September Skies

Keeping September is usually our rainy month, and has not let us down this year in the Coastal Bend. The skies have put on a show of their own. These were snapped with my phone, but you can see the cloud formations are really cool.

Bluff clouds (2)
Sculptural clouds form one morning over the Laguna Madre in Flour Bluff.
more bluff clouds (2)
Rain clouds billow like smoke over the Laguna Madre.
Rainbow over downtown (2)
Is there a pot of gold in downtown Corpus Christi?

Reflections of Labor Day Weekend

 

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Colorful Reflections from Summer. Photo published by The Island Moon Newspaper who shared this lovely photo by Steven Pituch.

 

When I think of Labor Day weekend I think of…

-Last hoorah

-School in full swing

-Put away the white sandals

-September rains of South Texas

-Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer”

-Our beaches and waterways clear out and quiet down.

What does Labor Day weekend remind you of?

Happy 4th! Sea Turtles in the Morning. Fireworks at Night…

Photo courtesy of debordieukazette.blogspot.com
Photo courtesy of debordieukazette.blogspot.com

 

Happy 4th! North Padre Island National Seashore released more  turtle hatchlings  this morning, and gave a short educational program at the visitors deck.

To see the newly hatched Kemp’s ridley sea turtles: Kemp’s ridley eggs are just starting to hatch, and the hatching process can take several days.  The exact dates of the releases depend on how quickly the eggs hatch, and  how the hatchlings become ready for release. It’s all up to the hatchlings.  The park usually does not  know that they will have a release until the day before.

Public releases are held starting at 6:45 a.m. on the beach in front of the Malaquite Visitor Center at Padre Island National Seashore on North Padre Island. Call the Hatchling Hotline at (361)949-7163 for the latest information on the release oer visit their website at www.nps.gov/pais for the projected release dates.  The nesting season could continue for three more weeks.

If you get up early to enjoy the turtle releases, just don’t come back to the national seashore with your fireworks, firecrackers, or sparklers. The park announced that those items are prohibited on park lands and are subject to seizure. If you want to enjoy fireworks, Padre Island is having their own second annual display on the main canal by Three Fathoms Bank. Last year we could see the display all the way from the ‘Bluff, so enjoy the display tonight!! Happy 4th!

Attractions in Port Aransas, Texas

One of many coastal birds in Port Aransas.
One of many coastal birds in Port Aransas.

Port A has always been a lazy fishing village since I moved here back in 1991. Now, it is a bustling small town with its own fun, laid-back vibe for anyone at any age.

Of course they have the usual things such as deep sea fishing going to the beach. I enjoy going to the park next to the fairy landing. There is plenty of people watching, fishing, birding, bike riding, kite flying, or any other outdoor activity to do there, especially with the kids.

The Park next to the ferry landing in Port Aransas is a good place to take the kids on a nice day.
The Park next to the ferry landing in Port Aransas is a good place to take the kids on a nice day.

Another thing I like to do on a slow traffic day is to take the short fairy ride to Harbor Island and watch the dolphins playing in the waves. We usually try to see how many we can spot. Once you get the idea on how to see them, they get easier to find. One hint: they are usually playing in the wake of an oncoming barge. Port Aransas is a great little fun spot in our Coastal Bend.

The following is an article from USA Today that discusses a few fun things about Port A:

http://traveltips.usatoday.com/attractions-port-aransas-texas

Lauren Miller, Demand Media

 

 

 

 

 

“Port Aransas is popular vacation destination in southwest Texas. The city is on Mustang Island on Aransas Bay with ferry service from the mainland. College students in Texas swarm to Port Aransas during spring break, and vacationers visit the town year-round because of its subtropical climate. There are a wide variety of attractions in the Port Aransas area.

Lydia Ann Lighthouse

Construction on the Lydia Ann Lighthouse began in 1851 to light up the Aransas Pass between Mustang Island and nearby San Jose Island. During the United States Civil War, Union and Confederate troops fought for control of the lighthouse. The lighthouse operated for decades, but began to decline in use after the mid-20th century. Private owners took control and restored the deteriorating landmark. The lighthouse is accessible only via a tour from Kohootz Boat Excursions.

