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Passport to Port A

Getting There
Port Aransas is a six- to seven-hour haul from Dallas-Fort Worth, plus a ferry ride. Pro tip: If you want to skip the ferry ride until your brood has had some rest, take Interstate 35 south to Interstate 410 south, right before San Antonio, then merge onto Interstate 37 toward Corpus Christi and drive up to Port A from the south.

Break up your trip with a pit stop just south of Hillsboro at the rest area with air-conditioned restrooms and a playground for restless kiddos. Or stop at Inner Space Cavern just off Interstate 35 in Georgetown, where you can explore a huge natural cave. Tours start every 20–30 minutes and last 1 ½ hours; $20.95 per adult, $12.95 for children and free for ages 3 and younger.

Before you go, download the new Visit Port Aransas & Mustang Island mobile app to see upcoming events and create a customized itinerary.

What to Do
Hop on the free ferry that connects Mustang Island to Aransas Pass. During your 10-minute trip, be on the lookout for dolphins; the ferry ride is one of the best places to spot them.

No luck? Book a 1 ½-hour tour with The Scarlet Lady for wild dolphin and sea bird sightings as you cruise through the Lydia Ann Channel. Tours depart three times a day; book online in advance. $33 adults; $27 kids younger than 12; free for kids younger than 2.

Sail the seas scallywag-style with Red Dragon Pirate Cruises. Aboard the bright red pirate ship complete with sails and a crow’s nest, the pirate crew tells stories, engages in water gun battles and fires off cannons (OK, not real cannons, but the computer-programmed audio and visual effects are pretty convincing). The ship departs twice a day for a 2 ½-hour tour; book online or by phone.

Once you’re back on dry land, visit Bron’s Beach Carts to rent sand-friendly transportation — the four- or six-passenger golf carts, which start at $25 for one hour, make it easier to cruise around the island, plus the kids will love the feeling of the salty wind in their hair.

Drive your buggy beyond the rolling sand dunes to I.B. Magee Beach Park and Horace Caldwell Pier — no matter where you are on the small island, you’re never more than five minutes away from this wide beach with restrooms and ocean-side picnic tables. For $2 per rod, you can rent poles at the pier, then journey down to the popular south jetty to see if any fish are nibbling.

Take a break from the water to window-shop the beachy storefronts along Alister Street, including Destination Beach & Surf, where the kiddos walk in through the mouth of a massive fake shark. (Don’t forget to take a picture!)

Where to Eat
Find an eclectic island-style menu at Irie’s Island Food, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Alister. They don’t have a kids menu, but the grilled cheese on Texas toast and bean and cheese tacos on housemade tortillas satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. Moby Dick’s, a local favorite, boasts a gift shop, Tiki bar and a lengthy menu of fresh-caught seafood — they’ll even cook fish you’ve caught and cleaned yourself.

There are plenty of hotels on Mustang Island, but the only way to go is to rent a beach house — or a waterfront condo, yurt or houseboat. Check out HomeAway or Airbnb for listings. Prices vary, but expect to pay at least $185 per night for a houseboat, $275 for a waterfront condo or $95 for a yurt.