Texas Travel

Texas Travel Guide: South Texas City Spotlights

By Patrick Reardon 2.15.23

When you’re driving through the Hill Country and the roads begin to flatten and the skies begin to open wider than ever, you know you’ve reached South Texas. Keep going, and you’ll come to the Rio Grande, the river that serves as the border between Texas and Mexico and deltas into the Gulf of Mexico at South Padre Island. Along the way, you’re sure to spot some familiar South Texas cities — each one representing something especially Southern and especially Texan.

So, if you’re done touring the cities of North, East, and West Texas, it’s time to head to one (or all) of these 10 towns for a slice of South Texas.

1. Castroville

Castroville’s unique charm came about when its founder, French immigrant Henri Castro, started recruiting settlers from Alsace, a stretch of territory on the France-Germany border. The little Hill Country time capsule isn’t like your typical small South Texas cities since much of the architecture, food, and even dialect is more Alsatian than Southern — but the warm, good-natured folks who inhabit the historic town are decidedly the latter.

Photo by Ronald Castle Photography

2. Del Rio

Arguably part of West Texas, Del Rio sits just north of Mexico on the Rio Grande and just southeast of Lake Amistad. Today, the town is primarily associated with the nearby Laughlin Air Force Base, a military pilot training base. But Del Rio is also right across the river from the Mexican radio tower that broadcast DJ Wolfman Jack’s gravelly voice across the nation.

3. Eagle Pass

Leaving Del Rio and driving 50 miles south along the Rio Grande will bring you to Eagle Pass, the first American settlement on the river. Originally erected as an outpost of Fort Duncan during the Mexican War, Eagle Pass is a simple town with top-of-the-line Mexican food (such as the Piedras Negras Tortilla Factory) and South Texas city nightlife and entertainment (like at the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino and Hotel).

4. Galveston

Galveston sits on the Gulf of Mexico just an hour south of Houston. It was an important merchant port for the Confederacy during the Civil War, but these days the historic sea vessels moored to the docks of Galveston are primarily for show. Visitors come to Galveston from all around Texas for a taste of history at old-school soda fountains, window shops, and the annual Dickens on The Strand Christmas festival.

5. Kingsville

If you’re visiting Kingsville, you’re likely there to see King Ranch, the largest ranch in the country. Kingsville was founded in 1904 to support the 825,000-acre cattle ranch, whose legacy dates back nearly 200 years. You can learn all about it and see ranch operations firsthand during tours or at the King Ranch Museum in downtown Kingsville.

6. Lake Jackson

Known around town as the City of Enchantment, Lake Jackson is an hour’s drive south from Houston or southwest from Galveston. Since the town is right on the Gulf of Mexico, be sure to visit the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, an avian research center with 34 acres of birdwatching territory. And when it’s time for lunch, get over to the Wurst Haus for a slew of German cuisine classics.

7. Port Aransas

Texan anglers know Port Aransas is the Fishing Capital of Texas. The town is just north of Padre Island and has 18 miles of uninterrupted beach and the entire Gulf of Mexico to enjoy during spring breaks and summers. And because it’s a fishing paradise, Port A’s seafood scene is one of the best in South Texas.

8. Port Isabel

Port Isabel is almost at the southernmost tip of Texas, just south of South Padre Island. Like Port Aransas, Port Isabel is a hot destination for anglers, surfers, boaters, and vacationers. Sightseers should add dolphin watching on the bay and touring the historic Port Isabel Lighthouse to their checklists.

9. Seguin

Seguin is just outside of San Antonio and is known for having a nutty claim to fame. That’s because Seguin has been home to the world’s biggest pecan statue at two separate points in history. Pecan-atics can peek in on the current champ, a 16-foot-long nut, at the Pecan Museum of Texas to work up an appetite before heading to the Pape Pecan House afterward for hand-picked pecans and pecan paraphernalia.

10. Uvalde

Uvalde is west of San Antonio, but it’s a gem amongst South Texas cities. It’s the birthplace of two political legends in Texas: John “Cactus Jack” Nance Garner (a judge and close friend with former presidents Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy) and Dolph Briscoe (the 41st governor of Texas). You can learn all about them and their influence on Uvalde at the Briscoe-Garner Museum in town.

Need more South Texas? Visit the seven state parks of the region here.

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