Corpus Christi Travel Guide
Corpus Christi is your average mid-size city with over 360,000 people, but it just happens to be buffered by a barrier island with an expansive bay inside. Dubbed the "Sparkling City by the Sea," it's got a large variety of hotels, restaurants, shopping, and attractions because it's an actual city, not just a resort town. The fact that it's an International shipping port and major oil refinery center are offset by the presence of many cultural and general entertainment activities like the Texas State Aquarium, USS Lexington retired Aircraft Carrier Naval vessel, the Selena memorial, deep-sea fishing, dolphin watching, the renowned Palmilla Golf course, several museums like the art museum, Surf History Museum, Asian museum, and Science and History Museum, several art Galleries, and the American Bank Center which hosts ice hockey, rodeos, large concerts, and special traveling entertainment like Cirque du Soleil (depending on time of year). With a barrier island featuring a State Park, a National Park, and over 20 miles of beach you can drive down, there is definitely a cool relaxed beach-vibe side to the city as well, especially out on the island, but without the resort-town prices you find at other barrier-island or resort-town destinations. You know you're in South Texas because of the heat and humidity, however the lack of jammed up suffocating highways let you know you're not in a huge city like Houston or San Antonio. The low cost of staying here and consistent warm-weather winds are quickly making Corpus Christi as big a kiteboarding destination as it once was a windsurfing Mecca in the 1980's.
How to Get Here
Corpus Christi International Airport (CRP) is the closest airport; about a 20-30 minute drive to the kite spot of your choice. You may find cheaper flights into San Antonio International Airport (SAT), but that's almost a two-hour drive to Corpus Christi. Houston and Austin airports are also other options, both clocking in at around a three to three-and-a-half hour drive. Rental cars are plentiful at any of these locations if it makes more sense to fly cheaper and drive more.
Any airport you fly in to, you'll need a rental car to get around locally from place to place: kite spot, restaurant, bar, hotel, etc. Once you're in town most kite spots are within a 30 minute drive so you can easily kite a place or two or three in a day if you wanted to experience what Corpus Christi has to offer for kitting in a short period of time. There are many kiters in Corpus, but there are so many different places to ride, rarely is a spot crowded and each tends to have its own distinct crew and vibe.
Kiting in Corpus Christi is good all year round; it's the most consistently windy place on average in the US in terms of rideable days a year (teens +). The core summer season with the most consistent winds runs roughly from Memorial Day through Labor Day with winds averaging 17-21 mph daily. The winds are steady and generally from the Southeast, created by thermal effects from all the farmland surrounding Corpus Christi Bay. There are plenty of great days for kiting starting in late February with cold fronts yet warmer air temperatures, and we're typically out of even shorty wetsuits by end of March. The full season runs through October but there are some lighter wind days and stronger morning cold front winds throughout the year depending on the season.
Late fall, winter, and early spring riding are characterized by their frontal winds, usually a few days of nice Southeast wind punctuated by cold fronts blowing in from the North that tend to be more gusty. For those riders who have experienced the summer spots in the Southeast winds, the North winds will open up some other, not-normally accessible locations.
Local Rules and Safety Hazards:
Corpus Christi thankfully has few kiting restrictions. As always, it's good to check in with the locals at the kite spot to find out about anything to watch out for. Aside from that, it's mainly common sense: respect the place you kite, locals, and property. It's also important to keep an eye out for swimmers, surfers, and fishermen, particularly during the summer months when many vacationers are at the local beaches. The only true restriction is you can't be within 200 yards of the north side of Packery Channel Jetty on the ocean side of the island because that's the best surfing zone around.
Places to Stay and Eat
Where to stay largely depends on the vibe you want to experience on your trip.
Port Aransas is a great beach town out on the island with plenty of great restaurants and also has beach houses for rent if you're looking for a more home-like stay. Some notable places to eat in Port A are Shells, the go-to place for seafood, steaks, and pasta. If you're in the mood for pizza and a local brew, be sure to stop at Port Aransas Brewing Company. Great bars and nightlife here. Up the road a bit to the north is the gluttonous seafood feasts of The Boiling Pot where they pile the freshly cooked seafood straight onto paper on the table, allowing you to dig in with both hands.