Kohootz
440 East Cotter Avenue
Port Aransas, TX 78373
361-779-3188
kohootz.com

Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center

The Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center is rated as one of the top ten boardwalks by Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. The center includes a large area of fresh and saltwater marshes, which are havens for over 100 species of birds. Its well-known boardwalk is 500 feet long and extends into a brackish marsh, giving visitors prime viewing of birds and the center’s resident alligators. There is also a 25-foot observation tower on the property. Admission is free.

Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center
Ross Avenue
Port Aransas, Texas 78373
361-749-4158
cityofportaransas.org/Leonabelle_Turnbull_Birding_Center

The Tarpon Inn

The Tarpon Inn is a historic hotel in Port Aransas known as the birthplace of Texas sport fishing. The restored building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. There are many local legends associated with the inn, many of them linked with the hard-to-catch trophy fish tarpon or “Silver Kings,” which were abundant in the area when the original inn was built in 1886. The walls of the inn have scales of tarpons caught by guests, including famous guests like President Franklin D. Roosevelt, actress Hedy Lamarr, circus owner Clyde Beatty, and cake mix maker Duncan Hines, who spent his honeymoon at the hotel. Guests who stay at the inn are encouraged to relax, therefore, the antique-filled rooms do not have televisions or phones.

The Tarpon Inn
200 East Cotter Avenue
Alvarado, TX 76009
361-749-5555
thetarponinn.com

The Beach

The beaches in the Port Aransas area draw visitors year-round. The 18 miles of unspoiled beach are a part of the world’s longest barrier island. Popular vacation activities included surfing, Jet Skiing, parasailing, sea kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, and taking scenic cruises. The city is the home to over a dozen fishing tournaments during the year.”

Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Bureau
403 West Cotter
Port Aransas, TX 78373
361-749-5919
800-45-COAST
portaransas.org

 

Want a Beach Where You Can Avoid Spring Breakers?

Page by Michael Zamora - Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com
Caller Times by Michael Zamora – Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com

If you are like me, you have young kids who want to go to the beach as soon as warmer weather kicks in. However, throngs of crazed, hormone-filled Breakers descend to our beaches mid-March. So, I have a couple of suggestions…

The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.
The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.

1. Rockport Beach in Rockport, Texas
Rockport Beach in Rockport, Texas  one of my favorite beaches for people with young kiddos. Why? The beach is one of the safest in my opinion. The surf is non-existent which makes it a relatively safe place for young ones. The water is super-shallow for a long way. You can wade out for a long time and not get past knee deep. Behind the beach there is a road with parking for the length of it, so there are no cars actually driving on the beach. Also, the beach there is extremely clean since they rake it daily. It also helps that visitors there seem to respect that, and tend to leave it the way they found it. So that you know, there are no pets allowed. That rule is there to keep the beach clean from little messes.

Rockport Beach Park offers clean, safe beaches which are great for kids!
Rockport Beach Park offers clean, safe beaches which are great for kids!

Another cool thing is that there are many palapas where you can shield the young ones and your ice chest from the sun. However, you need to arrive early to get one, otherwise, just bring your own umbrella or canopy.

If the kids actually want to get out of the water (really?), there are multiple playgrounds dotting the length of the beach. The play equipment is maintained well, so it tends to be safe. Plus, the playgrounds are there on the beach, so you can park your beach stuff at a nearby palapa, and watch them play right next to you or you can go play with them! Oh, a word to the wise, be sure to bring shoes or sandals since to the play areas since there are sticker-burrs there where the grass grows. Those pesky things can be painful to toes. If people actually take a moment to throw them into the trash, instead of throwing them on the ground, then they won’t take root.

Finally, when nature calls as it usually does, there is a pavilion with restrooms. The centrally-located pavilion has showers and changing rooms too, so you can clean up and not have to get into the car and drive home all sandy. This is a plus if you have kids who tend to fall asleep in the car after a vigorous day at the beach!!

PINS 2

2. North Padre Island National Seashore: Malaquite Beach

This is another favorite beach of mine for a good beach for families. Here you can grab a covered picnic table if you arrive early and enjoy a picnic lunch. Cars are not allowed on the beach, so it is very safe and clean for kids. Also, at Malaquite, there is a Visitor’s Center with a gift shop, educational center, covered deck, observation decks, and a small snack shop, restrooms, showers, and changing rooms. (yippe!)

