San José Island: What to Know Before You Go

San José Island, or St. Jo’s as the locals call it, provides a unique escape that feels miles away from the ordinary, despite being just a short ferry ride from Port Aransas, Texas. In fact, we list visiting San José Island as one our top things to do in Port Aransas! This guide covers the practicalities and essentials for anyone planning a trip to this privately owned slice of tranquility.

Understanding San José Island

The island is a haven of peace, offering extensive beaches for walking, bird watching, fishing, and shelling. It’s noteworthy for its lack of development; there are no stores, no cars, and, importantly, no noise pollution. Just 21 miles of natural beaches, making it an ideal spot for anyone looking to disconnect.

Getting There from Port Aransas

You’ll need to catch a ferry across Aransas Bay from Port Aransas, so check the schedule and book in advance. Ferry services aren’t continuous throughout the day, meaning last-minute plans might not always work out. Start your trip at Fisherman’s Wharf, where you’ll board the ferry to the island.

What to Bring

Since there’s nowhere to buy supplies on the island, you need to pack everything you’ll need for the day. Food, plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat are essentials. Also, consider bringing a container for any seashells you might find; the island is known for its diverse and beautiful shells.

Activities on the Island

The island’s natural beauty is its main attraction. You won’t find any shops, restaurants, or bars here. Instead, you can enjoy fishing, particularly from the North Jetty, looking for unique seashells, bird watching, or simply enjoying the quiet and unspoiled beaches. Remember, vehicles are not allowed, so be prepared for a lot of walking.

Here’s a little more detail on each:


The North Jetty: A prime spot for fishing enthusiasts. Whether you’re an experienced angler or trying your hand at fishing for the first time, the waters around the North Jetty are teeming with species like Speckled Trout, Redfish, and Flounder. Don’t forget to bring your fishing gear from the mainland, as the island offers no rentals.


Beachcombing for Shells: The island’s shores are rich with a variety of seashells, making it a haven for collectors. From the common to the rare, you might find lightning whelks, sand dollars, or even the elusive shark eye shells. It’s a relaxing activity that can be surprisingly rewarding. Bring a small bag or container to hold your finds.

Bird Watching

Avian Paradise: For bird lovers, the island serves as a fantastic bird-watching site, especially during migration seasons. Bring your binoculars and a bird guidebook to identify the various species that visit the island. Early mornings or late afternoons are the best times to catch sight of these feathered visitors in their natural habitat. St. Jo’s is included in our top bird-watching sites in Port Aransas.

Beach Walking

Exploring the Shores: With 21 miles of untouched beaches, taking a long walk along the shore is one of the simplest pleasures on San José Island. It’s not only great exercise but also offers a chance to enjoy the serene beauty of the Gulf Coast, with the rhythmic sounds of waves and seagulls as your companions.

Returning to Port Aransas

After a day on San José Island, you’ll ferry back to Port Aransas. The town offers a variety of accommodations, from hotels to beach houses, and plenty of dining options. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a sit-down meal, you’ll find it in Port A.

Conservation Efforts

Visitors are encouraged to respect the island’s pristine condition by following leave-no-trace principles. This means packing out whatever you bring in, not disturbing wildlife, and staying on designated paths to help preserve the island’s natural beauty for future visitors.

In summary, San José Island offers a straightforward, unspoiled beach experience that’s increasingly hard to find. It’s a perfect day trip for those staying in Port Aransas who want to experience nature in its most undisturbed form. Just remember to plan ahead, pack accordingly, and respect the natural environment during your visit.

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