By: Kirby Conda Tello & Kylie Cooper Photos by: Rachel Benavides, Jason Page, Lillian Reitz, Maude Cote Davis, Danny Batista, Megan Biggs, and Jason Risner
The past year has felt nothing short of stagnant. But at last, there’s hope on the horizon – and to shake out all the cobwebs and get you out and about to enjoy some rest and relaxation, you decide to book a small getaway not too far from home. After all, living on the coast means having a ready-made vacation in your own backyard. The thing is, the experience of the city on a day-to-day basis is completely different from exploring it like a tourist.
So, just as a tourist might turn to a guide to help plan their stay, you’ve come to the right place to get a snapshot of what a carefree weekend staycation looks like in the Coastal Bend. Whether you’re packing up the whole family, longing to reconnect with your significant other, looking for quality me-time, or just have a single day to spare, we’re breaking down the ideal staycation for all your inner travel bug’s desires.
It’s a sunny Saturday morning and you suddenly find yourself with an itch to get out and experience something new. Maybe you don’t have time for a full weekend getaway, but the travel bug is real and has made its presence known. The perfect solution? A daycation. Start a group chat with your closest friends or hit the road solo. Regardless of the number of passengers in the car, we’re headed to Rockport for the day.
Once you’ve made it into town, a pit stop at Rockport Daily Grind is first on our list. The local coffee shop packs all the personality of this coastal town and serves caffeinated goodness via locally-roasted beans. Owned by Michell Mock-McMahon, this spot also offers small bites to help in your fueling process.
What would a daycation be without at least an hour spent basking in the sun at the beach? You guessed it, we’re heading to Rockport Beach, Blue Wave certified as clean, healthy, and environmentally well managed by the Clean Beaches Coalition. But first, a fully-stocked beach bag is a must. Deidra Ciriello and her husband Lowell Rothschild own Italian Cowboy Food and Provisions in Rockport, a modern Italian market specializing in Italian wines, cheese, antipasti, imported and domestic artisanal pantry provisions, and more. Grab all the makings for a delightful beach picnic and then head out!
You’ve gotten a good amount of UV rays, and around 2 PM or so, the afternoon slump begins to settle in. That’s where craft coffee house and beer pub Quirky Birds Coffee Bar comes into play. Whether your mid-day pick-me-up comes in the form of java or alcohol, they’ve got you covered before moving on to the rest of your daycation fun.
Now, you’re prepped and ready to explore Rockport’s main attraction: arts and culture. The rest of the day is dedicated to browsing museums and galleries in this quaint beach town nationally known for its arts community. Our tour begins with the Rockport Center for the Arts, the hub for all things arts and culture in town. Throughout the month of May, you’ll find exhibitions such as Richard W. James and Jimi Kabela and Earthborn: Impressions of our Natural World & Ben McVey.
The Art Loop, an Austin Street corridor home to many of the area’s art galleries, will guide you in the right direction when it comes to obtaining the full experience of the best art colony of the Gulf Coast – it contains galleries such as Wind Way Gallery, Anita Diebel Studio, Elisa Baker Art, and Coast Modern.
Now that you’ve gotten your fill on all things visually creative, you notice your stomach is rumbling a bit. Luckily for you and this epic daycation, Rockport has a slew of local eateries perfect for any cravings. But first, ramble on down to Winery on the Bay for a little pre-dinner glass. This boutique winery takes juice from vineyards around the world and blends, ferments, filters, bottles, and labels the wine right here in the Coastal Bend.
Now, if you’re looking for an elevated dining experience, we suggest making reservations at Latitude 28’02’ Restaurant & Art Gallery (P.S. More local art can be found here). Latitude, owned by husband and wife team Craig and Ramona Day, provides a contemporary dining experience. Specializing in fresh, local seafood, it has come to be known as a culinary gem and favorite watering hole among the locals.
The sun has set and your daycation is, sadly, coming to an end. Fortunately, you’ve managed to pack a whole weekend’s worth of activities into this lovely Saturday, and hopefully are returning home feeling rejuvenated.
The Romantic Getaway
For the past year or so, creating a special moment between you and your partner has probably looked something like moving the location for dinner from the couch to the actual dining room table, or changing out of sweats and putting on shoes for a date night in the backyard under the string lights you just put up. While a place in our hearts has been carved out for those special moments, it’s Friday afternoon and the idea of stepping outside your zip code has become top of mind. Luckily, the makings of a romantic getaway are calling your name – and they happen to be just under an hour away.
