THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018 71 70 THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018 Corpus Christi, with a population of about 300,000, is the metropolitan center of the Coastal Bend, and is home to the fifth-busiest port in the U.S., a prosperous and growing petrochemical industry, Naval Air Station C.C. and the C.C. Army Depot, and the ever-expand- ing Texas A&M University C.C. Downtown Corpus Christi is located in the northeast end of the city along Cor- pus Christi Bay and is where you’ll find numerous hotels, the seawall, the Ameri- can Bank Center arena and convention center, and the city’s museums including Science and History, Asian Cultures and the Art Museum of South Texas. The Harbor Bridge extends over the Port of Corpus Christi to North Beach and on to Portland and the North Bay Area. North Beach is where you find the U.S.S. Lexington (aircraft carrier) Museum and the Texas State Aquarium, along with a full-service hotel and nu- merous motels and condominiums, plus a mile-long stretch of pedestrian friendly beach on Corpus Christi Bay. On the South Side of Corpus Christi be sure to visit the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center on S. Staples St. past Yorktown Blvd. The South Padre Island Drive (SPID) freeway takes you to North Padre Island (“The Island”) and to our Gulf of Mexico beaches. The Laguna Madre is the long, large body of water that runs between Padre Island and the mainland, Flour Bluff. Baffin Bay is lo- cated farther south along Laguna Madre and is accessible by land at Riviera Beach, a few miles south of Kingsville. Padre Isles, on North Padre Island, is the largest waterfront community outside the state of Florida, and“The Island”of- fers miles of beautiful beaches, restau- rants, shopping, and the Padre Island National Seashore. Packery Channel separates North Padre and Mustang Islands and provides direct boating access to the Gulf of Mexico. Mustang Island is home to numerous beachfront condominiums and private homes, and KnowingYour WayAroundthe CoastalBend leads northward to Port Aransas (“Port A”), a fast growing “fishing village”that attracts affluent vacationers and second home owners, sportfishing and nature enthusiasts, golfers and beachgoers from across Texas and the US. Aransas Pass and Conn Brown Harbor are north of Port A, across the ship channel via a 24-hour vehicle ferry, and is home to a revitalized downtown area and excellent marina facilities. The Coastal Bend is just 2 1/2 hours south of San Antonio and east of Laredo, 3 1/2 hours south of Austin and Houston, and about a day south of DFW by car. Free online versions of The Coastal Bend Magazine & Texas Coastal Bend Tour Guide are posted at: Coastal BendTour Guide Coastal Bend Area Institutions of Interest Major Medical Facilities Christus-Spohn Health System The Coastal Bend’s leading healthcare provider, operating three major medical centers, three regional hospitals and numerous satellite facilities, including the regional trauma center, stroke care center and heart hospital. Driscoll Children’s Hospital Regional children’s hospital has served the entire South Texas community for over a half century, providing the very finest, leading edge medical and thera- peutic care. Main facilities in Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley. Higher Education Texas A&M University Corpus Christi The ever-expanding“Island University” now serves over 10,000 students, offers 33 undergraduate majors, 25 graduate programs and two doctoral degrees, and competes in NCAA Division I sports. Del Mar College Corpus Christi’s community college is one of the most accredited in the U.S., and offers associates degrees, voca- tional training and adult education programs in dozens of fields on two main campuses, a satellite economic development center, and South Side campus to come. United States Military Naval Air Station Corpus Christi Headquarters for U.S. Navy Air Training Command celebrates its 75th anniver- sary in 2016, and is where thousands learned to fly including George H.W. Bush and John McCain. Also home to the Corpus Christi Army Depot, largest military helicopter repair facility, and largest civilian employer in the region. Naval Air Station Kingsville Fifty miles southwest of Corpus Christi is NAS Kingsville, jet aviation training base for Navy and U.S. Marine pilots. The base hosts the 2016 Wings Over South Texas air show, which features the famed Blue Angels demonstration squadron.