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At the northern tip of Mustang Island is the city of Port Aransas, a once-quaint fishing village that has in recent years turned into an enticing Spring Break getaway for many Texans and beyond.
Every year for Spring Break, thousands of ocean-lovers flock to the miles of beautiful beaches in Port Aransas. The ferry line grows long, the restaurants have wait lists, and the city comes alive in preparation for the coming crowds.
To ensure that your Spring Break getaway to Port Aransas is more family fun than frustration, I’ve got a few pieces of advice on how to make the most of your Spring Break week in Port Aransas.
Don’t pass on the parking permit
Get your beach parking permit before you park on the beach in Port Aransas. It’s a $12 permit for the year and you can find them at City Hall, IGA Family Center (the local grocery store) and often at a vendor on the beach near the access roads. Don’t pass on getting the parking permit, seriously (of all weeks).
There are two free parking areas in the city limits: between the south jetty and Beach Marker D, and between Beach Markers 52-58.
Expect the beach to be very crowded for Spring Break, so find your parking spot early. Families typically like to park at the bollards (wooden posts), since it provides significant space for little children to run around between the bollards and beach, and still be away from beach traffic. Port Aransas Beach Lifeguards keep watch over the beach area between Beach Marker D and Beach Marker 17.
If you cruise the beachfront road, you’ll notice that the Spring Break college-age visitors typically gather beyond the bollards, around Beach Markers 20-25.
Get your beach gear ready
When you step foot in the sand in Port Aransas, you want to have everything you need with you. Be sure to swing by the big surf shops to grab your beach essentials in town before you head to the beach. My must-take list includes:
- Beach umbrella or shade canopy
- Insulated cup/water bottle (my favorite brand: Yeti)
- Folding chairs
- Beach towels
- Waterproof sunscreen (my favorite brand: Sun Bum)
- Body boards
- Sand toys for the kids
Some of my favorite surf shops to grab the essentials in Port Aransas are:
Third Coast Beach has a helpful staff with a huge selection of quality coastal brands, everything from swimsuits to clothing, sunglasses to beach toys. They’re located at the corner of Avenue G and Alister St.
The Islander has an awesome selection of everything beachy. From t-shirts to towels, it’s a great spot to wander the aisles and pick up sand toys and souvenirs. Located at the corner of Avenue G and Alister St., just look for the lighthouse.
Destination Beach & Surf has the iconic shark out front, you can’t miss it. It’s a hotspot for family photos and a great place to customize your own t-shirt from hundreds of designs. They also have a great selection of swimsuits upstairs. Located on Alister St., next to The Islander.
Bay Quest is another large beach supply and souvenir shop that you’ll see if you’re coming to the island from the ferry. They have a wide variety of colorful towels, t-shirts and sand toys for your day at the beach. Located on W. Cotter Avenue, near the ferry landing.
Set up your home base
Once you claim your spot on the beach and get your tent and chairs set up, attach a colorful flag banner or kite to your shade tent or vehicle. Having an easily identifiable spot on the beach will help everyone in your group, including kids, to easily find your “home base” on the beach. This is especially helpful is you like to walk down the beach and back.
Or you could be like me thinking, “Wait, how far did I just walk?”
The entire beach will be very crowded, and many towels and chairs look alike. Believe it or not, subtle ocean currents will often pull you slightly down the beach, so when you look up, you’ll need to know where you started. Setup a home base that your entire group can easily locate.
TIP: Be kind and take down your shade canopy when you leave. You’d be amazed at how many tent frames blow down the beach because they’re left overnight.
Eat early or eat late
Eat at local restaurants during off-peak times to have the shortest wait time and best chance of seating your group together. Large groups are often hard to seat quickly, so be prepared to be flexible with seating.
The most spacious restaurants for large groups in Port Aransas are:
One of my favorites, Seafood & Spaghetti Works is my go-to for lunch or dinner. Their seafood is amazing, salad bar is always popular, and even their pizza is fantastic. My current obsession: their shrimp tacos.
A great laid-back gathering spot, MacDaddy’s Family Kitchen is known for serving up some delicious barbecue. Their cornbread and curly fries may be my kryptonite.
Who doesn’t love a pirate-themed restaurant at the beach? Moby Dick’s fits the bill in Port Aransas with a classic nautical decor and “how to talk like a pirate” on the menu. They offer lots of seafood and a great kids menu.
Fins Grill & Icehouse offers waterfront dining as it faces the marina. They have indoor and outdoor seating with a prime view of the Red Dragon pirate ship. I’ve heard their burgers are pretty good, but my go-to is the fried shrimp and hush puppies.
