Mustang Island, a sandy barrier of dunes and lagoons along the state's central coastline, is only 18 miles long, two miles wide, and all roads lead to the water's edge. Start with a ferry ride to Port Aransas, the island's only town, which hosts a perfect holiday for beach bums. Nearby beach access is at I.B. Magee Beach Park on the town's outskirts. If bumming gets boring, head out for some learning that's been going on since the 1940s at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute and Visitor Center. If you need some action, Mustang Island State Park occupies the island's southern end and boasts five miles of traffic-free sand and surf on the Gulf side and a short channel, called Fish Pass, which makes an easy entry into the kayak-friendly lagoons on the bay side. Explore the town starting with Port Aransas Museum, located in a beautifully restored island "kit house" built in the 1900s that once served as the island's U.S. Coast Guard Station. The Museum, part of the Community Center complex, exhibits photographs, artifacts, and documents chronicling Port Aransas' past.
Known in an earlier century by the names Star, The Pass, Ropesville, and Tarpon (for its excellent tarpon fishing opportunities), the community sheltered around 300 residents by 1870. Port Aransas became the official name in 1911 and the next 100 years brought incremental changes to both town and island. Yet Port Aransas has made headway in maintaining its relaxed, 19th century ambience by preserving its historic architecture, protecting and promoting its natural resources, and reigning in runaway development, thus securing a steady return of faithful tourists and anglers well into the 21st century.