Enjoy the Charm of the Texas Coast

I can’t help but hum a Jimmy Buffet tune when I think of the Texas Coast, a place at the center of so many good times in the sun that I’ve shared with family and friends.

Lucky for San Antonio folks, beachy good times are close at hand in Rockport-Fulton, two small adjacent coastal towns just a 2.5-hour drive from the Alamo City. Coastal fun is there for the asking—fishing, boating, sunbathing, bird-watching and more—in twin towns packed with fun attractions.

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Rockport-Fulton offers an array of appealing lodging options, including condos, bed and breakfast inns, hotels, motels and even bayside houses with boat slips, built to fit any vacation budget, making a weekend getaway or a family fling before school starts back in August an easy, affordable trip.

Bird-watchers and fishermen particularly love Rockport-Fulton, too; for not only is the area home to some of the best fishing in Texas, it’s also known as a sanctuary for birds where you can view the migration of rare and endangered whooping cranes and tiny hummingbirds, especially in September. In fact, this area of the Texas Coast is home to more than 500 different species.

Here is what to do and see in Rockport-Fulton:

1. Check in and chill out.
OK, it’s not exactly a typical beach vacation destination, but many San Antonio women like staying at the regal Queen Anne-style mansion that is home to Angel Rose Victorian Inn (902 E. Cornwall St.), a former home that has been restored to its 1890s elegance. With a breeze-friendly front porch, it’s the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon on a rocker with a big glass of iced tea and a good book.

Of course, most families want a beachier spot overlooking the bay when they come to Rockport-Fulton. Our family likes the Lighthouse Inn at Aransas Bay (200 S. Fulton Beach Road, Rockport), a nautical-themed boutique hotel with direct private fishing pier access, an outdoor pool and lounge area, a complimentary buffet breakfast, a lending library with books and games to enjoy, waterfront rooms, free Wi-Fi and more. Best of all, it has stunning views of the water as well as good eats at the Palm Room Bar and Grill. Guests at the Lighthouse Inn can even book special golf packages the hotel offers in connection with the course at the Rockport Country Club.

Another favorite stay, with roomy condos overlooking the bay, is Laguna Reef Condominiums (1021 Water St.) Laguna Reef also has a pool and exercise room, and with its prime location overlooking the water not far from town, good times and good eats are never far away.

2. Visit Rockport-Fulton’s most famous house.
You can’t spend the night here, but you can surely visit The Fulton Mansion, built between 1874 and 1877. Today it stands as an architectural landmark and museum open to the public through the Texas Historical Commission. Located behind the mansion, the Education and History Center offers interactive exhibits and a gift shop. With self-guided audio tours you can visit the gorgeous mansion, the pride of the Texas Coast, overlooking Aransas Bay.

3. Enjoy coastal cuisine.
Everybody’s favorite casual family spot seems to be The Boiling Pot (201 S. Fulton Beach Road, Fulton), where you can get a big Cajun-style boil of shrimp, snow crab, king crab, blue crab, stone crab, spicy potatoes and corn, along with sides like red beans and rice and raw oysters. It’s messy and it’s fun, and kids love coloring on the butcher-block paper tablecloths while they wait for the food. Another old-standby favorite for Texas Gulf seafood is the ever-popular Charlotte Plummer’s Seafare Restaurant (202 N. Fulton Beach Road, Fulton). For fine dining with a casual vibe try Latitude 28◦ 02’ Restaurant, 105 N. Austin St., Rockport, featuring fresh coastal cuisine and fine art in a serene setting in old downtown Rockport. However, if a “Cheeseburger in Paradise” is what you crave, stop at Pop’s on Goose Island.

4. Look for fowl and fin.
Visit Goose Island State Park, a 321.4-acre Texas State Park surrounded by the St. Charles and Aransas Bays and across Copano Bay from Fulton. It’s also known for “The Big Tree,” an enormous 1.000-plus-year-old coastal live oak, as much as it is for its wildlife. The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is another popular spot for birders and other nature enthusiasts who enjoy coming to this area to observe the natural habitat of migratory birds and vanishing native wildlife of coastal Texas. More than 75,000 visitors tour the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge via land or boat each year. Bird-watchers can explore the shorelines and nearby islands in search of the great blue heron, tricolor heron, great egret, snow egret, roseate spoonbill, brown pelican, black necked stilt, rails, ibis, curfew, sandpipers, gulls, wood stork and terns—just some of the many birds you can see in the Rockport-Fulton area, more than 175 of which are endangered species.

5. Go fish.
For fishing enthusiasts, professional guides are available for all-day deep-sea and fly-fishing outings, and fishing tournaments are offered on various weekends throughout the year. There are also several public piers where you can fish for free.

6. Become a beach bum.
Rockport Beach is perfect for family fun because it has been Blue Wave certified by the Clean Beaches Council, a not-for-profit organization devoted to helping the public identify the nation’s cleanest, safest and most environmentally well-managed beaches. Kids also will love the Aquarium at Rockport Harbor, featuring Bay and Gulf marine life, activities for the youth, marine artifacts, shell collections and more. Visit the aquarium from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursdays-Mondays (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Best of all, admission is free!

By Janis Turk