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GC: Port Aransas: Coastal Bend's hidden treasure

June 16, 2011 at 1:16 a.m.


Port Aransas fast facts

The town's museum has this list of facts on their website, www.portaransasmuseum.org.

A Congressional Act in 1878 established a Life Saving Service on 1.55 acres of Mustang Island, the present site of the U.S. Coast Guard Station.

The Tarpon Inn, built in the 1880s, became the hub of recreational fishing in Port Aransas. After several reconstructions and surviving five hurricanes from 1942 to 1970, the building is now listed on the U.S. Historical Registry.

The internationally recognized University of Texas Marine Science Institute, founded in 1941, was Texas' first permanent facility to study ocean life and science.

Port Aransas was the nation's 12th largest oil shipping port into the 1940s. During World War II this vital resource was protected against enemy attack by troops, dog patrols and 30 mm gun emplacements.

Port Aransas hosts more than 35 fishing tournaments, including the Deep Sea Roundup (formerly the Tarpon Rodeo), and is the destination of the Annual Harvest Moon Regatta, the country's largest sailing event.

Beginning in the 1970s, protection and preservation of our dunes, beaches and wetlands acknowledged the value and beauty of the natural environment. The Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture is a 1,000-acre wildlife sanctuary along the ship channel side of the island.

Standing at the bow of the Port Aransas ferry, you can see a world of fun in the sun, unique restaurants and beachwear/souvenir shops ahead of you. A small beach town of about 3,300, according to the 2000 census, Port Aransas is in Nueces County on Mustang Island and is a celebrated vacation spot in South Texas.

Things to do

Known for its fishing, wildlife, beaches and seafood, Port A is also a great place to catch some waves. With nice swells close to shore, surfing has become a popular pastime with locals and visitors alike. Surf camps are even offered in the summer for those wanting to learn, with several lesson options available at www.texassurfcamps.com.

The town is also known for its 1,800-acre golfer's paradise, Newport Dunes. Hailed by Arnold Palmer, the course's designer, as a "fantastic setting," the design was inspired by Scottish and Irish courses.

For more information or to book a tee time, go to www.newportdunesgolf.com.

If beaches and golf courses don't do it for you, take in a show at the Port Aransas Community Theatre, with interesting productions and events all year long, which are advertised on its site,

www.portaransascommunitytheater.com.

Buried Treasure

Searching for buried treasure is also a good way to spend an afternoon. The fabled cache of jewels and gold, said to be left behind by pirate Jean Lafitte, is still sought after on Mustang Island, where Lafitte and his brother, Pierre, traversed in the 1820s.

Settlement of the region began, however, with Robert A. Mercer in 1855. He and his family established El Mar Rancho, raising cattle and sheep, while operating Mercer Docks and a general store. By 1870, almost 300 residents inhabited the island.

Town of many names

On an 1833 map, the Port Aransas was called Sand Point. The pass was later named Aranzazu, which became Aransas, but in the 1890s, it had been changed to Ropesville, and then Tarpon by the end of that decade. The townspeople finally settled on Port Aransas around 1910.

Information compiled by GC staff

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