Port Aransas and the Gulf of Mexico

We have been looking forward to heading down to the Gulf of Mexico, and will be traveling along this great body of water for the next few months as we head eastward.  The drive into Port Aransas was very windy, so we were relieved to get off the road, set up and relax in this little slice of paradise.   

Seen on the streets of Port Aransas

Buc-ee’s:

Heading south from Austin the day after Christmas, our next stop was only a few hours away, so we decided to take our time getting there.  My great aunt Ruth and uncle Sheldon, who have been living on the road full-time for a few decades, check in every once in a while and provide sage advice to us newbies.  Ruth has told me a lot about these travel stops in Texas called Buc-ee’s, and my friend Julie also brought them up while visiting in San Antonio, both expressing how huge they are and how we should experience this place before we leave Texas.  

Buc-ee’s holds the world record for both the largest convenience store and longest car wash, they have an unbelievable number of gas pumps, and take pride in having “the cleanest bathrooms in America,” according to their site.  I can attest to the fact that they have nice bathrooms. 😉 I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with Cracker Barrel, but when you walk into these restaurants, you enter into a shop full of candy, souvenirs, and a variety of seasonal kitsch.  Buc-ee’s reminded me of this, but on steroids! 😮 I was simply overwhelmed walking inside by the sheer size, the buzz of activity and huge variety of things you can buy.  It truly is a unique experience while traveling, so stop on by if you are in Texas.  

A brief respite at the Whistling Duck:

Our reservation in Port Aransas didn’t commence until December 27th, so we had a gap day during which we needed a place to stay.  Thankfully, Harvest Hosts came through with a place called the Whistling Duck Winery.  Though they were not open for business that day, they welcomed us warmly.  It was another unseasonably hot day, so we walked around their duck pond and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.  Their slogan is “Porch Sittin’, Wine Sippin’, Country Trippin’ – FUN!”  Though we did not do a wine tasting, they have both inside and outside seating to enjoy a glass of wine or two, so their slogan seems appropriate and we recommend swinging by if you are passing through this part of Texas.

Gulf Waters RV Resort: 

Thanks to the recommendation of my friend Julie, we found availability at Gulf Waters RV Resort to ring in the new year.  Although this is one of the more expensive places we have stayed, you get what you pay for!  Most of the sites are owned and rented out, so the resort has invested a lot in hardscaping and landscaping, making it a pleasant little paradise next to the beach.  There was a plethora of outside seating, a wet bar and mini fridge, and some spots even had palapas and fireplaces. 

When you arrive the staff escorts you to your site and helps you get situated.  The office staff is friendly and was very accommodating when we asked to extend our stay for a few days to wait out a windstorm that rolled through over the weekend.  Our first spot had three different seating areas, and the second was even more elaborate with an outside fireplace, palapa, bar, and outdoor dining space.  The resort has a pool, showers and activity center near the office, and laundry facilities were clean and affordable…6 each of washers and dryers, $2 per load.

During our stay, the resort hosted a New Year’s Eve social gathering at the activity center, inviting people to bring food to share and beverages of their choice.  We met several people that either owned spots at the resort or stayed there every year, having developed strong bonds with others at the resort.  They had a “ball drop” around 8pm, poured cups of sparkling cider for the kids and celebrated with noisemakers and festive hats.  As we walked back to our rig, we saw several gatherings along the way, making for a celebratory atmosphere.

Our early bird “ball drop” for New Year’s Eve

The next day we moved to our new spot and enjoyed one last day with temperatures in the 80’s by walking on the beach and enjoying a meal under the palapa.  I’m glad we took advantage, because overnight the winds shifted suddenly around 3:30 am, blowing from the north and bringing in a cold front.  The temperature dropped 30 degrees in an hour from the 70’s to the 40’s! 😮 We were thankful we didn’t camp on the beach like we had originally planned and instead were tucked away next to other RV’s and other solid structures, which helped shelter us from the onslaught of wind over the next few days. 😬  

Beach finds: 

There wasn’t a whole lot of hiking to speak of, but plenty of opportunities for long walks on the beach.  On our first and last beach outings, we simply walked from the RV resort, enjoying the breeze as it hugged us with its soft warmth, watching the birds, sand crabs, and people on the beach.  I’m accustomed to the wind in the Pacific Northwest, that slaps you across the face with its biting cold, so it was a welcome change. 😂 On the second outing, we discovered an unexpected and delightful surprise: Bollard art!  We talked with one gentleman, who told us the back story.  

A resident of Port Aransas was tired of looking at the ugly bollards that lined the beach, so she decided to dress them up with crocheted and knit “bollard buddies.”  Other people started pitching in, making it an annual tradition by a group that calls themselves the Yarn Bombing and Bollard Buddies of Port A.   Here is another article, chronicling a little background on this creative group.  They take all of the creations down before spring break so they aren’t destroyed, so we were there at the right time of year to enjoy these crafty displays of art.

If you visit, another option is to visit the Padre Island National Seashore.  We saw RV’s camped out on the beach and enjoyed walking on a small stretch of the 60-mile long seashore that is at your disposal if you should choose to travel the entire shoreline.  There are also opportunities to take part in sea turtle hatchling releases, typically from mid-June through August.  On the bayside, we saw birdwatchers, and people fishing and kite surfing since is was a windy day.  Near the entrance to the park there is also a Grasslands Nature Trail, approximately a 1/2 mile paved loop.  We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, but did find some interesting blooms along the trail and many mounds between us and the bayside sand dunes.

Chill time: 

We didn’t get out as much as we normally would in part because we were recovering from COVID booster and flu shots in preparation for an upcoming Habitat for Humanity build in Louisiana.  Between this and the windy weather conditions, I hunkered down and did more mundane things like working on my CPE (continuing professional education) credits for my CPA license, trip planning, and resting. 😴 With the pace we have been keeping up, we felt it was time to just take a breather.

With our time coming to a close here, we got out one night to enjoy some delicious, 12-inch pizza pies at Dylan’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, gassed up and washed the truck to rinse off all of the salt from being oceanside, and I prepped food for our following days of travel to Galveston.  I really enjoyed the humidity, warmth and ocean breezes, and look forward to continuing our journey along the Gulf of Mexico.

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