While most Texans favor places like Galveston and South Padre Island for their Texas beach trips, we have always preferred Port Aransas, which is more laid back and relaxed. Port Aransas is a small town of fewer than 4,000 souls on the north end of Mustang Island, which is just north of Padre Island.
|From San Angelo to Port Aransas, a journey of 384 miles|
We began our trip by taking our customary route from San Angelo to I-10 in Junction, Texas (see "Southern Hill Country Tip, 2012"). We then followed I-10 for a brief distance to Kerrville, where we took Texas 173 south. This is true Hill Country terrain, with high, pronounced hills, winding roads, and frequent small creeks, often shaded by cypress trees. We passed through the small town of Bandera, the self professed "Cowboy Capital of the World". The Medina River runs through the southern edge of this small, interesting town, which has really grown since the last time we were here several years ago. The hills stayed with us as we continued south on 173. About halfway to Hondo, roughly at the county line, the hills finally gave away and we entered the South Texas brush country.
The terrain pretty much remained the same as we passed first through Hondo, then Devine, then finally Jourdanton, all small towns. At Jourdanton, we turned east on Texas 97 for a short leg to Pleasanton, where we would pick up US 281. Jourdanton has fewer than 4,000 people and Pleasanton fewer than 10,000, so I was surprised at the buildup of businesses along Texas 97 between these two neighboring communities. I would have thought I was in a more heavily populated area. I guess there is an oil boom in the area as I did see numerous oil-field related vehicles. There are plenty of places to eat and numerous lodging opportunities on this stretch of road.
At Pleasanton, we turned south on US 281 for a few miles before joining I-37, which goes to Corpus Christ. We stayed on I-37 to just south of Mathis, where we exited to pick up Texas 188. Just before our exit, we noticed a sign indicating the wait time for the ferry we would later be using to reach Mustang Island. At this time, the wait was 15 minutes.
Almost as soon as we headed east on Texas 188, the countryside changed from brush country to farm land. I saw numerous fields of corn, some as tall as knee-high, as well as some young shoots of cotton. Almost all the land was being farmed until we reached Sinton. We passed through Sinton and picked up US 181 on the east side of town for a brief leg to nearby Gregory. We just grazed the north side of Gregory as we picked up Texas 361 on the east side of town. We followed 361 east through Ingleside, then curved north to Aransas Pass before turning east again to head to the ferry across a series of small islands and one small causeway across Redfish Bay.
The wait at the ferry was very brief, less than the 15 minutes posted. The ride across the Intracoastal Waterway was short, just long enough for us to step out, snap a few pictures, then get back in our car. The ferry employees do a great job of working traffic onto the ferry and then taking the riders across. I believe there are 4 moorings per side; I'm not sure how many ferries are actually working.
As soon as we docked on the island, the ramps were lowered and the traffic departed the ferry. As soon as we left the ferry landing, we passed through the traffic light and stopped almost immediately at the Visitor Center to pick up information to plan our stay on the island.