There is no sunrise anywhere in the world like watching the sun rise over the horizon of an ocean, and when your tent, with evidence of the previous night’s tide diplomatically bordered only a couple of feet beyond the entry, opens up to that morning alpenglow and the unmistakable scent of brine in the damp air, the feeling is unparalleled. It’s the only experience collectively shared by everyone as being a feeling of Eutierria: at one with nature. I get up, still groggy but in that ‘good sort of way,’ and sit on my folding chair, the legs of which are buried in the sand, the wet shore immediately padding the base with my weight and I dig my feet into the sand feeling the same effect, forgetting, as I always do, that I broke my right foot years ago and the shallow, heavy aged discomfort propels me to pull at least that foot from beneath the sand and refasten my toes only underneath. I sit there because I love watching the alchemizing of the morning sun in crystal clear reflection of the ocean as it quietly rises, and when it’s bright enough and warm enough I zip my tent and walk to the local coffee shop, Coffee Waves for my coffee.
At least some of every one of my high school summers was spent with my friends at Port “A,” (Port Aransas, Texas). We would drive the few hours from the Texas Hill Country to the port off of the Gulf of Mexico, and camp right on the beach; digging holes into the sand where we would build our fires and cook our meals, so that we could eat our gritty hot dogs and hamburgers and whatever else we’d risk making; there was always sand in everything, the sand was everywhere but none of us cared. We’d hang out for a week or so completely feeling eutierria.
My father kept a Catalina-22 in a marina in Port “A,” for some years, and one or two of those summers, those of us that could fit might stay in the cabin on the boat, or if we wanted a break from the sand for a day or two. My dad taught himself to sail on Town Lake—which is, apparently also a Colorado River, but no, not that Colorado River—in a Sunfish sailboat. In my preteen years my dad had several boats including another Sunfish, a catamaran, and the Catalina, I grew up sailing, and mostly on the ocean; it inspired a lifelong dream to want to live, for a time, on a boat sailing the Mediterranean.
I’ve been to Port Aransas countless times, and as I got older, I started weighing the pros and cons of staying in a hotel, which isn’t to say that I have still enjoyed camping on the beach, and have even made several solo weekend trips just to sit all day on the beach and watch the sun circle the horizon; drinking a margarita as the sunsets and a coffee—on the occasion that I woke early enough to grab a coffee before the sun would rise—and run up and down the beach. These days, however, I have, more often than not, stayed in a condo along the channel where the ships come into port at Corpus Christi and although it’s a very different experience, I’ve enjoyed that quite a bit as well—I don’t necessarily understand why, when travelling, people might prefer to vacation in “style.” I wouldn’t plan on being in a condo or a hotel room much anyway, except to sleep so I’m not sure why I would drop that kind of money to travel lavishly. What I do enjoy about staying in the condo is sitting on the porch with a margarita watching these massive ships come through the channel. That’s really a fun experience.
Being older, I have learned to appreciate island life more. Exploring the town of Port Aransas instead spending every second on the beach. I would wake up and walk the beach as the sun rises, and then walk through some of the residential streets on my way to the best pancakes that I’ve ever had at diner called Coach’s Island Grill, it’s a small restaurant with a fun ambiance—let me reiterate, when I say they’re the best pancakes that I’ve ever had that isn’t an exaggeration, they’re f$&king phenomenal—if I had the wherewithal I might have driven the three hours from the Texas Hill Country to Port Aransas just for the pancakes. And then sit on the rock pier on the north side of the island and fish while watching a few ships coming in, and spend some time in the waves before getting lunch at Moby Dick’s (the restaurant is cluttered with beach paraphernalia on the walls and hanging from the ceiling and staged randomly throughout the restaurant, it’s such a cool spot), and then spend an hour or so at Coffee Waves drinking a Chai and people watching before heading back to the beach and the afternoon waves, dinner at Virginia’s, I’d sit on the patio, the whole place is a patio, facing the marina and then watch the sunset behind the sailboats parked in the marina. And that’s a day in Port Aransas. Occasionally throwing in the Desserted Island Ice Cream shop for some island ice cream.
Port Aransas, like the best beach towns, is not at all a clean town, neither is it dirty, per se but it’s definitely not Hilton Head. Port Aransas is sandy and rustic, it really is how a beach town should be, and they’re not making any promises to tourists, unless they’re promising some of the best shrimp you’ve ever had.
The last time that I was in Port Aransas I went by myself, I camped on the beach—it was the summer of 2020. I was there for just shy of a week, and I spent my days almost exactly the way I described above, and it was memorable. Port “A,” is a truly is a diamond in the rough—I’m always on the hunt for those gems of a town or a district or a spot, and I was lucky to have grown up within a relatively short drive and that I have been lucky enough to have recognized the island for what it is. I’m not sure when I’ll make it back again, although I’m certain I will.