Explore San Jose Island in Port Aransas, Texas

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San Jose Island in Port Aransas is an uninhabited island you can only travel to by ferry. Explore the island, play on the beach, and collect sand dollars!

While doing a little research before we traveled to Port Aransas Beach a few years ago, I came upon an island everyone said was a must see place. San Jose Island, or Saint Joe's Island, is a wild uninhabited piece of coastline on the Texas Gulf Coast

San Jose Island, Texas, is a beautiful natural island; it's privately owned, free of vehicles, about 2 miles wide at its widest point, and about 21 miles long. There are no shelters of any kind, but you may see the occasional cow roaming about.

The only way to get to the island is to take the Jetty Boat from Fisherman's Wharf, Port AransasJetty Boat at Fisherman's Wharf in Port A

It's one of our favorite things to do in Port Aransas besides hanging out on beautiful Port Aransas beaches, and believe me, there are a LOT of fun things to do and explore in this amazing Texas beach town.

I know things may have changed since we were there, especially after Hurricane Harvey; but I'm anxious to go back and explore some more. San Jose Island, or Saint Joe's Island, a 5 minute ferry ride from Port Aransas beaches

Getting to San Jose Island by the Jetty Boat

We decided to spend half a day on the island and explore, play in the ocean, and just like on Sanibel Island, hunt for sand dollars and sea shells. We bought our tickets at Fisherman's WharfFisherman's Wharf in Port A on Texas Gulf Coast

There were a few people making the short journey with us. You can actually see the island from Port Aransas; it's only a 5 minute ride. family fun on Jetty Boat ride from Port A to San Jose Island in Texas

Exploring Saint Joe's Island in Port A

When we arrived, there were a handful of people waiting to take the Jetty Boat back to Port Adock on Saint Joe's Island in Port Aransas, Texas

We walked along the edge of the water until we came to the Gulf side of the island and then were able to walk along the shoreline.

The shoreline itself was absolutely beautiful, and the water was as warm as bath water. San Jose Island Beach on Texas Gulf Coast

While visitors are restricted to the beach, I will say that if you're going to explore past the line of seaweed on the upper edge of the shore, I recommend wearing shoes or flip flops; don't go barefoot. Trash and other objects tend to wash up from the ocean.

We settled in a spot with our towels and things we'd brought over to the island with us. We were mesmerized and walked and walked along the shoreline.

Photo Opps and Treasures on San Jose Island

There were so many beautiful photo opps, from this washed up buoy… washed up bouy on San Jose Island in Texas

To an old boat that looked like it'd seen better days… abandoned boat on Saint Joe's Island in Port A on Texas beach

To the waves rolling in from the Gulf of Mexicoboys playing in the waves on San Jose Island beach, watching the ships go by out in the ocean

It was a cloudy day, but even so, the ocean was gorgeous and warm.

Closer to the harbor end of the island, ships sailed in and out, dolphins swimming right in front of or beside them. There was a lot of traffic in and out of the harbor. Liberty Glory ship sailing past San Jose Island in Port Aransas harbor on Texas coast

Walking up and along the shoreline, we found quite a few sand dollars and smaller sea shells; Jacob got so excited with every sand dollar we found. They were really small and cute; we'd find broken pieces of larger sand dollars too. sand dollars found on San Jose Island in Port Aransas on Texas coast

I love raising explorers; I hope my boys stay that way their entire lives.

Our visit to the island was so relaxing and quiet; there were not a lot of other people, and the people that were there were enjoying the solitude of the Texas Gulf Coast just as much as we were. San Jose Island in Port Aransas, Texas

Eventually, we caught the Jetty Boat back to Port A. Jetty Boat docked on San Jose Island, waiting for passengers

Reluctant to leave, we made a vow to return again soon. riding the ferry from San Jose Island back to Port A

Though next time, we'll stay even longer and explore even farther.

Things to know before you go to San Jose Island, Texas:

mossy log on San Jose Island beach

There are a few things you should know before you plan a trip to San Jose Island in Port Aransas.

