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15 Top-Rated Things to Do in Port Aransas, TX

Written by Anietra Hamper
May 4, 2022

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Teal is the color of choice in Port Aransas, from the color of the buildings to the hue of the ocean water. The Gulf of Mexico is the central focus here, with an abundance of fresh seafood, cultural and historical experiences, and activities like golf on Texas' only true links golf course. But these are only the start of many things to do in Port Aransas.

The 18 miles of beaches along the Gulf shoreline will make a presence in your stay, whether you are up early with the sunrise looking for sand dollars or taking a walk beachside beneath a full moon.

Port Aransas is the fishing capital of Texas, and the surrounding Gulf waters are abundant with wildlife like dolphins, sea turtles, and migrating birds.

The transportation of choice in Port Aransas is the beach buggy. They are street legal, making it easy to motor from the roads onto the sandy beaches, where you can park and enjoy the view.

When you need a break from the sun, you can visit some of Port Aransas' small museums to learn about the maritime history of the area. Plan your sightseeing with our list of things to do in Port Aransas.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Fishing

Fishing for redfish in Port Aransas
Fishing for redfish in Port Aransas | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Port Aransas is known as the "Fishing Capital of Texas" and for good reason. The types of species that are available to catch are as diverse as the ways to catch them. Port Aransas is uniquely positioned to let anglers take advantage of fishing offshore, in the bays, in the surf, off the jetties, from the piers, in the flats, and along the channels.

Anglers head to Port Aransas for fishing tournaments throughout the year that cater to all ages and skill levels, from kid tournaments to professional billfish competitions.

If you are new to fishing in Port Aransas it is best to hire a guide, like Captain Josh Garcia of Tejas Guide Service, who knows the metrics of every tide change, fish-feeding habits, and seasonal effects on the bite since he grew up in the area.

Redfish caught in Port Aransas
Redfish caught in Port Aransas | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Anglers can target redfish, drum, sheepshead, and trout closer to shore or go offshore for red snapper and sport fish like tuna. The fishing experience in Port Aransas is about more than just the fish. Every outing is a nature lesson, as you are surrounded by pelicans, birds of prey, dolphins, and sea turtles.

One of the best ways to get the full fishing experience in Port Aransas is to have your catch filleted and take them to a hook and cook restaurant, like FINS Grill, where they can prepare your fish into a full meal with blackened, fried, or broiled preparations.

You can find lodging like Trout Street Condos located next to Fisherman's Wharf and walk to the docks for fishing departures.

2. Beaches

Beach in Port Aransas
Beach in Port Aransas | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Planning ample beach time in Port Aransas is essential if you want to take full advantage of the sun, surf, and scenery. Larger beach areas like Port Aransas Beach and Mustang Island Beach are visitor favorites given their popularity. There are other beaches like I.B. Magee Beach that are fun to visit and offer other things to do, like kiteboarding or fishing from the Horace Caldwell Pier.

The moist make-up of the silty sand on Port Aransas beaches makes it perfect for building hearty sandcastles, which is why this is a popular activity. Port Aransas is home to one of the largest sand sculpture competitions in the United States. If your sandcastle building skills are rusty, not to worry, you can take a sand sculpture lesson from a local expert.

If you plan to spend a lot of time by the water, it is best to rent a beach buggy that enables you to get around easily and park on the sand, so you do not have to worry about a car. A vendor like Port Aransas Beach Buggies even lets you choose a buggy with an eclectic or subdued design as fits your beach mood.

After a long day at the beach working up an appetite, you can relax at local favorite Mac Daddy's restaurant for burgers and comfort food.

3. Glow Row

Glow Row
Glow Row | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Port Aransas is exciting by day, but experiencing the natural marine and plant life by night is a special experience. The best way to do this is by taking a Glow Row night kayaking eco-tour in the shallow waters around the causeway and in the channels. Trips run from March through November and are contingent on safe weather conditions.

Paddle for 1.5 hours on a guided tour in your clear, two-person kayak as you look at the marine and plant life below the surface. The shallow water allows you to see oyster beds and the small fish that live in them. You might also see sport fish, stingrays, shrimp, and baitfish that sometimes even jump into the kayaks.

The 4,400 lumens of colorful and glowing LED lights on the kayaks are just as fun to enjoy in the dark as the surprises seen in the water. All the kayaks are outfitted with seven colors to choose from that paddlers can change at will throughout the trip. Glow

Row trips depart from the Redfish Causeway and go through the reefs of Lighthouse Lakes.

