For a truly memorable experience in this quaint seaside village, stay at the charming Tarpon Inn (200 E. Cotter Ave., 361/749-5555, www.thetarponinn.com , rooms range from $69 to $150 depending on size and season). An “inn” in every sense of the term, this historic establishment offers a slice of life in the late 1800s. In fact, it’s so authentic, you won’t even find a TV (or phone!) in your room. Fortunately, Wi-Fi service is available, so if you prefer, you can get online and avoid doing old-fashioned things like reading a book, relaxing in a rocking chair, playing croquet and horseshoes, or even talking. The rooms are small, but the lack of stuff in them—vintage beds and furniture notwithstanding—is imminently refreshing. Be sure to check out the old tarpon fish scales on the wall in the lobby, including those autographed by famous actors and politicians. The trolley stops out front every day to take guests to the beach or nearby shops.
Not quite as charming yet just as appealing in its local-ness is Alister Square Inn (122 S. Alister St., 361/749-3000, www.portaransas-texas.com , rates range $90–189). Though it’s a bit rough around the edges, this welcoming accommodation appeals to families and fishermen alike with its various lodging options (two-bedroom apartments, kitchenette suites, and standard hotel rooms), each featuring microwaves, refrigerators, and wireless Internet access. Alister Square is within walking distance of the beach, shopping boutiques, and restaurants.
In Port Aransas , visitors have to pay more for the comfort of a familiar chain hotel than a local inn. Among the corporate options are Best Western Ocean Villa (400 E. Avenue G, 361/749-3010, www.bestwestern.com , $159 d), located within walking distance of beaches, fishing piers, and local shops. Amenities include rooms with microwaves, refrigerators, and Internet access along with a free continental breakfast and an outdoor swimming pool.
Closer to the beach (just a couple blocks away) is the Holiday Inn Express (727 S. 11th St., 361/749-5222, www.ichotelsgroup.com , $170 d) offering a fitness center, a pool and spa area, a free continental breakfast, and rooms with microwaves, refrigerators, and Internet access.
Condos proliferate Mustang Island ’s shoreline like barnacles on a shrimp boat. Albeit really nice barnacles. Condos make perfect sense in a beach environment—visitors can traipse back and forth between the surf and their temporary home, sand gathers guiltlessly on all surfaces, and beers and pizza fill the fridge.
Perhaps most popular among the dozen or so options is Beachgate CondoSuites & Motel (2000 On the Beach Dr., 361/749-5900, www.beachgate.com , rooms range from $40–300 depending on size and season). Situated adjacent to the sandy shores of Mustang Island —meaning boardwalks or long trails through the dunes aren’t necessary—Beachgate offers everything from efficiency-sized motel rooms to full-sized three-bedroom condos, accommodating everyone from the solo fisherman to the sizable family reunion. Larger options contain fully equipped kitchens, and all units have small refrigerators, microwaves, and coffee makers. Additional amenities include a fish-cleaning facility, boat parking, and washers and horseshoe sets for fun on the beach.
Another commendable option is the Sand Castle Condominium (800 Sandcastle Dr., 361/749-6201, www.portaransas-texas.com , $95–295) offering 180 units (efficiencies, one, two, or three bedrooms) with complete kitchens and laundry and maid service. The Sand Castle also features a fitness center, large outdoor pool and hot tub, a boardwalk to the beach, and a fish-cleaning facility.
Also drawing hordes of regulars is La Mirage (5973 Hwy. 361, 361/749-6030, www.lamirage-portaransas.com , $90–320) with clean and comfortable units in a three-story building surrounding a tropical courtyard. Options include studio efficiencies, one, two, or three bedroom condos, each offering fully equipped kitchens, free Internet access, a laundry room, and living and dining areas.