Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Rockport

By Patrick Reardon 8.10.23

Rockport is nestled into Aransas Bay, just up the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi on the Live Oak Peninsula. Characterized by a medley of mom-and-pop shops and palm-tree-lined beaches, the little fishing destination perfectly blends South Texas quaint and Gulf Coast tropical. The combo has helped the town become one of the top destinations for beach days, fishing outings, and museum-hopping on the Texas coast.

From Cattle to Shrimp

Rockport is the county seat for Aransas County, one of the smallest counties in Texas. It was incorporated in 1870, shortly after the Civil War, as a meatpacking plant and shipping port for local cattle ranches, but by 1888 the railroad had arrived in town as a cheaper, more efficient mode of transport — meaning Rockport had to look elsewhere for a signature business. The answer was in shipbuilding, which, by the early 20th century, led Rockport to establish an essential shipyard during World War I. When the war ended, the town turned its business yet again — this time to shrimp.

The shrimping industry in Rockport boomed in the 1940s and ’50s — young Texans (including the yet-undiscovered country star Guy Clark) flocked there for work on the busy shrimping boats. Tourism became another economic staple for the growing city as Texans learned of its tropical climate and bountiful fishing spots, which remains Rockport’s biggest draw today.

Fishing on the Aransas Bay

Because it’s right on the sparkling Aransas Bay, Rockport is a hidden paradise for all kinds of game fishing. Whether you cast your line from the beach or a pier or drop net behind your own boat, the bay offers a wide variety of catches: Red drums, red snappers, and speckled flounders are aplenty here. However, if you decide to charter out into deeper waters, keep your eyes peeled for sharks that occasionally tour Aransas Bay, too.

Touring Rockport

In a town serious about its maritime culture and history, there’s no better place for visitors to soak it all in than the Texas Maritime Museum. The museum’s origins go back to the 1970s when boaters and fishermen would gather to show off their equipment and boast about their latest catches at what was called the Rockport Seafair Festival. In 1989, the community rallied to establish an official museum, which now exhibits all kinds of artifacts from Texas’ deep maritime history.

The other historical must-see in Rockport is the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site, which was once the home to the Fultons, the family behind Rockport’s early meatpacking empire. Today the Victorian mansion is an official historic landmark in Texas, and its doors are open to the public — visitors can see 19th-century affluence firsthand, from its fully furnished rooms and halls to its exquisite flower garden out back.

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