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Despite its increasing popularity in the last decade, Port Aransas is a small city with a big visiting population in the summer. This homegrown, small-town feel to island life is one of the most popular reasons that so many families choose to return to Port Aransas year after year looking for kid-friendly activities.
During the busy season from March to September, you’ll see families with children of all ages in Port Aransas relaxing on the beach, playing in the waves and exploring all the many sights of Mustang Island. If you find time to wander off the beach and into town, here’s my list of 40 fun family-friendly activities to explore in Port Aransas.
As you browse the list, you may find a few things to explore around town that you’ve never discovered before, even if you’ve been visiting Port Aransas for years.
Places to Explore
1. Take in a beach sunrise at the South Jetty. It’s stunning to watch the sun come up over the ocean, and the savoring the sunrise at the jetty is the perfect place to experience the start of a new day at the beach.
2. Learn a little island history. Tour the local Port Aransas Museum as you discover how the city came to be and its famous visitors. It’s kid-friendly with lots of photos and cool exhibits for kids to explore.
3. Discover the little white chapel. The simple yet beautiful Chapel on the Dunes holds an unexpected surprise inside for those who visit. Its colorful hand-painted walls are a photographer’s treasure.
4. Charter a boat for a day. Reserve your spot for a fun dolphin watching tour or a leisurely sunset cruise to the Lydia Ann Lighthouse.
5. Watch for the wonders of wildlife. Wander the water’s edge at Roberts Point Park to watch for dolphins, sea turtles, sea gulls, pelicans and hermit crabs along the jetty rocks. Have a camera handy to catch some photos!
6. Select some local art. Visit the Port Aransas Art Center to browse through hand-crafted works by local artists in the Coastal Bend area. They also offer art classes and host a monthly open house. Another family-favorite of ours is Island Made Art (A Workings Artist’s Studio).
7. Do some birdwatching. Visit the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, which is part of the Port Aransas Nature Preserve, to wander the walking paths to view migrating coastal birds and possibly spot one of the local alligators in the wetlands.
8. Visit a private island. Take the hourly Jetty Boat from Fisherman’s Wharf to San Jose Island (aka St. Joe’s) for the day. San Jose Island is a privately-owned barrier island, located just across the ship channel. There are no restrooms or shade, so be sure to bring everything you’ll need for the day, like a shade umbrella (my favorite brand is Lightspeed, they’re easy to open and close), folding beach chairs, sunscreen and a beach wagon to carry it all.
9. End the day with a wide open view. Port Aransas is know for its amazing sunset skies. You can get the best view of the sunset over the bay from either Charlie’s Pasture (at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve) or from Roberts Point Park.
10. Go for a family hike. Explore several miles of hiking trails around the Nature Preserve that connect to the Port Aransas Community Park. It’s a great area to spot local wildlife and migrating birds, or just go for a run.
11. Discover where the bollards get dressed. Venture down toward Horace Caldwell Pier to look for the wooden bollards that have been “dressed” in crochet outfits, sunglasses, hats and sometimes remnants of items left on the beach. They’re most often dressed during the off-season.
12. Catch a sea turtle release. On occasion, a local wildlife rescue organization called the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) will release baby sea turtles to the Gulf of Mexico, which are open to the public to view from the beach. They also schedule events for returning rehabilitated sea turtles and coastal birds to the wild.
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Beach & Water Activities to Enjoy
13. Reel in something new. Book a guided fishing trip for the whole family in the bay or out to sea for a few hours. You never know what may bite. Call Woody’s Sportscenter, Dolphin Docks or Fisherman’s Wharf to check availability. After all, fishing is what Port Aransas is originally known for.
14. Get a new perspective. You’ve seen Horace Caldwell Pier, located at the end of Beach Street, but have you ever walked it? Venture out to the end of the pier for a great view looking back at the island. (My kids love this, just be prepared for the wind.)
15. Go kayaking in the bay. The Corpus Christi Bay is ideal for a day in your own watercraft, navigating the wetland areas. There are three kayak paddling trails from Mustang Island State Park that span 5-7 miles along the coast.
16. Try to stand up. If you’ve never attempted it, take some stand up paddle boarding lessons on the water. Instruction is available as individual, family or group lessons with Port A H2O. If you prefer to try it on your own, grab this inflatable paddleboard gear before you go.
17. Take to the sky with kitesurfing. You’ve seen those guys… the ones who suddenly pop out of the water and are airborne. That can be you with a few lessons, and you too can get a little higher. Kitesurfing is a great activity for teens to try, so grab your kitesurfing gear here.
18. Bring your pole and tackle box. Port Aransas is a fishing town, so there’s no shortage of places to drop a line. Try fishing as a family from the bay at Charlie’s Pasture, from Horace Caldwell Pier, Roberts Point Park or the South Jetty.
19. Ride the waves dude. Experience the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico on a surfboard. Sign up for surfing or wakeboarding lessons and camps for kids with Texas Surf Camps. Swing by The Boardhouse Surf & Skate to grab the necessities.
20. Find treasure in the sand. Wander the beach to hunt for seashells, large and small, along the shore near the South Jetty. Make it a scavenger hunt to see which family member can find a seashell, sand dollar, and crab.
21. Go parasailing over the Gulf. There’s hardly a better view of the island than a bird’s-eye view from above. Call Chute ‘Em Up Parasailing to schedule your high ride.
22. Go crabbing. Comb the beach at night to search for crabs and other interesting nocturnal wildlife. Be sure to take flashlights, because lots of animals come out at night. My kids love these illuminated beach nets for finding beach critters at night.
