Being from Central Texas, our family knows Port Aransas well. It’s our easy drive-to beach getaway. The kids love everything about, so that means we love it. So much about the venerable coastal town is so unspoiled and unpretentious, we always know what we’re getting out of a Port A trip. We’ve got our regular favorites now like the homemade fudge from Winton’s Candy Company, fresh shrimp and fish from Paul’s Seafood and relaxing times at La Playa, where Mexican cuisine and mariscos live in harmony.
Mostly, though, we’ll settle into a beach rental that’s located a short walk from the sand and make it our home base for as many days as we can be away from the rat race and put a premium on relaxation. Increasingly, we’ve noticed that the rentals in Port A are more like HGTV Dream Homes than they are utilitarian fish-camp bunkhouses. Even after the widespread devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, property owners rebuilt and brought an architectural panache and contemporary design approach to many of the beach houses in the town’s most desirable beachfront locations.
Conventional sentimentality would hope Port A is always a destination that embraces the everyman and has a getaway option for every budget. Increasingly, connoisseurs of luxury lifestyle vacation properties and amenities are finding more premium vacation options than ever in Port Aransas and Mustang Island. Nowhere is that more evident than inside the Palmilla Beach Resort and Golf Community. Built on the “new urbanism” concept in which all the conveniences of your own high-end small town exist within the cobblestoned confines of the community and the homes exudes a posh, pleasing aesthetic, Palmilla Beach is raising the standard in luxury real estate and lifestyle on Texas’ Gulf Coast.
From luxurious 1,800-sq-ft Signature Cottages and two-level “Duets” to 2,300-sq-ft Poolside and “Wild Indigo” Townhomes to expansive (I mean downright huge) custom homesites, every real estate offering at Palmilla Beach is currently selling like wildfire. The community, which currently includes the residential community, the golf course, clubhouse (with two pleasing dining options) and great lawn and a swimming and amenities center, is starting to take shape. Greg Carr of McCombs Enterprises (Palmilla Beach’s ownership) says a small hotel near the Gulf of Mexico could be a possible addition to the community along with additional shopping and dining. In time, expect Palmilla Beach to put a resort community on the map that will be the kind of upscale coastal travel destination that draws guests and potential homebuyers from far and wide.
Presently, the quality of life is already high. All amenities, including the pool and fine dining at the Black Marlin and casual patio dining and cocktails at Red’s, are within walking, biking or golf-cart-ride distance. Palmilla Beach has its own private access to the beach (on a bridge that glides over the ancient dunes) and a private section of cabanas and beach chairs that can be reserved with the concierge staff.
More than three dozen homes (of various sizes and floorplans) have already been constructed post-Harvey with a few phases left in the original residential footprint. What remains to be seen is what will be done with the land where a large portion of Palmilla Beach’s original golf course once sat. Harvey devastated the 2007 Arnold Palmer design which was the only true championship links course in Texas.
First opened as Newport Dunes in 2008, the 6,821-yard, par-71 layout elevated the quality of public access golf in the Gulf region near Corpus Christi. With a washed-out course, the McCombs company and course management aficionados were faced with a challenging puzzle. Rebuilding the course in a way that best fits the land and the clientele became a priority.
Identifying their core customers as families and tourists with some locals and avid golfers sprinkled in, the team put together a plan that would put fun at the forefront of the golf experience and let golfers get around the layout quickly and easily.
“If you’re coming to Port A, you don’t have that many days where you can spend four to five hours away from your family or group,” says director of golf Bradley Boyd. “We took cues from emerging trends in the golf industry and put our best nine holes into a routing, maintaining the signature stretch of seaside holes of the original golf course (holes 4, 5 and 6) and creating a layout that skilled avid golfers, kids and beginners can enjoy equally in a timeframe that still leaves plenty of time in your day for the beach, fishing or touring the old, classic areas of Port A.”
“It was a revelation when someone at the table declared ‘we’re not a golf course with a restaurant. We’re a restaurant with a golf course,’” Carr says. “We put a lot into having the very best, guest-pleasing food and beverage operation possible and make the golf course as fun as possible.”
Now just nine holes stretching to 2,431 yards from the back tees plus three pitch-and-putt holes known as the Loop, featuring holes that range from 80 yards to 115 yards. Future plans might include an 18-hole putting course to keep with the fun and accessible theme. The practice areas are still in the same place, across the highway from the golf course, but upgraded with the same Platinum Paspalum grass on the greens and Seashore Paspalum that cover the teeing areas and fairways on the golf course.
With an entertaining collection of five par-4s and four par-3s, the par-32 course is largely wide open to start with an ever-present wind coming off the adjacent Gulf. The round starts with three manageable “fast-start” holes: a 332-yard par-4, a 150-yard par-3 and a 282-yard par-4 with no forced carries and generous landing areas. Then comes that signature stretch where the dunes and golf are visible and the dominant design trait. The par-3 fourth is postcard beautiful, playing directly toward the Gulf with a green guarded by native grass and framed by dunes. Bookend narrow par-4s that both stretch over 400 yards each look intimidating off the tee and demand accuracy tee to green.
The key to enjoying your round at Palmilla Beach is choosing the right set of tees to match your skills. The back set is the “Palmilla” tees. The middle set of “Beach” tees presents hole between 127 yards to 287 yards. The forward “Fun” tees, with holes 81 yards to 256 yards, make for an enjoyable time.
“We want this course to be accessible and inclusive of everyone. Juniors, women, bachelor parties, corporate groups and even beginners who just want to try something new on their beach vacation,” Boyd says. “Our fleet of GolfBoards gives people another way to enjoy the round. It’s not uncommon to see people playing barefoot. We stress intently that this place is meant to be fun.”
Even if you’re not a golfer, the Black Marlin Grill is reason enough to make your way to Palmilla Beach. And the locals do. In droves. Chef Gail Huesmann and her staff make tremendous use the readily-available local seafood with inventive dishes and pairings. The food and in the cocktails at the Black Marlin and the outdoor patio spot for casual dining, Red’s have made Palmilla Beach one of the hottest spots on the island.
Over time, expect more homes to be built and for the ownership to add more exceptional lifestyle amenities within Palmilla Beach. If you’re looking to enjoy a coastal getaway, don’t look past the luxury offerings in Port A’s most refined address. Visit www.palmillabeach.com to learn more.