Two years ago, Hurricane Harvey dealt Post Aransas a pretty hefty blow, hitting just north of the beachfront city with winds clocked at 132 miles per hour, according to news reports. Most longtime visitors to the area cringed at the news, especially when they heard that all of the businesses and 85 percent of the residences there were damaged in the high winds and flooding. Plans for a new convention center were put on hold.
For years, travelers' memories of Port Aransas revolved around crabbing, swimming, deep sea fishing and perhaps a trip to the Leonabelle Birding Center. It took a while, but in an amazing recovery, all those activities and spots are still there on the beachfront city located on Mustang Island where part of the attraction is travel by golf cart.
But tourism officials and city leaders are pushing visitors to look beyond that with a new emphasis on a higher end experience than a week in a camper or tent with outdoor shower facilities, Because increasingly the kind of real estate that folks are investing in there to either live in outright or rent out throughout the year comes with a heftier price tag.
But one still within a lot of visitors' reach on their vacations.
Jefffrey Hentz, president and CEO of the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau has been making the rounds of the state, trying to get the word out that they are open for business and for those who want it, in fine style. He says that 90 percent of everything damaged in the storm has recovered and there is sustained building (or plans to) going on to add more. He touts the amenities which he says include more than 60 independent restaurants, most of them full service, sit down types. "They're all Mom and Pop-owned," he says, meaning that the dining experience in Port Aransas continues to be a unique one.
As for the higher end lodgings, Hentz says: "This is the only upscale destination in Texas that's on the coast."
There's Cinnamon Shore, described as "an upscale 1,000-acre master-planned beachfront, family- and pedestrian-friendly community that will add Cinnamon Shore South, a $1.3 billion, 300-acre expansion that will more than quadruple the existing community. It will include luxury homes, Town Center residences, community pools, a dining district with several restaurants, a retail destination, a health and wellness center and a boutique hotel."
And there's Palmilla Beach Resort & Golf Community which opened a new golf course in June "to include 12 holes of links-style play as well as 9 “traditional” holes, plus THE LOOP – a 3-hole, Par 3 course, plus a driving range. In Spring 2020, it will open a new 18 hole natural grass putting course and The PlayGround — an open-air restaurant and lounge with an events lawn (integrated into the golf course)."
Sunflower Beach Resort & Residences, is located among "50 acres of protected dune preserves, with beach homes, lots, and 21 single level poolside condos. Its 25 new ultra-luxury one- and two-bedroom beach cabins are priced from $382,000 to $499,000."
At the same time, Hentz stresses that the atmosphere throughout Port Aransas continues to be laid back and designed for comfort. The conference center is back on track and they hope to open it in 2021, he says.
As summer is drawing to a close (although it certainly doesn't seem like it with the temperatures we've been having) there's still a few weeks and weekends to get in, not to mention the start of their fall season starting with Beachtoberfest from September 13 through October 30.
Also in September there is a Texas Super Chef Throwdown Series from September 18-21 in which chefs compete at six different restaurants with a final throwdown competition on that Saturday.
Port Aransas with its 18 miles of beach, is 200 miles or about a four-hour drive from Houston. Granted that's more than a trip over to Galveston and about the same as a jaunt to Corpus Christi, but it falls far short of the six-hour trek down to South Padre Island. If you're a) looking for something different and b) ready to spend some time and money at a Texas city that came together, pulled itself back up and continues to invest in its future then Port Aransas should be worth the journey.