When I was visiting Port Aransas during spring break in March, the first one post-Harvey, I kept hearing the same thing as I talked to locals and business owners across the island—“We need people to come and support us right now.” I grew up in Corpus Christi, so Port Aransas was the place we went for a quick escape, a walk on the beach when my mom and I needed to talk something out in those tumultuous teen years. There was never anything that couldn’t be settled over shrimp burgers on the Snoopy’s Pier, on our way back to town. But it seems every Texan has a Port Aransas story, as Tiana Worsham, the chef-owner of the Phoenix, shared when we chatted on the porch of her new location since the other one was destroyed in Harvey—“Port Aransas is the state’s playground.” Almost immediately after my time in Port A in March, I rallied a group of friends to book a trip for a summer weekend with all ten of our kids in tow, to help support the island’s passionate local business owners. Here’s what’s on our itinerary.
While I love Cinnamon Shore for its large homes with chic, beachy interiors that accommodate families and big groups, not everyone has time for the five-night minimum that many of the homes require. The neighboring Palmilla Beach Resort, where you can rent a condo or stand-alone house, with some boasting as many as eight bedrooms, has comparable amenities. One added bonus for golf lovers is the property’s Arnold Palmer Signature Course. Once all of the bags (and YETIs) are unloaded, take one of the property’s golf carts across the Whispering Dunes Crossover bridge to the beach, where the hotel has beach chairs and umbrellas set up. After enough shell collecting and sandcastle building has ensued, it’s back to the swimming pool, where live music will be happening most Saturday nights. Kids will be enthralled by Red Dragon Pirate Cruises, which involve an interactive two-hour tour around the bay led by pirates in costume (and in character) aboard a 100-passenger sailboat that involves sword fighting, water gun fights, a treasure hunt, and face painting. Day cruises run 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 3 to 5:30 p.m., or an evening option, which sets sail at 6:30 p.m. Prices start at $25 for children ages 3–12 and $36 for adults. Pirates not your thing? Hop aboard the Scarlet Lady, a dolphin-watching cruise down the Lydia Ann Channel. Tours leave at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. For a casual dinner out with kids, we like La Playa (they will also drop off preordered catering orders or send a chef over to your rental).
The early riser of the group should drive thru Cancun (1023 State Hwy 361), which opens at 6 a.m., to pick up breakfast tacos and lots of their tasty homemade salsa. Coffee Waves is the Mexican restaurant’s neighbor and makes a great latte. For the last fifteen summers, former professional surfer and South Texas native Morgan Faulkner has been teaching people to surf through his Texas Surf Camps. Sign up for camps, private lessons, or a session of paddleboard yoga. Take a break from the sun by shopping around town. Popular home décor, clothing, and gift shop the Coastal Closet reopens in June. The more funky Indigo Eclectic is up and running with a smart selection of home accessories, jewelry, vintage and artisan-made goods. Cita, which carries resortwear pieces like colorful caftans and sequin coin purses in the shape of a fish, reopened Memorial Day weekend, and is the perfect spot to find a cover-up or a sophisticated souvenir. The Port Aransas Art Center showcases the work of many local artists who live in the area and offers classes, from a family art project session for thirty minutes to jewelry making and watercolor. Pack a picnic or grab some fish sandwiches from Virginia’s on the Bay and head to the Roberts Point Park. With covered picnic tables and a playscape, it’s a nice spot to watch boats and hopefully see a few dolphins. Back at the beach, schedule a lesson with the self-proclaimed Sandcastle Guy, who can teach you how to make a sand sculpture like the intricate pieces made at this year’s Sand Fest. If you are booking a sitter and having an adults-only night out, we always love what Chef Tiana Worsham is cooking at The Phoenix, an inviting restaurant housed in a cottage, with a sushi bar and a porch that overlooks the Marina at the Moorings. A trip to Port A isn’t complete without a drink at one of the local dive bars, like Bernie’s, Treasure Island, or the Back Porch. For live music and an extensive craft beer list, head to Billy Joe’s Craft House, where chef-owner Billy Joe will be booking bands all summer. Or, if you don’t want to leave the beach, bring the party there with Rollin’ Tide Boil Co., private chefs who set up dinner on the beach for you—Adirondack chairs, tiki torches, and a full-on shrimp boil that ends with s’mores around the fire they built for you. Paella de Sol offers a similar setup with Spanish flair for large groups.
Take in a beach sunrise and book a fishing guide through Woody’s Sports Center for a short excursion in the bay, or for a longer day offshore. Many places are closed on Sundays, but if brunch is your thing, we suggest Billy Joe’s Craft House, or La Barateria and their Dutch pancakes, eggs Florentine, or simply toasting with mimosas: to a great weekend in the sand, supporting the Texas Coast.