Greetings from sunny Texas! We chose to come to Port Aransas on a whim when we realized how much we enjoyed being at the beach in Galveston. So glad that we made that dart throw, this place is amazing! If you have never heard of Port Aransas (I had not) it’s located on Mustang Island next to Corpus Christi. It is part of the barrier islands that separate the hypersaline Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s also the fishing capital of Texas and I can easily see why.
I initially wanted to go to Padre Island because when I first started planning our route I knew we would be in Texas for the cold months. I had read that South Padre Island is considered tropical and that sounded perfect. However, now that we are actually in our trip it didn’t work out because it’s too out of the way– far from Galveston and also from meeting Eddie in Austin at Christmas. We were much closer to North Padre Island from Galveston but there is not a whole lot there other than the National Sea Shore Preserve. Also, Port Aransas is only 30 minutes from there it just has more things to do and grocery stores in better reach.
I have to say the deeper we’ve gone, it’s become so clear that Texas pride is loud and proud! You can get Texas shaped anything – chicken nuggets, tortilla chips, lunchable style snacks, burger presses, cheese, pies with texas cut outs, all the texas made spices, hot sauces, jellies, etc. You can’t go anywhere without seeing the state flag on anything and everything – it’s just an attitude in general. Being from WV, I get state pride but they are on another level! I rather enjoy it, but I am the girl who loves hearing “Country Roads” when I travel out of state and will stand up singing joyfully every word so everyone knows exactly where I am from! (I also have a hard time not chanting Eat Shit Pitt anytime I hear Sweet Caroline, if you know you know)
I have also learned as a brand spanking new Texan:
- Texans love Texas like Kanye loves Kanye, and I mean that in the best possible way
- They also love them some Whattaburger.
- If you don’t like Blue Bell ice cream, go on back where you came from.
- They ain’t about Coke/Diet Pepsi, give them Dr. Pepper or give them death (Ed sometimes can’t find a Diet Pepsi, one night we stopped at 3 convenience stores. We’ve learned to carry our cooler which is better all around)
- If you say hello or anything else to someone in the grocery store they will want to talk about the football game.
- You only think you love Tacos and BBQ. In Texas they are a religion.
The RV park we are in is the biggest we’ve ever stayed with about 500 lots. We have a pool, a rec room, and a full schedule of activities if we wish to go – yoga or aerobic classes, various card games, bingo, ice cream socials, special dinner nights, etc. We haven’t taken advantage of much of it outside of the pool area, but its noteworthy that it’s the first place we’ve stayed that has a strong sense of community and getting together. We were welcomed as we set up by so many people, and have enjoyed conversations as we have used the hot tub, taken walks, etc. There are a fair amount of people who live in this park year round so you are often talking with locals who give you a lot of great insight to the area.
To get to the beach we just cross a board walk over the dunes. The dunes are stabilized in dense vegetation, and supposedly house poisonous snakes. Not going to test that even though everyone swears they have never seen one! You can drive on the beaches here, and you will find some folks dry camping down there in their RVs. They are braver than us, our RV is very heavy and we would not risk it. We also are pretty attached to hookups. It’s warm here, we would only be able to run one AC during the day with our solar panels during which time we would not be able to use our other appliances. It’s cool in theory, questionable to me in practice.
Port Aransas was hit directly by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. This allowed the island to be cleaned up and updated, which is seen as positive and negative by the folks here. The negative aspect is residents of course do not want to see the place become more developed or commercialized, but the positive changes has lead them on a path of growth. There is still a lot of land that can be developed between here and the bridge to Corpus Christi and some of those pastures are already being sold.
We took the ferry over, so it was interesting to take our home on an RV. As we crossed the bay, I spotted some dolphins. Apparently during the summer there are less than 100 Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins. In the winter, their population swells to 1800. They also have a lot of birding ponds and such around here because of all the migratory birds coming in for the winter. I would not consider us birders, but it is impossible not to appreciate all the different species we are seeing for the first time.
The best place in Port Aransas to view different species of birds in my opinion is the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center. We have visited a few times now trying to see the resident 14 foot alligator the locals call boots, and we finally saw him yesterday! Also there are different birds each time we have visited. One day we were lucky enough to see a pair of the elusive and endangered Whooping Cranes, and on another there were a flock of Roseate Spoonbills that we were introduced to in Galveston.
We drove down to the Padre National Sea Shore one day to see if there was anything there that made it different enough that the NPS added it to it’s system. The only real difference is that it’s preserved, so it’s more remote without homes or businesses. I would say the presence of Pelicans and other birds are more robust, probably just due to less people this time of year, but otherwise it looks very much the same as the beach we are staying on. Because of the dunes, all you see is beach in either place, so I doubt we will make any more special trips down that way. You can drive 60 miles down the beach there if you have 4 wheel drive, but at 15 miles per hour, we might have done 10 miles. You can not drive to South Padre Beach from there, they are not connected you have to go from the mainland.
There are some fantastic parks here as well, and I highly recommend Robert’s Point Park. We have been a couple times watching countless dolphins playing in the bay, people fishing and catching all sorts of interesting things. They have a very nice play area if you have children and you could hear the group that was on the merry go round chanting faster and laughing gleefully. Also, this whole area from here to South Padre Island is the home of the Kemp Ridley Sea Turtles. They nest from April to August and you can volunteer to do releases if you are visiting at that time. Still, they can be seen year round especially around the granite rock sea walls found at Robert’s point and the jetties around the island. We were just walking around saw a smaller one. I have seen them in aquariums but there is something special of just meeting on in happenstance! I did some reading, and decided to get more serious about seeing more. I spent an afternoon on the Jetty and in this park and saw a total of 32 in one day!
Last weekend was rainy and cold so we visited the Texas State Aquarium. They have a great dolphin show there and I would give that high marks especially if you are traveling with children. They also have a lot of interactive exhibits where you can touch crabs, small sharks, feed and touch the rays, etc. They have two major areas to explore – one that highlights the Gulf of Mexico, and the other the Caribbean. I will say their labeling was very poor compared to other places we’ve visited so we couldn’t identify some of the species that we were enjoying. We also felt compared to other zoos and aquariums we’ve visited that the ticket price was high at $40.00, but we were thankful for this experience on our long rainy Thanksgiving weekend. It’s also worth noting the aquarium is located right next to North Beach and the USS Lexington museum in Corpus Christi, had it been better weather we would have visited all 3 in one day. We do plan to go back.
Thanksgiving itself we went to the Cracker Barrel and a movie. We have never had a big tradition when it comes to Thanksgiving. Sometimes we went to my parents, other times we have gone to visit Ed’s family. Occasionally, we stayed home and cooked or have even gone to our daughter’s other parent’s house. Being a blended family there were lots of times we celebrated a different day. It still was a day when you miss the kids and family, but we did a lot of phone visiting and overall had a nice day.
So this will be a good experiment how we like staying somewhere a whole month. This is a significant break in our pattern, but with so much here to enjoy and all the things that are in driving distance my prediction is we will still be sad to leave. This is one of my most favorite stops, other than the Upper Pennisula of Michigan or our time in the Ozarks. I would tie this with the UP, and put the Ozarks in second place. Had there been water for water falls or kayaking in the Buffalo National River area, the Ozarks would have tied with these pretty easily. Before the winter is over we plan to visit Big Bend National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, White Sands National Park, as we continue to head west. So stay tuned!