A view of the Gulf from the boardwalk at Padre Island National Seashore.
A view of the Gulf from the boardwalk at Padre Island National Seashore.

There are events year round such as guided beach walks, educational talks, and classes are held at the Malaquite Beach Pavilion Visitor’s Center. Beginning late Spring into Summer, the famous Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Hatchling releases happen at various times during the early morning hours.  Evening talks are held to learn more about the stars and constellations as well as other activities held by park rangers who discuss the natural flora and fauna and the coastal ecosystems.

You can spend a full day here or several and have quite an educational and fun-filled experience with the family. This place is on the way to literally nowhere, so it is very quiet and a great natural place to have fun with the family.

These two beaches are my favorite places to have  a great time with the kids with no Spring Breakers!

Get your Springtime on!

Playing with the butterflies was a total hit with both the kids and adults!
Playing with the butterflies was a total hit with both the kids and adults!

It is Spring Break here in the Coastal Bend, and the beaches are packed with Spring Breakers. So since I was home with the kiddos this week, we did a few family friendly things away from the crazed throngs at the beaches.

Spring Break on North Padre Island, Texas. Photo courtesy of http://entertainment.caller.com
Spring Break on North Padre Island, Texas. Photo courtesy of http://entertainment.caller.com

The weather was gorgeous, and we wanted to be outdoors, but we did not want to go to Padre Island. My friend told me that she and her daughter and friends went to the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens. Good idea!

What better way to enjoy Spring's bounty, but to be among it.
What better way to enjoy Spring’s bounty, but to be in it.

I took the kids and they enjoyed the day and fresh air with the gorgeous flora and fauna. We spent several hours out there and had a fabulous time, and the kids had fun with a little learning mixed in! Best of all, it was family friendly fun!

The kids enjoyed the flowers, ladybugs, and butterflies.
The kids enjoyed the flowers, ladybugs, and butterflies.
The kids loved the variety of colorful birds at the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens.
The kids loved the variety of colorful birds at the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens.
Watching the wildlife at the wetlands area of the Botanical Gardens.
Watching the wildlife at the wetlands area of the Botanical Gardens.
The colors of Spring were abundant.
The colors of Spring were vibrant and abundant.

Our Little Rockport is a Contender for “America’s Coolest Small Towns”

Rockport’s got it going on, but we in the Coastal Bend knew that. Even Budget Travel among other sites are saying the same thing.

The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.
The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.
087
Boats along the waterfront in Rockport,
080
Rockport Marina area

By Noelle H. Lowery noelle@coastalbreezenews.com

“BudgetTravel.com has put the call out for folks to vote on “America’s Coolest Small Town” in 2014, and Everglades City is in the running. For the next [several] days (through Feb. 25), voters can go online to cast their ballot for one of the 15 small towns listed. The winner wins bragging rights. Everglades City has some stiff competition, though. There are towns that have been settings for movies; that are historical gems; that are recreation havens; that are part of national parks; that were homes to former U.S. Presidents; and that are culinary delights. Among the contenders are: Berlin, MD; Elkin, NC; Huntington Woods, MI; Pahoa, HI; Buckhannon, WV; Estes Park, CO; Kelleys Island, OH; Rockport, TX; Cazenovia, NY; Mathews, VA; Travelers Rest, S.C.; Deadwood, S.D.; Galena, IL; Nevada City, CA; and our very own Everglades City. Populations range from 313 (Kelleys Island, OH) to 9,133 (Rockport, TX). Still, Everglades City has something that none of the other towns do — access to the Ten Thousand Islands of Everglades National Park and to some of the best backwater fishing in the U.S. Combine these elements with the amazing wildlife — both in and out of the water — that thrive in the mangrove estuaries of Everglades City, and it is a shoe-in to win. So cast your vote now at: http://www.budgettravel.com/contest/vote-for-americas-coolest-small-town-2014,16/#vote-21477. The clock is ticking!”

Places to Go,”Sea”, and Do: Rockport, Texas

In need of a little getaway? Pack your bags or take a day trip for a little fun in the sun, a little art, a bit of culture, or  nothing at all.

