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This route through the southern part of Texas starts us off in Corpus Christi, and takes us due south on Highway 77. But first, let’s check out the USS Lexington aircraft carrier museum and take a ride in the flight simulator, climb behind the controls of a jet fighter onboard, or just enjoy the spectacular view from her decks. The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus is another must-see spot, with its many exhibits and daily presentations, such as the Dolphin Encounter and otter show. Those little guys are worth the price of admission alone.
Near Corpus Christi, we’ve got Port Aransas and Mustang Island to explore. Port Aransas offers free ferry service from Mustang Island to mainland Texas, which can accommodate either an RV or a car. Once we’re on the island, there’s plenty of time for walking along miles of unspoiled sandy beaches, where we can bird watch, go kayaking and seashell hunting. Afterwards, let’s hit several of the island shops and grab a few souvenirs, then enjoy a delicious dinner at one of the many island-style restaurants.
A quick ferry ride to the mainland later, we’re back on the southbound Highway 77.
Our first stop is Kingsville, situated in the Wild Horse Desert, west of the Gulf of Mexico. While we’re here, let’s check out the amazing King Ranch; it’s not hard to spot, since it sits on 825,000 acres of cattle-bearing Texas soil! Founded in the early 1850s, the King Ranch is home to the only 2 breeds of cattle registered in the U.S., both of which were founded right there on the ranch. Texas A&M University is also in Kingsville, as is the Naval Air Station-Kingsville, the largest advanced jet training center in the U.S. NAS-Kingsville is responsible for the tactical fighter training of Navy and Marine pilots. As we cruise past, we’re routinely treated to an impromptu air show as pairs of fighters shoot down the runway and streak into the sky.
Continuing our southward journey down Highway 77, we pull over and stretch our legs in Harlingen. Bird watching in Texas seems to be more than a casual pastime, and this city is a fine place to do it if we arrive during the spring and fall migration seasons. It also makes a perfect staging point for a jaunt down to Old Mexico for a day of shopping and sipping on a few authentic margaritas!
Back on native soil, we stay southbound on the 77 then merge with the TX-100-E, which takes us into Port Isabel, a town rich with character and history. Its 25-foot high bluff gives it a wide view of the Gulf of Mexico and made it an important, strategic point during the U.S./Mexican War and the Civil War. In its infamous, yet romantic past, Port Isabel was of great interest to pirates and smugglers, who formed business alliances with local ranchers to ship contraband from the Rio Grande to Corpus Christi. Today, Port Isabel and South Padre Island serve as a premier destination spot to travelers from all over. The activities offered here are virtually endless; windsurfing, kayaking, wave running, jet skiing, and even parasailing can be enjoyed year-round. South Padre Island is also a great place to watch the Bottlenose dolphin; entire families of these friendly and frisky creatures call the Laguna Madre Bay their home.
As we reluctantly leave Port Isabel, our course takes us back along the TX-100 to the US-83-N to the city of McAllen, which sits on the U.S./Mexico border and as a result, has a remarkable blend of both worlds in terms of its style, architecture, and culture. Its year-round warm climate makes McAllen a great place to escape the winter chill. While we’re here, we can enjoy a few rounds of golf and enjoy the scent of the acres and acres of citrus groves in the area. A few miles west in the city of Mission is the World Birding Center, one of the premier bird watching sites in the entire United States.
As you can see, Texas isn’t only about oil wells, vast expanses of land, and cattle ranches. The Lone Star State is full of so many varied experiences and adventures that we’ll want to return here again next year and revisit our favorites, and perhaps discover a few new ones.
Other Area Sponsors in Texas:
Parkview Riverside RV Park