Where We Be
|Rockport with its delightful beach is one of the
most appealing towns along the Texas Riviera
Sometimes all you want to do is relax near a
beach. That's what we were in the mood for this
February, so we spent a month discovering the
Gulf Coast with a stay in Rockport, Texas on
Aransas Bay. This tiny town is located just
northeast of Corpus Christi and is part of a
130-mile stretch of coast sometimes called the
Texas Riviera. The town offers a pleasant
beach, whooping cranes in winter, and easy
access to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and
Padre Island National Seashore.
Our favorite activity? Strolling along Rockport
Beach, barefoot in the sand or in shallow water,
to a pier about a mile away where we'd consis-
tently see five or six dolphin feeding. All this to
the accompaniment of gulls crying overhead,
pelicans diving for fish near the dolphins, and
Gulf breezes steadily blowing our cares away.
|Some of the other live oaks nearby are almost as
lovely. I wonder which way the wind blows here?
|The whole area is known as a prime birdwatching center. It's located
on the Central Flyway, a major North American migration route.
|Goose Island State Park offers a wide range of habitat and is a fun place to explore.
In a marshland across from The Big Tree we even saw eight more whooping cranes!
|On a different day we visited Goose Island State Park, just over the Copano Causeway north of Rockport.
It’s best known for The Big Tree, a huge live oak with sprawling limbs that's said to be over 1000 years old.
|We found our perfect little hideaway at Candlelight
Cottages, just a five-minute walk to Rockport Beach
|Unit C was ours for the month. We loved the rocking chairs on the porch. Each afternoon we'd
rock in the sun, sip a glass of wine, and listen to the gulls and the rasp of palm leaves overhead.
|The inside is comfortable and full of light, with a beach theme. It's the kind of place
where you can stay indoors on a rainy day (not that we had many) and still feel happy.
|The perfect time to visit, in our opinion, is between November and February when rates are at
their lowest for the "Winter Texans" who come down from the north to escape the snow and cold.
Places in Rockport rent by the month during this period, so you get good prices for longer stays.
|The full kitchen and dining nook gave us
the flexibility to eat in whenever we wanted
|Most days we'd make the five-minute walk to the
beach, past this inland estuary known as Little Bay
|We'd pass the Big Blue Crab, a local landmark
|And come to Rockport Beach Park just a few steps beyond
|The closest part of the beach is the
busiest (yes, this is busy for winter)
|It's the only "Blue Wave Beach" in Texas,
certified by the Clean Beaches Council in D.C.
|The water is warm and shallow -- only about
knee-deep almost to the far end of the pier
|This pier marks the far end of Rockport Beach -- but you
can walk a little further to a second pier beyond the beach
|It's from this second pier that we'd see
five or six dolphin swimming nearly every day
|Pelicans would sometimes land
near the dolphin, hoping for fish
|From the end of the second pier you can see the canal that connects to
the inland estuary. A boat is heading up the canal towards the open bay.
|Attractive homes line the inland waterway. This is Key Allegro peninsula.
It looks like the perfect place to call home if you love boats.
|The canal completely separates us from the houses on Key
Allegro, so this is as far as we can walk in this direction
|Time to head back. Ah, the
simple pleasures of beach life.
|A grassy park follows alongside most of the beach. To the right you can
just glimpse the inland estuary -- also a good place for bird watching.
|Bridges beckon you back to the beach, enticing
you to dip your feet in the water one more time
|A bandshell near the park entrance depicts a blue heron --
a majestic bird you'll see nearly every day in Rockport
|Whooping crane tours out of Fulton Harbor are popular in winter (Nov to Apr),
when about 150 of the critically endangered cranes migrate to the area
|We explored the bird-rich shorelines of Aransas National
Wildlife Refuge in the "Skimmer," a shallow-draft boat
|We saw scads of other shorebirds -- at least 30 different species --
including these oystercatchers and countless blue heron
|We saw six whooping cranes -- North America's tallest bird -- during our tour. The
flock that migrates here is the world's only wild natural flock of whooping cranes.
|This one tiny island was home to a dozen nesting blue heron
|South of Rockport is the island beach town of
Port Aransas. A free car ferry brings you here.
|Port Aransas is kitschy in a fun way
|Driving south from Port Aransas you come first to Mustang
Island State Park, then to Padre Island National Seashore
|Here is where the paved road ends
and 70 miles of beach begins
|This is the longest undeveloped stretch
of barrier island in the world
|Long trains of pelicans fly over miles of open beach
|The visitor center overlooks Malaquite
Beach where only foot traffic is allowed
|During our beach walk we came across this old shoe
washed ashore and covered with living crustaceans
|Cormorants find an odd place to roost
on a washed-up tree close to shore
|At the end of our month we attended Fulton Oysterfest --
THE big local festival of the year in these parts
|The parade featured a marching band, cheerleaders, floats, Mr. & Miss & Mrs. and Teen Miss Fultons,
Shriners driving mini-cars, kids scampering about catching beads and candy, and American flags aplenty
|The Oysterfest grounds featured a full-on carnival with rides
|At the heart of it all was this huge
pavilion -- food and music central
|Raw oysters were the highlight, of course, but you could also get fried oysters,
Polish sausages, roasted corn, frito pies, funnel cakes, turkey legs, and more
|There's an oyster shucking contest, an oyster eating contest,
even an oyster decorating contest -- all sorts of oyster-ous fun!
|Back in town there are historic homes like
Hoopes House and Fulton Mansion to visit
|On our last day we visited the Bay Education Center, adjacent to Rockport Beach, which features this awesome suspended globe used
in free presentations (2 pm Tue - Sat). Also across the street is a great little aquarium, a Texas maritime museum, and an arts center.