A March 2005 trip
to Rockport by Taylor Shelby
Quote: My sister, a native of Corpus Christi, decided to have her wedding in Rockport. We got to spend a beautiful weekend enjoying this small seaport and its environs.
Since this trip was for my sister's wedding, most of my highlights were related to that. I don't think you will be interested in our rehearsal dinner fiesta (there was a piñata!), but there were a number of highlights that you can enjoy!
Pelican Bay Resort - This place was great. Most of the wedding party stayed there, and we all had a great time. The place is beautiful, the staff is friendly, and it is a lot better than a boring hotel room.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge - This was probably the non-wedding highlight of my trip. From Flamingos to Javelinas, you are not let down by the variety of animals you see. Even hurricane winds couldn't lessen the experience.
Rockport Marinas - Rockport is a fishing village. Most of the tourists are there for that reason, and so are a lot of locals, too. I think that shrimp boats are just about the most nostalgic and picturesque things ever, and there were hundreds of them in the town. I really enjoyed driving along the bay and seeing all the marinas.
Big Jon's Palapa Bar and Grill - Our first dinner for the two families was here, and we had a great time. The food was incredible, the location on a marina was gorgeous, and the people were friendly.
Pack some warm clothes! We watched the weather report, and the forecast was in the upper 70s/low 80s the whole time. What they don't tell you is that there are 30 mph winds raging off the bay and gulf on a constant basis. That wind can be cold. Bring jackets!
Hotel | "Pelican Bay Resort"
The resort has three types of accommodation. Most obvious are the cottages. The cottages have three rooms: a large bedroom, a very large bathroom, and an even larger kitchen/living/dining room. The rooms are surprisingly bright and spacious, probably because of the vaulted ceilings and skylights. They all have full kitchens, complete with dishwashers, which can really help to save money.
The second type of accommodation is the garden mini-suite, which is really just a glorified hotel room. Despite the name, they are large, especially the bathrooms. They all come with microwaves, mini-fridges, and data ports, among other things. The mini-suites are nice because they are right next to the beautiful pool and hot tub, and also the "captain's quarters," or clubhouse.
The third type of accommodation is the Lodge and large house on the property. I'll talk about that in a different post.
The resort has numerous amenities. I already spoke about the pool area, which is landscaped creatively. The clubhouse has a lot of diversions, including a full-size pool table and foozball table, a large common room (great for family board or card games) and a large ice maker, if you need to pack a cooler. This space is available for rentals.
The best thing about the resort is the pier. There is very little waterfront property in the main town of Rockport because there is a road that runs just along the bay. Most of the hotels, etc., are across that road. Pelican Bay does have a long, lighted pier exclusively for their guests. You can go out there and fish or just hang out if you like. They have a long boardwalk, so you don't have to worry about walking in the dirt.
The prices at Pelican Bay are really good. They change depending on the season, so it is best to check with them. The cottages run from $89/night in winter to $149/night in summer. The mini-suites are $79/night in winter and $99/night in summer. Spring and fall have different rates. Most of them are also available on a weekly/monthly rate as well. To check out the other rates, availablity, and see more pictures, you can visit their website here.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 29, 2005
Pelican Bay Resort Inc
4206 N Highway 35
Rockport, Texas 78358
Hotel | "The Lodge at Pelican Bay"
The Lodge is a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house located at the back of the property of Pelican Bay. There is a large kitchen with all the pots/pans/plates/cutlery/etc. you need, a dishwasher, and a laundry area off to the side. There is a small breakfast table in the kitchen area. The living room is very big and has a working fireplace. The two sofas pull out to be two queen-size sleepers. Part of the living room is a dining room with a table big enough for six people--more if you squeeze. There is a large private patio off the back with some big oak trees to give you shade. The patio has a picnic table and three pool lounge chairs.
The bedrooms don't disappoint. The master bedroom is enormous and has two queen-size beds in it. The other bedrooms have two twin beds each. If you add those beds and the sleeper sofas, you could sleep 12 adults (if no one wanted any privacy!). All the bedrooms and the living room have TVs with a good cable selection.
The lodge is a great deal if you have more than one couple staying there or a large family that would need more than one hotel room. Summer rates are $300/night, fall rates are $225/night weekdays, $250/night weekends, and winter rates are $200/night weekdays, $225/night weekends.
The lodge is great for something like a wedding party, because everyone staying at Pelican Bay was able to come over and have lunch with us and just chill out in our large house. It is right next to the pier and the pool, and since it is in the back, it was really quiet most of the time. One bad thing about Pelican Bay is that the airport runway ends right next to the resort, so you hear a lot of little planes. At first, it freaked me out a little, but by the last day, I wasn't even hearing them anymore. If you have a large group, it would be a good idea to look into renting the Lodge.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 29, 2005
We had a small gathering for our two families at Big Jon's Palapa. Instead of going as a group and ordering off the menu, we had a catered party at the restaurant. So I can't really speak about table service, but if it is anything compared to our experience, it will be wonderful.
