If the worth of a Tex-ified kingdom were valued in cattle, oil, and land, then the King Ranch is the most powerful kingdom our state has ever seen. Dating back to the 1800’s, this ranch is almost as legendary as the Lone Star State itself. Exploring the ranch and the nearby town of Kingsville makes for a really fun adventure.
The King Ranch measures 825,000 acres which totals some 1300 square miles. That’s bigger than Rhode Island and roughly the size of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio combined. Conclusion – this place is HUGE. The history of the ranch dates back to the 1800’s when Captain Richard King fell in love with the Santa Gertrudis creek and started purchasing the land around it for cattle operations. In town, you’ll find the King Ranch Museum with articles like photos, vehicles, and saddles from the ranch’s long history.
To visit the ranch itself, all you have to do is head about 3 miles outside of town. The most common way to explore the ranch is to hop on a bus tour which leaves from the visitor’s center and takes guests around the property pointing out historic places like the mansion, horse graveyard, and iconic stables. You also make a stop at the Weaver’s Cottage to talk to a real “Kineno” cowboy descending from the Mexican families that followed Captain King to Texas when he was just getting started. Those wishing for a deeper dive can also arrange for a private tour.
The King Ranch is much more than just cattle. And just as rich as the human side to the ranch, is the natural side. Accordingly, the ranch offers nature tours for folks seeking the “wild side” of the ranch. Visitors are likely to see javelina, alligators, deer, and some of the ranch’s 300 species of birds. If you’ve never seen a Green Jay in the wild, then you are missing out. Folks literally come from all around the world to experience birding at the King Ranch, and you won’t be disappointed.
After you’ve seen a small portion of ranch life, head to Kingsville proper and explore the town that popped up after Henrietta King donated land to bring in the railroad. The historic district is primarily one street bookended by the Kleburg County Courthouse and Henrietta King High School. In the middle are a collection of businesses such as the King Ranch Saddle Shop where they handcraft amazing saddles and other leather goods bearing the “Running W” brand of the ranch. There’s also Harrel’s Kingsville Pharmacy and Soda Fountain. A great place to shop for knick-knacks, fill your prescription, or belly up to the bar for shakes, burgers, and homemade Mexican food.
If you’re looking for fresh seafood down here by the coast, then head about 20 miles down the road to Riviera, Texas and dine on the water at the King’s Inn. This legendary seafood restaurant has been serving up amazing fare since the 30’s. Start your meal with an avocado salad, and then order anything you want from their verbal menu. Just make sure to get extra tartar sauce. Trust me on this one.