Fishing -- There are public fishing piers in Fulton Harbor and at Rockport Beach Park, as well as numerous other areas. Fishing guides offer bay and deep-sea fishing trips, and rates vary considerably. Contact Gold Spoon Charters (tel. 361/727-9178; www.goldspooncharters.com), Green Hornet Fishing Guide Service (tel. 361/749-5904), and Hook Line & Sinker (tel. 866/993-3131 or 361/727-0910).
Kayaking -- All the different bays around Rockport are well sheltered by the barrier islands. In some places the water gets quite shallow and is broken into narrow channels by mangroves. One such place is called Lighthouse Lakes. This is perfect territory for kayaking, which you can combine with birding, fishing, or nature photography. The important thing is to find renters who have a big enough selection that they can fit you with the appropriate kayak for your needs. You might talk to the people at Rockport Kayak Outfitters at 106 S. Austin St. (tel. 361/729-1505). They offer rentals and tours. Tours require a minimum of four people, but you might be able to hook up with another group or get a self-guided tour on your own with one of their maps. They can haul you and your kayaks to a drop-off spot and pick you up later.
Parks -- Anglers and birders especially like Goose Island State Park (tel. 361/729-2858; www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/goose), which is home to the Big Tree, a giant live oak with seemingly countless twisting branches that is estimated to be more than 1,000 years old. It's more than 35 feet in circumference, 44 feet high, and has a crown spread of 90 feet. The park has a short paved hiking and biking path, two playgrounds, picnic tables and grills, a boat ramp, and a lighted fishing pier. Fish caught here include speckled trout, redfish, flounder, and sheepshead. Crabbing and oystering are also popular. There are 102 campsites with water and electric hookups and 25 sites with water only, and the park also has restrooms with showers and an RV dump station. Entrance to the park costs $5 per person per day (free for children 12 and under), and camping costs an additional $10 to $15 per night, with reservations available (tel. 512/389-8900). The park is about 12 miles from Rockport. Follow Tex. 35 north 10 miles to Park Road 13, which you follow 2 miles east to the park entrance. There are several preserves and wildlife sanctuaries in and about the area, which make for good birding.
Whooping Crane Tours/Dolphin Tours -- From November to March, a number of companies offer 3- to 4-hour whooping crane and birding tours on shallow-draft boats. Cost is about $35 per person, with discounts for children and seniors; several companies take small groups at a flat rate of $150 to $200. Some guarantee that you'll see whooping cranes. Among those that charge per person are Captain Billy Gaskins (tel. 866/729-2997 or 361/729-2997); Captain Ted's Whooping Crane Tours (tel. 800/338-4551 or 361/729-9589); and Captain Eddy Polhemus Pisces (tel. 361/729-7525). Most of these boats leave out of Fulton harbor, so you might want to go down and check out the boats for yourself and find one with a convenient departure time. Several boats do dolphin tours as well. Those offering the flat-rate option for up to four people include Captain Sally's Reel Fun Charters (tel. 361/729-9095; www.captainsally.com). Aransas Bay Birding Charters (tel. 361/727-2689) offers 6-hour tours for up to six people for $300. Check with the Rockport-Fulton Area Chamber of Commerce for information on land-based birding tours.