Without further ado, here are the top 10 things I've learned about Port Aransas, Texas:
10. Even though Port Aransas is located on Mustang Island, wild ponies are not the only animals you'll find there. There are actually cows native to the barrier islands here (they sort of "walk on over" when it's dry and then forget to meander back before it rains again, getting themselves stuck on the barrier island.)
9. The Texas coast has one of the largest barrier islands going-it spans almost the length of Texas. To get there, you can take a bridge from Corpus Cristi or a ferry from a town called Aransas Pass (we opted for the ferry-it's free and we got to see some pelicans en route. You can also get out of your car on the ferry and take pictures if you are so-inclined.)
8. There are many species of birds in Port Aransas due to the expanse of marshland there. I saw lots of seagulls but also egrets, cranes, brown pelicans, and more. Port Aransas is a bird-watchers paradise, especially in the spring as the various species of birds migrate. You can rent bird blinds there and "hide" to take pictures of the great coastal birds if you are interested in doing that.
7. There is a lot of fishing there too. You an spot dolphin, swordfish, trout, tarpon, and many other large fish there (I know dolphins are not fish, but neither are sharks and they are there too. I have one thing to say if you do not believe me: bite me! Show me your teeth, they live there too, honest.)
6. The houses are painted all different colors. We had a bright purple house in view of our beachhead, but there were other colors too: red, pink, bright blues and yellows, you name it. Apart from color, most island homes do have one thing in common-they are built on stilts to help protect them from flooding (which happens a lot along the coastal waterways, inlets, and shorelines.)
5. The Tarpon Inn is an old hotel on the Island. If you go inside, by the lobby area, they have a giant tarpon on the wall (so you can see what one looks like.) Instead of traditional wallpaper, they let the locals pin up a scale from a tarpon fish caught in the Gulf. The walls are covered with these tarpon scales that, overtime, fisherman have signed and dated. While visiting, I was told that a tarpon is actually not good for eating-it's too boney, but it makes a good trophy fish. They also have a book at the front desk where you can "look up a scale" that is, it cross-references the scales with the fisherman, so, for example, if you happen to know the name of somebody who once caught a tarpon and hung up a scale, they can look it up and tell you what number scale it is and maybe (approximately) whereabouts it would be stuck up on the wall.
4. They have a lighted pier there so that fisherman can go fishing at night or early in the morning. While photographing the beach at sunrise, I saw several folks already up fishing. Fisherman, it would appear, are even bigger early birds than photographers up at the crack of dawn hunting a good sunrise shot.
3. They have both rip currents and strong undertow there. To save yourself in a rip current, I'm told, swim parallel to the shore until you are past the currents then come in. It doesn't sound like it would work but I'm told it does. While I was there, a hurricane (the recent one that struck landfall in Florida) was churning in the Gulf, kicking up the waves (yes, even as faraway as Texas) in the Gulf. Watch local weather and pay attention to the signals from the sea if in doubt. Things can go from smooth to choppy very quickly, and back again, or so it would appear, along the Texas coast.
2. As you walk along the waves, you can spot lots of seaweed and little muscles and shells. The small muscles are sometimes open, indicating a seagull has already come along and had a meal. The seagulls eat the small muscles as they wash ashore in the currents. If you do spot this, look for footprints in the sand to photograph too. Gulls and other coastal "wader" type birds can leave interesting tracks in the sand too and this is often a great way to get a unique nature shot. (Not many people think to look down just after a bird has flown away.)
And, the number 1 thing I've learned about Port Aransas...drum roll, please!
1. You can drive on the beaches in Texas and you can also camp there. At night, we saw folks making bonfires. We also went to Mustang Island State Park where you pay a small fee but you can take your car right up to the water. "Don't get stuck!" they told us at the gate. I guess, sadly, some people do. Still, it's fun to drive along the shore and it kind of reminded me of Florida and my childhood visits to places like Daytona where beach driving was quite fun.
Until next time...