The city has an important sea port with a depth of 40 feet (12 m), kept constant upstream almost all along the length of the bay, where the Naposta Stream drains.
Bahía Blanca means "White Bay". The name is due to the typical colour of the salt covering the soils surrounding the shores. The bay (which is actually an estuary) was seen by Ferdinand Magellan during the first circumnavigation around the world on the orders of Charles I of Spain, in 1520, looking for a canal connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean all along the coasts of South America.
Bahía Blanca is served by Comandante Espora Airport (BHI/SAZB). There are two daily short-haul flights from Bahía Blanca (BHI) to the domestic flights airport at Buenos Aires (AEP) named "Aeroparque" during weekdays and once a day on Saturday and Sunday, whose carrier is just one: Aerolineas Argentinas The local airport's runways belong to the Navy Aviation (BACE, standing for Base Aeronaval Comandante Espora). There is a civilian terminal supported by the City Council apart from the military one.
The bus terminal of the city, in the process of being remodelled, services the whole country. The bus transportation system has a wider range of short, medium and long haul connections and destinations offering lots of overnight trips from Bahía Blanca to Buenos Aires, to hundreds of cities and towns throughout the country and also to neighbouring countries such as Chile.
A net of motorways merge in the city linking it to the region and rest of the country. In recent years different administrations have tried to create and improve an outer ring road by which traffic is facilitated avoiding unnecessary congestion allowing Lorries to directly enter and exit the area of the port. Those vehicles passing by can also avoid entering the city via this ring road. There are also projects to improve the road link between the city and the airport. Multiple local bus lines form the city transportation system. The main route, Ruta Nacional 3, is divided there into 3 North, going to Olavarría and Buenos Aires, and 3 South going to Viedma, Trelew, Comodoro Rivadavia, Río Gallegos, Río Grande and Ushuaia. Another routes are Ruta Nacional 35 to Santa Rosa and Río Cuarto and Ruta Nacional 33 to Trenque Lauquen and Rosario.
The city has the common features of all those founded by the Spanish and their descendants: a main square at the centre surrounded by main buildings. The City Hall and the Church are on opposite although facing sides. Buildings of administrative importance also surround the main square or are located nearby. The planning which took place before its foundation and during its early beginning conceived streets parallel to the sides of the main square. Almost all the blocks are then rectangular in shape. As the city developed the streets were extended and more rectangular blocks were added at the edges. The Administration of the City decided then to observe a plan of development probably about 1960s, when it might have been ruled that further developments would follow established criteria according to their purpose: permanent dwellers, public places, industries. Most of the city has terraced houses although detached houses surrounded by extensive gardens are well developed in some areas such as "barrio Palihue", with an adjacent golf course at Club de Golf Palihue "Barrio Patagonia" and country clubs for permanent and also for week-end dwellers were designed and developed at the outskirts of the city.
The architecture of Bahía Blanca is notable as well. Public buildings such as the seat of the Banco de la Nación, Bolsa de Comercio de Bahía Blanca (Chamber of Commerce, the stock exchange), the main Post Office, the former building of the local newspaper La Nueva Provincia, the City Hall, the Rectorate and academic departments of Universidad del Sur, its 'Casa de la Cultura', Teatro Municipal (Opera House of the city), Biblioteca Rivadavia and Club Argentino, amongst others, are well-considered pieces of architecture, most of them extremely well preserved. Some of them are of French neoclassical influence (L'École des Beaux Arts, Paris).
