South Texas (Citrus, Oil, Beaches, and More)

Unlike what some people might think, South Texas isn’t all desert. It’s rich in history, culture, and tourist attractions, but what portions of the Lone Star State does the region cover?

South Texas is the region southward of San Antonio, down to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The region’s highlights are economic hubs, oil extraction rigs, sandy beaches, and a blooming citrus industry!

South Padre Island Beach Texas - Texas News, Places, Food, Recreation, And Life.
South Padre Island Beach Texas - Texas News, Places, Food, Recreation, And Life.

About South Texas

The South Texas region is diverse, but many of its cities merge the state’s signature southern lifestyle with inspirations from Mexican culture.

Facts About South Texas

  • Location: Southward of San Antonio
  • Counties: 28 counties (43 according to U.S. Green Building Council Texas or USGBC)
  • Major Cities: San Antonio, Laredo, Corpus Christi, McAllen, and Brownsville
  • Land Area: 37,800 square miles (for 28 counties)
  • Population: 2.4 million (2019 estimation)
  • Violent Crime Rate: 240.3-523.5 (2013 stats)
  • Average Temperature in June: 73-98°F
  • Average Temperature in January: 43-70°F
  • Universities: South Texas College, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and Laredo College
  • Airports: VIA, MFE, LRD, and CRP
  • Best hotels: Omni Corpus Christi Hotel and Holiday Inn Express & Suites
  • Best Restaurants: El Rancho Grande, The Patio on Guerra, Bliss, and more

What Is South Texas Known For

The Lone Star State is already one of the top citrus producers, ranking third nationwide. As it happens, the South Texas region plays a huge role in that ranking.

After all, we have the Lower Rio Grande Valley at the southern tip, with more than 32,000 acres of grapefruit and oranges! Plus, there’s a whole Citrus Fiesta in Mission, Hidalgo.

However, that’s just one of the things that South Texas is famous for. Some counties have a reputation for their dazzling beaches, while other areas are known for their historical relevance, like the Port Isabel lighthouse.

People From South Texas

  • Shelbie Bruce: Actress, born in Brownsville
  • Leo Araguz: Football player, born in Pharr
  • Catherine Hardwicke: Director, born in Cameron
  • Farrah Fawcett: Actress, born in Corpus Christi
  • Kris Kristofferson: Singer, born in Brownsville
  • Steve Austin: Retired professional wrestler, born in Victoria
  • Joan Crawford: Actress, born in San Antonio

South Texas’ Geography

The geographical definition of the term “South Texas” can shift from one person to another. Even governmental organizations consider different counties to be part of South Texas.

Nearby Locations

South Texas is at the southernmost tip of the country. Plus, it’s bordered by the US-Mexico border from the west and the Gulf of Mexico from the east.

So, there aren’t a lot of locations around it. However, the region is pretty close to Austin if you go inland and Monterrey if you cross the border.

Layout of South Texas

The terrain in South Texas is mostly flat, and the region is a triangular-shaped area going from San Antonio all the way down to the Mexican border.

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However, one prominent feature in the region is the curved coast on the Gulf of Mexico, which is often referred to as the Coastal Bend.

Areas in South Texas

If you go by the Texas Comptroller’s classifications, then South Texas is a 28-county region that includes the following metropolitan statistical areas:

  • Brownsville-Harlingen MSA
  • Corpus Christi MSA
  • Laredo MSA
  • McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA

Plus, there are a few counties that aren’t associated with specific statistical areas, like:

  • Bee
  • Brooks
  • Dimmit
  • Duval
  • Edwards
  • Jim Hogg
  • Jim Wells
  • Kenedy
  • Kinney
  • Kleberg
  • La Salle
  • Live Oak
  • Maverick
  • McMullen
  • Real
  • Refugio
  • Starr
  • Uvalde
  • Val Verde
  • Willacy
  • Zapata
  • Zavala

However, the USGBC uses a broader definition for the region and includes way more counties like Bexar, Frio, Goliad, and Lavaca.

Although the United States District & Bankruptcy Courts of Southern District of Texas includes Houston in its classification, some people don’t consider it part of the South Texas region.

Getting About in South Texas

A car would come in handy when you’re trying to move around South Texas. However, bus transit agencies cover a lot of cities in the region. In some areas, walking is a valid option.

On Foot

Generally speaking, the most popular cities in South Texas aren’t easy to walk around. For one, San Antonio has a walkability score of 36.9 and a bike score of 44.5. So, you’ll actually have better odds of getting where you need to go on a bike versus on foot.

Laredo is pretty much the same as San Antonio in walkability, but it’s not as suitable for biking. Meanwhile, Corpus Christi is a bit more walkable, with a score of 40.3.

