With a smattering of independent shops and boutiques (located mostly downtown), plenty of great dining options, the often pristine Rockport Beach Park, and beachy dive bars aplenty, Rockport, considered one of the more romantic spots on the Texas Gulf Coast, is always popular. For those who love walking and gazing, aimlessly in awe at the ocean’s expanse, the 1,500-foot jetty pier at the end of Rockport Harbor is ideal, especially when it’s lit up at night. For a break from the sun, check out the Texas Maritime Museum and the Rockport Center for the Arts, and get yourself some culture to counteract the numbing effects of heat fatigue.
What/where to eat/drink: Celebrated Rockport eatery Glow is the best place to go in town for fine dining. The joint does a great job preparing seasonal local seafood and Texas game in a rustic yet refined environment. They’ve got a great wine list and other booze to boot. What’s nearby: For a taste of nautical adventure, hit up one of the many tour companies, like Whooping Crane Tours, for fishing or sightseeing out on Copano Bay or in the bird-filled shallows around the Rockport-Fulton area.
Say what you will, but for many the best reason to go to Corpus Christi is to go on a Selena pilgrimage. The birthplace of the Queen of Tejano, Corpus Christi is still home to much of Selena’s family and boasts the Selena Museum, where you can see and weep over all manner of artifacts from her too-short life and career. Pro tip: don’t hang out too long in the area around the museum. From there, you can head to the impressive Seawall Boardwalk and check out the Mirador de La Flor, a statue/memorial area dedicated to Selena. Also in Corpus, aside from most things you’d expect in a city of over 300,000 people and most of the typical beach-y activities, check out the surprisingly rad (inside and out) Art Museum of South Texas.
What/where to eat/drink: The original Whataburger is in Corpus Christi (just sayin’). Andy’s Kitchen and Snoopy’s Pier are other local favorites that you can’t get down the street from your house in San Anto. What’s nearby: Check out the U.S.S. Lexington and Mustang Island State Park.
Port A, as it’s called by those who love it, is perhaps the most complete destination on this list. The laid-back, quirky/hippie vibe of the place belies the extremely good fishing and water sports that the area also offers. With kitschy beach-styled shopping aplenty, a grocery store that always has beers on special (Family Center IGA), huge stretches of relatively clean and uncrowded beaches, and a multitude of solid dining options, Port Aransas has something for everyone: including but not limited to surfing, fishing, sea kayaking, birding, and visiting the free University of Texas’ Marine Science Institute aquarium. While many visitors to Port A choose to stay awhile and rent condos or houses, through lodging rental establishments like Beachcomber, there are substantial hotel options available as well, though often not as close to the water.
What/where to eat/drink: Port A Pizzeria has nursed many hungover beachgoers back to life with its serene slices. Shells, while not as laid-back as the rest of the island, offers perhaps the best upscale dining in town. Avery’s Kitchen, which you’ll see shortly after you get off the ferry, is your best bet for casual local fare, including amazing seafood options, sandwiches, a breakfast buffet, and the best shrimp omelet you’ll ever eat. They’re also BYOB. Speaking of drinking … You’ll want to visit the island’s answer to Beer n’ All, a decidedly over-the-top walk-up booze dispensary with surprisingly great bloody marys.
What’s nearby: When staying in Port A, Corpus Christi is just 45 minutes away and, with its comparatively big-city feel, makes for a nice change of pace if you tire (how could you?) of sleepy island life.