Between the rolling expanse of Texas Hill Country, ranches, and the iridescent Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi and the surrounding Coastal Bend sit on the shoreline, offering a truly unique Texas getaway.
Coastal Bend includes the southern Gulf Coast region of Texas that starts in Rockport and curves down through Corpus Christi, then around to Port Aransas. From there, Corpus Christi spills out to sandy North Padre Island, where the brightly colored waterfront homes quickly give way to 60 undeveloped miles of National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.
It’s in this palm-tree-lined coastal paradise that Travel Advisor Rosemary Wynn chooses to vacation with her family each year. “I’ve been visiting Rockport my whole life,” she shares. Coastal Bend holds a special place in her heart, but why should travelers put this lesser-known destination on their bucket list? “The Coastal Bend has so many unique things to see and do!” Wynn exclaimed.
“Visiting the beach, sailing, motorboating, fishing … visiting unique breweries in Corpus, visiting historic sites like the USS Lexington, going to a minor league baseball game at Whataburger Field, crabbing, kayaking, paddle boarding, birding … Rockport is a bird watcher’s paradise.”
With the Gulf on one side and the Laguna Madre on the other, Coastal Bend is one of the world’s most populated migratory bird destinations, and each year thousands of birders and tourists flock to Port Aransas for the Whooping Crane Festival. “Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places in Texas and possibly the world to see all types of birds,” said Wynn.
But heading out into the preserves with a pair of binoculars is like dipping a toe into the veritable whirlpool of outdoor excursions the area has to offer. Coastal Bend culture is the very definition of “work hard, play hard,” with a nonstop lineup of festivals, farmers markets, music concerts, and watersports for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.
In fact, some of the most memorable Coastal Bend excursions can be found offshore. The Texas Gulf Coast is a mecca of deep-sea fishing, and booking a day charter with a local guide is a must-do Coastal Bend experience.
Wynn paints a picture of her perfect South Texas weekend. “Going out on a fishing trip with our guide,” she begins, “Then cooking our catch or taking it to a local restaurant to cook for us, kayaking around the bay, possibly visiting Rockport Beach, or going for a sunset cruise.” No trip to Rockport is complete, however, without happy hour at Glow, says Wynn, a charming coastal kitchen inside an old sailboat repair shop. The ocean-friendly restaurant is known for serving mouthwatering seasonal dishes and house cocktails on an intimate covered porch overlooking the bay.
Located within driving distance of both Mexico and New Orleans, Coastal Bend boasts a food scene rich in South Texan, Mexican, Cajun, and even Asian influences. Not only does the area offer out-of-this-world seafood and barbecue, but some of the best Indian food in the country can be found at Pavani Express, a tiny family-owned restaurant in the back of a Citgo gas station in Corpus Christi.
But the beauty of Coastal Bend is that the best views don’t come from rooftop bars or luxury hotel balconies. They come from the beaches. Travelers looking for a truly beachy experience should consider camping on the beach at Padre Island. Grab takeout from one of the island restaurants (The Angry Marlin for fish tacos, Costa Sur for ceviche, or Surfside Sandwich Shoppe for Cubans and coleslaw) while watching the sunset, then wake up to some of the most dazzling sunrises in the country.
In Rockport, The Copa Copa is a family-owned luxury RV campsite that offers the ultimate coastal glamping experience. Each site comes with a private patio, and guests are just steps from the private fishing pier, mini beach, and dipping pool overlooking the Copano Bay in Rockport. And in Port Aransas, Camp Coyoacan, or “Place of Coyotes,” offers non-traditional lodging in the form of gorgeously appointed tent cabins and yurts just three minutes from the beach.
One of Wynn’s favorite Coastal Bend memories was attending a sea turtle release at the National Seashore. “The Padre Island National Seashore is one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere,” she raved. “In the summers, the public can witness Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle hatchlings being released at the beach, but only if they’re committed to showing up at sunrise. The early wake-up is worth it, though, Wynn promised.
“One year we witnessed the release of 100 baby sea turtles in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Parks System. It is an amazing experience.”