Corpus Christ bayfront

The biggest of many surprises when I first came to Texas was Corpus Christi.  It is, after all, not often that the words “beach” and “Texas” are spoken in the same sentence outside the state.

No matter how many outside stereotypes it may up-end, though, Corpus Christi is quintessentially Texan.

Corpus Christi marina

Corpus was once on my regular travel circuit, but it had been years since my last visit when I arrived on this trip.

Corpus Christi seawaal

The first thing I notice is that the city has since not only acquired a skyline, but has razed blocks of old and unsightly buildings that once faced the bay.

Statue on Corpus Christi seawall

I could cut here to photos of magnificent sunrises over seashell-strewn beaches and there’s no lack of them within a 20 minute drive.

To reduce Corpus Christi to a stretch of sand and sea horizon, though, ignores some of the best part of the experience.

The city is wrapped around Corpus Christi Bay, sheltered from the Gulf by the northern end of Padre Island.

Corpus Christ bayfront parasailor

Here the Gulf has a distinctly Tex-Mex flavor, and the town exudes the same warmth and hospitality which seems to characterize all of South Texas (see my related post on San Antonio’s King William District).

 

 

 

A publicly accessible bayfront stretches more than 6 miles from the Convention Center to Swanter Park, passing through several other parks along the way.

 

 

It’s a magnet for walkers, joggers, and cyclists and a great way to begin any day.

 

 

World’s largest Whataburger, in the city where the chain was born

 

South Texas Music Hall of Fame, Corpus Christi

I turn away from the bay on Water Street and stumble upon an eclectic collection of sights that in combination could be located absolutely nowhere else.

 

The statue of Tejana music star Selena on the seawall is only one of many places where residents and fans pay homage.
Her star is among those on the South Texas Music Walk of Fame, which highlights other musical notables who were either born or lived in South Texas.

 

Selena memorial, Corpus Christi seawall

Selena memorial, Corpus Christi seawall

Some of the better known include Freddie Fender, Guy Clark, Selena, Christopher Cross, Kris Kristofferson, Rusty Weir, Doug Sahm, and Bill Haley.

More about it here.
 

 

 

 

 

Texas Surf Museum, Corpus Christi

Whether you’re a surfer or not, The Texas Surf Museum is great fun in a kitschsy sort of way. It’ll leave you humming ’60’s California surf tunes for the rest of the day!

More about it here.

 

 

 

Next door I find a great latte at Coffee Waves. I add it to my collection of “anywhere but Starbucks” coffeehouses!
Just over the Nueces River bridge sits the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, now a floating museum.

USS Lexington, Corpus Christi

Mess hall kitchen, USS Lexington, Corpus Christi

There’s enough hardware on this vessel – planes, engines, compressors, pumps, gauges, switches and dials – to keep any war buff or engineer mesmerized for weeks, but I found the living quarters far more engaging.

Crew’s quarters, USS Lexington, Corpus Christi

As I roamed this part of the ship I had a very palpable sense of the many who had lived aboard the Lex during its 48 years of service.
More about it here.

 

 

 

 

Just a stone’s throw from the Lex is the Texas State Aquarium. It may not be the world’s largest or most ostentatious, but it contains sea and shore life painstakingly selected only from species native to Texas.

Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi

Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi

 

Some great sculptures mark the entrance, and anyone with kids in tow will be glad to know that even here they’ll find the obligatory porpoise show.

More about it here.

I find myself on more than one evening – including my final night – having dinner just a couple of blocks from the seawall at the City Diner & Oyster Bar.  The atmosphere is classic 40’s diner, the service is friendly, the prices reasonable, and the food outstanding.  Like many popular local eateries, City Diner has no web site, but more information, including reviews, can be found here on Yelp.

I cross the river bridge for the last time.  Below me an oil tanker passes through the channel and oil rigs dot the sea horizon.  As I head northward I’m startled by a sight I never expected to see:  A wind farm stretches for miles, hundreds of vanes stirring in the breezes.  Texas is nothing if not a place of contradictions!

Wind farm just outside of Corpus Christi

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