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PORT ARANSAS, TEXAS

On Mustang Island
Nueces County, Texas Gulf Coast

State Hwy 361
12 miles E of Aransas Pass
24 miles NE of Corpus Christi
192 miles SW of Houston
152 miles SE of San Antonio
Population: 3,565 (2010) 3,370 (2000)

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Port Aransas TX - Fishing Boats in Sunset
Fishing Boats in Sunset
Photo courtesy Sarah Reveley

History in a Seashell

Port Aransas, formerly known as Ropesville and as Tarpon, is a resort and fishing community on Mustang Island. The settlement began as a sheep and cattle grazing station.

The town began in 1850 by Englishman Robert A. Mercer when he settled on St. Joseph Island. Five years later he moved to Mustang Island and built a cabin.

The first post office was established in 1888 and called Ropesville in honor of Elihu H. Ropes. In 1890 Ropes attempted to build a thirty-foot channel across the island. Six years later the town name was changed to Tarpon to advertise the fishing opportunities.

The name Port Aransas was officially adopted in 1911.

Port Aransas had a population of only fifty in 1925 which grew to 300 in six years.

The population can swell during tourist season and traffic rivals that of larger Gulf Coast cities.

Port Aransas Chronicles:

  • Port Aransas 1919 Storm by Mike Cox
  • Port Aransas TX 1950s,  Mr. Reveley Fishing.
    "Papa loved to go fishing at Port Aransas" - Sarah Reveley 1950s photo
    Fishing in Port Aransas by Mike Cox

    [Tarpon] arguably, is the fish that spawned recreational fishing as a Port Aransas pastime. It happened in the mid-1880s, when work began on a set of rock jetties intended to deepen the ship channel to Corpus Christi. When mainlanders connected with the construction project started seeing big schools of tarpon, it occurred to some of them that catching one of those big fish would be good sport.

    Not having boats of their own, these “jetty people” (as the locals called them) began paying island residents $1.50 to row them out for some tarpon fishing. That, according to the Port A museum exhibit, marked the beginning of sport fishing on the Texas coast. In addition, it was the genesis of the fishing guide business, a pop-and-sometimes-mom industry that still brings money to this part of Texas... more
    Port Aransas Attractions include
  • Birding Center: Ross Avenue and Cut-off Road
  • Mustang Island State Park
    3500 acres of park with five miles of beach frontage. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us
  • Port Aransas Museum:
    361-749-3800
    www.portaransasmuseum.org
  • Port Aransas Nature Reserve
    361-749-4111
    www.cityofportaransas.org
  • University of Texas Marine Science Institute: Displays of Gulf Coast flora and fauna. Open weekdays only 8 to 12 and 1 to 5. 361-749-6806
  • Nearby Destinations
    Corpus Christi to the south, Rockport to the north.

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  • Tarpon Inn, Port Aransas
    Tarpon Inn, Port Aransas, Texas 1920s old postcard
    Tarpon Inn in the 1920s
    Postcard courtesy rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
    Historical Marker
    200 East Cotter Avenue, Port Aransas

    Tarpon Inn

    In 1886 Frank Stephenson, a boat pilot and assistant Aransas lighthouse keeper, opened an inn at this site in an old barracks. He called the facility "Tarpon Inn" for the abundant trophy fish in nearby gulf waters. The Inn served as a landmark for sailors, and Port Aransas was known for a time as "Tarpon".

    In 1897 Mary Cotter and her son J.E. Bought the two story inn from Stephenson. After the building burned in 1900, two new structures were built in 1904. When the 1919 hurricane destroyed the main structure, the dining facility was used until it was sold in 1923 to James M. Ellis and his wife. Ellis soon rebuilt this inn to resemble the old barracks. He placed 20-foot poles in 16 feet of concrete with pilings at the corner of each room to reinforce it against future hurricanes.

    For a time guests could reach the inn only by boat. It became a tradition to sign and date a Tarpon scale and place it on the wall in the front room. Among the famous patrons was president Franklin D. Roosevelt who fished here in 1937. Duncan Hines spent his honeymoon here and recommended the food for the next 25 years. The inn has housed many area residents during storms and served as headquarters for the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Military units.