Pizzeria Port A offers a variety of pizzas on their buffet, as well as a really good fresh salad bar. It’s a great spot for groups because the food’s already ready, the soft-serve ice cream is included, and there’s a small game room for the kids to enjoy.
Get going in a golf cart
Traffic in Port Aransas during Spring Break will surely create some backups around popular intersections like State Hwy. 361/Access Road 1-A, Avenue G/Alister St. and Cut Off Rd./Cotter Ave (near the ferry landing), not to mention the traffic while driving on the beach.
Consider renting a golf/beach cart locally to get around town. These fun, colorful beach carts certainly make carrying gear to the beach much simpler, parking is easier and they’ll keep the sand out of your personal vehicle. There are a lot of cart rental businesses in town, but be sure to reserve yours early as they will likely sell out early for the week. But remember, carts are not allowed on State Hwy. 361.
Another fun option is renting a fat-tire beach bike at Big Shell Bikes, Island Motor Bikes or KAZ’s Island Rentals.
TIP: Take side streets like 11th Street or Station Street to avoid congestion on Hwy. 361/Alister St.
Step off the beach to shop
Schedule some downtime to step off the beach and enjoy the local shops of Port Aransas. Whether you’re looking for coastal clothing or island decor, or even Port A souvenirs, you can take a little piece of Port Aransas home with you from some of the local boutiques.
The local flavor of the island can be best experienced in shops like:
Roam is a great spot to spend the afternoon in Port Aransas. From beautifully patterned women’s clothing to beauty and home products, Roam is a feast for the eyes. And don’t forget to stop by their sister store, Roam Home.
Explore Cita Resort Wear & Home Goods to find a coastal collection of finer women’s clothing brands and high-end decor pieces. The colors are cheerful and you’ll find your eyes wandering high and low with fascinating pieces of jewelry and accessories.
BoJon’s is a local hotspot for fashionable women’s clothing and jewelry. The selection is large and the recently remodeled location is lovely inside. A great spot to spend the afternoon off the beach.
Gratitude is an eclectic must-see shop off the beaten path in Port Aransas. It’s painted pink and chock-full of interesting gifts, fun signs and decor for the friend who has a great sense of humor.
The local kite shop is Fly It Port A and their selection is top-notch. The staff is very helpful and will help you find what you need to get up and flying in no time.
Lone Star Taste is a great gift shop for finding fun coastal gifts, beach decor, and taste some Texas-made jams, jellies and sauces.
End the day with something sweet
After spending a relaxing day enjoying the waves, end the day with something sweet from some of my favorite sweet spots in town.
Coffee Waves at The Shops at Port A is the ideal spot to chill after dinner and enjoy freshly made gelato and specialty coffee. Browse the walls for local art and enjoy live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Swing by Desserted Island for ice cream, a warm brownie sundae or a banana split. Then challenge your friends to a game of checkers or foosball, without spilling your ice cream, or hang out on the deck outside. You can’t miss this colorful hotspot.
Another lesser known local gem is Port A Creamery. They’ve got a big menu sure to satisfy your craving for something sweet, like ice cream, milkshakes, homemade cheesecake or key lime pie.
And don’t leave town without a stop at Winton’s Island Candy for the best homemade fudge, saltwater taffy and popular candy sold by the pound. Because who doesn’t need snacks for the road, right?
Don’t risk a rip current
Regardless of which beach area you visit, it’s important to know basic ocean safety. Rip currents are strong currents of water that are rapidly moving away from the shore. They’re not always easy to spot from the sand, so watch for unusual breaks in the rolling waves.
Rip currents are very important to understand because these powerful currents can pull a strong swimmer out and away from the beach.
According to the NOAA, swimmers should swim parallel to the beach until they escape the rip current, and call or wave for assistance. Learn more on the NOAA website.
Remember, Port Aransas is a small city. When Spring Break crowds flood onto Mustang Island, the much-needed business that visitors like us bring is a welcome refresher for local shops and restaurants. However, most restaurants bear the brunt of the booming crowds, and can seat and feed only so many at one time.
Please pack your patience with your beach gear, and know that local restaurant and shop owners are very happy to have you patronizing their businesses during Spring Break and appreciate your understanding when they’re super busy.
TIP: Call ahead to check wait times or make reservations in advance.
Remember, large crowds = longer wait times. So please be patient and flexible, and know that your business is appreciated.
Spring Break at the beach is an exciting and busy time where you can ease into island time, let your hair down and feel the sand between your toes. And what better place to be this week than Port Aransas?
See you on the sand!