Fall is the secret season along the Texas Riviera, aka Texas Coast. It’s
been 2.5 years since I’ve been to Port Aransas, a laidback small beach town
that was nearly wiped off the map when Category 4 Hurricane Harvey pummeled it in late August 2017. My friend Kerry rebuilt her small beach cottage and I had been wanting to see it, spend some time with her and feel the salty kiss of Texas Coast air.
Friday Night Tacos
The drive from San Antonio to the coast is what I would classify as a long
lonely one. There’s not a lot to look at along the way, unless there’s a storm
brewing. We had front row seats to a Texas-sized storm building and rain shaft dropping as we cruised down the highway chatting the entire way. After settling into cottages – I got to stay in my own one-bedroom cottage, while she stayed in hers – we took off for a cocktail then dinner. Since it was National Taco Day and I was back in Texas, I had a hankering for fish tacos. We headed over to La Playa Mexican Grill with her boyfriend and another longtime friend of ours. I was thinking I had hit the jackpot getting my Mexican food fix and seafood fix all in one to kick-off our weekend. La Playa is very popular with locals and tourists. Weekend nights there’s usually an hour wait or more. It’s seafood focused Tex Mex cuisine. A round of margaritas and nachos topped with crab started our food coma worthy meal. My fish tacos with grilled fish, purple cabbage and pico de gallo topped with a creamy cilantro dressing were fresh and had a little heat kick with each morsel. I could easily see why this uber-cozy joint is so popular.
Saturday Fun in the Sun
After a great night’s sleep, Kerry and I took off in her golf cart for a
drive first to get coffee from the Donut Shop then along the beach shortly
after sunrise. In Texas, you can drive out onto beaches. It’s because they were historically used as public roadways. We cruised out and parked at South Jetty and took a stroll on the jetty checking out the catches of the folks doing some early morning fishing.
Starting to feel the hunger pangs, we headed back to her cottage where she whipped up some fabulous breakfast tacos using some leftover beans, fajita meat and tortillas from our dinner the night before. We had to fuel up before doing a little shopping in the cute coastal themed boutiques along the main road. First stop was Roam, a delightfully cozy boutique jammed packed with clothes, jewelry and unique gift items. Both of us picked up a wonderful travel wrap in a rose color. We strolled over to Roam Home across the street. It’s filled with also sorts of coastal themed fabulous finds for the home. Our shopping excursion ended at Cita Resort Wear and Home Goods where I scored a cute straw fedora for $22, along with a couple of necklaces. I love to buy pieces while traveling because each time I put on a piece of clothing or jewelry I instantly get a memory of a past trip.
The afternoon was spending lounging in the sun, eating lunch in the shade,
chatting with friends and enjoying a few hours of no schedule during a Saturday afternoon of relaxation at Sunflower Beach Resort and Residences. The slower pace of life at the coast had settled in for all of us. Before taking a long nap, which is a must on a coast weekend, we visited the Chapel on the Dunes. Built in 1937-1938, the little white chapel is the oldest consecrated church on the island. Aline B. Carter, known as the “White Angel” because of the flowy white dresses she wore, commissioned the chapel. She would service ice cream and cake to the island children after Sunday school. As we climbed the wooden staircase up the dune, I couldn’t help but think of all the storms including Hurricanes Carla, Celia and Harvey this small stone place of worship has weathered. I’ll have to save a tour of it for another trip as it is only open for tours at 9:15am every first and third Saturday of the month. You have to make a reservation at least one day before with the Port Aransas Museum.
Flip flops are appropriate for dinner just about everywhere on the island,
including Liberty Hall with elevated seafood cuisine. I was debating between shrimp and grits or crab crabs. I ended up going with my
favorite seafood dish – shrimp and grits. Theirs had a twist with poblano
peppers and an underlying hint of heat from jalapenos on cheesy grits. I really enjoyed a little Tex Mex spin on a southern coastal classic dish. It was still early, so we headed over to The Phoenix Restaurant and Bar for a nightcap and dessert. Their coconut pie is decadent, yet light. It’s oh so good!
Kerry and I got up early on Sunday morning. We grabbed breakfast tacos to go at Restaurant San Juan at their drive-up window. There’s no posted menu, just the window. My egg and cheese taco on a homemade tortilla was just really good Mexican comfort food. We took the 8am ferry with Jetty Boat on Fisherman’s Wharf over to St. Joseph’s Island, or St. Joe’s as the locals call it. It’s also called San Jose Island. The ferry is the only way to visit the uninhabited island with an interesting history. It was first inhabited by Karankawa Indians then pirates. Legend has it pirate Jean Lafitte’s ghost watches over buried treasure on the barrier island. The Spanish named it Isla de San Jose in the 1830s. In 1845, U.S. General Zachary Taylor’s troops raised the first American flag to over Texas soil when they established a military post named Aransas. During the Civil War, the Union army wiped out the community of Aransas. It only takes a couple of minutes to take the ferry across and back. It runs 10 times daily from 7am to noon then at 2, 4 and 6pm. You can camp overnight. There are no bathrooms, no food or bait stands and no beer. Make sure to take your provisions including lots of water and sunscreen. I was intrigued by the seagrass on the dunes that seems to go on forever across the interior of the island. We wandered along the beach picking up shells and enjoying a near desolate Sunday morning on St. Joe’s. We noshed on our tacos sitting on the rocks of jetty and watched some folks fish. As we walked back to catch the ferry at 10am, we saw a couple of crab and turtles. It was a great ending to a fall weekend in Port Aransas.