Discover the Timeless Allure of Port Aransas


By Sharon K. Kurtz


ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Enjoy this inaugural episode of Big Blend Radio’s WANDER THE WORLD WITH SHARON podcast with award-winning travel writer and photographer Sharon K. Kurtz, who shares her experiences at the annual Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas, Texas. Watch here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on Podbean.

Nestled between Mustang Island and the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, Port Aransas unfolds as a Texas Gulf Coast sanctuary of small-town charm and endless activities. The 18 miles of pristine beaches, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and encounters with diverse wildlife create a haven where the Texas Coastal Bend barrier islands and estuaries play the leading roles. Dolphins gracefully navigate the waters, sea turtles find refuge, and migrating birds paint a kaleidoscope of nature’s beauty.

Port Aransas, affectionately known as Port A, evokes a nostalgic sense of bygone coastal getaways reminiscent of carefree days when life moved at a slower pace. It conjures memories of family outings for an evening ice cream cone, weeny roasts on the shore, and reveling in the simple joys when life was more uncomplicated.

History of Port A
Renowned as the fishing capital of Texas, Port Aransas invites you to escape the hustle of nearby South Padre and Corpus Christi. In the early 19th century, it was initially known as Tarpon, serving as a fishing village and port for shipping goods. Then, in 1911, the town was officially incorporated and renamed ‘Port Aransas’ after the nearby Aransas Pass.

Beyond its natural wonders, Port Aransas offers rich cultural experiences, splendid sunrises and sunsets, and many adventurous water sports. Whether you’re a fishing enthusiast, birder, golf lover, or seafood enthusiast, Port Aransas is an ideal year-round laid-back experience on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Mustang Island
Explore Mustang Island, an 18-mile barrier island on the Texas Coastal Bend, featuring Mustang Island State Park and the Port Aransas Nature Preserve. This vast open space offers uninterrupted sandy beaches, dunes, and wetlands, making it a haven for birdwatchers with native and migrating species. Boardwalks and observation towers strategically placed throughout the wetlands provide “up-close” encounters with diverse birdlife in their natural habitats.

The Beaches Stretch for Miles
Discover the charm of Port Aransas beaches, where 18 miles of powdery sand and inviting waters create an idyllic coastal haven. Port Aransas Beach, stretching 6 miles along the Gulf of Mexico, hosts the Sand Sculpture festival in April, attracting sculptors worldwide.”

The Bollard Buddies are a whimsical touch lining the I.B. Magee Jr. Beach Park. A group of volunteers dress up more than 300 wooden posts, each unique and infusing a playful spirit into the surroundings.

The Horace Caldwell Pier is a famous fishing pier extending into the Gulf of Mexico, providing anglers with a prime spot for fishing and enjoying the coastal scenery. A gathering place for locals and tourists, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy the scenic views of the Gulf, watch the boats go by, and take in the fresh ocean air.

Or enjoy the sunset with a stroll along the beach, saying hi to fellow strollers and engaging in a time and place seemingly lost in the hustle and bustle of our urban lives.



Whooping Cranes: Conservation and Elegance
The majestic Whooping Crane, known for its impressive white plumage and 7 to 8-foot wingspan, stands up to 5 feet tall. These remarkable birds spend their summers in Canada but embark on a migratory journey of about 2500 miles to the Gulf Coast of Texas, particularly in and around Port Aransas, Texas Gulf Coast, their winter refuge.

The distinct trumpet-like call of the cranes announces their arrival in this coastal haven. Whooping Cranes faced a critical decline as an endangered species, dwindling to only 15 individuals in 1941. However, stringent conservation measures have led to a notable rebound, with their numbers now surpassing 500. Known for their long lifespans, Whooping Cranes can live up to 24-30 years in the wild and even longer in captivity, reaching up to 40 years. They form strong bonds with their mate for life.

Whooping Crane Festival
Celebrate the return of the majestic Whooping Cranes at the annual Whooping Crane Festival. This four-day event, starting on the fourth Thursday of February, provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of these remarkable birds. The festival’s packed schedule includes presentations by authors and ornithologists, engaging workshops, bird-watching tours, and opportunities to witness the rare cranes in their natural habitat.

During this festival, Port Aransas undergoes a magical transformation, evolving into a haven for nature enthusiasts. The town plays a crucial role as a vital stopover for these remarkable birds during their migratory journey. Since its inception in 1996, the Whooping Crane Festival has consistently enchanted bird lovers to Mustang Island’s pristine beaches, picturesque shoreline, and captivating nature reserve.

Lighthouse Lakes Trail Kayaking Tour
Explore the secluded Lighthouse Lakes Trail with Coastal Bend Kayak Tours. Inaccessible to motorboats, the trail winds through mangroves, offering fishing opportunities and the chance to encounter rare bird species. Visit the Aransas Pass (Lydia Ann) Lighthouse, a restored historic landmark along the Texas coastline, for scenic views during a sunset kayak or boat tour.

Whooping Crane Boat Tour
Embark on a Wharf Cat Boat Tour for a unique opportunity to observe Whooping Cranes up close in their natural habitat. The boat tour is the lowest-impact way to see many bird species and provides a privileged view of dolphins. The Texas Coastal Bend is the only locale where you can witness the world’s last naturally occurring population of Whooping Cranes.

Visit Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK)
Explore one of Port Aransas’s most important attractions! The Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) is where marine turtles and birds from the coastal zone around Mustang Island and St. Joseph Island are rehabilitated. Named after oceanographer Tony Amos, this center, operated by the University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute, offers a serene haven.

Learn more about the annual Whooping Crane Festival and visit the Discover Port Aransas website for accommodations, activities, and more information.

Sharon Kurtz is an Austin-based freelance travel writer and award-winning photographer. She is passionate about exploring the world and sharing her experiences through captivating storytelling, and Big Blend Radio podcast, “Wander the World with Sharon.”  She is an active member of The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and The International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). Follow her travels on and

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About the Author:

Sharon Kurtz is an Austin-based freelance travel writer and award-winning photographer.

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