Written by Texas Highways
Inside a historic boat barn in Port Aransas, a small group gathered around a newly built wooden skiff to sign their names on the underside of the boat’s last unfastened floorboard.
The waiter gave me a puzzled look when I asked that my chalupas be made with whole beans instead of refried beans, but he dutifully carried out my request. And not with just plain pinto beans. I knew my special order of chalupas at El Chaparral Mexican Restaurant in the town of Helotes—situated northwest of San Antonio and often referred to as the “Gateway to the Hill Country”—would be crafted from the borracho beans that the restaurant serves in small bowls as a complimentary opening treat.
I know the goal of many travelers is to never visit the same place twice. It’s a big world and we all have long bucket lists. But there is something to be said for finding a sweet spot in your travel routine, for creating traditions connected to a place you visit frequently.
On my first visit to the Railean Distillery’s new Buccaneer Bar—which opened the weekend of September 19 last year to coincide with International “Talk Like a Pirate Day”—I ordered the bar’s version of my new favorite summer cocktail, the Dark & Stormy.
Soft recessed lighting and exposed brick walls, smooth jazz on the sound system, and the mouthwatering aroma of butter and grilled fish transport me to the romantic City of Lights. But I’m not in France, or even Paris, Texas. I’m a half-hour from the Gulf of Mexico in Bay City, the county seat of Matagorda County, and I’m enjoying an unexpectedly fine dinner at a restaurant called The Fat Grass.
While nothing matches meeting a wild sea turtle on a beach or in the ocean, coming face-to-face with one in a rehabilitation or educational facility is also a thrill. It’s also easier and drier. Here are several places to see captive sea turtles in Texas:
Texans love sea turtles, and sea turtles love Texas. Five species—green, loggerhead, hawksbill, leatherback, and Kemp’s ridley—have nested along our 400-odd miles of coast in recent years.
Padre Island, the longest barrier island in the world, embodies some of the state’s most pleasurable assets, entertaining Texans with miles of warm Gulf waves and sun-drenched, cinnamon shores. Whether your travel time to Padre is 10 minutes or 12 hours, most Texans have made the pilgrimage at least once, if not annually, negotiating the state’s highways for the quickest route to the island’s sand and surf.
Now that you're at the beach, where do you go to eat in Galveston, Bolivar Peninsula and South Padre Island?
After years of visiting Texas beaches whenever I could, this spring I made the leap and moved my family to Galveston.
On my last day of a weeklong stay in Port Aransas, I set off to find a souvenir to remind me of the island until my next visit. While I have a soft spot for kitschy beach-town souvenir shops, one can collect only so many key chains, magnets, and seashell frames.