The Texas Riviera

It’s been said, “In a small town there ain’t much to see, but what you hear makes up for
it.” Not so with “Corpus,” as the locals call it. Sun, sky, sea and sand best sum up this
beachfront city of slightly more than a quarter of a million people. Another old adage,
“It’s a city with small-town feel,” is a lot closer to the truth. Corpus has many
attractions to capture RVers’ interest. From the high arching Harbor bridge, on the city’s
north side, one sees a panoramic view of the area, stretching from Corpus Christi Beach
south to the tall business spires fronting the downtown marina. Here tall ship masts blend
in with tall skyscrapers. Below the bridge lies the busy Port of Corpus Christi, where
vessels take on cargoes of petrochemicals and agricultural products. Make your first stop
the Corpus Christi Visitors and Information Center, where plenty of information is
available. If you choose not to lie on the beach or fish, set your compass in the direction
of the 910-foot-long, 16-deck aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington. Self-guided tours
traverse throughout the floating museum. Nearby, within walking distance, is the Texas
State Aquarium, one of the largest in the country. The museum’s focus is on native marine
life and calls the Gulf of Mexico home. Two thousand marine animals inhabit the 350,000
gallons of the aquarium’s seawater. In addition to the amazing exhibits, the facility also
offers aquatic enthusiasts the opportunity to become a dolphin trainer for a day; the
added-cost program allows participants 13-and-older to learn how the aquarium trains, feeds
and cares for these special animals — as well as being part of a dolphin presentation. The
two-mile-long sea wall, designed by Mount Rushmore sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, makes a good
spot to do your heel-toe walking routine. You’ll pass by work and party boats, cruise boats
and shrimp boats sitting at anchor in the marina. Continuing east along the bay, you’ll
pass by old bay-front residential mansions that offer phenomonal views of the city’s
curving shoreline. (While in the area, be sure to pay a visit to Heritage Park, a
collection of eight historic local homes that have been restored by non-profit
organizations to their former splendor.) Want to see what Christopher Columbus’ ships
looked like? The Museum of Scienceand History is home to the Pinta and the Santa Maria.
These authentic replicas were given to the city by the Spanish government to commemorate
the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’ faithful voyage to the New World. The museum is
primarily devoted to natural and local history. Tours of the ships can be had. Nearby is
the Art Museum of South Texas, housing exhibits of paintings, sculpture, folk art and
photography. Across the parking area from the visitor center is situated the Asian Cultures
Museum and Educational Center, focusing mainly on Chinese, Japanese and Korean arts and
cultures. Here, too, is the Hakata Doll Collection, one of the largest in the United
States. The Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, located in the southwest
section of the city, offers a respite from the city’s habitat. A nature trail leads through
mesquite brush and subtropical gardens featuring rubber plants, bottlebrush and guava.
Coyotes, javelinas and roadrunners can occasionally be seen. For birders, check out the
Hans A. Suter Wildlife Area on Cayo del Oso Drive; it’s the best birding spot within the
city limits. Walking the 800-foot-long boardwalk across salt marshes, you might spot white
pelicans, egrets, roseate spoonbills, herons and terns along with other shorebirds. If the
bay is Corpus Christi’s front yard, then the beaches on Padre and Mustang islands are its
backyard. The natural wonders of Padre Island National Seashore — at 130,434 acres, called
the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of barrier island in the world — make it a
favorite with outdoor enthusiasts. Of the world’s seven sea turtle species, nests belonging
to five — leatherback, hawksbill, green, loggerhead and Kemp’s ridley — have been found
at Padre Island National Seashore. It’s also a top spot for such activities as windsurfing,
and is even a favorite with wedding planners! In 1519, Spanish explorer Alonzo Alvarez de
Pineda named Corpus Christi Bay in honor of the Roman Catholic Feast Day of Corpus Christi,
the day his ship landed here. Since then, Corpus Christi has blossomed forth to become a
deep-water port, an industrial center, an agricultural hub — and one of Texas’ most
popular seacoast playgrounds. It’s no wonder the largest coastal city bills itself as the
“Sparkling City by the Sea.”

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