Any Texas beach bum worth his or her sea salt can spend an entire day doing pretty much nothing at the beach, particularly along the shores of Mustang Island. But sooner or later it's time to wash the sand out of your hair, the salt off your skin, and the day dreams out of your eyes. So where have vacationing beach bums throughout Mustang history been spending their nights over the last 100 years? The historic Tarpon Inn in Port Aransas, of course. The Tarpon, originally built in 1886 out of surplus lumber from Civil War barracks, first served as housing for workers constructing the Mansfield Jetty. With the jetty in place, the Tarpon turned its attention to the hotel business. Remarkably, the Inn has suffered severe hurricane damage only once—during the 1919 disaster. The main building, rebuilt and reinforced with concrete and pilings that extend deep underground and all the way through the attic, has since served as headquarters for the Red Cross and Salvation Army during subsequent hurricanes. The waters off the Mustang Island coastline harbored record tarpon during the species' heyday and, as a result, the Tarpon Inn became a sport fishing capital for much of the 20th century. Tarpon scales are two to three inches across, making them big enough to write on, and, as a consequence, the Inn made a practice over the years to collect autographed scales from tarpons caught by their guests (including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt). The Tarpon Inn lobby walls are now covered with over 7,000 autographed tarpon scales. Not bad for a century's catch.
As you come off the ferry from Aransas Pass (SH 361), we're on the right just past the second light. Driving in from Corpus Christi on Park Road 53 (SH 361) up Mustang Island, turn right at the second light, which is E Cotter Avenue.