Corpus Christi, located on a bay that feeds into the Gulf of Mexico, is the fifth largest port city in the country. There’s something for five- and fifty-year-olds alike thanks to a lively downtown anchored by a slew of skyscrapers and busy shoreline lined with condos and seafood restaurants. There’s also a beach for every personality, from sports enthusiasts to nature lovers. —Stirling Kelso
Mustang Island State Park
You won’t find any of the horses for which this Gulf-front stretch was originally named (they escaped their Spanish explorers) but this 18-mile barrier island is still full of wildlife such as jackrabbits, armadillos, and migratory birds.
Padre Island National Seashore
This 70-mile stretch is the longest expanse of undeveloped barrier island in the world, home to endangered crabs, sea turtles (nesting season is from late April to mid-July), and 149 species of fish. Even the first four miles of the park—the only section that’s accessible without four-wheel drive—feels vast and overwhelming: acres of dunes tumble along 50-yard beaches, large pieces of driftwood stick out of ocean waters, and more than 380 species of birds nest here.
The menu at this casual waterfront restaurant are packed with dishes—fried fish, shrimp and rice, and crab cakes—made from generations-old family recipes.
Villa La Casita
You’ll have total privacy at this Spanish hacienda-style house, built in the early 1900s. Elegantly arched doorways link the two bedrooms and common spaces; outside, a large patio is shaded in tropical foliage.
Texas State Aquarium
There are over a dozen exhibits at the six-acre wildlife center including the 10,000-gallon stingray lagoon where kiddos can touch and feed the cartilaginous fish. Also visit the Flower Gardens, an indoor tank filled with corals and fish (green moray eels and barracuda) that also call the Gulf of Mexico home.