Port A is not only an island beach paradise for everyone, it’s a history buff’s island paradise, too. Many of the island’s structures have been around since the 1800s and have served many purposes throughout the area’s growth. While you’re soaking in all that history, make sure to spend some time soaking in the sun and surf at the beach, and experiencing the many other activities the historic landmarks in Port Aransas has to offer.
Port Aransas Museum
You’ll likely make the museum one of the first stops on your history tour, just to get the basics. A myriad of permanent and temporary exhibits provide a wealth of information about what shaped the town into what it has become today. The 1900s “kit house” that hosts the museum is located at 400 N. Alister. It is open Thursday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m., for tours given by local volunteers. Admission is free, and donations are appreciated.
The Tarpon Inn
Constructed of surplus lumber from Civil War barracks in 1886, the inn was originally used to house workers constructing the Mansfield Jetty. After the jetty was complete, the building became a hotel. A major hurricane and tidal wave in 1919 caused damage to the structure, and it was rebuilt with reinforcements against future damage. Since rebuilding, it has been used as a headquarters for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and several military units, as well as shelter area residents during disasters. The inn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and is a Texas Historic Landmark. The inn has a restaurant, 24 active guest rooms, and an event space.
WWII Coastal Defenses at Aransas Pass
A picture-worthy historic marker on the island marks the World War II Coastal Defenses of Port A. The U.S. entered the war in 1941 after the historic December attack on Pearl Harbor, and the war department created the Southern Defense Command (SDC) as part of the war department’s national defense system. The SDC spans the southern U.S. coastline from North Carolina to Brownsville, TX, which includes the Port A area. The Port Aransas base hosted a temporary field artillery battery for the 2nd Infantry Division, featuring 105mm Howitzers.
Aransas Pass, C.S.A.
While much of Port A’s history can be seen in the form of beautiful and historic structures, just getting here is its own historic marker, so make sure to get a picture at the official Aransas Pass historic marker. The marker details facts, including that the pass is a natural inlet to Aransas Bay separating San Jose and Mustang Islands, and its various uses during the Civil War and beyond.
Chapel on the Dunes
The historic 1930s church was built by former Texas poet laureate Aline Carter. Inside, you’ll take in the beautiful alter and tile work that is based on drawings designed by Carter herself. The church no longer holds regular religious services, but locals and visitors can tour the building and grounds during tours organized by the Port Aransas Museum. The property also hosts special events, including weddings.
Farley’s Historic Boat Shop
Farley Boat Works remains the premier boat builder in Port A, and they still specialize in the tarpon fishing boats that gave them their start. The first tarpon fishing boats built by bothers Barney and Fred Farley established Farley and Son Boat Works in 1914, with the first boat launched off the shores of Port A in 1915. The business eventually included Fred’s three sons and expanded to include speed boats, cabin boats, and corporate vessels. The “living exhibit” can be visited at 716 W. Avenue C, where you can see current workers building more boats.
Lydia Ann Lighthouse
Built in 1857, after the area’s trade through Aransas Pass began booming, the Lydia Ann Lighthouse, also known as the Aransas Pass Light Station, is not accessible by road. The towering light was one of the original Texas stations of the Lighthouse Service and is the second oldest on the Texas coast. The light is not accessible by land, so majestic pictures of the historic structure can only be snapped from the water, or nearby Roberts Point Park.
Mexican War Fort
In 1845, General Zachary Taylor placed artillery on Mustang Island, which was recorded as Mustang Island Fort at the time, to prevent enemy forces from coming through Aransas Pass in attempt to neutralize the San Jose Island supply depot. The fort was again utilized throughout the Civil War as war supplies were transported via Aransas Pass.
Historic Journey Through Port A
While you plot your course to all the must-see historic landmarks in Port Aransas, make sure to book a stay in a vacation rental with The Dunes. We offer efficiency units all the way up to three-bedroom units for you and all your favorite history buffs to explore the island’s roots together. In fact, the site of the property could also be considered historic, too – it was first a nightclub and restaurant before it was sold to make way for our property. Stretch out in an open living space after a long day of historic touring fun or create a delicious home-cooked meal in the fully equipped kitchen. Drift off to sleep in private bedrooms in anticipation of another day of fun history exploration.
Contact us today to make your dreams of a trip through history and Port A into reality!