Driving

A few cities in the South Texas region that offer a great driving experience. For instance, Corpus Christi in Nueces ranked as the third best city to drive in nationwide in WalletHub’s 2022 listing.

Laredo ranked 14 on the same list, while San Antonio made it to the 27th place. These rankings might not seem as impressive, but it’s important to note that they’re still significantly better than other areas in Texas.

That said, some highways in the region are more dangerous, especially around the Eagle Ford Shale area. The sheer volume of trucks and oil tankers makes route 239 risky for drivers going through Kenedy. LaSalle and McMullen are affected, too.

Public Transport

The major cities in South Texas have bus transit agencies. For instance, you have the VIA in San Antonio. In Laredo, there’s El Metro service with over 20 routes, while Brownsville has the B-Metro with 12 routes. Corpus Christi has the CCRTA.

On the other hand, Valley Metro serves residents in Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy, Starr, and Zapata.

People in Uvalde, Zavala, Dimmit, Edwards, Kinney, La Salle, Maverick, or Real have the Southwest Area Regional Transit (SWART).

What to Do in South Texas

From dipping your toes in the sand to taking in the beauty of urban life, there’s something for everyone in South Texas.

Hit the Beach at South Padre Island

Laying on a sandy beach isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you mention the Lone Star State, but Coastal Bend tells a different story.

There are plenty of beaches to hit, but the South Padre resort town is just irresistible, especially for students on spring break. Even if you visit in the winter, you can still have a blast at the Winter Texan Music Festival.

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Stroll Through San Agustin Plaza

If you’re a history buff visiting South Texas, you must stop in Laredo to stroll the historic San Agustin Plaza. The reconstructed Roman Catholic church is one of the breathtaking buildings in the plaza. Yet another popular attraction is the Rio Grande Museum.

When you’re all done strolling the plaza and taking in all the history, you can hit the nearby stores for a shopping spree.

Check the San Antonio’s River Walk

The River Walk is a 15-mile waterway that will take you through an unmatched sightseeing experience in urban San Antonio.

Whether you take the boat tour in the morning or at night, it’s still a very relaxing ride. If you stroll along the banks, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for shopping and dining. Plus, if you’re lucky, you might catch one of the festivals held in the area!

Tour the USS Lexington

Unlike what you might have heard, the USS Lexington isn’t a replica—what once was a WWII aircraft is now a museum on the coast of Corpus Christi.

So, if you’re ever in South Texas, drop by the “Blue Ghost” ship for an entertaining, educational, and spring-chilling tour.

Spend the Day at One of the World Birding Center Locations

South Texas is a hotspot for nature lovers. After all, the Rio Grande Valley has nine different spots that make up the World Birding Center. The headquarters are in Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, but the other locations are:

  • South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center
  • Resaca de la Palma State Park
  • Harlingen Arroyo Colorado
  • Estero Llano Grande State Park
  • Edinburg Scenic Wetlands
  • Old Hidalgo Pumphouse Nature Park
  • Quinta Mazatlan
  • Roma Bluffs

No matter when you visit, you’ll still be able to spot some unique birds since the area attracts over 500 species.

Where to Eat in South Texas

Although Tex-Mex food is quite popular in the region, it’s possible to find restaurants that cater to different cuisines.

  • El Rancho Grande, San Juan
  • Sea Ranch, South Padre Island
  • South Texas Smokehouse, Harlingen
  • Maverick Texas Brasserie, San Antonio
  • The Patio on Guerra, McAllen
  • Bliss, San Antonio
  • Mi Nueva Casa Restaurant, Corpus Christi

Where to Stay in South Texas

Areas like San Antonio and the South Padre resort town have a ton of rentals and hotels to choose from. However, you can find comfy places to stay all over the South Texas region.

  • Omni Corpus Christi Hotel
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites (South Padre Island, Harlingen, and Laredo)
  • JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa
  • Wyndham Garden San Antonio
  • Hilton Garden Inn Harlingen Convention Center
  • The Lighthouse Inn at Aransas Bay
  • Grand Eagle Ford Lodge

South Texas FAQs

Is South Texas a good place to live?

Overall, South Texas is a pleasant place to call home if you’re looking to embrace the southern lifestyle. San Antonio neighborhoods are particularly appealing to many people looking to buy property in the region.

What are the economic centers in South Texas?

According to the Texas Comptroller 2020 review, Laredo and Corpus Christi are the top economic centers in the region. With leather and allied product manufacturing being the number one industry.

Is South Texas worth visiting?

Yes, South Texas is worth a visit if you’re into history, wildlife, or festivals. It’s even a good spot for spring break vacations.

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