Drive along the sandy stretch known as Mustang Island, in the Coastal Bend region of Texas, and soon you’ll find yourself in the quirky community of Port Aransas. Dubbed “Port A” by the longtime local residents, this charming town has all the vibes of a traditional beach town but also stands out with a Texas flair you won’t find anywhere else. It’s just one of the reasons that people love to come back to Port A, and make it a Texas family tradition. Perfect for a longer family vacation (hint: we love this destination for a fun and laid-back Spring break), we’ve got 10 reasons why Port Aransas should be at the top of your vacation destination list. Keep reading to see them all. 

photo: Gabby Cullen

1. It’s a classic beach town.
Everything you love about beach towns is alive and well in Port Aransas. Walking-distance lodging, sandcastle competitions, driving golf carts around town, fresh seafood, fishing, surfing, local dive restaurants, and of course, the ability to wear flip-flops for the duration of your stay.

2. There’s always something going on.
From the legendary Texas Sand Fest (Apr. 17-19) to the year-round Port Aransas Art Center’s First Friday events, the community events calendar has plenty to offer.

photo: Gabby Cullen

3. It’s easy to get there.
Yes, Port A is located on an island, but it’s within a four-hour drive of three major Texas cities: San Antonio, Austin and Houston, and it’s a seven-hour drive from Dallas. If you’d rather fly in, the Corpus Christi Airport (CRP) is only 20 minutes away.

4. There are a ton of places to stay, whatever your lodging preference.
From campgrounds to family-friendly beachfront resorts with pools and golf, there’s a lodging option for every family. You can even camp on the beach with the proper permits!

photo: courtesy Port Aransas

5. You can go fishing and have your catch cooked at a local restaurant.
Something both fishing fans and foodies will love is Port Aransas’ catch-and-cook program! After you go fishing, whether it’s off the pier or if you charter a deep-sea trip, there are 10 different restaurants, including the 40-year-old iconic Seafood & Spaghetti Works, that will prepare your catch just for you on the very same day.

6. Or you can enjoy both award-winning food and family-friendly dining.
Whether it's food crafted by award-winning chefs you crave or a laid-back spot perfect for families, there are plenty of spots to choose from in Port Aransas. For foodies, Black Marlin's shrimp and grits and crawfish and shrimp maque choux etouffee, from Food Network vet Gail Huseman, are a must. Our top picks for family-friendly dining include FINS (you'll have a perfect view of the Red Dragon pirate ship) and Stingray's, where you'll find lawn games and a real Corvette inside the restaurant.

8. There are 18 miles of sandy beaches.
The Texas Open Beaches Act allows for camping on the beach, and prime space is divvied out on a first-come, first-serve basis, but with 18 miles of sandy beaches on Mustang Island, there’s plenty of sand to go around, plus some resorts offer a beach set up service. During your beach day, toddlers will enjoy the mellow waves and clean sand (perfect for sandcastles) while older kids will get a kick out of renting a boogie board or beach fishing. 

7. You can visit a private island and pose inside a huge shark on the same day.
Hop a ferry boat to San Jose Island at Fisherman’s Wharf for a day on an uninhabited island (bring a picnic!), and be back in time to explore Alister St., home to Destination Beach & Surf and Bo Jon's, both with Insta-worthy shark-mouth entrances.

photo: Gabby Cullen

9. There’s way more to do than just make sandcastles.
Yes, Port A is perfect for improving your sandcastle-making skills, but there are plenty of other options for families with kids of all ages. You can play golf at Pamilla Beach—the only true links-style golf course in Texas—older kids can go paddleboarding, you can fly kites from Fly it! Port A, rent a golf cart for cruising at Bron’s Beach Carts, spend time at Roberts Point Park (there's a playground for toddlers and live music from April - October), and so much more.

10. You’ll feel like you’ve stumbled onto a hidden gem.
From the local art scene to the locally-owned businesses, Port Aransas will check all your quintessential beach vacation boxes and still offer little surprises around every corner to make you feel like you’ve stumbled onto something truly special.

Find out more: portaransas.org

—Gabby Cullen