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Victoria: The crossroads of the Gulf Coast

Victoria: The crossroads of the Gulf Coast
HARRY & LINDA KAYE PEREZ The collection at the Texas Zoo in Victoria consists exclusively of animals indigenous to Texas.

Video to come

Victoria, a pleasant 90-mile drive from La Vernia straight down U.S. 87, dates back to 1683 when the explorer LaSalle established Fort Saint Louis as a French colony. Artifacts from this settlement can be seen at the Museum of the Coastal Bend at the Victoria College Campus.

During the early 1700s, the Tamique and Aranama Indians made their home here along the Guadalupe River. In 1824, Martin De Leon, using a land grant from Mexico, established Nuestra de Guadalupe de Victoria with 41 Mexican families. This was the beginning of the modern-day city of Victoria.

Today. Victoria is a regional hub for a seven-county area known as the “Golden Crescent.” Because of its location within a two-hour drive of Corpus Christi, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, Victoria is also known as the crossroads of the Gulf Coast.

On the southeast corner of the Plaza De Leon, in the heart of Victoria, six flags fly: France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederacy, and the USA. Just across the plaza is the historic Victoria County Courthouse, built in 1892. The magnificent courtroom, with rich wooden desks, benches, and railings, is still being used and is open to the public. It is adjacent and attached to a modern annex facility and visitors have to enter through the security checkpoint entrance just to the right of the old courthouse. The day we visited, there were no legal cases being heard in the courtroom and we were able to walk around at will.

Riverside Park

Riverside Park, with 562 acres of woodland, is bordered on the west side by over 4 miles of the gently flowing Guadalupe River. Although tubing is not permitted, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing are allowed. Gerry’s Kayaks offers rental kayaks, paddles, and life vests. There are dozens of geocaching opportunities in this area. Other amenities of Riverside Park include 200 picnic areas with tables and barbecue pits, a public boat ramp, softball, playground facilities, and a 21-hole Disc Golf course.

Play disc golf

Disc Golf 101: Have you ever heard of disc golf? Well, we hadn’t so when we saw a group of young men at Riverside Park playing, we just had to stop and learn more about it. Instead of golf balls and clubs, players throw a disc into a “Pole Hole,” an elevated metal basket also called a catcher. The disc resembles a Frisbee, but is slightly smaller and heavier. It does not have the floating ability like the Frisbee, and has to be thrown with some force. Scoring is similar to regular golf; each hole has “par” posted and the lowest overall score wins the game.

There is also a nine-hole course at the Ethel Lee Tracy Park, just 7 miles from Riverside Park, that is a little less challenging than Riverside Park and is great for those new to the sport. With disc golf, there are no greens fees and no expensive equipment to purchase or rent. All you need is a set of three discs: a driver, mid-range, and putter. A complete set can be purchased for around $20. We learned that this sport has been around since 1970, but is just now gaining popularity; there are literally thousands of courses across the United States.

Visit the zoo

The Texas Zoo, near the entrance of Riverside Park, has a collection consisting exclusively of animals indigenous to Texas, and encompasses 10 different habitats ranging from humid marshes to dry-desert mountains. Because it is a relatively small zoo, it gives visitors, especially kids, an up-close experience with many of the animals. Admission ranges from $5.50-$7.00.

On the edge of Riverside Park you will find the urban-style Pump House Restaurant offering a variety of great American cuisine. It sits on a bluff overlooking the Guadalupe River; both outdoor and indoor dining and full bar service are available. The Pump House was built at the site of the plant that provided water to the city of Victoria for over a century. Many historic buildings have been incorporated into the Pump House Complex. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and named a Texas Historic Landmark in 2011. The Pump House Restaurant is closed every Monday.

The old downtown area is filled with historic buildings, homes, and beautiful churches. Just 25 miles farther south are Port Lavaca and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Victoria is complemented by beautiful outdoor spaces, including nearby Coleto Creek Reservoir and Park but that is another story (coming soon).

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at

Find out more

¢Museum of the Coastal Bend 2200 East Red River, Victoria, 361- 582-2511, Admission: Free. Donations accepted.

¢Gerry’s Kayak Rentals, 361- 935-3779, Victoria,

¢Texas Zoo, 110 Memorial Dr., Victoria, 361- 573-7681,

¢Riverside Park, 311 Memorial Dr., Victoria,

¢Ethel Lee Tracy Park, 701 E. Larkspur St., Victoria

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