National and State Parks of the Coastal Bend
The Coastal Bend is home to an impressive list of national and state parks that each offer unique experiences and are guaranteed to be memory-makers.
Located on Mustang Island within the city limits of Corpus Christi and adjacent to the beach town of Port Aransas, Mustang Island State Park is home to more than five miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. Named for the wild horses that roamed the island for hundreds of years prior to its settlement, the park was once a ranching island. Now a favorite getaway for families, retirees, students, and anyone that enjoys a leisurely time on the water, many activities can be enjoyed at this beautiful park year-round. Bonus: Head to the jetties to watch the local surfers riding the waves of the Gulf of Mexico.
Activities include: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Camping, Hiking, Birding, Picnicking, Biking, Geocaching
With more than 320 acres offered for true South Texas-style recreation, Goose Island State Park is a must-visit for camping enthusiasts. Located along St. Charles and Aransas Bays just north of Rockport, the park offers over 100 camping sites—either waterfront or nestled beneath beautiful live oaks trees—complete with water and electricity.
Fishing isn’t a problem without a boat; visitors can set right up on the 1620 ft. lighted pier that allows for both daytime and evening fishing. As a reminder, there’s no need for a fishing license to fish from shore or piers in Texas State Parks. Bonus: Goose Island State Park is home to “The Big Tree”, a large live oak tree that is not only over 1,000 years old but has also held the claim of State Champion Coastal Live Oak since 1969!
Activities include: Boating, Fishing, Wildlife Viewing, Camping, Hiking, Picnicking, Kayaking
Choke Canyon State Park is located along the 26,000-acre Choke Canyon Reservoir and consists of two units: South Shore and Calliham. A great spot for families and groups looking to enjoy the sunshine and outdoors, this park offers nice facilities to accommodate these needs, including a Sports Complex Area. Bonus: While out on a hike around the park, be on the lookout for remnants of Archaic sites from long ago inhabitants of the area.
Activities include: Boating, Fishing, Softball, Camping, Hiking, Volleyball, Picnicking, Kayaking, Swimming, Wildlife Viewing
Lake Corpus Christi was formed by the damming of the Nueces River. With many of the facilities on site being constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps—a program that provided work to thousands of unemployed Americans during the Great Depression—the park opened to the public in 1934. Bonus: The present site of Lake Corpus Christi State Park overlooks an impoundment of the Nueces River, which was the disputed boundary between Mexico and Texas during the Texas Revolution. A few miles northwest of the park are still remnants of the ghost town, Lagarto.
Activities include: Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Boating, Swimming, Picnicking, Birding
Padre Island National Seashore is the longest stretch of an undeveloped barrier island in the world. The 70 miles of coastline consists of a variety of important ecosystems such as tidal flats, rare coastal prairies, complex dune systems, and the Laguna Madre—which is one of six hypersaline lagoons in the world. The diverse ecosystems within the park play either home or host to wildlife that is just as varied with over 380 species of birds, coyotes, deer, insects, and a vast array of marine life. Included in this is the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the most endangered species of sea turtle in the world. Bonus: Hatchling releases for Kemp’s Ridleys are open to the public and take place June-August each year.
Activities include: Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Beachcombing, Windsurfing, Kiteboarding, Picnicking, Birding, Guided tours
Situated on the Blackjack Peninsula with portions occupying Matagorda Island, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937 to serve as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The total acreage of the refuge is 114,657 and it exists within three counties in the Coastal Bend. The Refuge offers a wide range of habitats including open oak savannahs, sandy prairies and oak woodlands. The unique barrier island ecosystem found at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge supports one of eight major estuaries along the Texas Coast. Bonus: The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is the proud wintering home of the endangered Whooping Cranes—locally knows as “Whoopers”—and are enjoyed by birding and wildlife enthusiasts November – February.
Activities include: Hiking, Birding, Wildlife Viewing