3 Delightful Texas Beach Towns

These coastal spots were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. Now they're on the mend, offering delicious meals, eclectic shops and galleries, and great places to cool off in the summer heat. 
Rockport, Texas

Rockport-Fulton marina | Gabbro / Alamy Stock Photo

Rockport-Fulton

A gentle breeze swirls the intoxicating scents of sunscreen and salt in the air as visitors succumb to a quaint adventure along the 1-mile, manicured stretch of sand known as Rockport Beach. —Cory D. Cart

Stroll downtown Rockport. The small stretch of Texas 70 Loop (South Austin Street) offers a mix of shops and art galleries. The best local color may be found at the Wind Way Gallery, where artists are happy to chat with visitors about pieces in progress or those on display. 203 S. Austin Street. 361-790-8331; windwaygallery.com.

At the Texas Maritime Museum, discover Texas seafaring history, from exploration and settlement to modern times. 1202 Navigation Circle. 361-729-1271; texasmaritimemuseum.org. 

Tune in at the Rockport Art Festival, a showcase for some 120 local and regional artists, held annually (July 6–7, 2019) near Rockport Beach Park and Rockport Center for the Arts. 361-729-5519; rockportartfest.com.

Take in sea life at the Aquarium at Rockport Harbor, which features live exhibits that showcase local species and conservation efforts. 706 Navigation Circle. 361-727-0016; rockportaquarium.com.

Victoria, Texas

One of many Victorian buildings in Victoria's historic center. | Witold Skrypczak / Alamy Stock Photo

Victoria

Victoria County’s history runs deep—back to a time when French explorer Robert de La Salle poked around the Texas coast looking for the mouth of the Mississippi River. He eventually settled a colony (today referred to as Fort St. Louis) in 1685 near Lavaca Bay. Present-day Victoria, the county seat, holds on to the best of its older times. –Shelley Seale

Stroll around the historic town square and admire the graceful old homes. One, the 1875 Inn on Main (361-580-2794; the-inn-on-main.com) is a cozy bed-and-breakfast. In December, the town offers holiday-focused activities, including kids’ activities, games, and a lighted parade. 361-485-3116; explorevictoriatexas.com.

Head over to the Nave Museum, which was built as a monument to Texas painter Royston Nave and showcases many of his landscapes and portraitures, as well as traveling exhibits. 361-575-8228; navemuseum.com.

Talk to archaeologists and volunteer staff at Museum of the Coastal Bend, which focuses on the region’s multicultural heritage. It offers a collection of finds from ongoing archaeological digs, as well as preserved relics that attest to early French and Spanish colonization. 361-582-2511; museumofthecoastalbend.org.

The Texas Zoo, located inside Riverside Park, is home to more than 60 animals, including alligators and exotic birds. Children can view an alligator feeding. Hike or bike in Riverside Park, which offers trails, a playground, sports fields, and great picnic spots. 361-573-7681; texaszoo.org.

Wander around Victoria Educational Gardens, a horticultural oasis of vegetable plants, wildflowers, and butterflies. It is the result of 15 years of devoted care by master gardeners. A dedicated children’s area includes a playhouse and gardens. Guided tours are available upon request; call for reservations. 361-575-4581; vcmga.org/Victoria_Educational_Gardens. 

At Fossati’s Delicatessen, order a customer favorite, the Dutch Lunch, a sandwich of ham, salami, and turkey served with traditional sides of potato salad and coleslaw. Established in 1882, the restaurant bills itself as the oldest deli in Texas. It’s no-frills, but any local will tell you that there’s nothing simple about a Fossati’s sandwich. 361-576-3354.

Port Aransas, Texas

Families on the beach at Port Aransas. | Alamy Stock Photo

Port Aransas

Port Aransas is a fun, funky spot where visitors can relax and feel right at home. On any given trip to this barrier-island town, which is five minutes from the coast by ferry, you might see pickups with Alaska plates, cowboys on the shore with boots and Stetsons, and families with fishing poles and beach pails. But there’s more to Port A than 18 uninterrupted miles of beaches for beachcombing, swimming, and fishing. The town has plenty of seafaring history, artists, natural wonders, and great places to eat. –Casey Kelly-Barton

Start your visit with a lesson in Texas maritime history at Farley Boat Works. From 1915 to the mid-1970s, the Farley family built distinctive watercraft here, including tarpon boats. Reopened in 2011 as a museum, the building features vintage boats and outboard motors, a 60-foot scow schooner now under construction, and workshop space for boat-building hobbyists and students. 716 W. Avenue C. 361-816-9789; portaransasmuseum.org. 

Roughly half a mile away, the Port Aransas Art Center has paintings, sculptures, drawings, tiles, jewelry, and glass creations by Coastal Bend artists. Check the website for classes, camps, and details on the annual Artfest. 104 N. Alister Street. 361-749-7334; portaransasartcenter.org.

You can’t go to Port A and not hit the beach. Stake out a spot on the sand at I.B. Magee Beach Park between Caldwell Pier and the South Jetty. Want to mingle with a smaller crowd? Buy a $12 beach-parking permit at any convenience store or gas station and park south of the pier. 

Watch the ships go by at Roberts Point Park on the Aransas Pass Ship Channel between the ferry landing and harbor. Take in the view from the observation tower and look for bottlenose dolphins in the channel. 301 JC Barr Boulevard. 361-749-4111; cityofportaransas.org/roberts_point_park.cfm. 

From Fisherman’s Wharf, take an hour-long, no-frills Jetty Boat Dolphin Cruise in Lydia Ann Channel to its namesake lighthouse and the Aransas Pass Ship Channel. 900 Tarpon Street. 361-749-5448; fishermanswharfporta.com/port-aransas-dolphin-watch.

The Port Aransas location of the Coastal Bend CoffeeWaves java chain serves hot and iced coffee and tea drinks, snacks, and about 18 flavors of gelato. To fuel your day on the beach, order a smoothie or the breakfast croissant with ham, egg, and cheese. Relax in a leather club chair, catch the breeze on the porch, or drive through. 1007 Texas 361. 361-749-0825; coffeewaves.com.

Locals and visitors alike love the electic menu at Irie’s Island Food because it includes such varied items as beignets, crab spring rolls, curried coconut shrimp tacos, and half-pound burgers. Dine in or carry out. 503 N. Alister Street. 361-749-2310; iriesislandfood.com.

Top photo: Homes near Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas. | Gabbro / Alamy Stock Photo