Great American Beach Towns
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PORT ARANSAS, TEXAS
The sand: An 18-mile stretch of beaches, marinas, and seafood shacks on the Gulf of Mexico. You'll find "Port A" (pop. 3,300) at the tip of Mustang Island, near Corpus Christi.
Marine life: So you're building a sand castle here? Be prepared for some competition, pal. Port A has its own official Sandcastle Guy, who can whip up intricate turrets, archways, moats, and stairways faster than you can whip out your towel. Lucky for you, Mark Landrum also offers lessons, making the Gulf Coast hideaway a must-sea spot for family bonding. The older kids (or kids at heart) will dig surfing the swells off the town jetty, kiteboarding off the beginner-friendly sandbars, and casting the bays and flats for trophy tuna and tarpon. Fishing tournaments nearly every weekend in July and August add to the competitive spirit, but everybody's chummy over burgers and beers back at the oceanfront Beach Lodge.
The sanctuary: Stash your shovels, sandals, and saltwater tackle at the Tarpon Inn, an 1886 hotel whose 24 rooms have antiques and air conditioning but no phones or TVs.
Tel: 361 749 5555
Doubles from $89
Tel: 361 749 5713
Tel: 361 290 0414