The restaurant is located on Key Allegro, right on the marina. There is a very large back deck (with a palapa) where they have a bar and some tables. We were there at sunset and it was very beautiful. It was pretty crowded, and everyone seemed to be having a great time.
The food was spectacular. We had quite a spread: boiled shrimp, perfectly cooked (no small feat), grilled grouper, fried oysters, excellent fried mushrooms, Caribbean rice, and grilled quail. Wait, Quail? I know, it sounds weird with all the seafood, but they are "famous" for their quail. It was incredible, too! Make sure to try it. They also had a Mexican Seafood Cocktail, which was like salsa that had avocados and shrimp. It was good, but way too spicy for me - I'm a wuss.
With such great food, such attentive service, and everything running smoothly, it is surprising that Big Jon's just opened. It will probably be perfect once everyone has gotten with the flow, but it is close to it now. This is a really great place to have excellent seafood in a beautiful setting.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 30, 2005
Big Jon's Palapa Bar and Grill
39 Mazatlan Drive
Rockport, Texas 78382
The building seems small, but they manage to squeeze in an impressive amount of information. The first main area is dedicated to the La Salle Odyssey, the story of a French explorer and his ship that sank off the Texas coast in 1684. There was a massive undertaking to excavate the site, and the museum now holds a scale model and some of the really interesting artifacts they found. There is a well-done introduction to the history and science of the archaeology by video. It is broken up into a number of segments, and while all are interesting, the one where they empty out the brain cavity of a body found on the ship made me feel quite seasick.
The museum looks at maritime history in Texas and talks about all the major eras in the long history. After La Salle, they look at the history of fishing, steam power, and the cotton trade. There were a lot of different pictures, examples of paddle-wheelers, and a full-size cotton bale (they're huge!).
After steam power, they go into some of the history of the oil industry. They have some models of oil platforms and ships. The scale model of an offshore platform is very impressive, and a tiny model of the museum in the middle helps to show the massive size of these huge structures.
Upstairs, they have some of the history of pleasure fishing, complete with tackle boxes and fishing poles. You can also access the recreated ship’s bridge, which I thought was great. There were some kids that were having a great time. You can also try out your knot-tying skills in a small kiosk. Mine, sadly, were quite lacking.
At the top of the building, they have a small lighthouse. The views from the top are beautiful. You can look over the Rockport Harbor and out to Key Allegro. They have signs to point out the various sights you can see from up there.
The exterior of the museum has a small shipyard that has some fascinating examples of oil-platform escape capsules. They teach you about the meager rations (2 ounces of water per day) and the lack of toilets (one did have a toilet, however - I guess that's the Mercedes of escape capsules). That would certainly not be fun.
The museum wasn't spectacular, but it did provide some entertainment for a few hours. I was really impressed with the quality of the La Salle Odyssey, and the views were beautiful. If you or your family is interested in seafaring, it would be a good place to go.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 29, 2005
Texas Maritime Museum
1202 Navigation Circle
Rockport, Texas 78382
Aransas Wildlife Refuge is a good 20- to 30-minute drive from Rockport, so you definitely need your own transportation. Unfortunately, the drive isn’t anything special. Since the flowers were blooming, that added a little beauty, but for the most part, it is a lot of vast, barren fields. There were a few tumble-down barns along the way that were pretty in their nostalgia.
The refuge was founded in 1937 and is 70,500 acres of preserved wilderness. It was created to preserve the vanishing wildlife of coastal Texas, an area rich in many species of animals, including almost 400 species of birds. It is probably most famous as the home of the whooping crane, one of the rarest and most endangered animals in the world. In the 1940s, only 16 birds remained, but as of 2004, the population has now grown to 194. That is still low, but they are doing much better. The only wild flock of whooping cranes in the world makes its home in Aransas every summer. They are notoriously elusive, so don’t expect to see one. But you never know - you may get lucky!
Even if you don’t see a crane, I can guarantee you will see some other types of animals. We saw hundreds of birds, even a flock of flamingos! They were resting in the marsh, all standing on one foot with their little pink heads buried under their wings. Flamingos are the sort of animal I can never picture out of a zoo, but I actually saw them on three separate occasions during our trip in Rockport. This place isn’t called "America’s Birdiest" just because they needed a tag line.
There are all sorts of other animals, including alligators (BIG ones), snakes, armadillos, and probably most exciting for me, Javelinas. Javelinas are strange-looking wild pigs with tiny little legs and a bowling-ball body. We saw some crossing the road, and I screamed "JAVELINAS" and jumped out of the car. I was able to take a few pictures before one of them saw me and bristled up. They are little but fierce-looking. I’m not ashamed to say I ran back to the car.
You can find directions, species lists, and rules at the park’s website. I really recommend taking the drive out to Aransas. It was spectacular.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 3, 2005
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
Charleston, South Carolina