Address: Lighthouse Lakes Launch, Redfish Bay Causeway, Port Aransas, Texas

Official site: https://glowrow.com/port-aransas-kayak-route/

4. Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK)

Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK)
Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

For anyone who enjoys marine wildlife, a visit to the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) is a must. The rehabilitation center is run by the University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute and has been operating since 1979. ARK is named after oceanographer Tony Amos who regularly saved animals in the area to rehabilitate them.

ARK is an institution devoted to the rehabilitation of marine turtles and birds from the coastal zone that encompasses Mustang Island and St. Joseph Island. Sick and injured animals are brought to the center for evaluation, treatment, and if possible, rehabilitation to be safely released back into their native habitats.

Tours of the facility teach about the types of injuries most critical to marine and birdlife and the many success stories that have come out of ARK. You will get up close to animals like Barnacle Billie, a large loggerhead sea turtle who lives at ARK and is too injured to return to the sea.

Address: 750 Channel View Drive, Port Aransas, Texas

Official site: https://utmsi.utexas.edu/about/facilities/ark

5. Horace Caldwell Pier

Horace Caldwell Pier
Horace Caldwell Pier | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The Horace Caldwell Pier is a beautiful pier located in the I.B. Magee Beach Park. It is one of the most popular fishing locations in Port Aransas due in part to its easy access. Since the pier sits on the northern end of Mustang Island, the scenery is stunning from this vantage point, especially during sunsets.

The 1,240-foot-long pier requires a small access fee, and it is open 24 hours a day. You can plan to visit the pier as part of a full day at Port Aransas Beach and beach park.

Address: Port Aransas Beach Road, Port Aransas, Texas

6. Day Trip to San Jose Island

San Jose Island
San Jose Island | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

San Jose Island is one of the best kept secrets in Port Aransas. While it is a private island, you are allowed to visit the public sections of land there and explore the sandy beaches that surround it. This is one of the best places to visit for shelling in Port Aransas, where sand dollars, large seashells, and starfish are common finds in the sand.

You need to take a short ferry ride to reach San Jose Island, and once there, you have more than 21 miles of undisturbed natural beaches to experience. It is also a great location for birding. Vehicles are not permitted on this beach – footprints only, which makes it a relaxing place to visit.

7. Dolphin Watching

Dolphin in Port Aransas
Dolphin in Port Aransas | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

While you are likely to spot dolphins from the shoreline and jetties in Port Aransas, one of the best ways to experience this magnificent marine life in the area is by taking a dolphin watching tour. Given the abundance of plant and animal life in the waters, these tours will offer education on a natural side of Port Aransas.

Most tours are approximately 1.5 hours and cruise the harbors and the waters of Aransas Pass, Lydia Ann Channel, and Aransas Bay in search of the pods of wild dolphins. You will also learn about the maritime history of the area as you cruise the waters near the Lydia Ann Lighthouse.

8. Port Aransas Museum

Port Aransas Museum
Port Aransas Museum | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The Port Aransas Museum is a historical tourist attraction in Port Aransas that chronicles its roots on Mustang Island. Walk through the exhibits that illustrate the evolution of island living.

Some of the permanent exhibits include the stunning Fourth Order Fresnel lighthouse lens that stood at the top of the Lydia Ann Lighthouse for nearly 75 years, video compilations of interviews with local islanders throughout the decades, and a bell from the train that hauled rocks used to build the jetties.

The museum is free to visit and a nice place to start your Port Aransas getaway to learn about the history of the island. For a more in-depth experience, you can visit during one of the regularly scheduled lectures.

Address: 400 N. Alister Street, Port Aransas, Texas

Official site: https://portaransasmuseum.org/

9. Mustang Island

Fishing at sunset on Mustang Island
Fishing at sunset on Mustang Island | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Mustang Island is one of the most breathtaking and scenic experiences you can have in Port Aransas. The beach has a long reputation of being one of the most outstanding beaches along the Texas coast. Mustang Island features a wide beach, tall sand dunes, and iconic rolling Gulf Coast waves.

Mustang Island is one of the best places to spend an entire day at the beach, where you can drift off to sleep in the sand, swim in the warm water, or enjoy beachcombing and bird-watching.

Before you hit the beach, you can stop by the Tarpon Inn, which is the oldest building on Mustang Island. The historic structure was built in 1886 with iconic 200-foot-long porches, making it one of the most beautiful buildings in Port Aransas.

