Outdoor Fun

From Boogie Boards to Birds: Top Things to do at Port Aransas with Kids

Mustang Island
The beach along Mustang Island. credit: Catherine Parker

With good year-round weather, heading to the beach is one of the top things to do in Texas. It offers miles of beaches along the Texas Gulf Coast from near Beaumont to South Padre Island. For one of the top beach areas in Texas, consider Port Aransas,  especially for families. From beach combing, surfing, boating and even birding, Port Aransas features lots of outdoor activities. Add the attractions in nearby Corpus Christi; the area offers museums and one of the top aquariums in Texas. Here are the top things to do at Port Aransas with kids.

9 Top Things to Do at Port Aransas with Kids 

  • Visit a National Seashore
  • Plan a Beach Day
  • Hop Aboard for a Scenic Cruise
  • Go Bird Watching
  • Built a Giant Sand Castle
  • Explore an Air Craft Carrier
  • Visit the Aquarium 
  • Splash at the Splash Park
  • Learn to Surf
padre island national seashore
The Padre Island National Seashore protects the largest barrier island in the world. credit: Catherine Parker

Padre Island National Seashore

As the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world, Padre Island National Seashore is more than a beach. It is a vital part of the ecosystem with its natural dunes, coastal prairies and the Laguna Madre, one of six hyper-saline lagoons in the world.

Visitors can enjoy a beach day on miles of beach, and you can drive on these beaches. In addition, kiteboarders use the Laguna Madre for recreation. Shelling is popular as is fishing. This is one of the top things to do at Port Aransas with kids.

Padre Island offers refuge for many species, including migratory birds and the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the most endangered sea turtle species. Each spring, mother sea turtles come ashore and lay nests in the sand then head back to the Gulf. Since 1978, teams of scientists and volunteers have dug up the eggs to ensure their safety. The eggs are buried in the safe sand corral area away from predators. Then the tiny hatchlings are released in June as crowds watch and keep seabirds from snatching the turtles as they march towards the water.

Padre Island National Seashore offers two campgrounds for first-come, first-serve camping. The Malachite campground is located close to the Visitor Center and on the Gulf side of the park. Find flush toilets and cold-water rinse-off showers along with a dump station. Sites do not have hookups. The Bird Island Campground is located on the Laguna side of the park. Chemical toilets are only in the campground, and additional services are located at the Malachite Visitor Center.

Located at the end of Park Road 22. Open 24 hours a day. A one-day car pass is $10, and a seven-day car pass is $25.

Top Things to Do in Corpus Christi

Best Beaches at Port Aransas

The beach is one of the top things to do at Port Aransas with kids. Port Aransas is popular year-round, with pleasant weather even in the winter. Mid-March Spring Break is a popular time to visit as is Easter break. This is one of the Top Things to do at Port Aransas with Kids. 

Mustang Island State Park 

With five miles of coastline, Mustang Island is a popular beach. It features coastal sand dunes that can reach heights of 30 feet. Located south of Port Aransas on Mustang Island, it’s a bit more quiet than the beaches closer to the beach condos. 

This park has recorded 400 different bird species during the spring and fall migrations. Find the Mustang Island Paddling Trail with 20 miles on the Corpus Christi Bay side of the park. 

Camping is available with 48 sites with water and electricity along with 50 primitive sites. A bathhouse with showers is located in the park. 

Located at 9394 State Highway 361 in Corpus Christi. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $5 and kids 12 and under are free. Camping available. 

IB Magee Beach Park

On the northern point of the island, IB Magee Beach Park is located close to all the top things to do in Port Aransas. The Port Aransas Jetty is popular for fishing and covered picnic tables are available.

Find 75 campsites with electricity and water along with a bathhouse. Rinse-off showers are available as well. Primitive camping is allowed on the beach.

Located at 321 N on the Beach. Open from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Beach Parking permit required for Port Aransas beaches and available for $12 at IGA supermarket on the island. The parking area is separate from the beach.

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Port Aransas
The wild dolphins at Port Aransas. credit: Catherine Parker

Take a Scenic Cruise on the Scarlet Lady 

Look for dolphins on a scenic cruise during your Port A stay. Climb aboard the Scarlet Lady to cruise along the Lydia Ann Channel looking for wild dolphins splashing in the water. This is one of the top things to do at Port Aransas with kids. 

On the narrated cruise, see birds fly overhead like brown pelicans. Continue to the Lydia Ann Lighthouse, the second oldest lighthouse in Texas.

Scarlet Lady Cruises hour-and-a-half tour departs from Captain Kelly’s Deep Sea Headquarters at 440 W. Cotter Ave. in Port Aransas. Adult tickets are $43; kids tickets start at $38. Deep Sea fishing charters are also available. 

Port Aransas birding center
The Leonbelle Turnball Birding is the best place to see birds at Port Aransas. credit: Catherine Parker

Best Birding Spots at Port Aransas

Port Aransas is a premier birding site in Texas, especially in the spring and fall migration. Find several spots across the island to see birds. 

