PORT ARANSAS–This is not Hilton Head or Palm Beach, with white tennis shorts and BMWs at the CVS. It’s quintessentially Texas, a beach where F-350s line up at the town’s three stop lights, and kids from Amarillo stare slack-jawed at “the ocean” for the first time.
Now Father’s Day and the 4th of July approach, and a string of 100-degree days lurk ahead in Austin. Here’s our survival guide to Port A.
The average July high in Austin is 95 and in Port Aransas 90.3.
Cars lined up on the beach during Memorial Day weekend. (Rich Oppel)
Driving from Austin, the trip is 200 miles or more. That can take four to five and a half hours, depending on time of day and route. Three strategies:
- Our favorite: Take toll road SH 130 south to Lockhart and take U.S. 183 to Refugio, left on Texas 774 and follow your navigation to Aransas Pass, then left on Texas 361 to the ferry to Port A. Tips: Leave early. Avoid late Thursday or Fridays. Check the Texas DOT website for ferry wait times, which vary from 15 minutes to an hour.
- Second strategy: If the ferry line is long, detour from Bayside south of Refugio to Corpus Christi and come up Mustang Island on highway 361. This adds about 30 miles.
- A no-toll route: Southwest on I-35 to San Antonio, then south-southeast on I-37 into Corpus, north on 361. I-35 can be nerve-racking getting out of Austin and going through San Antonio. I-37 is blissfully boring. About 250 miles.
On the way in, refill your tank at the H-E-B in Aransas Pass, cheaper by a quarter a gallon than any fuel you’ll find on Mustang Island.
Sights and sounds
As you drive through South Texas you will see fields of pump jacks and wind turbines as well as fields of corn and soybean and red brangus ranches. Near the Port A ferry, huge turbine blades made in Europe are stacked high. This is a working port, but it is fast-changing.
- Check VRBO for a condo. The big condos lining the beach (Aransas Princess, The Dunes, Sandpiper, Sea Gull, Mayan Princess and more) have a few pricey rentals left, with a 2-bedroom typically going for $250 to $700 a night.
- Camp on the beach. Buy a $12 annual permit at the IGA or any convenience store, and park between markers 0 and 62. Bring a sturdy tent; it can be windy. A trailer or RV are even better.
- Rent a cottage off the beach. Scores of new stilt houses and multi-family dwellings were built after Hurricane Harvey laid waste to Port A in 2017. Factoid: The average elevation of Port A is 7 feet. Even cheaper than a Port A back-island rental: Find a place off-island in Rockport or Corpus Christi.
Our favorites are the Venetian Hot Plate, Roosevelt’s, Tortuga and Fins. For a cheeseburger, fries and a beer with a Gulf view, the Beach Lodge. There are 60 restaurants on Mustang Island, and the lines are long in the summer. Get there early or late, or order takeout–which is available at many places. Make reservations at the high-end places. Dress is casual. Anyone with shoelaces is way overdressed.
Fun things to do
- Rent a beach cart. They’ll run you up to $150 a day. Port A is one of the few places in Texas where they can be operated by unlicensed drivers 16 and older. Cart rental places outnumber seagulls.
- Cast a fishing line off the South Jetty, and then watch petroleum tankers and cargo ships glide through Aransas Pass, coming from or going to Corpus Christi docks.
- See hundreds of species of birds at the Turnbull Birding Center.
- Eat seafood at Snoopy’s Pier, overlooking Laguna Madre, on South Padre Island Drive 20 miles south of Port A. Afterward, take the kids to Scoopy’s next door for ice cream.
- Ride slowly along the beach and people-watch, or park and stroll or run along the wide strand. Watch the sunrise at Horace Caldwell Pier.
- It’s red snapper season. Take a head boat out of Deep Sea Headquarters for a $125, eight-hour trip 20 to 30 miles out. Limit out with two 16-inch or larger snapper. Great eating.
Port A has gotten expensive since huricane Harvey. Labor costs are skyrocketing because waiters, cleaning people and store attendants can’t find affordable housing on the island. If you haven’t been there in a few years, expect sticker shock.
- Busy Memorial Day travel season starts smoothly at the airport ... ›
- Favor hiring new chief taco officer to travel across Texas eating ... ›
- Austin airport sees busiest travel week since the pandemic - austonia ›
- American Airlines CEO says hard topics are key to better travel at ... ›
- Guide to South Padre Island beach - austonia ›
- San Marcos day trip guide: floating, tubing, river - austonia ›
A person fell off a cliff at Mt. Bonnell and was airlifted to a hospital on Saturday evening.
Around 8:30 p.m., Austin-Travis County EMS, Austin Fire, Austin Police and STAR Flight responded to a fall off a cliff at the attraction. One adult was transported to Dell Seton Medical Center. Authorities did not reveal the identity of the person, or provide an update on their condition.
Additionally, while searching for the person who fell, crews discovered the body of an "obviously deceased" adult. The person is believed to have been dead for several days, but no other information is available at this time.
FINAL 2/2: While searching for the fall patient, crews discovered an obviously deceased adult patient. #ATCEMSMedics obtained a deceased on scene pronouncement of the 2nd patient. Recovery operations are underway. No further information is available. pic.twitter.com/Ykpv6BfKtt
— ATCEMS (@ATCEMS) August 7, 2022
The San Jose Earthquakes rocked Q2 Stadium Saturday in a night game ending in a 3-3 tie.
FC’s Julio Cascante scored 6 minutes in, followed by two San Jose goals and two more FC scores from Sebastian Driussi for a 3-2 halftime FC advantage. In the second half, the Earthquakes scored with 2 minutes left in regular time to level the match. The mood was less than festive as the FC midfield defense showed cracks.
MVP-contender Driussi will have scoring help soon from recently-signed striker Emiliano Rigoni, who will join the team after his visa is issued.
Austin FC sits solidly in 2nd position in the MLS Western Conference, behind LAFC.
Saturday night set a Q2 attendance record and marked the 28th straight sellout.