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The Texanist: Is it Too Soon to Book a Vacation in Port Aransas?

An Austinite misses the beach, but doesn’t want to be a bother.

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Illustration by Tim Bower

Q: So, it’s been a few months since Hurricane Harvey kicked all kinds of butt on the Texas coast. I know that the water people are a hardy breed—and that they’ve “weathered” disasters before—but with the holiday season approaching, I have to wonder: Is it time yet to start booking some vacay in Port A?

Michael Wall, Austin

A: Texas is known far and wide as a place peopled with legendarily sturdy beings. “Texas Tough” is a thing, a sort of special brand of durability associated with Texans and the place they call home. (One need only glimpse a TV pickup truck commercial to be reminded of this.) The Texanist wrote about just such bootstrappiness in the immediate aftermath of Harvey, which wrought havoc across portions of the Texas coast last August.

The devastation from the storm was widespread, but Port Aransas was hit harder than just about anywhere. Ninety percent of businesses and eighty percent of homes were affected. Residents were displaced. Structures were destroyed or badly damaged, power lines were knocked out, roads were flooded and the whole place was littered with debris. Lives were turned upside down. It was a mess.

But Texas’s seaside dwellers, as you point out, occupy a unique and somewhat saltier subcategory of our state’s signature sturdiness. The coastal portions of Texas are fun places to visit, but year-round living down there can make for a harsh existence, as well as a certain crustiness about the souls who reside there.

As such, it was not at all surprising that as soon as the wind and rains stopped, the damage assessment and cleanup began in earnest. At the time of this writing, it has been three months since the storm hit, and though it’s taken a whole lot of hard work, the Texanist is happy to report that Port A is on the mend. The power is back on, the roads are passable, water and utilities are up and running, and there’s internet connectivity. The beach, beautiful as always, is totally combable, and the waves are ready to be frolicked in.

Still, the recovery is ongoing, and things are not totally back to normal just yet. As of late November, only twenty of Port A’s more than sixty pre-Harvey bars and restaurants were open for business. But bars, restaurants, and all sorts of other trade and commerce are reopening every day and the forecast is calling for a seventy-five percent return to full normalcy by Spring Break. There are places to stay and the hospitable and resilient people of Port Aransas, who are still busy putting their own lives back together, would nonetheless be happy to brighten yours.

The Texanist is pleased to report that Shorty’s Place, the “Oldest and Friendliest” bar in Port A, is still standing and, remarkably, opened up almost immediately after the storm. The Back Porch Bar is rocking and rolling again. Fins Grill and Icehouse, right on the water, is open and serving. And tasty seafood is emerging from the kitchen at Virginia’s on the Bay once again. Also, despite the fact that more than a hundred boats sank in the harbor, enough debris has been cleared that fishing charters are now going out—and, the Texanist hears, coming back with impressive catches.

In short, yes, Port Aransas is open for business and awaiting your arrival. Though be sure to call ahead, as options are currently limited. And while Port A is on your mind, consider making a donation to the New Day Port A Fund, which will help speed the revival of a place that almost all beach-going Texans know and love.

Go Marlins!


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