23. Yell fore! Get in 9 holes of golf with a beautiful view along the sand dunes at Palmilla Beach Resort & Golf Community. Then grab lunch at Black Marlin Bar & Grill or REDS Patio Bar on property.
24. Harness the wind. Port Aransas is known for having a steady breeze on the beach, and seeing huge kites flying overhead is a classic seaside memory. Just remember, the cheapest kite isn’t always the best quality kite. Find the coolest kite selection at Fly It Port A or bring your own (my family’s favorite is this large dolphin kite).
25. Experience skydiving. Get high, get an adrenaline rush and get a tremendous view of the entire island, ship channel and Gulf of Mexico. The skies are all yours and be sure to bring your Go-Pro camera, because the photos are amazing. Call Skydive South Texas to book your “drop”.
26. Build a beach campfire. The city allows for 3’x3′ beach campfires, so stop by the convenience store to pick up a bundle of wood and matches. Bring all the fixings to make s’mores and lots of glow bracelets for the kids. Just be sure to extinguish your fire and fill in the hole when done (and please don’t use wooden pallets, as they leave nails behind after burning).
27. Go for a swim. While some rental properties in Port Aransas have private pools, you may not know that Port A has a Community Park with a great pool area. The complex offers daily admission, swim lap lanes, water slides for the kids and a beach entry. There’s also a playground outside the fenced pool area, as well as a skate park, dog park and walking trails.
28. Let’s just play. Give your young ones a chance to burn off some energy as they climb and slide on two public playground areas in town. Visit the playground at Roberts Point Park (near the Ferry Landing and Marina) or the Port Aransas Community Park (just off Cut Off Road at Ross Avenue/Clark Parkway).
29. Get some exercise with the family. Walk or run on the beach or local trails. Here’s some helpful mileage for you… From the Horace Caldwell Pier to Beach Marker 18 (at Beach Access Road 1-A) is 2.25 miles. On the beach, from the South Jetty to Horace Caldwell Pier is .67 miles. Prefer to run on the sidewalk? Take 11th Street from Access Road 1-A to Avenue G for a 1.76 mile walk/run. Or check out the trails from Community Park to the Port Aransas Nature Center and back for a 2.15 mile trek.
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Other Fun Things to Do
30. Experience a pirate adventure. There are two similar but different pirate cruises to be enjoyed in Port Aransas. The Pirates of the Lydia Ann (be prepared for an epic water gun battle) and the Red Dragon Pirate Cruise (lots of dancing and sword-fighting aboard for sure). You seriously can’t go wrong with either adventure, or BOTH.
31. Build it better. Take sandcastle building lessons on the beach as a family from one of the greats in town, The Sandcastle Guy, Mark Landrum. You’ll learn how to stack, pack and sculpt your own masterpiece in the sand.
32. Got wheels? Bring your teens to the Port Aransas Community Park and head to the far left of the parking lot to check out the local skate park. When they get hot and need a break, they can walk across the parking lot to the Community Pool and relax in the pool.
33. Cool off with a sweet treat. There are several places in town to grab cool treats, like ice cream, gelato or snow cones. Our family favorite for gelato is Coffee Waves. My teens also love the waffle ice cream sandwiches at Port A Creamery. And my husband loves the classic banana split at Desserted Island.
34. Rent a beach cruiser. There’s something nostalgic about riding a bike. Cruise around the island on a bike from Island Motor Bikes to get a great feel for island life and the freedom of the wind in your hair. Beach cruiser bikes often have bigger tires to tread through sand, which is especially fun when you’re a teenager. Bike riding is a great way to explore the island as a family.
35. Let creative side shine. On a hot afternoon, stop in Fire It! Ceramics to paint your own pottery piece or holiday ornament. Most pieces are fired and ready for pickup within a few days. You can bring in food and drinks and spend a few hours feeling like a crafty kid again.
36. Get your sugar fix. Step back in time to an old-fashioned candy store and fill your bag with saltwater taffy and homemade fudge at Winton’s Island Candy.
37. Rent a beach cart for the day. Scoot around town with the open air in your hair in your own beach cart. You can drive down the beach and on most all city streets. Just be sure to use the seatbelts and a car seat for younger kids and allow only licensed drivers, as all driving laws still apply.
38. Shop for souvenirs. As a family, our favorite mementos from traveling is the small reminders we bring home with us. Shop the local surf shops and souvenir stores to find something that will remind you of the memories made in Port Aransas. Our favorites include Third Coast Beach & Surf, The Islander, Gratitude, Lone Star Taste and Island Made Art.
39. Catch a performance. The local nonprofit stage theater in town offers live performances and occasional movies for families at the Port Aransas Community Theater.
40. Visit the state park. At the south end of Mustang Island is the almost 4,000-acre Mustang Island State Park with 5 miles of beachfront. It’s a popular spot for camping and has facilities available.
Tell me your thoughts
Well, there you have it… 40 super-fun things to do while you visit Port Aransas. There are certainly more things I could add to the list, but the idea is to enjoy your time together as a family while exploring all the activities and sights there are to see around this amazing island community.
I’d love to hear from you. Tell me what you and your family love to do in Port Aransas. With so many activities available in town, you may have some favorites I haven’t added to my list yet! So get out and explore the wonderful city of Port Aransas and be sure to tag me in your photos (@portaransastex), so I can see what you’re enjoying the most.
See you on the beach!