The Texas Gulf Coast offers a wide variety of environments and diversions – different depending on which part of the coast you visit. Galveston’s beaches, for example, are drastically different from the white sandy beaches of South Padre Island. Situated at nearly the center of this horn-shaped stretch of the Texas Gulf Coast is the small town of Rockport.
Historically, Rockport has been thought of as a fishing village, providing easy access to the rich bays and estuaries that are prized destinations among commercial and professional anglers. This bayside community is also a draw for families seeking a less hectic pace of leisure than the college kids flocking to SPI’s beaches.
Capitalizing on the laid-back nature of Rockport, the area is now home to the Lighthouse Inn – a Victorian-inspired boutique hotel that harkens back to a simpler time. The picturesque inn features 78 rooms and suites in a combination of bay-view and courtyard-view accommodations.
The bay side of the hotel provides paved walkways with rocking chairs and chaise lounges, a gazebo and a small lighted fishing pier. (In fact, all rooms include spacious balconies with rocking chairs, perfect for sipping morning coffee before beginning the day.) The lights on the pier are actually situated in the water, creating luminescent pools of green light after dark. It is in these pools of light where the fishing heats up when the sun goes down. Speckled trout go after shrimp and bait fish with abandon, causing the water to bubble with activity. The right angler can hook into a great deal of action, if he plays his cards right.
The courtyard features a swimming pool and hot tub, as well as arbors with patio tables and gas grills for cooking up your own catch of the day or other favorites. Hotel amenities include a fitness center, two large meeting rooms, as well as a lounge and dining room. Guests also may take advantage of a well stocked library.
Although Rockport has the reputation of being a fishing town, the community is growing into a more diverse tourist destination, featuring art galleries, boutiques and museums, as well as other outdoor activities, such as birding and kayaking. Additionally, Rockport Beach is the only certified Blue Wave Beach in the state. This designation, awarded by the not-for-profit Clean Beaches Council, signifies that the beach meets specific criteria for cleanliness, water quality and conservation efforts.
The area also offers a variety of local dining options sure to please every palate. Notable favorites include: The Big Fisherman, a happening seafood eatery, which, until a recent fire, also housed a unique collection of exotic animals; Hu Dat, a Vietnamese café operated by the family of Dat Nguyen of Texas A&M and Dallas Cowboys football fame; and Los Comales, a top-notch Tex-Mex eatery that has reached local fame.
The community also provides easy access to other coastal hot spots, including Port Aransas and Corpus Christi. Just a short drive away, Corpus Christi is home to many family attractions such as the Texas State Aquarium, the retired aircraft carrier USS Lexington and the recently opened Whataburger Field, home to the Corpus Christi Hooks, the double-A farm team for the Houston Astros.
The Texas State Aquarium, which opened in 1990, features an array of marine and aquatic exhibits, showcasing species native to the Texas Gulf Coast and other waters from around the world. You won’t want to miss the jelly fish exhibit – it gives a not-found-in-nature up-close view of these sea beauties. All in all, the Rockport area offers a variety of activities to make any adventure memorable. It’s no wonder that first-timers quickly become regular visitors, returning year after year. H
– Lighthouse Inn, 200 South Fulton Beach Road, Rockport, (866) 790-8439, www.lighthousetexas.com – Big Fisherman, 510 Hwy. 188, (361) 729-1997 – Hu Dat, 61 Broadway St., Fulton, (361) 790-7621 – Los Comales, 431 Hwy. 35 South, (361) 729-3952 – Texas State Aquarium, 2710 North Shoreline, Corpus Christi, (361) 881-1210