Weekend in Rockport-Fulton, Texas

Gazebo in Fulton
Gazebo in Fulton

 Snowbirds from everywhere, locally known as “Winter Texans”, flock to the Coastal Bend annually.  One favorite roosting spot for both snow birds and locals  the Rockport-Fulton area, located about 45 minutes north of Corpus Christi. Rockport, bordered by bays and barrier islands, the waterfront at Rockport-Fulton is serene, with its famous windswept oaks providing a sylvan backdrop. Nearby, downtown is beaming with brightly colored shops, galleries, and cafes full of friendly conversation over a cup of coffee or iced mocha.

The serene porch at the Rockport Center for the Arts.
The serene porch at the Rockport Center for the Arts.

Rockport has a full palette of independent art galleries and the main hub is the Rockport Center for the Arts, a community offering classes and exhibitions. In July, the popular Rockport Art Festival is held at Rockport Beach.

There are a variety of art galleries to peruse in downtown Rockport.
There are a variety of art galleries to peruse in downtown Rockport.

Bird watching and wildlife photography is a big pastime with whooping crane tours and the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, which is a semi-annual home to the endangered whooping cranes. The largest flock of cranes North American make the trip south from Canada to the Coastal Bend every year. Not only snow birds flock here, but cranes and other migratory birds.

One of several observation decks at Aransas Wildlife Refuge.
One of several observation decks at Aransas Wildlife Refuge.
Take a tour to view the endangered whooping cranes.
Take a tour to view the endangered whooping cranes.

If you want a more active time while in the area, there are numerous kayak rentals offering tours through the estuaries including the lighthouse tour off Harbor Island which is not far from the area. Other activities include fishing, boating, biking, hiking, jet skiing, kite boarding, dolphin tours, sunset cruises, and whatever else I forgot to mention here.

One of several colorful bait stands between Rockport Beach and downtown.
One of several colorful bait stands between Rockport Beach and downtown.

You don’t have to worry much about cars driving on the beach. Plus, the water is calm and is shallow for a great distance. Last, it is clean!

The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.
The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.

Photo courtesy of http://www.coastaltexasproperties.com

For me, the Rockport-Fulton area is only an hour away, but for day trip or longer, it is a great place to play.

Places to Go,”Sea”, and Do: North Padre Island and Flour Bluff: Get Good Grub

This will be part of a series of places to Go, ”Sea”, and Do around the Coastal Bend. I will add posts to this series each week. This is the last of  first main part of the series  about North Padre Island.

My state of Texas is growing.  I am continually meeting new people in various places who are new to here or visiting here. I often run into people who have questions about where to go when visiting Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend. I am originally from Houston, but have lived South Texas since 1991.I have lived here as a resident but have been here as a tourist before I moved here.  This series will highlight a few of my favorite places in and around our little bend in the coast.

**********

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com
Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico
Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com

North Padre Island

First, let me clarify some confusion. I don’t know how many people get North Padre Island mixed up with South Padre Island. They are two different places, and you cannot get to South Padre Island from North Padre Island on “South Padre Island Drive” (the freeway that runs through Corpus Christi) to get to South Padre Island.  South Padre Island is another 2 hours away. The islands are two separate places. I still scratch my head on why they named the freeway that runs through Corpus “South Padre Island Drive.” Anyway, here is one of my favorite places on North Padre Island:

1. Padre Island National Seashore

2. Bob Hall Pier at Padre Balli Park

3. Packery Channel

4. The Seawall on North Padre Island:

5. My Favorite Places to Eat Seafood with the kids:

-Snoopy’s Pier

Snoopy's Pier. Photo courtesy of coastalbendlife.com
Snoopy’s Pier. Photo courtesy of coastalbendlife.com

According to  http://www.snoopyspier.com/,”Snoopy’s Pier was literally a product of the Redfish Wars, a battle over commercial fishing rights in the inland waterways and bay systems of Texas. As with many commercial fishermen in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Ernie Butler realized the Redfish Wars signaled the beginning of the end of the commercial fishing industry in Texas. So when it was no longer fun to be chased by Texas Game Wardens, Ernie decided to give up trying to catch fish and shrimp and start cooking them instead. In August 1980 Ernie and his wife, Corliss, purchased a small bait stand and burger joint with a 600 foot fishing pier on the Intracoastal Waterway. Family and friends pitched in their favorite recipes and Snoop’s Pier was born.”

Let me just say that this place used to be a total dive with great food, but over time, they have changed. Now they have air conditioning and a remodeled interior, their prices have gone up some. However, you can’t beat them for fresh seafood. They have the best shrimp in Corpus Christi.