Leonbelle Turnball Birding Center

It features a 700-foot boardwalk overlooking freshwater wetlands and a covered observation tower, where Boots, the resident alligator, is often spotted. 

Located at 1356 Ross Ave. in Port Aransas. Free and open from dawn to dusk.

Port Aransas Nature Preserve

It offers a covered pavilion and three miles of hiking and biking trails.

Located at the end of Port St. Free and open from dawn to dusk.

Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond

This area offers a two-acre park with a small freshwater pond. 

Located off Cut Off Road near the intersection of W. Avenue C. Free and open dawn to dusk.

The National Parks of Texas

Built the Best Ever Sand Castle 

With a few tools, building a great sandcastle is easier than ever. With a five-gallon bucket and a real shovel, sand castle makers need to source sand from the water’s edge. Each sand kingdom needs to be built on terra firma or as far away from the tidal line as possible for the longest-lasting results.

  • Assorted small buckets
  • Kitty litter plastic bucket
  • Solo Cups
  • Old Pens or Pencils for Drawing
  • Old Kitchen Knives for Making Sharp Corners
  • Found Objects
U.S.S. Lexington
At the U.S.S. Lexington in Corpus Christi. credit: Catherine Parker

U.S.S. Lexington

Tour a WWII vintage Essex aircraft carrier (CV-16), the U.S.S. Lexington, located in Corpus Christi Bay. Nicknamed the Blue Ghost, it’s outfitted with aircraft on its flight deck. 

Plan to spend half the day exploring the U.S.S. Lexington with several self-guided tours across multiple decks. It also offers a 3D Mega Theater and cafe. This is one of the top things to do at Port Aransas with kids. 

Guided tours are offered like the Hard Hat Tour, the Flight Operations Tour and even Paranormal Tours. Additional admission is required. 

Located at 2914 N. Shoreline Boulevard in Corpus Christi, Texas. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Adult admission (18+) is $20.95, youth (13 to 17) is $17.95 and kids (4 to 12) it’s $13.95. Parking is available for $5.00.

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Texas State Aquarium

Learn about the aquatic animals of Texas along with birds and even some mammals. Popular exhibits include the Dolphin Bay, Tortuga Cay for the turtle program and the stingray feeding at the Stingray Lagoon. 

Additional encounters include snorkeling with a shark. If that’s too much, then fish feeding is also a popular animal encounter. 

Located at 2710 N. Shoreline Blvd. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $44.95 and kids (4 to 12) are $34.95. 

H-E-B Splash Park

Conveniently next to the Texas State Aquarium, families will find a 15,000-square-foot splash pad. Recently renovated, it is much larger than the previous splashing area.

Open daily for Spring Break from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. then weekends only until the end of May. Open daily in the summer.

Surf Camp  

Learn how to surf with the Padre Island Surf Camp on North Padre Island. With a choice of classes, surfers can choose from girls-only one-day classes, Saturday classes and multi-day camps.

Start out by picking out your boards and putting on rash guards. Then, you will head to the sand with a core class to learn how to pop up. Then, guides will go with you into the water, where they watch the waves and set you up. With a push, surfers need to paddle, paddle, then pop up to catch a wave. 

I am here to tell you I got up for a few seconds. Sure, my kids definitely spent more time surfing, but everyone had a great time. 

Advance reservations are required, and several different lessons and camps are available. Located in front of the Windward Parking Lot, next to the Holiday Inn.

Moby Dicks Port Aransas
Moby Dick’s in Port Aransas is your destination for seafood and island kitsch. credit: Catherine Parker

Where to Eat at Port Aransas

Ahoy Mateys! Head to Moby Dick’s Restaurant to satisfy your seafood cravings, fried, fresh or grilled. It’s got the pirate ship, marlin on the wall, and tiki bar feel that is a must for every beach trip. Find a cocktail menu full of tiki bar favorites, and I recommend the Roasted Colada. For the littlest beachgoers, there’s a kid’s menu, too.

Located at 517 S. Alister in Port Aransas. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and closed Sunday and Monday. 

Where to Stay on Mustang Island 

Located along a secluded section of beach, consider Lively Beach Condominium Community on the southern end of Mustang lsland.  With a private boardwalk over the dunes and nestled in a nature reserve, guests at Lively Beach enjoy a quiet section of beach. 

Located at 138 Zahn Rd., on Mustang Island, just south of Corpus Christi, between Mustang Island State Park and the North Packery Channel Jetty.

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Head to Port Aransas along the Texas Gulf Coast for fun in the sun with your kids. Find miles of beaches along with state parks and national seashores. Port Aransas and Mustang Island also offer fantastic birding sites along with sea turtles. Enjoy a scenic cruise or learn to surf. Get all the top things to do in Port Aransas with kids along with lodging and dining tips. Where to stay at Port Aransas | Where to eat at Port Aransas | Top Fun Things to do in Port Aransas #TexasBeaches
credit: Catherine Parker

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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