Friday, February 19, 2016

Rockin’ to Rockport

Aransas Bay
It’s been a warm winter in Texas, but we needed a couple of days out of town so we headed for one of our favorite places on the coast, Rockport. This little city is on Live Oak Peninsula between Copano and Aransas bays. It got its name from the rock ledge beneath its shore and has spent most of its history as a commercial seaport. Founded just after the Civil War and incorporated as a city in 1871, it originally supported beef packing plants, but with the withdrawing of rail service to move these products, companies failed leaving only the fishing industry to support the population. However, boatbuilding, fishing and tourism, once rail service returned to the area, developed as important industries in Rockport. In the late 1800s, residents began investigations into the feasibility of a deep-water harbor that required a channel through the sand bar at Aransas Pass. This plan didn’t come to fruition until 1922 with the harbor finally completed in 1926. Rockport, the seat of Aransas County finally completed the courthouse, designed by James Riely Gordon, in 1889. Downtown Rockport still has some of the buildings from the early days; most of these house art galleries and shops. The owners are friendly and helpful, even if you don’t buy anything. Since we’d come down for the Rockport Clay Expo and Bountiful Bowl Pottery Fair, we also spent some time wandering the shops looking for treasures. The pottery fair benefits the local Meals on Wheels Program and happily Cindy the Potter as one of the exhibitors. Not only do I like her work, but it’s good to be able to support the Meals on Wheels Program.

Top L to R: Fulton Mansion, Historical Marker, Fishing sign
Middle: Flagged trees
Bottom L to R: Original building, Cute shop
Wildlife abounds in the Rockport area. In 1907 the governor appointed the first commissioner over the area charging him with the revision of the wildlife laws; the
Top L to R: Deer, Brown pelicans, Alligator
Middle L to R: Raccoon, Armadillo, Coots
Bottom L to R: Turkeys, Frog
commissioner was also to draft conservation laws. The
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, established on December 31, 1937, is an unspoiled area for coastal wildlife, including the whooping crane, which takes migrates to here between November and March. The Connie Hagar Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1967, is within the city of Rockport and is focused on the multitudes of birds that come to the Texas coast during the winter. Of the two, my favorite place to visit is the Wildlife Refuge. We always see deer, and usually lots of water birds, but what I really come to see is the alligators. These large, slow-to-move reptiles inhabit most of the ponds and inlets in the refuge and can give some visitors quite a fright. There have been years when ten to twenty of these critters slept almost on the hiking trails, giving those faint-of-heart (or perhaps more intelligent) visitors reason to return to the ranger station. We’re careful around the gators, but like to get down to the water where we know we’ll see birds and wildflowers, so we always walked around them. Occasionally our hikes get us close to wild turkeys and armadillos.

Coastal Oak and Dave
The shrimping industry developed in Rockport and Fulton between 1925 and 1930, but isn’t as prominent as it once was. However, this area still has legacy of wonderfully fresh seafood. Each time we come down we have to eat at a seafood restaurant at least once. Luckily there are lots of good choices in this cute little city. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

Where we stayed:
Three and one-half carrots
Hampton Inn and Suites (3677 Highway 35 North, Rockport, TX 78382, 361-727-2228) is a nice place to stay. The room was nice but slightly undersized for all of the furniture. The
L to R: Bedroom, Bathroom
beds were comfortable but all of the pillows were too soft. The bathroom was large and clean, with plenty of towels and toiletries. The shower worked well but the toilet didn't flush well and the wall needed a bit of repair. The internet was fast and free; there was also free parking. The free hot breakfast was very nice, with a fresh fruit assortment that included papaya.

What we ate:
Three and one-half carrots
Charlotte. Plummer’s‏ (202 N Fulton Beach Rd, Rockport, TX 78382, 361-729-1185) is
Left T to B: Charlotte Plummer's, Tomato basil soup,
Bread pudding, Coconut shrimp
Right T to B: Shrimp gumbo, Flounder
of Rockport’s oldest restaurant. Their table-service is on two levels and there is outside dining, as well. The upstairs room has nice views of the boat basin and is generally quieter than down; the drawback is that you have to go downstairs if you order the salad bar. Dave had a beer and I had a very nice glass of moscatta wine. Dave’s shrimp gumbo was spicy and very tasty. My tomato basil soup was served hot and with croutons; it was okay. My coconut shrimp were huge and served with rice with peppers and tomato bits. The mango salsa was very tasty; I really liked this dish. Dave’s broiled flounder was surprisingly thick, yet moist; it was very nicely prepared. It was served with a baked potato with butter and sour cream on the side. The steamed vegetables were slightly overcooked but savory. Mary, the waitress, was efficient, funny, and helpful. We thoroughly enjoyed this meal.

What we did:
Four carrots
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (1 Wildlife Circle, Austwell, TX 77950, 361-286-3559) is 
Prickly Pear blooms
always fabulous. Make sure that if you visit you have sturdy shoes, insect repellent, sunblock and a hat. Keep in mind that the animals are loose and they are wild; it’s not a controlled environment, but with adequate preparation and common sense, it’s quite safe.

Three and one-half carrots

Oak trees in Rockport
We had a great time at the Rockport Clay Expo. It was fun to see all of the artists and to talk to them about their work. The Gallery Walk was also fun; the shops are interesting and the art runs the gamut from sculpture to pottery to oil, and pastel paintings.


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