Address: 9394 State Highway 361, Corpus Christi, Texas

10. Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center

Alligator at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center
Alligator at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

There are many ways to experience the natural landscape and wildlife in Port Aransas, and one of the most enjoyable is the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center. It is open sunrise to sunset, seven days a week, so planning a stop is easy. The beautiful nature preserve on the property is full of surprises as you stroll along the 750-foot-long boardwalk.

A pollinator garden and large trees welcome visitors, but the salt marsh is perhaps the best place for wildlife viewing. Look closely to see some of the hundreds of species of birds that pass through the preserve. The highlight of your visit is likely to be spotting one of the most famous residents in the preserve, which is "Boots," the American alligator that is estimated to be over 50 years old.

Address: 1356 Ross Ave, Port Aransas, Texas

Official site: https://cityofportaransas.org/departments/parks-and-recreation/nature-preserve/birding-center/

11. Farley Boat Works

Farley Boat Works
Farley Boat Works | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The seaside and boat building history of Port Aransas comes alive at the Farley Boat Works, which is fun to visit to see authentic boat-making in process. This is where you can learn about the custom boat building process as you see projects in various stages of completion.

One of the best times to visit Farley Boat Works is during the annual Port Aransas Wooden Boat Festival, which is a three-day, family-friendly event that showcases handcrafted boats and other activities. The festival features a nautical market; speakers; and a family boat build in which teams design, build, and launch their creations within a two-day period.

Address: 716 W Avenue C., Port Aransas, Texas

Official site: https://portaransasmuseum.org/visit-farley-boat-works/

12. Golfing

Golfing in Port Aransas
Golfing in Port Aransas | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Anyone who plays golf should experience the Palmilla Beach Golf Course, which is the only true links-style course in Texas, situated along the shores of Mustang Island. The Texas climate, along with the ocean breeze, makes the greens challenging. The views of the dunes and ocean during your game is a great way to experience the natural environment in Port Aransas.

The Palmilla Beach Golf course was designed by Arnold Palmer and has nine holes, as well as a three-hole short course. The course is situated inside a beautiful resort community with wide driving paths for the golf carts around the hilly landscape and water features. There is a driving range on-site and a clubhouse and pro shop where you can buy merchandise and sign up for golf lessons.

Address: 132 Palmilla Beach Drive, Port Aransas, Texas

Official site: https://www.palmillabeach.com/palmilla-beach-golf/

13. USS Lexington Museum & Texas State Aquarium

USS Lexington Museum
USS Lexington Museum | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

You can plan a full-day excursion just down the road in neighboring Corpus Christi, where you can visit the USS Lexington Museum and the Texas State Aquarium. The two museums are worth a visit while you are in the area, and both are located next to each other.

Spend half of your day at the USS Lexington, which is a 16-deck WWII aircraft carrier, also called the Blue Ghost, that gives visitors a close-up experience of a wartime aircraft.

Have lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants before spending the afternoon at Texas State Aquarium. The aquarium has interactive exhibits and experiences for visitors.

Address: Shoreline Blvd. Corpus Christi, Texas

Read More: Top Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Corpus Christi

14. Arts District Shopping

Port Aransas Arts District
Port Aransas Arts District | Photo Copyright: Ian Henderson

The Port Aransas Arts District is a lively place to visit and one of the best spots for shopping. The small boutiques and shops have unique creations from local artists, ranging from photography and pottery to woodwork and prints. Much of the artwork is inspired by the scenery of the area, so you can find artistic creations that reflect your favorite memories or experiences in Port Aransas and Mustang Island.

The Arts District also features art galleries that are fun to peruse, where you can talk to the artists of the region. You can also check the events calendar of the Port Aransas Arts Center to see if classes are available during your time in town.

15. Skydiving

Tandem skydiving
Tandem skydiving

For the best view of Port Aransas and over Mustang Island, you can take the excursion of a lifetime with a tandem skydive. Skydive South Texas has skydiving experiences available over some of the most scenic spots in south Texas and the Gulf Coast. If you want to enhance the experience, you can request a beach landing.

If your idea of aerial adventure has more enclosure, you can opt for a biplane tour with a certified flight instructor. The Discovery Flights take place in a WWII Stearman Biplane, with the same stunning views of the beaches and natural landscape below.

Address: 139 Piper Blvd, Port Aransas, Texas

Official site: https://skydivesouthtexas.com/

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