6 Hot Tips for Enjoying Sunny, Sandy Port Aransas, Texas

by Amanda Eyre Ward on June 19, 2024 in Travels,
Two girls in front of a fishing and sightseeing boat.

Nestled on the northern tip of Mustang Island, one of the barrier islands along the Texas Gulf Coast, is Port Aransas. “Port A” is a charming beach town for sun-seekers, nature enthusiasts and adventure lovers. 



The island itself is about eighteen miles long. It is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the east and Corpus Christi Bay to the west. Visitors can enjoy both pristine beaches and tranquil bay waters.

A sandy beach with ocean waves.
Playing in the waves of the Gulf is the perfect way to cool off on a hot Texas summer day. Photo Amanda Eyre Ward.

The island’s unique geography provides a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities. You can swim and surf in the Gulf. Or try kayaking and paddleboarding in the Bay. Located approximately thirty minutes from Corpus Christi, Port Aransas is easily accessible for travelers coming from across Texas and beyond.

As soon as my family drove our car full of bathing suits, sunscreen, beach gear and two miniature schnauzers onto the complimentary ferry, we started to relax. We spotted dolphins in the ocean waves before we even reached the town dock.

Read on for six hot tips to help you enjoy a Port A Getaway!


Two girls on the beach with an orange float.
If you stay at Beachgate Condosuites, you can walk right from your room to the beach…bring your favorite float! Photo Amanda Eyre Ward.

Port Aransas boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Texas, with miles of pristine shoreline waiting to be explored. If you’re taking a beach vacation, why not stay right on the beach? There’s no need to drive and park when you stay at Beachgate CondoSuites and Hotel. Beachgate’s rooms are classy and spotless, offering a cool respite after a hot day playing (or lounging)  on the beach.

We loved the friendly front desk and security staff that enabled us to relax while our kids played in the three hotel pools. From our roomy patio, we could even see our pre-teen kids splashing in the pool below while we enjoyed some much-appreciated kid-free time to chat.

Whether you’re into swimming, sunbathing, beachcombing or simply taking leisurely strolls along the water’s edge, Beachgate offers easy access. Pack your sunscreen, grab your beach towel or sun shade and prepare to unwind in the warm Gulf breeze.

 Blue beach tent on Port Aransas Beach.
Don’t bother spending time setting up a complicated beach tent—with a Shibumi, you can be enjoying shade in minutes. Photo Amanda Eyre Ward.

Hot Tip #1: After struggling with an old-school umbrella, we spotted happy beachgoers easily setting up and enjoying a Shibumi sunshade. We invested in one and absolutely love it.


Port Aransas is situated along the Central Flyway, a major migratory route for birds traveling between North and South America. This strategic location makes it a haven for birdwatchers year-round. 

Throughout the year, Port Aransas welcomes a variety of migratory bird species as they pass through on their journey north or south. Spring and fall are particularly exciting times for birdwatching. Flocks of colorful songbirds, shorebirds, and raptors stop to rest and refuel along the coast.

Hot Tip #2: Visit The Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, located within the Port Aransas Nature Preserve. The Preserve features boardwalks and viewing platforms that allow visitors to observe a variety of waterfowl, wading birds and songbirds in their natural habitat.

Two girls wearing sunglasses.
Be sure to pack your sunglasses when you head to sunny Port Aransas! Photo Amanda Eyre Ward.


The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are teeming with marine life, making it an ideal habitat for dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins, in particular, are frequently spotted in the bays, channels and along the coastline near Port Aransas.

Port Aransas is dedicated to preserving the marine environment and protecting the wildlife that calls it home. Through education, research and conservation efforts, local organizations work to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty and biodiversity of the Gulf Coast.

Hot Tip #3: For more information about animal life along the coast, make a stop at the Texas State Aquarium.


 A sunset in Port Aransas.
Watching the glittering sun set over the waves from a boat cruise is breathtaking. Photo Amanda Eyre Ward.

As the day draws to a close, make your way to one of Port Aransas’ picturesque viewpoints. You can witness nature’s nightly masterpiece — the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. From atop a dune, on the deck of a beachfront bar or sailing on the open water, there’s no better way to end your day in paradise.

