Mustang_Island_beachTexas isn’t renowned for its beaches which is a shame. Much of the state runs along the Gulf Coast which means there are plenty of beaches to relax upon. In addition to Galveston, many Texans road trip to Mustang Island on which you will find the towns of Port Aransas and Corpus Christi. Mustang Island is not a party hot spot, although there are popular bars. Instead, its a place to go if you love the beach, like to relax and watch the birds, and just want to take a time out from your everyday life.

Cinnamon_Shore_BeachWhat To Do
There are lots of places to visit on Mustang Island. The number one must do is a visit to Mustang Island State Park. I always try to support State and National Parks and Forests. These places are usually free or can be accessed for a small fee and allow all of us to experience nature no matter our economic situation. Mustang Island State Park is no different. It is made up of an extremely long stretch of beach (perfect for children who like to run and explore), sand dunes and camping areas. There are an enormous variety of shells to collect and washed up marine life to identify. In addition, an amazing assortment of birds fly overhead, run along the beach and nip in and out of the ocean looking for food. Mustang Island has one of the highest bird counts on the Gulf Coast and you will see lots on interesting birds at the Park, any beach and any of the bird watching sites around the island. Our favorite sight was seeing a wedge of brown pelicans flying overhead. Admission to the Park is $4 per person per day. Children under 12 are free. Camping rates run from $8 to $16 per night. For more information visit http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/mustang_island/.

Port Aransas has a small downtown that is filled with restaurants and shops. One notable for me was Winton’s Candies which makes and sells fudge and caramels. Downtown isn’t too far from the beach so it’s possible to eat and then go for an after meal stroll. Corpus Christi is bigger than Port Aransas and you can visit the Texas State Aquarium which is small but has many hands on exhibits. Both towns also have festivals, many occurring during the summer.  My family visited during Sand Festival which focuses on a massive sand building competition. There were lots of people, little parking, and overflowing restaurants. Although, we heard that the sand sculptures were impressive, we were staying as guests of Cinnamon Shore and decided forego the crowds in favor of yet another walk on the beach and a quiet dinner.

Cinnamon_ShoreWhere To Stay 
We stayed as guests of Cinnamon Shore, a traditional seaside village in Port Aransas and only 5 minutes from its downtown (about 25 minutes from Corpus Christi).  It’s one of the newer developments in the area and is very child friendly. Rentals start at around $450 per night. However, for that price you will receive at least a three bedroom, three bath house (our third bedroom had a very comfortable pull out couch). The home we stayed in also had two porches and two large terraces, one with a view of the Gulf. We ate dinner on the backyard terrace but did not take advantage of the BBQ the staff had provided for us. Factoring in the large combined living and dining area and the two televisions, the home could have comfortably accommodated at least six people, even six people who like a little privacy. Cinnamon Shore is filled with beautiful homes, neat streets, parks and a pool (soon to be two pools). The village also offers a beautiful private beach. Chairs and umbrellas are found in a hut located at the base of the bridge that crosses over the Cinnamon_Shore_Bridgesand dunes. Bikes are available for all ages (my three year old received a tricycle) and you can also rent fishing poles so that you can take advantage of the fully stocked lake. It was such a lovely place that my husband and I were tempted to spend our entire time, sleeping in, wandering over to the beach, returning home for a nap and food, and then simply rambling around the village. For more information visit the Cinnamon Shore website.

How to Get There
There are not many ways to get to Mustang Island. You can fly into Corpus Christi or another regional airport. We drove from the Houston area and arrived in about four hours. We would have arrived in little over three hours, HOWEVER, we had an hour wait for the ferry. Every other aspect of a trip to Musrtang Island is extremely child friendly except the ferry wait. It goes extremely slowly and can extend well over an hour during holidays, summer weekends or festival weekends. Bring lots of snacks and diversions for your children. You cannot get out of the car, so you really have to make the best of it. My son was truly a champ but I think if he was just a little more tired we could have had a real meltdown. The actual ferry ride is only a few minutes long so once you board, it won’t take you long to reach your destination. You can also drive a bit further and cross over at a bridge near Corpus Christi. Depending on the wait at the ferry, both options net out to be about the same length of time. On a holiday or festival weekend, I recommend the longer drive.

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