Portland gives a small town feeling with quick access to Wildcat Kite Park; you're not more than 5 minutes from this popular spot no matter where you stay in the city. Walmart, as well as a few steakhouses and chain restaurants like Chili's, Applebee's, McAlister's Deli, and IHOP are all within a mile of each other Recently a few new hotels have been built so there are several hotels like Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn, Best Western, La Quinta, and a Marriott offshoot to choose from. There are no stand-alone bars in Portland, so if your evening routine involves a pub crawl, Chili's and Applebees are as good as it gets (though the central district for going out in Corpus is in downtown only 10 minutes away from Portlan). Make sure you visit the taco shack, Taqueria El Tapatio, just up the street from the kite park for the most amazing pre-game burritos and Mexican food, but don't plan to go after your session because it's only open for breakfast and lunch.
North Beach is home to the Texas State Aquarium, the USS Lexington Aircraft Carrier, and the most dense group of souvenir beach shops on the mainland. There are many restaurants right there like Fajitaville, Blackbeard's, Pier 99, Yo's Philly Sandwich shop, and more, and all are easily accessible from the several hotels on North Beach, the nicest of which is the Radisson. The south end of North Beach by the Lexington is a small beach and lots of pedestrian traffic, and not a good place to kite, though it's where the bulk of shops and restaurants. Only a mile or so up the beach though, the sand opens up, the power lines go away, and there is plenty of room to launch and land your kites. There is a regular crew who rides there and can tell you any other things to look out for at this spot.
Downtown in the heart of Corpus Christi there are a couple great hotels like the Omni Hotel and Best Western as well as a few great restaurants and bars all within a few blocks. Water Street Market is a block of downtown that houses the Water Street Oyster Bar and Seafood Company for both seafood and sushi, Executive Surf Club for a beer-garden style burger restaurant with live bands playing most nights, and Aria Loft and Terrace which is a Friday and Saturday night-only club. For a bit more cultural experience nearby are Thai Spice (a Thai restaurant), Bleu Bistro (French), Cassidy's Irish Pub, and House of Rock for drinks and nightly concerts. Harrison's Landing and Landry's are both fantastic slightly higher-priced seafood restaurants built on top of the water of the Corpus Christi Bay.
South Padre Island Drive spans the area south of downtown and has the most diverse selection of places to stay and eat. Hotels choices include Springhill Suites, Embassy Suites, Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Hyatt Place, Hilton Garden Inn. There are many chain restaurants along this stretch of road along with shopping malls and many other things to see. On weekends the Corpus Christi Trade center is open, one of the largest indoor flea markets. If you go, we strongly suggest stopping at the corn stand for grilled corn with mayo, butter, chili powder, and Parmesan cheese. Out at the end of South Padre Island Drive there are a couple local favorite restaurants like Padre Island Burger Company for burgers and beer or Snoopy's Pier for fantastic (mostly fried) seafood.
Things to do When There's No Wind
When there's no wind there are a variety of things to do in Corpus. Usually no wind means good surfing on the beach so if that's your thing rent a board and get to it. Nature person? Visit to the National Seashore or the Texas State Aquarium are suggested, though there's a Botanical Gardens as well, which is nice if it's not boiling hot outside. Bargain Shopper? Find anything you could want at the Trade Center. History Buff? Tour the USS Lexington aircraft carrier, one of the first aircraft carriers ever built. Love music? Concrete Street Ampitheater, Brewster Icehouse, or House of Rock are some great venues.
One Thing You Should Not Miss
One thing any kiteboarder visiting Corpus Christi should not miss is the summertime Bay crossings Friday night hosted by Kiteboarding.com. The festivities kick off on Friday nights at 6pm at Wildcat Park in Portland, TX where we ride 5 miles across the bay to North Beach, land the kites, kick back a few drinks at Fajitaville, and kite back to Portland as the sun sets. If you can stay upwind it is an easy trip and one of the most unique kiteboarding experiences around.