  • You can catch a boat to the island via Fisherman's Wharf in Port Aransas. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for kids.
  • There are daily departure times, as well as return times, to choose from when planning your visit. Once you are on the island, you'll be there for at least 2 hours before the ferry returns to pick you up; but you can stay longer.
  • Activities on San Jose Island include spectacular birding, fishing, crabbing, hunting for sea shells and sand dollars, and of course, the beach.
  • The island is privately owned and needs to be respected as such; visitors are not permitted above the vegetation line, meaning you must stay on the beach.
  • Fisherman's Wharf offers pull carts you can rent to carry your stuff over to the island with you.
  • You may want to consider a baby carrier backpack or a sturdy wagon over a stroller if you're traveling with a baby or toddler.
  • There are no bathrooms on the island, so plan accordingly.
  • Pack food and drinks (including water bottles) with you in a small cooler, along with everything you'll need… Again, there are no shelters or facilities of any kind on the island.
  • Wear sandals, water shoes, or flip flops. Trash and things can wash up from the ocean, so you'll want to be careful.
  • Bring your own umbrella and beach chairs.
  • You are permitted to collect sea shells and sand dollars you find. Bring a bucket because you'll likely need it!
  • Leave no trace. Always pack out what you pack in. Please leave the island the way you found it.

Have you been to San Jose Island in Port A? Tell us about your experience!

Update Notes: This post was originally published in 2013, but was re-published with bigger photos and more details in July of 2018.

Explore San Jose Island in Port Aransas, Texas
San Jose Island in Port Aransas, Texas
wild, uninhabited San Jose Island in Port A, Texas
old bouy washed up on San Jose Island beach
Jetty Boat at Fisherman's Wharf in Port A
play and explore on San Jose Island in Port Aransas, Texas

23 thoughts on “Explore San Jose Island in Port Aransas, Texas”

  1. I grew up and graduated in Port A. Our family settled there in 1904. It is beautiful. Walk down the jetty, go to Saint Joe’s, there is a bird sanctuary, city pool, take the kids cane pole fishing at the harbor, golf cart rentals, lot of fun for everyone!

  2. Hi,
    I know it’s been a while since this chapter of your blog was active, but I’m hoping you do check.
    My husband and I are planning a trip to the Rockport area in April. We are in our 70s and love the beach, but there are several things that occurred to one or both of us since reading your blog. I think it’s important to research as much as possible before going somewhere, but I may have researched too much. I’ve read about jelly fish, stingrays, debris including metal and glass, dead fish, etc. I am taking my husband to see sights he’s missed so far — the bluebonnets, the Alamo, the Gulf coast, and the aquarium — besides visiting with several friends and relatives around the state. I want to ensure the best experience possible. I’ll bring insect repellent, vinegar, sunscreen, and beach shoes.
    We’re a little intimidated by the “no facilities, no seats, no shade” caveat for San Jose Island. We don’t want to spend a ton of money on stuff we’ll leave in Texas, but we appreciate the heads-up so we can bargain shop before we get there.
    One photo online shows a bumper crop of amazing seashells on San Jose Island. You said you and your boys found some sand dollars and small shells. Having lived in San Diego and Baja California, my experiences have been closer to yours than what’s in that one photo. Any comment?
    In some photos online, the water looks clear and Caribbean blue. In others, not. We recently took a trip to Key West, where the beaches were a major disappointment. San Jose Island and Rockport get high marks, so I assume they are exceptional. Have you been to Puerto Rico? The beaches there are amazing, and the water is 80 degrees in March!
    We’re really excited about this trip, but I need to get it right. We probably don’t have that many left (seriously), and I want a ton of memories for both of us.

