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Dog-friendly Corpus Christi, Texas

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The Coastal Bend has been a magnet for travelers since the days of buccaneers and Spanish conquistadors. Today’s visitors are drawn by a relaxed atmosphere and coastal abeauty, turning dog-friendly Corpus Christi, the capital of the Coastal Bend, into one of the state’s top travel destinations.

The waters of Corpus Christi Bay are calm, protected from the Gulf of Mexico by the barrier islands of Padre and Mustang, which served as pirate hideouts even after the area was charted in 1519 by Spanish explorer Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda. He bestowed the bay with its name, which means “body of Christ.”

Today Corpus Christi is a thriving city, consistently ranking as one of America’s busiest ports. High-rise luxury hotels, specialty shops, and seafood restaurants overlook the bay. The heart of Corpus Christi is Shoreline Boulevard, with its proud palms and spectacular views of the water. Beyond Corpus Christi lies Padre Island (often referred to as “Upper Padre Island” to differentiate it from South Padre Island near Brownsville.) Both Padre Island and nearby Mustang Island provide miles of beaches that welcome your dog!

Dog-Friendly Corpus Christi Activities and Attractions

Corpus Christi Bay Trail. This nine-mile trail winds along the waterfront by many top Corpus Christi attractions including the Art Museum of South Texas, Museum of Science and History, and Corpus Christi Marina. It also links six parks along Ocean Drive on Corpus Christi Bay. (Portions of the trail are actually a bike lane.) Info: www.traillink.com. Free.

Corpus Christi Beaches. Unlike Padre Island, the barrier island that lies beyond the city, Corpus Christi isn’t located on the Gulf of Mexico but on Corpus Christi Bay. You and your dog will need to head out to Padre for huge beaches but, within Corpus Christi, you do have some easy, convenient options for a sandy romp:

  • Cole Park. This 43-acre park on Corpus Christi Bay is a popular place for city events and music in an outdoor amphitheater. There is also a lighted fishing pier, a playground and lots of shady picnic spots where you and your pooch can enjoy the scenic views of the Bay. Info: Ocean Dr.; Free.
  • North Beach. Located across the Harbor Bridge, this expansive beach includes both a busy section of sunbathers and swimmers, complete with picnic tables and showers, as well as a quiet section on the north end, perfect for solitary dog walks. Info: Off TX-35/ US-181 at Corpus Christi Beach exit (near Texas State Aquarium). Follow the exit towards Burleson St., turn right on Burleson St. and continue on Breakers Ave.; Free.
  • McGee Beach. This downtown beach is a favorite with families with small children so, if your dog is reactive, choose your times accordingly. The beach has umbrellas for rent during the summer months; year-around you’ll find a large fishing pier and concession stand. From the beach, you can enjoy a walk on the Seawall. Info: Shoreline Blvd. and Schatzell St.; Free.

Harbor Ferry. The 90-foot Harbor Ferry transports visitors and their crated dogs from the Peoples Street T-Head to the Texas State Aquarium/North Beach area. The pedestrian ferry costs $3 for a round trip and runs daily during the summer as well as spring break, weekends only in spring and fall months. Info: Peoples St. T-Head; ccrta.org. Fee.

Hans and Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge. This coastal marshland on Oso Creek offers a one-mile trail as well as an 800-foot-long boardwalk. A favorite with birders for a chance to view brown pelicans as well as ducks and shorebirds, the refuge is also a great spot for dog walks. You’ll also find picnic tables scattered throughout the facility. Info: Ennis Joslin Rd. at Nile. Free.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park. Located west of Corpus Christi near the little town of Mathis, this 14,000-acre park has lots of water recreation including swimming, boating, fishing as well as hiking, birding and camping (with both improved and primitive campsites). Dogs are allowed in the park campsites and on the trails, provided they are leashed and under control. They are not allowed in any park buildings and cannot be left unattended. Keep an eye out for javelina. Info: 23194 Park Rd. 25, Mathis; www.tpwd.state.tx.us. Fee.

Padre Island. The 110-mile-long Padre Island, a barrier island that protects the south Texas coast from hurricanes, is reached by crossing the Intracoastal Waterway via the JFK Causeway Bridge. Don’t confuse Padre Island with South Padre Island. Padre Island is the northern stretch of island paralleling the area from Corpus Christi to Port Mansfield; from that point south to the tip of Texas, the land mass is named South Padre Island. The surf is usually gentle and shallow enough to walk for hundreds of yards before reaching chest-deep water. Occasionally undertow is a problem, but on most summer days the waves are gentle and rolling, and the water is warm. Padre Island is home to several parks:

  • Padre Balli Park. Padre Balli Park is named for the priest who managed a ranch on the island in the early nineteenth century. Operated by the county, this park includes both RV and primitive camping that offers plenty of beach fun for you and your leashed dog. Info: 15820 Park Rd. 22 (South Padre Island Dr.); nuecesbeachparks.com. Fee.
  • Padre Island National Seashore. Further south, the Padre Island National Seashore also welcomes dogs on leash. Although dogs are not permitted at the improved facilities at Malaquite Beach Visitor Center, you’ll find miles of beach just beyond Malaquite where Fido can splash in the waves. Our dogs loved this beach! Vehicles are allowed on Padre beaches but after the first few miles, only four-wheel drive vehicles should continue. Be sure to keep your dog close to you on the beach because, with the sound of the waves, it is difficult to hear cars on the soft sand. Five campgrounds are available (no reservations are accepted) for both tent campers and RVers although sites do not have hookups. Info: 20420 Park Rd. 22; www.nps.gov/pais/. Fee.

South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. This 180-acre park, located on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, features native South Texas plants and winding trails through subtropical foliage. The gardens welcome “controllable and friendly pets on leashes only.” Info: 8545 S. Staples Dr.; www.stxbot.org. Fee.

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