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Cover 07/10/2013

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Photo: Photo by Callie Enlow, License: N/A

Photo by Callie Enlow

Not a bad view in Port A

Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used when there are no other viable options. Scarred by a jellyfish- and seaweed-infested early childhood visit to Galveston, I vowed never again to hit the brown, bubbly bathtub water, a resolve which only strengthened with subsequent years swimming and sunbathing on other major coasts. Even upon returning to Texas, media and friends’ reports of stingray attacks, trashy (in both senses of the word) beaches, and tar balls did not inspire me to head for the sand.
And then I did. Late last summer, friends lured me to a get-together in Port Aransas (aka Port A) and I realized the error of my assumptive ways. The sand was free of litter, the water was clear, and the beachgoers were not beer-bonging like it was rush week. In short, it covered the beach basics, and when you can’t afford a plane ticket, our little slice of Gulf Coast really hits the spot.
Go ahead, keep perpetuating the myth of the grossest coast (the better to keep our beaches asshole-free) but don’t get suckered into it like me. Test the waters with our five suggestions, and then return to find your own secret sea spot. Summer in South Texas will never be the same.

Port Aransas: The Chill Beach

One of the easiest beaches to reach for us Saytowners, Port Aransas has a laid-back vibe, but also provides most all the creature comforts that city folk expect. Port A’s public beach is uncommonly clean thanks to city efforts. For a $12 annual pass, you can park on the beach, or search for free parking between the jetties and Horace Caldwell pier and between markers 52-58. You can also rent a golf cart to putter around on and off the sand. Port A doesn’t attract the hordes like South Padre or Galveston, so don’t stress about jockeying for beach position. If you’re one of those nice people that doesn’t pee in the water, take comfort in the fact that Port A’s beach cleanliness extends to its free porta potties as well. Note that these niceties don’t necessarily apply to nearby Mustang Island State Park.
While this spot is best for maxin’ and relaxin,’ the agro vacation Nazis among you can find fun in surfing, fishing, sea kayaking, birding, and visiting the free University of Texas’ Marine Science Institute aquarium.
The resort town has a host of affordable homes for rent, via share sites like VRBO, Flipkey, and Airbnb, making this an appealing destination for family and friend groups.  

Sleep: Not into house rentals? Port A doesn’t have any five-star hotels, so lower your expectations and check into überfunky O’Neill Ford-designed Belles by the Sea. Not a lot of bell(e)s and whistles, but it has a pool, allows dogs, and some of the rooms offer kitchenettes.

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