Your bags are packed, and the destination plugged into the GPS is Sunflower Beach Resort & Residences. Just a short golf-cart ride from the center of Port Aransas, a picturesque escape to the beach nears. Sunflower Beach features a modern design style with coastal elements for a luxury vacation experience.
If you wanted, you could spend the entirety of the weekend within the resort’s perimeter. From surfing lessons and a beach concierge to dining selections and bike rentals, the options are endless. Oh, and there are separate adult and family pools … a detail that makes this spot ideal for a dreamy weekend away. Check into your rental and settle in; the weekend awaits.
On this romantic getaway, reconnecting with your significant other is top priority. While life seemingly never slows down, time becomes nothing but a construct within the grounds of Balinese Wellness Spa. This adults-only property operates as a true sanctuary in the heart of Port A. Book a hot stone massage and hydration/calming facial to replenish the body and get in the right state of mind for the remainder of the weekend.
After the much-needed spa experience, we’re heading into Padre Island for a unique beach experience. First, arrive at JP Luby Beach to a surprise picnic completely ready for you to savor. Pretty Picnics Corpus Christi is a local service dedicated to styling Instagram-worthy picnic setups for life’s special moments. Because one of you so thoughtfully planned ahead, blankets, pillows, a picnic table, and all the essentials for a beautiful lunch on the beach are calling your name. We recommend booking the “Sweetheart” package for this occasion.
This charming beach experience isn’t quite over yet, because an afternoon stroll atop a horse along the coastline is up next. Thanks to local business Horses on the Beach Corpus Christi, it’s a scene straight from a rom-com, complete with breathtaking views and holding hands while horseback riding.
Now, head back into Port Aransas for a proper date night – sans your dining room table and sweats. For dinner, we’re choosing The Phoenix Restaurant & Bar, which sits on one of the island’s most postcard-worthy marinas. No joke, the best view of the sunset is on their outdoor seating area. This fine dining island favorite is the passion project of Chef Tiana Worsham and her wife, Vanessa, and they’re sure to cook you up something you’ll never forget.
After-dinner drinks are a must come date night, and Lelo’s Island Bar has an excellent selection of signature tiki drinks. This is an island getaway, after all, and nothing says romance on the beach like sipping out of a shell or tiki mug under the stars. Lelo’s is a staple for Port Aransas locals and visitors alike.
The sun is setting on your perfect weekend getaway, and while there’s always a bit of post-vacation sadness, the good news is you never even left the Coastal Bend … which means your staycation escape can be easily recreated as needed.
The Family Excursion
It’s Friday afternoon and you’re waiting for the proverbial bell to ring to start the weekend. Excited is an understatement; the kids are bubbling over the top knowing your weekend away is near. Just after dusk, the family arrives at Cinnamon Shore. One of the most popular luxury rentals in Port Aransas, this beach community is designed to help families relax, spend time together, and make new memories. Ease into the evening with a slice of New York-style pizza from Dylan’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, located onsite, and prepare to cozy up for movie night in the Town Center.
The Town Center also presents live music from local musicians for adults who may want to slip away for a more grown-up experience. The environment is easy and laidback, not to mention close-knit. It is a perfect way for parents to take a breather and enjoy good music, with the peace of mind of knowing that the kids are entertained and safe.
A sunny Saturday makes for an ideal day trip into Padre Island to grab delicious American classic cuisine from Padre Island Burger Company. Serving gourmet burgers in an “island time” atmosphere, it’s known for building fully customized deliciousness with ½ lb. fresh Angus beef patties served on sweet sourdough buns. Is your mouth watering yet? The famous “Dr. Padre” Burger is always a good choice; with corn-smoked bacon, Dr. Padre BBQ sauce, and cheddar cheese, you just can’t go wrong.
With bellies full and energy riding high, spend the afternoon back at the resort for surf lessons at Cinnamon Shore. While the kiddos are hitting the waves, Mom can reserve a beach lounge chair and a signature striped umbrella to dive right into some “me time.”
