Tucked away on Mustang Island, on the Gulf of Mexico lies Port Aransas, Texas’s go-to beach town. Offering culture reminiscent of other ocean communities, the town has had its share of challenges. It’s been over two years since Hurricane Harvey, and nearly all businesses are up and running. One resort, in particular, Palmilla Beach Resort & Golf Community, is re-building a thriving vacation community with low-key vibes that will remind you of beach towns like the ones along Florida’s 30A stretch. We spent a few days exploring the area and found plenty to do with kids. Keep reading to find out more.
Everything You Need to Know About Palmilla Beach
The Port A (as locals call it) resort community is about five years old, and this year, after dealing with the aftermath of Harvey, is fully up and running—including the golf course—which the only golf course in Texas with holes lying on the coast. The vacation rentals range from one-bedroom to large homes that will house multiple families, and all of them are connected via golf cart-friendly streets and paths.
There’s a fantastic restaurant, the Black Marlin Seaside Grill, located near the golf shop, and new this year is REDS, an outdoor patio that’s perfect for families. When the Black Marlin has a waiting list (expect it on the weekends during peak season) it’s the perfect place to hang out, get a drink, let the kids play games and order small plates from the outside food truck that serves up fare like street tacos, sliders, chips and queso and more!
The Black Marlin is open to the public and a destination restaurant in itself. Headed by executive Chef Gail Huesmann, a Food Network vet and second-place winner in the 2018 World Chef Challenge (which is part of the World Food Championships), the food is inventive and flavorful. Order nachos for the whole table and create a nacho bar, as the variety of toppings might not appeal to young palates. Share a plate of lobster tostadas, which come served upon crispy wontons. The lobster is plentiful and topped with a spicy slaw and a sweet mango salsa that work together perfectly. The award-winning shrimp and grits with smoked cheddar cheese and the creamy creole sauce was this writer's favorite, but the word from local patrons is that the crawfish and shrimp maque choux etouffee is also a top dish.
You can find the pool at the heart of the community, next to guest services, which is where you’ll go to rent bikes, order beach set up, or find out what other activities are happening during your stay. The pool itself is a refuge from the Texas heat, with family-friendly music played at just the right volume, and Agave, a poolside bar with specialty drinks and snacks from the Black Marlin.
Activities at Palmilla Beach are plentiful. Every Saturday during the summer, at 2 p.m. you’ll find popsicles on the beach and at the pool, and in the evenings, at 7:30 p.m., head for Signature Cottage Park, adjacent to the pool, for s’mores and fire pit fun. There’s live music at REDS on Friday and Saturday, and across the street is Palm Plaza, where concerts are held and in September, will be the home of the 2019 Texas Super Chef Throwdown Series.
Of course, there’s the golf course, too. The course has been shortened, and, upon its grand re-opening on June 1st, the links-style course has nine holes, The LOOP, a three-hole short course and new driving range. It’s easy to book for a group, and the best part is that it won’t take all day to play, but a mere few hours instead.
And what about the beach? Palmilla Beach is just a short golf cart ride over the dunes away from Mustang Island beach. The water is warm, the waves are just right for kids and the resort will, for a fee, set up enough chairs and umbrellas for your whole crew. There’s a staff member on-site for the whole day to assist you in ordering snacks, there are sand toys to borrow, and there’s also an air-conditioned bathroom just for resort visitors. Be prepared—the beach will be busy. Due to the Texas Open Beaches Act, guests are allowed to camp (there are no designated campgrounds) and drive on the beach, so the resort's set up may move up and down the beach to accommodate guests.
What to Do in Port Aransas
Take your golf cart from the resort into town on the beach road and explore the locally-owned businesses and restaurants. The fishing mecca has 11 different restaurants that’ll cook up what you catch that very day, along with classic spots like Seafood Spaghetti Works, family spots like Stingrays Taphouse & Grill, that has old Corvettes and pool tables inside and kids’ games outside, and hand-scooped ice cream at Port A Creamery.
Stop at the tourist traps and take a picture inside the shark, check out any events that might be happening throughout the year. From the Gulf Coast’s oldest fishing tournament—the Annual Deep Sea Roundup—which happens in July, to the Annual Texas SandFest—one of the state’s largest beach festivals and the nation’s largest native-sand sculpture competition—which occurs in April of every year, there’s usually fun to be found in the quintessential beach town.
How to Get There & Other Details
Port Aransas is on Mustang Island, and you can get there by plane, boat or car. Click here to find your best route.
Palmilla Beach Resort & Golf Community
258 Snapdragon Port Aransas, TX 78373
Portions of this trip were paid for by Palmilla Beach & Golf Community, but all opinions here belong to the writer.