Port Aransas is a longtime favorite for anyone wanting to enjoy the Texas coastline, but it also has some wonderful places to relax, take a hike, and do some bird-watching. Between state parks and nature preserves there’s a little something for everyone. So start planning for your next trip and check out these 5 amazing spots to enjoy nature in Port Aransas.
Mustang Island State Park
Mustang Island state park is the easy option. Just south of the main part of town you can get out on your kayak and paddle around on the bayside, or grab your tent or RV and do some camping on the beach side of the park. This place is a great opportunity to get away from some of the bigger crowds you’ll find on the main part of the Port Aransas beach. Check out the full recap here.
Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture
This was a fun discovery chasing the sunset during the pandemic. Tucked away behind the main road Charlie’s Pasture is “1,217 acres of upland, tidal flat, marsh, wooded, and estuarine habitats that support diverse plant and animal life”. Also according to the Port Aransas website, Charlie’s Pasture represents one of the few contiguous tracts of undeveloped land in any coastal plain that has been preserved for environmental, ecological, and historical purposes. Located within the city limits, the Preserve is a safe haven for wildlife that has succumbed to the pressures of habitat loss and development. Migrating and resident shorebirds, waterfowl, and songbirds were a large driving force behind the conservation of this land and thus are valuable to the ecotourism economy of Port Aransas.
There are two entrances to the preserve, but recommend following the ship channel around on Port street. Stay up to date with the recent updates as some of the trails can be closed.
Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond
Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond is a 2-acre park that is perfect for enjoying the wildlife, so be sure to grab your binoculars to admire some of the birds that make a visit.
Still in recovery mode from Hurricaine Harvey, this park is still a work in progress as the communities pushes forward to restore its natural state. The website mentions the following efforts taking place:
- 75% of the site was covered in invasive Brazilian pepper tree and Chinese tallow trees.
- Hurricane Harvey’s strong winds and surge of salt water killed many of the native black willow treses.
- Remove invasive trees and vegetation.
- Restore tree canopy and under-story around perimeter of pond.
- Replant native plants to increase the biodiversity of the site and provide a variety of nutritious food sources for birds.
Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center
You may be sensing a theme now. Port Aransas has a handful of amazing nature centers and conservation lands that are perfect for admiring the birds in the area, but Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center is one of the most popular in the area.
One of the reasons for this is the 750-foot boardwalk that gives visitors plenty of space to admire the view and catch a sight of a coastal bird that may be flying by. The boardwalk extends over the salt marsh, so the flora and fauna are a sight if you’re new to exploring the Texas coastline.
Padre Island National Seashore
PINS is one of the best areas to explore the Texas coastline if you want to get a feel for what this area was like before it became a tourist destination. You can read more about this place here.
This is a national seashore so it comes with some national park expectations. There is a full barrage of information about this park either in interpretive signs you’ll see as you drive through the park, or in the multitude of information you’ll gather from around the visitor’s center.
Speaking of… the visitor’s center has plenty of room to move around on the wooden sun deck that features showers, rinsing stations, covered areas to picnic, and an art exhibit made from trash found in the area.
If you’re feeling adventurous you can take your 4X4 on 60 miles of pristine coastline and do some primitive camping. It’s also a top spot for fishing either on the ocean side or bay side. On the bayside you’ll find additional camping and windsurfing opportunities.
Bonus location! Packery Flats Coastal Habitat
Packery Flats, as the name implies, is a coastal habitat funded by U.S. Fish & Wildlife, and many more organizations wanting to protect these natural habitats to ensure the wildlife have a healthy ecosystem to flourish.
With over 1,000 acres to explore, this land provides space for different species of birds like shorebirds and wading birds. And according to the park sign, the land is affected by coastal tides changing water flow and bringing in different snacks for the different birds to enjoy.
Hike along the 1/4 mile pathway, but know that with the varying conditions you may get a little muddy.
Learn more about the Packery Flats Coastal Habitat here.