Sunset in Rockport

Sunrise over Cove Harbor, just south of Rockport, in Paradise Key. Photo: Dave Shafer

Our annual Coastal Issue is different than the one we had in mind when we began planning it last summer. The impact of Hurricane Harvey on coastal communities was so severe it left many people uncertain about the coming tourism season. In many of these small towns, tourism is the primary industry and vital to their recovery. We quickly realized one way we could help: spreading the word that beloved destinations like Port Aransas and Rockport-Fulton are ready for visitors.

I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Rockport last month, and though definitely frayed at the seams, the charming fishing town’s appeal seems to have been augmented by its recent struggle. Rockport locals have a saying: “You’re only a visitor once.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to how many first-time visitors return next as residents or vacation-home owners. But it also speaks to the feeling you get, even on your first visit, that you’re among friends. We often have an idealized image of small towns that doesn’t quite live up to reality, but Rockport makes you want to believe.

It’s the kind of place where the owner of the B&B you’re staying at also sits on the local education foundation board and heads the burgeoning cultural arts district; where someone you met at dinner the night before—who has been living in a trailer for the past eight months waiting for an insurance adjustment on her destroyed home—enthusiastically offers to drive you and your kids around town on her golf cart if you come out for a family vacation because “the kids will just love it;” where most every person who walks into the locally owned restaurant you’re eating lunch at is greeted by name and asked how the repairs on her home are going or what the latest news is on his wife’s new business venture.

Whether this kind of close-knit community always existed in Rockport or was amplified by the shared experience of tragedy, it makes for a travel experience that delivers on a deeper level than mere entertainment and relaxation. In turn, we’ve put together a special report that tells the story of the coast’s comeback from Harvey, one we hope inspires you to contribute to the recovery in your own way—on the beach, in the surf, or tableside with an ocean view. Every little bit helps.

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