews to know that the place was small (only nine tables) and somewhat pricey, but we decided to try it out anyway.  The food was just “meh” and the place was not at all family friendly.  They had only a booster seat for the baby; no high chairs.  The only kid option they offered was spaghetti.  My linguine pesto just tasted like noodles with olive oil and Colin’s shrimp and crabcakes were okay, but nothing to rave over.  It worked for us, but we were extremely underwhelmed.  We won’t be going back, especially not with children.

Winton’s Candy Company is another must-do on the island.  If you have a sweet tooth, this place is a dream and has ANYTHING you could ever want.  Their creamy fudge and caramels are enough to keep me going back, but they also have any type of sweet treat you could ever want.  We all love going through and picking out our favorite candies.  This small, family owned company is very well known and takes online orders to ship anywhere in the country.  It’s a can’t miss and it’s just fun to go in and look around at all of the different offerings.

This is only a small part of the selection at Winton's.

This is only a small part of the selection at Winton’s.

Another favorite outing in Port Aransas is the dolphin tour.  We didn’t have the opportunity to go this year, but last year it was amazing. We just went to Woody’s Sports Center to buy our tickets and left from there.  We were able to see a lot of dolphins, as well as St. Jo Island and the lighthouse there.  The crew was great and the captain went out of his way to find the dolphins and get close to them.  Even at 2 ½, Ian had a great time.  It’s a great outing if you are looking for something to do besides the beach.

Last year's dolphin tour.

Last year’s dolphin tour.

This year, we had one rainy day and decided to drive to Corpus Christi to check out the Texas State Aquarium.  It was a 45 minute drive, but it was so worth it!  This aquarium is by no means the largest I’ve been to, but it was interactive and fun.  Aside from the normal sea creatures that you would expect to see at an aquarium, they had a lot more to offer.  The Stingray Lagoon houses more than 30 stingrays and we were able to pet them.  They also allow visitors to feed them several times a day, but we weren’t there at the right time.  There is also a dolphin show, where we were able to see the dolphins with their trainers.  It was like Sea World on a much smaller scale, but it was awesome and a very pleasant surprise.  The aquarium also has a wetscape where kids can play on a playground with water shooting up and fountains everywhere.  It was a lot of fun and a great place to go with small children.  It had something for everyone.  As another bonus, the aquarium participates in the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Reciprocal Admissions Program.  Because we are members of the Houston Zoo, our tickets were all half price, so the four of us got in for only $26.

aquariumOverall, I have to say that Port Aransas has become one of my favorite places to travel.  I don’t know how they’ve managed to avoid the touristy trappings that usually come with such a great beach, but I’m glad they have.  It is a very relaxing and peaceful place that is very family focused.  I left feeling renewed and extremely happy to have gotten to spend so much family time with Colin and the boys.  If you live anywhere near, you can’t go wrong planning a vacation to Port Aransas!