The fresh shrimp are the best in Corpus Christi. Photo courtesy of urbanspoon.com
The fresh shrimp are the best in Corpus Christi.
Photo courtesy of urbanspoon.com

Also, the kids love it since you can sit outside and watch the fish. Kids love to feed the hardhead fish below the pier small pieces of crackers and watch them gobble the crumbs. Families and romantics alike enjoy sitting outside and watch the sunset over Flour Bluff.

Sunset over the Bluff at Snoopy's Pier
Sunset over the Bluff at Snoopy’s Pier

If you arrive by sea, you can dock your boat right next to the restaurant. If you arrive by land, from Corpus, you will go over the JFK bridge and take the first right once you gone over the bridge and follow the road there.

-Okay, here is another good recommendation for good seafood- Laguna Reef at Bluff Landing in Flour Bluff

Laguna Reef Restaurant. Photo courtesy of bluffslanding.com
Laguna Reef Restaurant. Photo courtesy of bluffslanding.com

Laguna Reef  is in Flour Bluff which is the chunk of land you encounter before going to North Padre Island. It is a little out of the way, but worth it. Coming from Corpus, you would exit right toward Waldron Road. You continue on the service road past HEB and turn right onto Laguna Shores. You go down Laguna Shores forever until the end of the road. Then you turn left, and you are there.

This is another restaurant that you can access by boat. According to http://www.bluffslanding.com/restaurant.php ,”Located next to the Marina & Hotel, the Laguna Reef Restaurant offers a variety of fresh seafood and delicious meat. They even let you bring in your own catch and they cook it for you! With excellent views of the marina, family owners & operators, Laguna Reef is the place to be.”

Pretty much any seafood on the menu is good. I love their coconut shrimp! After a day of playing around on North Padre Island, it is great to know where to get some good grub!

Laguna Reef Restaurant. Photo courtesy of coastalbendmenuguide.com
Laguna Reef Restaurant. Photo courtesy of coastalbendmenuguide.com

Places to Go,”Sea”, and Do: North Padre Island: The Seawall

This will be part of a series of places to Go, “Sea”, and Do around the Coastal Bend. I will add posts to this series each week. The first main part of the series will be about North Padre Island.

My state of Texas is growing.  I am continually meeting new people in various places who are new to here or visiting here. I often run into people who have questions about where to go when visiting Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend. I am originally from Houston, but have lived South Texas since 1991.I have lived here as a resident but have been here as a tourist before I moved here.  This series will highlight a few of my favorite places in and around our little bend in the coast.

**********

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com
Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico
Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com

North Padre Island

First, let me clarify some confusion. I don’t know how many people get North Padre Island mixed up with South Padre Island. They are two different places, and you cannot get to South Padre Island from North Padre Island on “South Padre Island Drive” (the freeway that runs through Corpus Christi) to get to South Padre Island.  South Padre Island is another 2 hours away. The islands are two separate places. I still scratch my head on why they named the freeway that runs through Corpus “South Padre Island Drive.” Anyway, here is one of my favorite places on North Padre Island:

1. Padre Island National Seashore

2. Bob Hall Pier at Padre Balli Park

3. Packery Channel

4. The Seawall on North Padre Island:

The Sea Wall at sunrise.
The Sea Wall at sunrise.

The seawall on North Padre Island is a great spot for people watching, bicycling, skateboarding, or just hanging out.  Here you can park at the parking lot north of the Holiday Inn and not commit yourself or car to the sand. At the parking lot, there are restrooms and showers, so if you decide to stick your toes in the sand or water, you can easily clean them off.

The seawall on North Padre is completely empty of people.
The seawall on North Padre

During the warmer months, you can stroll over to the Holiday Inn and get a smoothie at the little stand or listen to the tunes from a random band playing poolside. One other thing, during the warmer months, if you decide to learn how to hang ten, you can take surfing lessons here by the seawall with Padre Island Surf Camps. My daughter and I learned to surf with them, and we had a total blast! Hey, if I can learn in my mid 40’s anyone can! It took a few tries, but I got the hang of it. My daughter on the other hand, took to it like a fish to water.

Already surfing like a pro!
“I got this.” Already surfing like a pro!