Corpus Christi is a beach town. It’s our vibe, man.
So is it any wonder that the very best–the big #1–Thing to Do is ‘going to the beach.’ And the best part…it is practically free.
Got kids? The beach is perfect because it changes daily and allows you infinite teaching and connection opportunities. You’ll teach them (about birds and shells and tides and safety and how to go to the bathroom on the sly), but they will teach you as well (about wonder and dreams and the size of life and keeping it simple).
There’s a lot of beach within an hour’s drive–miles of it–to explore and that can be intimidating to a newbie. Where do I go? What should I take? What do I need? Let’s get started.
Step One: Buy your beach permit
You’re going to need a beach permit sticker that you put on your windshield. There are places to go that do not require a beach permit, but then you’ll have to think too much. Spend your $12 and remain worry free. The sticker remains valid until December 31st of the year you buy it. Beach permits are available at any Stripes convenience store, HEB, Wal-Mart, etc. Here’s more info about beach permits.
Step Two: What to take
What to take to our beaches is 100% dependent on the kind of experience you’re looking for. Going for a simple romantic walk? You don’t need much. Going for a full day with the whole family? We have some suggestions for you.
We’re going to talk more about going for a day and what a local’s rig might look like. Here’s what’s in our kit:
- A pop up canopy
- Four large, empty coffee cans to fill with sand to bungee to the four legs of your canopy to weigh it down
- The bungees to do that
- Folding camp chairs for everyone
- A change of clothes
- Towels for everyone
- A roll of paper towels
- An empty trash bag or two. The locals’ rule is to clean up not only your area but a wider radius since, you know, you’re a good person.
- Water for everyone
- Something besides water for everyone. If you take alcohol know that glass is strictly prohibited. Do not take glass to the beach. Looking for local, canned beer? Lorelei Brewing Co. is currently the only local brewery that is canning
- A fully charged bluetooth speaker for jams
- A boogie board or two
- An empty five gallon bucket to fill up with beach water and put near the car for when you’re ready to leave. Get in the car, but keep your feet outside the vehicle and put your towel on the floorboard. Dunk your feet in the water to remove the sand, dry ’em off on the towel. Your car stays mostly sand-free.
Are you taking a truck? You’ll have room for:
- A rake to get your area seaweed free and turn the sand over a little bit before you settle in.
Going full out?
You’ll need to eat which means you’ll need.
- A cooler for your food
- A small charcoal grill, charcoal, lighter fluid, etc.
Meeting up with friends?
- Head over to Fly It Port A Kite Shop, the only kite store in our area, to buy a marker. This will be a kite that you tie to your vehicle once airborne. Tell your friends to go to mile marker X (more on this below) and look for your kite.
Step Three: Know the Basics
Before we set out, let’s talk about some basics. This article covers going to the coast along the Gulf of Mexico. This is not to be confused with our Bayfront beaches, McGee Beach located in downtown Corpus Christi and North Beach which is located across the Harbor Bridge near The Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington. If you simply want to put your toes in the sand and get your feet wet without making a drive, visit one of these two spots. There are plenty of opportunities for fun near McGee Beach including water sports, bike, scooter, surrey, SegWay rentals and more. North Beach is near some of Corpus Christi’s most popular attractions with beachfront restaurants like Fajitaville and Pier 99.
Traveling to the nearest Gulf of Mexico beach requires a drive over the JFK Causeway (stop on the way home at Snoopy’s Pier for a bite!) on to Padre Island which is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Corpus Christi. Along Padre Island and Mustang Island are beach access roads that put your vehicle directly onto the beach.
Once you’re on the beach, you can drive right on it. You’ll notice a hardpacked area of sand parallel to the coastline that is the natural place to drive. You’ll see others driving…just fall in behind them. If the driving conditions are correct you drive on the beach all the way to Port Aransas.
Find someplace you want to stop and explore? Simply park on the beach. The common way to park is perpendicular to the coastline with your ‘camp’ between the vehicle and the water. Remember always that the beach is a place filled with children so drive the 15 MPH speed limit and stay aware.
Dogs are allowed on leashes. You must pick up your dog’s business.
You may have a fire on the beach but the requires you to dig a 3′ deep hole to hold your fire. The hole for your fire may not be larger than 3′ x 3 x 3′. You must extinguish your fire and all ashes before you leave your fire behind.
Step Four: Let’s get going
You’re packed and ready to go so let’s find some of the best and easy-access places to go. Here are a few car trips to get you started. Each trip assumes you’re coming from Corpus Christi, traveling over the JFK Causeway toward Padre Island.
When you get to the first 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.
Extra Tip: Start every trip with a visit to JB’s German Bakery for pastries and coffee..
Trip #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. 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 a Google Map.
Trip #2 (Packery Channel)
The Packery Channel Pier is another great place to have a beach experience within the shortest drive from Corpus Christi. Packery Channel connects the Gulf of Mexico with the Laguna Madre and is part of the larger Packery Channel Park. The channel walls in the photo are long walking boulevards where you can watch fishermen do their thing adjacent to 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 left to the Packery Channel asphalt parking. If you want to park on the beach, begin driving north on the beach (toward Port Aransas), find your spot and park on the sand.
When you’re on the beach take a right and park to walk the pier. Click here for a Google Map.
Trip #3 (Beach Lodge/Horace Caldwell Pier)
Here’s our first beach 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 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 Map) or Beach Access Road 1-A (Google Map). 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. Park, drive, gander, birdwatch, take a dip. Explore the beach as you travel toward Port Aransas.
On your left will be Beach Lodge. 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. You will eventually reach 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 Map)
From here, you can continue up the beach to the Port A Jetties (see trip #4).
Two good ‘beach spots’ to grab a bite on the way home are either The Gaff or Stingrays, 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 great food and a decent craft beer selection.
Trip #4 (Port A Jetties)
You can tackle this trip alongside trip #3 since the jetties are close to Horace Caldwell Pier, but it would make for a long day. 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.