One of the best ways to see dolphins up close is by taking a dolphin-watching tour. These guided excursions are led by knowledgeable captains who know the best spots to find dolphins. They also provide insight into these magical creatures’ behavior and habitat.

 A man on a boat.
Setting off from Fisherman’s Wharf, you can see dolphins and the smiles of visiting vacationers. Photo Amanda Eyre Ward.

From charming Fisherman’s Wharf, we boarded the roomy Scat Cat boat for a sunset dolphin tour. The captain piloted our boat out of the harbor in the calm and protected inland channels to find local pods of dolphins. We enjoyed beverages from the snack bar and headed to the observation deck to marvel at the frolicking dolphins on every side of the boat. We were lucky enough to pass a larger boat, and spotted dolphins leaping from the water, riding the wake. On our tour, we saw dozens of dolphins and watched a breathtaking sunset. By the time we returned to Fisherman’s Wharf, the vibe was festive and friendly. We were ready for some serious eating.


Two girls at Fisherman’s Wharf in Port Aransas, Texas.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a lively scene in the evenings, with restaurants and sightseeing boats. Photo Amanda Eyre Ward.

Our mouths were watering as we surveyed the seafood restaurants that lined the streets of Port Aransas. The local delicacies include freshly shucked oysters, Gulf shrimp and freshly-caught fish served blackened, grilled, and in pasta, tacos and more.

We loved the family-friendly Fin’s Grill & Icehouse overlooking the harbor. Be sure to try the Island Nachos piled high with shrimp. Fin’s will cook your catch while you savor cool drinks on the patio. Savor the Crab Stuffed Fish or Bayou Style Shrimp & Rice. Nautical décor and friendly service makes Fin’s the perfect island escape.

If you’re craving barbecue, MacDaddy’s Family Kitchen is your destination. Their Blackened Catch of the Day with Creole Butter was the best meal I ate in Port Aransas. And the pecan pie was fantastic!

For a glam evening out, make a reservation at Tortuga’s Saltwater Grille. Savor the Snapper Pontchartrain with house crawfish creole sauce, served with a cheddar grit cake and seasonal roasted vegetables.

Hot Tip #4: Tortuga’s also offers a beautiful Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Port A Benny’s—served on scrumptious house biscuits—are divine. 


A sandcastle on the beach.
With a lesson from Mark Sandrum, you can create a sand castle that is the envy of the beachfront! Photo Amanda Eyre Ward.

Book early for a sandcastle lesson with the Sandcastle King of Port Aransas, Mark Sandrum. This will be an hour-and-a-half you will never forget. Sandrum thrills kids of all ages and meets you right at your beach chair with tools and tricks for creating giant works of sand art. Mark can entertain your kids or include you in the lesson. The best part is spending the rest of the day perched next to a castle that impresses every beachcomber walking by.

Hot Tip #5: Try Mark’s “I stack; you carve” plan! It’s made for groups of friends and families who are “not interested in giving their 100% attention to a man with a shovel and buckets.” Mark stacks the sand and gives beachgoers “slightly modified high-tech tools.” He assists as guests carve a low-fuss sand masterpiece. 


People posing inside a shark sculpture.
In charming downtown Port Aransas, be sure to step inside the giant shark mouth for the perfect photo opportunity. Photo Amanda Eyre Ward.

Shopping in Port Aransas, Texas, is relaxed and enjoyable, with friendly shopkeepers and a laid-back coastal vibe. The town’s pedestrian-friendly layout makes it easy to explore different stores on foot, often with scenic views of the beach and Gulf of Mexico. Locally-owned boutiques and specialty stores cater to both tourists and locals. Are you looking for a unique piece of art, a souvenir to remember your trip or the perfect beach outfit? Port Aransas provides a range of options that reflect its vibrant, coastal character.

Hot Tip #6: My daughter scored a fun, crochet, beach-themed necklace that holds her Chapstick on the beach!


Port Aransas hosts festivals and events year-round. For resources and more hot tips, head to Visit Port Aransas.


Cover photo Amanda Eyre Ward

Amanda Eyre Ward is a New York Times bestselling novelist and travel writer. Amanda lives with her family in Austin, Texas…but loves to travel around the state and worldwide! Her new, bestselling novel—which is the story of a librarian in love and set in a British castle—is titled LOVERS AND LIARS.