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Rockport or Port O'Connor? GC residents find lots to like about both nearby getaway locations

Trysta Eakin

By Trysta Eakin
Sept. 24, 2010 at 4:24 a.m.


Lucky Golden Crescent residents may choose from two popular beach-front getaways.

Some GCers talk about being either "Rockport people" or "Port O'Connor people." You can't go wrong either way, but what's the difference?

Port O'Connor

Known for its fishing tournaments, beautiful wildlife and laid-back atmosphere, Port O'Connor is the place to be for Victoria residents Ben and Gay Heilker.

Owning a gorgeous three-story house at the Las Palmas marina, the Heilkers spend their work week operating their company, Victoria Air Conditioning, and their weekends unwinding at the bay town on both land and sea, taking full advantage of the fishing tournament circuits with their 53.7-foot Bertram Yacht, better known as "Mechanical Man" in these parts.

While Ben is out bringing home the bacon, or 700-pound tournament-winning blue marlin, if you will, Gay, a Port O'Connor native, takes advantage of the peace and quiet while entertaining friends on shore.

"We don't have the shopping or social infrastructure that Rockport does, so people like to come here to kick back and relax," she said. "We come down and have our friends over. We cook on the weekends. That's what we like to do."

Meeting in the small fishing community while Ben was stationed at the Matagorda Island Air Force Base in 1966, the two have watched the 100-year-old town morph into the tourist community it is today. The base is now a nature reserve and state park; the once-thriving shrimping business is in decline; and sports and recreational fishing have become the primary industry. The bay is now dotted with hundreds of boats, rather than dozens, in the summertime.

Along with a boom in tourism, Ben said the area has experienced growth in housing development, with large bay houses cropping up all over town to accommodate those who, like the Heilkers, are interested in relaxing and enjoying the beauty of the Gulf.

According to the Port O'Connor Chamber of Commerce, the unincorporated village also offers duck and geese hunting, birding with 37 species of waterfowl, songbirds and shorebirds, shelling for 400 different species of mollusk and swimming and beach activities on Matagorda Island.

As for which of the two coastal communities might be better than the other, Ben said the two would be hard to compare. "People that go to Port O'Connor are focused more on fishing; those that go to Rockport want more of the shopping and socializing."

Rockport

What seemed like an uninhabited town to a young Tommy Taylor 20 years ago is now a port bustling with shopping, fishing, boating and birding.

An Atzenhoffer automobile sales manager, Tommy and his wife, Spring, keep their boat in Rockport and maintain the family beach home of 60 years, visiting at least twice a month.

"Just the proximity to Victoria draws us down there," Taylor said. "It feels like a mini-vacation every time."

Whether you're lounging at the city beach, out in the bay fishing, shopping in the quaint downtown area, or trying to catch a peek at the 265 whooping cranes that call the Aransas Wildlife Refuge home in the winter, Rockport promises a weekend filled with fun and relaxation.

An artist colony founded in the late 1800s, Rockport is also home to more than 300 artists, according to the town's Chamber of Commerce. With 15 art galleries, the coastal community offers a diverse social network, something Taylor said his wife, who owns Foxcroft Stationers in Victoria, enjoys about their weekend home.

"I go primarily for the fishing - redfish and trout. She likes to socialize," he said. "We have a lot of friends who go to Rockport, too, so we'll go out for dinner and drinks."

Their favorite place, he said, would have to be MoonDog Seaside Eatery, on Casterline Drive, off the water.

"The grouper sandwich is killer. You've got to try it with the spicy ranch, though."

Comparing Rockport to Port O'Connor, though, would be like comparing apples to oranges.

"It's a personal decision. It depends on what you're looking for," Tommy said. "(The towns) each have their own charm and different things they offer."

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