Beachcombing -- Okay, so maybe you want a beach that's completely free of cars and all signs of human settlement, where you can walk along in perfect communion with nature. If so, the obvious choice is San Jose Island, right across from Port A. It's privately owned by a Texas oil family and kept pristine. Transporting people to the island is the Jetty Boat ($10 per adult, $5 per child round-trip), which makes 10 trips daily. Visit Fisherman's Wharf at 900 N. Tarpon St. (tel. 800/605-5448 or 361/749-5760). Note: Whatever you might need on the island, you'll have to bring with you. This island is also a good place to collect seashells.
Beach Cruising -- Texas beaches tend to be broad and flat and extend for miles. Driving is permitted on most beaches, and cruising is one of the favorite pastimes of the vacationing Texan. The idea is to pack a cooler in the car filled with picnic supplies; take along other essentials such as towels, beach chairs, and perhaps a beach umbrella; and then drive to the beach and slowly cruise along until you find your spot. Always go very slow (it's a matter of courtesy) and stay on the packed sand; don't get into the loose stuff. The beach on the Gulf side of Mustang Island is miles long, but isn't continuous; there are places where you have to get back on the road. But somewhere along there, you're going to find your spot. One possibility is at Mustang Island State Park ★★ (tel. 361/749-5246; www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/mustang), which has more than 5 miles of wide, sandy beach, with fine sand, few rocks and broken shells, and almost enough waves for surfing.
Bike Rental -- Port A is a nice town to explore on a bike. You can rent one with Big Shell Bikes, located at 403 N. Alister St. (tel. 361/445-7001).
Dolphin Tours -- Dolphin Watch runs dolphin and nature tours on its boat, the Mustang. Call tel. 361/749-6969 or just ask at Woody's Sports Center, listed below.
Fishing -- A lot of fishermen complain that the bay around Port A is overfished. Still, I've run into a few boats that have had good luck. The town has more than 200 fishing guides. If you want to try deep-sea fishing from a party boat (rather than chartering your own boat), see the guys at Fisherman's Wharf, listed above. They have two large boats that go out regularly. If you want to charter, try Woody's Sports Center at 136 W. Cotter (tel. 361/749-5271 or 749-5252; www.gulfcoastfishing.com).
Kayaking -- The protected side of Mustang Island has lots of sloughs and cuts and coves that teem with wildlife and that are perfect for exploring by kayak. Contact Coastal Bend Kayak, located at 1044 S. Commercial, Aransas Pass, (tel. 361/557-7003).