The #1 Thing to Do in Corpus Christi is to go to the beach. For the uninitiated, here’s our go-to guide.
The beach is perfect because it changes daily and allows you infinite teaching and learning opportunities for everyone your family. Let us restate that: by connecting with our largest natural resource, you’ll teach your kids (about birds and shells and tides and safety and how to go to the bathroom on the sly), while they will teach you (about wonder and dreams and the size of life and keeping it simple).
‘Going to the beach’ is not that complicated once you mentally work through the steps required to do it correctly.
What Do Locals Call ‘The Beach’?
When you ask a local where the beach is, the answer is the Gulf of Mexico side of either Padre Island, Mustang Island, or Port Aransas. McGee Beach (located on Shoreline Blvd in downtown Corpus Christi) or North Beach (located over The Harbor Bridge near The Texas State Aquarium) are quick and easy sandy spots, perfect for a quick walk in the sand to look at some water. Want to go to ‘The Beach’? You’re headed over the JFK Causeway.
What Do I Need to Know?
First thing, buy yourself a beach parking permit. They cost $12 and are good through the end of the current year. You can buy them at all of the Stripes stores near the beach, all H-E-B stores, Academy and the Flour Bluff Walmart. The most convenient spot is this Stripes.
Glass is never allowed on the beach. You can bring your own beverages (including alcohol), but bring them in a can.
Dogs must be kept on a leash or, as the city puts it, ‘under verbal command.’ In other words, if your dog doesn’t come when you call, keep them on a leash.
Picking up your dog’s poop is the law. Don’t leave your dog’s poop on our beaches.
You may drive on all Gulf beaches. On most days there will be loose sand near the dunes and hard packed sand between the dunes and the water. Where to drive is very intuitive and, unless you’ve gone to a secluded area on purpose, you will see where people are driving. Just follow them. If you encounter a patch of loose sand DON’T SLOW DOWN! Just keep driving through it with a hardpacked spot ahead as your goal.
The speed limit on all Gulf beaches is 15 mph and is strictly enforced. Don’t speed.
Just like you can drive, you can park anywhere along the beach as well. Customarily, people park side-by-side, perpendicular to the coastline. Find an empty spot and park there.
Campfires on Gulf beaches are allowed, but no larger than 3’ x 3’ x 3’ with no residue left when you’re done.
Campfires must be fully extinguished and any holes dug for a campfire must be refilled in with sand.
What Do I Need to Bring?
With your parking sticker purchased, do the beach your way. We suggest that you minimally take:
- Some snacks/a picnic
- Some beverages (take water!)
- A towel
- An empty 5 gallon bucket – This is your beach bucket and we keep them in our garage. It has one main function: at the end of your trip, fill it with water from The Gulf, carry it to your car and dunk your feet into it right before you get in. Pour out the water and throw it in the back. Sand in the car problem: solved.
The beach gets in your blood so after a few times with your bucket and picnic you may want to kick it up and grab:
- Folding camp chairs ($25 each…get good ones)
- A pop up shade cover ($50-100). There are optional weights to purchase that fit around the bottom of the tent legs, but they are lame. Instead take 4 empty coffee cans (to fill with sand) and 4 bungee cords to bungee the sand-filled cans to the four legs of the structure. This provides more weight than the puny store-bought weights and by emptying the coffee cans when you’re done, you’re not lugging heavy weights around.
- A ‘beach box’ – An easy-to-grab plastic tote that houses your 4 coffee cans, bungee cords, a roll of paper towels, and a few trash bags.
Ready to turn into full beach bum? Invest in:
- A small charcoal grill
- A small folding table
- A portable speaker for music
How much you want to buy and lug is up to you. First timers and tourists…keep it simple.
Where Should I Go?
Here are a few day trip itineraries to the most popular spots at the beach. Every trip assumes you’re coming from Corpus Christi, traveling over the JFK Causeway toward Padre Island. We will use the main Padre Island beach Stripes as a starting point for all these trips.