    1979
    Tarpon Inn, Port Aransas, Texas 1940s old postcard
    Tarpon Inn in the 1940s
    Postcard courtesy rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
    Port Aransas, Texas - Tarpon Inn  today
    Historic Tarpon Inn today
    Photo courtesy Sarah Reveley
    Port Aransas, Texas - Tarpon Inn historical marker
    Tarpon Inn Historical Marker
    Photo courtesy Sarah Reveley
    Port Aransas Scenes
    Port Aransas TX Fishing Boats
    Photo courtesy Sarah Reveley
    Mosquito hawk at Paradise Pond in Port  Aransas Texas
    A mosquito hawk at Paradise Pond in Port Aransas
    Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, 2006
    Barney's, Port Aransas, Texas old post care
    Barney's, Port Aransas
    Postcard courtesy rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
    Port Aransas, Texas Forum
  • Subject: Fishing in Port Aransas
    Papa loved to go fishing at Port Aransas. To this day, the ferry at Port Aransas brings joy to my heart. My brother got to go fishing and I had to settle for walking on the shore looking for shells with Mamma, wearing a big white shirt of Papa's with white gunk on my nose. Anyway here is Papa and his catch, probably around 1950. What a thrill that was, isn't that a tarpon? He always had white gunk on his nose, he must have wiped it off for the picture. Here's Mamma, too. We always drove down in her jeep. Papa didn't want to get his Buick Special dirty.
    Port Aransas is very dear to me. Thanks for the memories. - Sarah Reveley, March 19, 2011
  • Port Aransas TX 1950s beach
    "Walking on the shore looking for shells with Mamma"
    - Sarah Reveley, 1950s photo
    "Here's Mamma. We always drove down in her jeep. Papa didn't want to get his Buick Special dirty."
    - Sarah Reveley, 1950s photo
  • Subject: Port Aransas
    Dear TE, In looking at your great site, I came across the [page] on Port Aransas, Texas.

    Since I was a small child my parents made it a point for to take us to Port Aransas for two weeks during our yearly summer vacation. I am now 73 years old and up until about 5 or 6 years ago I had made it a point to enjoy a few days at Port Aransas nearly every year.

    As a child the feeling of joy and elation never failed to come over me at the first sight of the rolling waves at the beach. That feeling has stayed with me all these years. My dad was an avid fisherman and we lived on a dry land farm near Ballinger, Texas. He and my mother had five kids of their own and raised two other's who had lost their parents. However, by the time that I came along the only other child left at home was my brother who was just older than me. We enjoyed the fishing and romping on the beach and in those rolling waves.

    On one occasion, my oldest sister joined us on our trip. She was about 25 and was very confident of her svelte figure. She came out with a chartreuse green strapless bathing suit and joined me in the surf for fun. The waves were strong that day and we were playing in the roughest of them. An unusually big wave came over us and when my sister came out of it she was topless. I can still recall the look of pure horror on her face and since the wave was gone-by, there was no water to plunge herself into until the next wave came along. Needless to add, I laughed until I hurt.

    Over the years this treasured vacation spot has changed so much. I recall back in the early 1940's that the motels where we stayed were very plain with only the necessities provided. Later we stayed at the Gulf Shores Motel, Seagull Motel and Lone Palm, as well as others. Now there are luxery motels in great numbers all over the island. There were lots of people who vacationed there during the early years but now it is swamped with vacationers.

    When I was about 10 years old (about 1944) I went to the movies on some evenings. The movie house was a tile brick building with no roof. Amazed me! Then when I was nine years old we went on a deep sea fishing trip. When we started fishing the captain of the boat strapped me and that huge rod and reel into my seat. " Hey", I thought -" I'm nine years old and have been fishing since I was five! I know how to fish with a rod and reel!!" I want to tell you that when that first King fish took the bait, I was delighted to be strapped in the chair and more than happy to have the fishing reel tied down as well. I caught 5 Kingfish that were so long their tails hung over the side of the barrel that they were dropped into, head first. My dad only caught four of these giant fish and I never let him forget that "I out-fished him." I was so attached to Port Aransas that just seeing those little signs along the roadway, across the state, "Port Aransas - Where they bite everyday!" would cause me to long to go back there.

    The fish seem to have abandoned the Gulf around Port Aransas. The last few times that we have gone there and fished our luck has been pretty bad. We caught fish alright, but not those really good eating fish. Others may like the shark, red tuna, Yellow Jack and such but I had rather not eat those fish. I have been shocked that even the "Hard Head's" (rough catfish) are now a protected species because their numbers are so few.

    I do hope to make it to Port Aransas one more time, before I join my parents and siblings on that big fishing trip in the sky. - Rosemary Bradley Davis, San Angelo, Texas, July 14, 2007

  • Subject: Port Aransas
    Dear TE, This may not be important but it left quite an impression on me. I visited Port Aransas years ago and drove onto the ferry that takes your car across the channel. There were dolphins jumping on both sides of the front of the ferry and it made a stunning view. It would make a great photo. I tell this to all my friends and apologize that I have no photos to share. I just couldn't help but remember that when I came across your information on Port Aransas. Anyway, just a little side note. By the way, just by luck I came across your magazine. My jaw dropped when I found it and can't believe the fantastic information. Good job!!! - Beverly Santos, June 07, 2007

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  • The Aransas Ferry postcard
    The Aransas Ferry (post-marked 1965)
    Port Aransas Tourist Information

    Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce /Tourist & Convention Bureau
    421 W. Cotter Port Aransas, Texas 78373
    (361) 749-5919
    1-800-45-COAST
    Website : www.portaransas.org
    Nueces County Texas 1940s Map
    Nueces County 1940s Map
    Courtesy Texas General Land Office

    Port Aransas, Texas
    Area Destinations:

    Aransas Pass
    Corpus Christi
    See Nueces County
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