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Island Lore

Island-LoreExperts believe the islands along the Texas coast began life as submerged sand bars about 4,500 years ago.  The first known human occupants of the island were the Karankawa Indians.  Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca was probably the first European to meet the Karankawas in 1528.

The island was first called Wild Horse Island, and then Mustang Island because of the wild horses called “mesterios” brought to the island by the Spaniards in the 1800’s.

Jean Lafitte and his band of buccaneers spent a lot of time on neighboring islands as well as Mustang Island in the 1820’s.  Legend has it that somewhere on the island is a Spanish dagger with a silver spike driven through the hilt marking the spot where Lafitte buried a chest of gold and jewels.

As the still natural pass attracted more and more commerce and updated charts were needed, there appeared an 1833 map which noted the location of what would become Port Aransas, but was then called Sand Point.  The pass was given the name Aranzazu, which later became Aransas.

During the 1846-1848 Mexican War, a small fort was built on Mustang Island to guard the entrance to Aransas Bay.  It was used until after the Civil War.

In the 1850’s regular steamship service ran between Mustang Island and New Orleans.  The first deep draught steamship went through the Pass in 1859.  Mercer Docks was destroyed during the 1875 Storm, thus ending the service.

The town of Mustang Island was called Ropesville by the early 1890’s but changed its name to Tarpon by 1899 because of the large numbers of the fish being caught in its waters.  The population at that time was about 250.  Citizens began calling their town Port Aransas about 1910.  The storm of 1919 virtually wiped out the town except for a few structures.


In November of 2001 we purchased a tract of land on S. 11th Street in Port A. We also purchased the old Buccaneer Cottages off of Alister Street across from the Spaghetti Works.  The cottages were for sale to be moved off the land to a new location. The cottages were in decent shape and just needed to be refurbished.  We moved them onto our land in 2002 and that was the beginning of what was to be Dancing Dunes.

We decided to place the cabins in a wide U-shape and connect them all with a common porch area.  The house in the middle of the U had been the owner’s house at Buccaneer Cottages and not one of the rental cabins.  All four cabins were exactly the same layout inside with two bedrooms, a small kitchen/living area and a bathroom.  We decided to add on to two of the cabins making the living area bigger and adding a master bedroom.  We also added new construction of a boat/storage barn.

We picked themes for each of the cabins to help us find direction in how to proceed.  The two bedrooms were the Fish and the Shell, Lisa having grown up in a family of men who loved to fish, finding memorabilia to put up was easy.  The three bedrooms were the Rock-n-Roll, which came from Lisa’s brother French, who had been in the music industry in Austin for many years, and Bali from Philip, who had spent a lot of time there developing another business venture.  The main house in the center was not thought of at that time as a rental but as a house for a manager to stay in or for family to use.

We learned a lot in those first couple of years trying to put the project together.  We had a lot of obstacles to overcome, especially trying to run a project living seven hours away.  By the end of the summer of 2003, we had our occupancy permit from the city and were almost ready to start a rental business.  We asked Lisa’s sister-in-law, Nancy, who was living in Fort Worth at the time, to come down to Port A and take over as property manager and live on site.  Having never run a rental business before, we used a local property management company for the first year.  Dancing Dunes was up and running in 2004.