Mustang Island State Park
“How’s that song go?” asked the fisherman on the south jetty of Mustang Island’s Fish Pass. “The ocean is a desert with its life underground?” As we looked back over five miles of beachfront, however, I was impressed by the life I could see aboveground. With its white sands and no-vehicles-allowed swimming area, Mustang Island State Park attracts surfers, hikers, mountain bikers, campers, and, more notoriously, spring breakers. Despite the activity the park remains one of the prettiest, cleanest swaths of publicly owned land on the Gulf. And there are still spots to steal away to: head for the south jetty, as I did, where you’ll find peaceful tide pools full of minnows and the occasional sea urchin and anemone—you might also catch sight of crevalle jack, drum, and mackerel in the surf—or rent a kayak and set out across the dunes and Texas Highway 361 to a twenty-plus-mile network of paddling trails amid the cordgrass marshes. Spoil islands, made up of mud and shells dredged from area shipping channels, are an avian heaven, and as you wend your way to the blue-green waters of Corpus Christi Bay, it’ll be just you and the birds.
To get there: Mustang Island SP is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. From Corpus Christi, take Texas Highway 358 across the JFK Causeway until it becomes Park Road 22, then turn left onto Texas Highway 361 and drive north for about 5 miles to park headquarters (361-749-5246). Entrance fee is $5 per day.