Meanwhile, send Dad over to Palmilla Beach Resort & Golf Community to hit the golf course. Originally designed by Arnold Palmer, this golf course has pristine greens and stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico. Memberships are not required to play the course, and every golf booking comes with a complimentary golf cart and an hour of access to the driving range prior to your tee time.
There’s nothing quite like getting the restorative break you’ve been needing to make you miss family time. As early evening approaches, gather your loved ones for an upscale dinner at Lisabella’s. Start off with crab cakes or sea scallops made by world-renowned chef Spencer Cox, fifth-place winner at the 7th Annual World Food Championships™ in 2018. Kick back with a craft cocktail, and don’t forget to end your memorable family meal with one of Lisabella’s indulgent made-from-scratch desserts.
On Sunday, rise early for a chance to fish on the bay at one of the city’s four lighted fishing piers or the south jetties. Island Boy Charters specializes in fishing charters, as well as birding and aquatic tours that are fun for the whole family. Captain Pete is a professionally licensed (USCG) fishing captain who is knowledgeable in catching redfish, speckled trout, black drum, and flounder.
As the morning sun creeps high into the sky, you know it is about time to head home…but not without one last pit stop. We recommend the beloved breakfast spot Island Café for a classic dinner breakfast. Afterall, nothing says Sunday like eggs and bacon.
The weekend never seems long enough as it nears its end, but the memories made will last a lifetime…and the whole family will have enjoyed the experience.
The Solo Weekend
There’s really nothing like planning some alone time to center yourself and revive your spirit. On the other hand, a lot of us have spent quite a bit of alone time under less-than-ideal circumstances this past year, so we understand that a solo retreat may not top your list of to-dos right now. Before giving it the cold shoulder, hear us out: There’s one thing about being forced into alone time, and a whole other (wonderful) thing about breaking away sans responsibilities to clear your mind.
It may have been a few years back when the tiny house craze took over, but Port A has made tiny lodging transcend the trend with individual tent bungalows for short overnight stays at Camp Coyoacan. After a long, hard week’s work, roll on into Camp Coyoacan’s no-assembly-required tent cabins that are more glamping than camping. These beachy campgrounds give the feel of going off the grid with all the modern technology and comforts of home to keep you connected. With air conditioning, a personal deck, morning coffee at your fingertips, and … wait for it … WiFi, turning off the outside world is your prerogative.
If you, like most of us, are in desperate need of a wind-down on a Friday night, stop by Rock & Rolls Sushi Lounge on your way to Camp Coyoacan for fresh sushi to-go. They do the classics with top-notch authenticity, but are known for creating innovative specialty rolls that are a thoughtful blend of Japanese traditions and rock and roll-inspired recipes. Indulge and then get some shuteye; Saturday awaits.
Take the opportunity to soak in the morning sunshine on your personal patio while enjoying a cup of joe. This Saturday is filled with exploring Port A on wheels – but these tires are a bit smaller than the ones you rolled in on. Island Surf Rentals has your ride waiting for you, in the form of a beach cruiser. It is said that fresh air (especially the coast’s salty breeze) can cure just about anything. What better way to restore the soul than to fill it with vitamin D and some light exercise? Oh, and people-watching, of course.
Late afternoon calls for an iced coffee from Barefoot Beans. After parking your cruiser, mosey over to this outdoor lounge spot to enjoy coffee and the salty breeze. Reflect on your staycation by checking in with yourself – perhaps taking a moment to journal or meditate, or just relax in one of their swing seats.
It’s about 4 PM and time to catch a quick catnap before the evening commences. Return to your weekend abode for a few Zs and get ready for a night on the town.
If you’re keen on keeping it low-key, find yourself at Island Wine. On Saturdays, local musicians play a variety of acoustic, country, classic rock, jazz, and much more. They’ve got artisan cheese plates and unique dips with fresh pita chips, both of which pair well with their wine on tap. Island Wine also caters to craft beer lovers, with over 25 Texas-brewed options. Exit through the gift shop so you can grab a bottle of your favorite wine or craft beer to enjoy post-staycation.
Sunday feels like it comes too soon, but luckily, this restorative break from everyday life has you feeling ready for a new week. But no trip to Port A is complete without a breakfast taco from San Juan Taqueria. Swing through for their highly-rated huevos rancheros, eggs Mexicana, huevos con chorizo, or breakfast tacos. Belly full and smiling ear-to-ear, you’re all set to re-enter society refreshed and enriched.