    • Hi Janet, first of all, I’m very excited for you both; this sounds like a wonderful trip together.
      There is quite a bit of debris on the island, but as far as I can remember, it was farther up on the beach from when the tide comes in (some even from storms). There was a line of seaweed and debris up and down the beach, above the tide line. We did see jelly fish too (more on Port Aransas Beach), so that could be a concern; I’d check to see when actual jelly fish season is, to know whether or not it’s more likely to affect your trip.
      We have 3 kids (we had 2 then), but we were not really bothered by not having facilities, mainly because our time on the island was so short (3 or so hours). It goes by very quickly. And it was quite cloudy the day we were there, so we didn’t even really need shade; we were exploring most of the time we were on the island, walking the beach, looking for shells. Speaking of shells, we mainly found sand dollars on the beach, and a few smaller shells. It was nothing like Sanibel or Captiva, where we found piles and piles of shells. But we did manage to find a lot of sand dollars, both whole and broken.
      The water really depended on how the sky looked. As you can see in my photos, it was really cloudy, so it was a bit darker the day we went. But when it was sunny, the waters had a clearer, more bluish look. And the water was quite warm either way. It reminded me somewhat of Sanibel, where the waters were really lukewarm, almost like bath water. (Our trip to Port A and San Jose Island was in June.) The farther south you go, though, the more beautiful the water gets. For instance, just a few miles down the road and very much worth the short drive, is Padre Island National Seashore. And the waters were really gorgeous down there, more of a blue green color. I have not been to Puerto Rico, but that is one place I’d really like to go some day.
      I wish you both the very best and hope you have a wonderful trip full of beautiful memories together.
      Thank you!

  3. Mel, awesome blog. Thanks for all the info. Do you know if they allow people to kayak to the island and about how far is it from Port A? Thanks

  4. Port A is my hometown and I go back as much as possible. St Jose Island is a must do for anyone visiting. We go every time we go back to visit family. Fishermans Wharf has the best people for any fishing trips as well.

  5. My husband and I are planning to visit San Jose Island this summer when we go to Rockport for our vacation. So glad to have found your blog with more information about the island!!

  6. Hi Mel, Thank you for your detailed blog on San Jose Island. I’m heading to PA in February as a solo traveler. Being a woman, would you take this adventure on your own (safety)? Thanks again! Deb

    • Deb, there were quite a few other families and travelers who got off the boat right along with us. The island really had no trees, from what I can remember, and was fairly open in terms of being able to see for a long distance. And you can see the island from Port A. I think if I were going solo, I’d gauge the atmosphere of the other travelers going with me… You’ll be able to see who all is getting on the boat with you. But we felt completely safe, and I had no qualms for my husband and I with our two kids. I think I would just try to gauge whether or not I felt safe before getting off on the island because you have the option of staying on the boat and going back to Port A. It’s a very short ride. I do wish you all the best! I hope you have a wonderful time.

  7. I’m so happy that I stumbled across your blog. My family and I are taking a spontaneous weekend trip to the area. I was reading up on what to do and saw a mention of San Jose Island. I searched for more info and found you. I love, love, love hunting for seashells. It’s been a really long time since I’ve discovered any sand dollars…about 27 years. We are totally gonna visit this island!

  8. Wow! I didn’t know there are beautiful beach islands in Texas. And this in San Jose I think is a perfect place to relax and enoy the sun. The picture of the boat you showed I think is cool and I hope me and my family can ride it to explore the beautiful place. I just want to relax from all the hard days work and this is where I want to go and spend time with my family. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Tonya, you would love Port Aransas. We want to go back. Golf carts in the streets, fish ‘n’ chips at one of the local seafood restaurants, and beautiful beaches.:) Our kids are so happy when we’re on the shore.

  9. What a beautiful island. I found it particularly exciting that you found sand dollars. Nobody in Great Britain has heard of them. I did a knitting pattern for them, and a lovely American lady sent me a box of them that sit on the mantlepiece in my sewing room.

    • Ginny, I didn’t know you didn’t have sand dollars in Great Britain; that is amazing that she sent those to you. Do you guys have seashells, or conch shells? I may have to keep this in mind when we go back to the shore and save you a few shells/sand dollars, if we find some more.:) Finding a sand dollar is almost like finding gold to my kids. They absolutely love it, and it’s such a treat.


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