Outdoor Fun

Top Things to do at Port Aransas with Kids

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

With miles of beaches along the Texas Gulf Coast, the beach is a popular destination in Texas. From east near Beaumont to South Padre island, Texas offers lots of room. One of the top beach areas in Texas is Port Aransas,  especially for families. From beach combing, surfing, boating and even birding, Port Aransas features lots of outdoor activities. Paired with the 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.

Top Things to do at Port Aransas with Kids 

  • Enjoy a Beach Day
  • Visit a National Seashore
  • Hop Aboard for a Scenic Cruise
  • Go Bird Watching
  • Built a Giant Sand Castle
  • Explore an Air Craft Carrier
  • Visit the Aquarium 
  • Learn to Surf

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. 

Mustang Island State Park 

With five miles of coastline, Mustang Island is a popular beach and find 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. 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 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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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 Isalnd 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, kite boarders use the Laguna Madre for recreation. Shelling is popular as is fishing.

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 hook ups. The Bird Island Campground is located on the Laguna side of the park. Chemical toilets 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. One-day car pass is $10 and a seven-day car pass is $25.

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. 

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

Scarlet Lady Cruises hour-and-a-half tour departs from the Captain Kelly’s Deep Sea Headquarters at 440 W. Cotter Ave. in Port Aransas. Tickets start at $30. Deep Sea fishing charters 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 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 dawn to dusk.

Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond

This area offers 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.

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The carful of kids made several sandcastles with Chip using household tools that he provided along with a shade canopy. Texas Beach Weekend, Port Aransas,
We made sandcastles with household tools. credit: Catherine Parker

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

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USS Lexington,
Sitting in an aircraft on the deck of the U.S.S. Lexington. credit: Catherine Parker

U.S.S. Lexington

Tour a WWII vintage Essex aircraft carrier (CV-16), the U.S.S. Lexington, located in the 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.  

Guided tours are offered like the Hard Hat Tour, the Flight Operations Tour and even Paranormal tours. Additional admission 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 $18.95, youth (13 to 18) is $13.95 and kids (4 to 12) it’s $13.95. Parking is available for $5.00.

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 $36.95 and kids (4 to 12) are $26.95. 

Billabong Surf Camp  

Learn how to surf with the Billabong Surf Camp on North Padre Island, Start out with picking out your boards and put on a rash guards. Start on he sand with a core class to learn how to pop up. 

Then head into the water with the guide, where they watch the waves and set you up. With a push, would be 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 required and several different lessons and camp 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, 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 kids 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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