Skip to content

Written by Texas Highways

Texas Highways Special Report: Port Aransas

Anticipation grows as you roll down the window and drive onto the Port Aransas ferry to cross the narrow channel to Mustang Island. Salty air invades the senses, and sunrays glint on the shifting waters where dolphins play. As you disembark into the heart of this historic fishing town, brown pelicans skim the water for dinner or perch on weathered piers. Fishing boats rock gently in the harbor, rigged for their work in nearby bays or the open ocean.

A busy taproom at 8th Wonder Brewing

On a mercifully cool Friday evening in the acre-size backyard of Houston’s 8th Wonder Brewery, the post-workweek crowd streams in, ready to cut loose.

Outside entrance to GLOW

When evacuees Karey and David Swartwout returned to Rockport in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, they assumed their old boathouse-turned-restaurant would be part of the devastation they’d been watching on TV. Driving down Broadway for the first time post-Harvey was “very disorienting,” Karey said, “because so many landmarks and buildings were just gone.” She took a deep breath when the car reached the 1800 block and then exhaled in relief when, at the end of the long driveway, she saw a magnificent GLOW: Their little seafood restaurant was still standing. The costly wall reinforcement materials required to pass code before opening in 2011 turned out to be well worth the red tape. The restaurant was back in business as soon as power was restored a couple of weeks later.

A pile of barbecued crab on a table

Barbecued crab, a coastal delicacy born in a tiny corner of Southeast Texas, is tender, juicy, and laced with spice. This misnamed meal isn’t barbecue, though, which I realized some years ago when my friend Carolyn invited me home from college to visit her family in Beaumont, promising we’d eat something not found anywhere else.

Outside store front of Galveston's Star Drug

Customers once came to the Star Drug Store for their medicinal needs, but today they come for a different kind of pick-me-up: meals and merchandise. For more than a century, the Star has been a fixture in Galveston’s historic downtown. A glowing neon-lit Coca-Cola sign shines like a beacon above its sidewalk awning on 23rd Street, a few blocks south of the Strand, the island’s main commercial artery. This vintage porcelain sign, which dates from the late 1940s, is said to be one of the last of its kind.

Outside the Laredo Water Museum

What do I look like?” my 5-year-old daughter, Ana, asked when she emerged from her bedroom dressed in blue stretch pants and a sparkly violet T-shirt. I shrugged my shoulders, and she crinkled her brow in disapproval at her father’s lack of with-it-ness. “I’m a water droplet!” she proclaimed. “Now let’s go to the water museum.” 

Horseback riding on the beach

I get my first clear view of South Padre Island from the summit of the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway. At 85 feet above Laguna Madre, the bridge reveals the island stretching majestically on a north-south line, like a thin ribbon of sand floating in a cobalt sea.

Sunset in Rockport

Our annual Coastal Issue is different than the one we had in mind when we began planning it last summer. The impact of Hurricane Harvey on coastal communities was so severe it left many people uncertain about the coming tourism season. In many of these small towns, tourism is the primary industry and vital to their recovery. We quickly realized one way we could help: spreading the word that beloved destinations like Port Aransas and Rockport-Fulton are ready for visitors.

A diver jumps off the diving board at Balmorhea State Park

Balmorhea State Park in West Texas is celebrated for having the world’s largest spring-fed pool. Unfortunately, on May 14, the park announced that the pool will be closed indefinitely due to structural damage of the concrete beneath the diving board, which supports the walls of the pool.

Joe Lansdale at a book signing in Kilgore in May

Nobody writes like Joe Lansdale, because Lansdale writes like everybody he knows is dead. Tempering his twisted imagination with a strong social conscience, the wildly inventive and rapid-firing East Texas storyteller is the author of nearly four dozen genre-defying novels and more than 400 short stories. On average, he says, it takes him just three to four months to write another book—and if he could pick up the pace, the rest of us would be obliged.

People enjoying sunset on the beach in Port Aransas

Port Aransas likes a party, and residents won’t let the effects of Harvey interfere with that tradition. April brought the annual SandFest, one of the nation’s largest native-sand sculpture competition, and before that, February’s Whooping Crane Festival drew birding enthusiasts from around the world.

Men working on boat designs at Farley Boat Works

Hurricane Harvey’s Category 4 winds, along with a 6-foot storm surge, met their match in the backyard of Farley Boat Works. While countless boats across the island were strewn far from their moorings by the hurricane or sunk in waterways, a 60-foot schooner named Lydia Ann moved less than a foot in its construction cradle, its hull, deck and “doghouse” cabin largely intact.

Back to top