My almost 3-year-old, Jack, asked me a few weeks ago to come sit with him and have a picnic. He got the blanket, his toys, and told me we were at the beach. When he rolled off of the blanket, laid on his tummy, and pretended to swim while proclaiming, Look Momma! I’m at the beach and swimming in the waves!, guilt set in. We tried to organize a summer trip to some type of coastal community, but schedules, work, and life got in the way of our plans. It was at this moment that I announced to my husband that we were taking this kid to the beach, mainly because it was so pitiful to watch him “swim” on our kitchen floor. As it turns out, I was able to throw together a quick getaway for our family of three that was affordable, fun, and a much needed break from reality.
Finding Beauty on the Texas Coast
I’m the first to admit it: I’m a beach snob. I grew up a three hour drive from the Florida Gulf Coast, so my mental images of what the beach should look like include sugar white sand and beautiful green water. I was a bit shocked the first time I visited the Texas Coast, but had been warned to
lower my standards not expect it to look like Perdido Key, where my family spent time during the hot summer months. Given travel restraints and the two-week time frame I had to make plans, I took to the internet to learn a little bit more about the beaches to the south of San Antonio. I had visited a few towns, but wanted to find somewhere that Jack could play in the sand and we could actually swim in the water. After coming across the Rockport Beach website, I recalled a trip there pre-kids and remembered it being really nice. I was intrigued to learn that Rockport is one of the only Texas beach that is certified as by the Clean Beaches Council based out of Washington, D.C., which monitors the cleanliness and overall quality of American beaches. Rockport is also the first Texas beach to qualify as a Blue Wave Beach, which means that it meets standards set for a well-kept and environmentally friendly beach. To top it off, Rockport is a reasonably short drive (161 miles) from San Antonio, so our destination was set.
Where to Stay?
Once again, the internet is a glorious thing for planning travel. I knew that it would be better for us to stay in a condo than a hotel, given the amount of stuff that we would likely schlep (which we did) down to the coast with us and that I didn’t want to dine out for every meal. Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) is a fantastic resource when looking for places to stay that meet the needs of your family. I was able to find a few different condo rentals and, after a few emails with the owner, I secured a reasonably priced condo on Aransas Pass for two nights. One thing I suggest if you use this site is to read through the reviews. These can be very telling with truthful reports from recent visitors to the rental property. One condo looked great in the pictures but the review said, “Problems with the air conditioner.” That could have been a big problem for us, given that the temperature reached close to 100 when we were down there, and that sea breeze can only carry you so far.
A Day at the Beach
My husband and I knew it was going to be a great day when Jack ran into our room at 7am yelling, “Mommy! Daddy! It’s time to go to the beach!” Rockport Beach is one mile long and is essentially a big park. Located on Aransas Bay, there are pavilions, playgrounds, and lots of picnic tables and umbrellas that are first come, first serve. If you drive, the admission fee is $5 for one day or $15 for an annual pass, but if you enter on foot or by bike, there is no cost. We got there early and ventured down to the Salt Water Pool, which is a roped off area on Little Bay that is perfect for little ones because the water is calm. Unfortunately, there were lots of jellyfish in this area, so we settled on the bigger beach right near the main pavilion. There were very few other visitors because it was the off-season, so we found our “spot” and started beaching it. Jack loved making sandcastles, playing in the water, and swimming with us. It’s a very shallow beach that is great for wading, so you have to go quite far out to get fully submerged. I left the boys to do boy things for a little bit and took a nice walk along the beach. When it was time to go back to the condo, we were met with resistance from our young man because he was having so much fun. A true sign of success!
Rockport is organized well with a strip of restaurants and shops along the water, as well as a bigger highway with modern conveniences like HEB and Wal-mart. The first night got there late and had dinner at Charlotte Plummer’s. We definitely had the youngest diner in the restaurant, but the staff was friendly and the food was good. The price was right and my husband and I ordered Grilled Shrimp Po-Boys, which isn’t as common as the more popular fried version (which we ate the next night). I was treated to sleeping in on Saturday morning when Steven and Jack went out to get donuts from the Rockport Bakery. We didn’t do much research for our dinner establishment on Saturday evening, so we tried The Chartroom. This lovely restaurant has great ambiance and outdoor seating area, but wasn’t the best call for dining with a very tired toddler. We each had a drink, ordered an appetizer, and walked Jack up and down the slips to look at the big boats. At the suggestion of our waiter (who looked slightly relieved that we wouldn’t be staying for a full dinner and I do not blame her), we headed over to Moondog. This was a little bit more our speed and we had a great time sitting outside watching the boats. On our way out of town on Sunday, we stopped at JJ’s Little Bay Cafe for a yummy breakfast. All in all, we had a great time eating our way through Rockport and enjoying all of the local restaurants.
This particular trip to Rockport was beach-centric, but there are lots of other fun things to do while down there. Just a few of the places I would like to visit on our next trip include: The Rockport Aquarium, The Texas Maritime Museum, The Rockport Center for the Arts, and Goose Island State Park with The Big Tree.
If you are planning to head to this area, check out this website for 51 fun ideas of things to do from the Rockport Chamber of Commerce. Make sure to also look at TripAdvisor too. This site was helpful the day we went to the beach in warning us that there would be jelly fish.
Things I Would Do Differently
The main thing I would change about this trip is that I would have encouraged myself and my husband to take half a day off of work. We didn’t get down to Rockport until after 8:00pm and it would have been fun to have another afternoon as a family at the beach. I also would consider buying food down there and preparing it in the condo if we were with another family or with more children. We are a small family so eating out isn’t quite as an expensive, but this aspect could definitely drive the price up.
All in all, this non-Texas native had a great time and would recommend it to other moms looking for a quick and easy family getaway!
Where do you like to go to get out of town with your family? Comment below![hr]
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My family has used VRBO numerous times for multiple trips to Port Aransas, a trip to Santa Fe and a trip to Cape Cod. Lindsay is right that it’s helpful to read the reviews. We’ve never been disappointed and given that we’re a family of four when we travel all together, it’s hands-down the least expensive way to travel with accommodations that typically can’t be beat (especially when it comes to size and the number of rooms)! One thing to note, is check to see what you need to provide as linens for beds, towels, and kitchen supplies are not always provided. And confirm what the “clean-up” policy is. Some rentals will provide everything you need, some may require that you replenish what you use, and others provide housekeeping after your departure.
Love this post! I lived vicariously through you, and now I’m scheming ways to dupe my hubby into splurging on a fall vacation to Rockport… 🙂 Also, Jack-a-roo’s face in the family photo is PERFECT. XOXO
The relatively “new” Rockport beach (there was no such thing when I was a kid) is so great for kids your son’s age. Rockport is also great for fishing and crabbing with little ones. When we were kids in Rockport, a raw chicken leg tied on a string to catch crabs provided hours of entertainment. 🙂
When he gets a little older and is ready for some bigger waves, head over to Port A. I have never missed a beach season in Port A since I was 5 and we now take our kids there every summer, even this summer when we had already gone to a very nice beach in Mexico (yes, you have to “lower your standards here in Texas”). Nothing replaces the short drive to our beach as an annual tradition. Sounds like you have a beach bum in the making!
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