When you get to ‘the beach Stripes‘ on the left, you will have your first decision to make: go straight toward Padre Balli Park and Bob Hall Pier or take a left on Highway 361 toward Port Aransas, Mustang Island, and Packery Channel. Either way, that Stripes is a great place to pick up your beach parking permit.
Destination #1 (Bob Hall Pier)
One of the easiest ways to enjoy the beach is to head to Bob Hall Pier. If you are headed there, click that link before you go. It is a landmark that attracts surfers and locals. You’ll find that the pier costs a couple of bucks to get onto, there’s a full restaurant and bar, and you can rent, if you care to, a fishing pole or surfboard. Parking is plentiful and you can avoid driving on the sand. Once you are there you can drive or walk the beach as far as you care to.
To get there: once over the JFK Causeway, continue on SPID past Whitecap. The signs for Bob Hall Pier and Padre Balli Park will be on your left. Click here for Google driving directions.
Destination #2 (Packery Channel)
The Packery Channel Pier is another great place to take kids as far as making sure that they have plenty to look at. Packery Channel has a long walking boulevard where you can watch fishermen do their thing, dunes to play on, rock structures to jump around on, and a nice long pier that is filled with fishing activity. The best place to access the pier is on the beach, so you’ll have the best of both worlds.
To get there: once over the JFK Causeway, turn left at the first Stripes onto Highway 361. Take the first right onto Zahn Road/Access Road 3A-1. That road will dead end into the beach OR you can take a right to the Packery Channel asphalt parking. Do both.
Click here for a Google driving directions. From this end point you can take a left onto the beach and park anywhere.
Destination #3 (Beach Lodge/Horace Caldewell Pier)
Here’s our first driving trip. Stop anywhere along this route to poke around a little bit. This route requires driving on the beach, so just look for the hardpack sand or follow behind someone if that makes you uncomfortable. Stay on the hardpack sand and you’ll be fine.
This trip will take you by Beach Lodge, a restaurant/bar/lodging that is a Port Aransas institution. Whatever you decide to order make sure you get the onion rings. They’re some of the best in The Coastal Bend.
Once over the JFK Causeway, turn left at the first Stripes onto Highway 361. Take a right onto Beach Access Road 1 (Google driving directions) or Beach Access Road 1-A (Google driving directions). They both dead end into the beach. Choose either one based on how long you want to drive on the beach. Once on the beach, take a left (headed north). Park, drive, gander, birdwatch, take a dip. Explore the beach as you travel toward Port Aransas.
.9 miles north of Beach Access Road 1-A will be Beach Lodge on your left. There is a parking area. Park, go in and grab a table beachside. There you can grab lunch, a beer, and, of course, an order of onion rings. Before you leave, order another drink and take it up on the deck, looking out over the beach.
When you’re ready, get back into the car and head toward Port A on the beach again. 1.4 miles north of Beach Lodge is Horace Caldwell Pier. Like Bob Hall Pier you can pay a couple of bucks to get onto it. There is a store, restaurant and bar in the main building where you can get a boogie board, beach toys, etc. This pier is notorious for surfing so on a good day you can spend an hour or two watching the surfers do their thing. (Google driving directions).
From here, you can continue up the beach to the Port A Jetties (see destination #4), explore Port A or head home.
Two good Port A ‘beach spots’ to grab a bite on the way home are either The Gaff or Stingrays Taphouse and Grill, next to one another on Beach Avenue. Beach Avenue is the road right at the foot of Horace Caldwell Pier. The Gaff serves pizza in a dive-y atmosphere with a nice back patio. Stingrays has a pretty great beer selection and great food.
Destination #4 (Port A Jetty)
You can tackle this trip alongside trip #3 since the jetties are about 1500 ft. north of Horace Caldwell Pier. The Port A Jetty is a fantastic place to take kids because in one go you have everything: the beach, a climbing surface, 1000 things to look at including fishermen, their catches and the strong probability to see huge boats use the channel and turtles swimming near the rocks. (Google driving directions).