On our list of things that we want to do before we leave Texas, visiting the Gulf Coast was at the top. While we probably won’t get to many (or any) of the other things, we had a great weekend visit to a friend’s beach house in Port Aransas, TX. Port A, as the locals call it, is on Mustang island; a long, thin sandbar of an island on the Gulf Coast of Texas just across the bay from Corpus Christi. The beaches are made of fine sand and little else. Quite a change from the driftwood and rock beaches we are used to in the Puget Sound.
We picked my mom up at the airport and drove the four and a half hours more or less straight through to the beach house, stopping only at target (the kids were supposed to be wearing shoes when they got in the car) and the What-A-Burger By The Bay in Corpus Christi for dinner (Wesley likes their fries). Amber got the privilege of sitting in the back seat between Wesley’s booster and Jillian’s car seat. She is both skinny enough to fit between them and has short enough legs. Lucky her!
The house, by the way is gorgeous. Much nicer than ours frankly. It is fully appointed with TVs, cable, internet access, dishes, silverware, pans, appliances, towels, blankets, sheets, pillows, you name it. It has four official bedrooms, plus a Murphy bed in the living room. So much bigger than our house! The kids enjoyed the jetted tub upstairs in the master bath.
The weather when we first got their was very Northwest only warmer. It was mostly overcast and windy, but still nice enough to walk around in shorts and a sweatshirt. Because of an offshore storm the waves were much bigger than normal. And apparently every surfer in Texas was out as the waves were rather unusual. By the time we left the waves had flattened to just a few inches high, the often driving wind had subsided and the sun was coming out. So we got the full range of weather possibilities (minus the rain, thankfully).
Both kids were in varying states of illness. Jillian, usually opposed to napping when healthy, seemed incapable of staying awake when in earshot of the shore. So we don’t have too many pictures of her awake at the beach. The couple of times we took her she passed out after only a few minutes.
For Jillian it only took about ten minutes for this:
It happened to her on the pier, at the beach, anywhere she could hear the waves. Apparently Jillian’s Kryptonite is white noise.
A reasonable walk or short drive down the beach from the house is Horace Caldwell Pier. Oddly you have to pay to go on the pier even though it at first appears to be public.
Anway, $2 per person and you’re on. The day we were there the waters were full of surfers and the pier full of people fishing for anything but Hardheads (but not catching anything else apparently). The Hardhead or Sea Catfish is apparently abundant and according to one State of Texas website “it isn’t very tasty and the fish is difficult to clean”. They also have mildly toxic barbed spines that cause swelling and are really hard to pull out. What this means for the fish is that people catch them all the time, they want to throw them back, but can’t touch them. So they take quite a beating as people fling them around, thump them on railings and yank on them with pliers trying to get their hooks out. It was a little disturbing. One gentleman, who seemed to have enough experience to treat the fish humanely caught a fish and let Wesley reel it in before smoothly removing the hook and dropping him back in the water.
I don’t know if it is typical or if it was because of the storm, but the beach was lined with all sorts of shells, sea stars, hermit crabs, crabs, and jelly fish in varying states of life. Especially in the morning, before it had been picked clean, we had great luck finding shells and even some very large hermit crabs (bodies 4-5″ long). Wesley “saved” several sea stars that had washed up on shore and was very proud of himself for doing it.
We found a surprising variety of shells: Lightning Whelks (the state shell of Texas), Olive snails, Sharks Eye snails, sand dollars, sea biscuits, Giant Eastern Murex, limpets, a plethora of clams, cockles and scallops, just to name a few. We also saw some dead cabbage head jellyfish and some moon jellyfish, too.
The outer edge of Mustang Island is open to the ocean the inner edge is open to Corpus Christi Bay and is a much calmer swamp marsh; an ideal habitat for birds. We visited a bird sanctuary and saw pelicans (a couple of species), turtles, ducks, herons and most importantly, though at some distance, Roseate Spoonbills. It was really windy so most of the birds were just hunkering down on the lee side of the reeds. But we still saw quite a few for the few minutes the kids would put up with it.
Though there were many warning signs at the bird sanctuary, this is as close as we came to being eaten by a ‘gator.
Port A is nothing if not a typical tourist town. The population is only a few thousand and it is clear that tourism is the main industry. Here you’ll find everything you’d expect at any small tourist town, plus some things I hadn’t seen before. They had restaurants that would cook your catch for you, candy shops, places to rent these little gas golf cart things (primarily for driving on the beach road I guess), many giant sharks statues, at least two gift/surf shops on every corner and a good number of playgrounds and free piers for fishing. We did most of touristy stuff including taking the obligatory goofy pictures:
Amber did a really good job of finding things for us to do that the kids would enjoy. She really ran the whole trip and kept everyone having a good time. At one pier we were able to see dolphins just swimming in the channel. We weren’t able to get a picture because they came and went so quickly and because the surf was rough due to winds, but it sure made Amber’s day. Wesley had a pretty good time, too.
Perhaps the kids’ favorite part of the house (mine, too) was the widow’s walk. We had to go up at least twice a day. Because the house is about a half block from the beach and because the beach has some pretty hefty dunes that block views of the ocean most of the houses in the neighborhood have some form of widow’s walk. I imagine it would be great to sit up there with a cool drink and read a book on a warm day.
Here is a 360 degree panorama from the widow’s walk near dusk. Click for a much larger view (it will take you to Flickr).
We’ll post a “part two” about the trip to the Texas State Aquarium soon. If you haven’t gotten enough pictures yet, you can check out our whole “Port Aransas” set on Flickr. But be warned it contains 450+ photos.
Oh, and one more thing… If you go to Port Aransas BEWARE THE ROBOTS. They’ll get you!