There are excellent monuments and pieces of sculpture scattered all along the city: in the streets, main buildings and green spaces such as Caronti's bust, facing the City Hall, the Memorial to Bernardino Rivadavia, at the centre of the main square, Fuente de los Ingleses and Memorial of the Israeli community, in the same square. The statue of José de San Martín, in Parque de Mayo, the sculpture group of Lola Mora in the fountain at the front of Universidad del Sur, the memorial to Giuseppe Garibaldi, the statue of Isabel I of Castile in front of the bus station, donated by the Government of Spain (no such pieces are donated to non capital cities as it has been this case, enhancing the importance of the local Spanish descendants), the pieces which decorate the frontispieces of Banco de la Nación, Edificio Banco Provincia, to the side of the City Hall, Saint George and the Dragon of the former electrical power plant of Ingeniero White in the Port, the ones of the former building of La Nueva Provincia and those of the Cathedral are unique, as well as the modern art ones which form the group of Paseo de las Esculturas, indeed remarkable. Although not a sculpture, the mural mosaic of Colegio Don Bosco, on the corner of Vieytes and Moreno streets, by Aurelio Friedrich -a local plastic artist- is to be mentioned. All of them do enrich the architectural, artistic and cultural patrimony and heritage of the City. Multiple green spaces have been created in the city: Plaza Rivadavia (its main square), Parque de Mayo, Paseo de las Esculturas, Parque Independencia, Plaza 9 de Julio, and Plaza Villa Mitre, are the most familiar ones. Besides the usual areas included when the city is to be shown to somebody who is unfamiliar with it, other areas of interest include the Barrio Inglés ('English Quarter') where the British foremen and technicians who built the railways and ports lived, and Villa Harding Green, a suburb where the railway and port managers dwelled.
The city is a developed one including cultural and educational aspects. It has a permanent Symphony Orchestra and a Company of Classical Ballet (Ballet del Sur) with an associate School of Classic Dances. For further education there are two tertiary institutes and two national universities. The first ones are Instituto Superior Juan XXIII (probably linked to the future UNISAL (standing for Universidad Salesiana) of the Salesians) and Instituto Avanza (tertiary institute of humanities). National Universities are Facultad Regional Bahía Blanca Universidad Tecnológica Nacional, devoted mainly to exact sciences and intended for students who do have a job for making a living, with formal activities in the evening; and Universidad Nacional del Sur (National University of the South), founded in January 1956. This last one has associated internationally-known institutes of research in biological, biochemical and technological sciences such as INIBIB and Instituto de Oceanografia, among others. One of its Directors, Dr Francisco Barrantes has been recently appointed as a member of the Executive Council of the Academy of Sciences of Latin America for the term 2006-2012. He is a reputed and well known scientist whose research on proteins of the Central Nervous System is considered as a reference for many of his international and national colleagues. Both national universities are free of tuition fees for all students. Nobel laureate César Milstein was born and raised in Bahía Blanca. He studied at the Colegio Nacional and graduated as "Bachiller" in 1944. Then he moved to Buenos Aires where he completed his education and university degree, starting his research in Biochemistry at Instituto Malbrán, after which he moved to the United Kingdom, becoming Professor at Cambridge University, where he was awarded Nobel Prize for the discovery and development of monoclonal antibodies for which he did not register any patent, which may otherwise have made him very rich. He thought his discovery was intellectual property of mankind and as such he left his intellectual legacy: of no financial but only scientific interest.
Initial and basic education depend on the Province of Buenos Aires although there is a locally elected Municipal Educational Counselor holding some degree of influence and supervision on both. The system was transformed about ten years ago through the Secretary of Education What used to be a system with primary (mandatory) and secondary (non-mandatory) education before continuing university studies (the 'French model') became Basic General Education (mandatory) and Polimodal Education (the 'Spanish-Catalan model') although nowadays it is being reviewed and likely to be modified again. Free education is granted by the state although there are semi-private and private schools. There are reputed provincial Schools of Plastic Arts and Music, free of tuition fees. Foreign languages are taught at public schools at a rather basic level. However, there are local foreign language schools such as the Asociación Bahiense de Cultura Inglesa (English, also taught by many other institutions), the Alliance Française (French), the Dante Alighieri Society (Italian) and Goethe-Institut (German), all of them private although with a good number of students. Portuguese is also taught. There used to be a school of Basque language at "Unión Vasca" also named "Euzkadi" with a much smaller group of students.
There are several Non-governmental organizations such as The International Red Cross, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs and multiple cultural and community associations, some of them intended to group descendants of immigrants promoting their respective culture, strengthening links between them and those already established with the Argentine society.
There is a main public one, whose building has been already named: Biblioteca Bernardino Rivadavia, one of the oldest of the area with a superb collection of about 160,000 books, some of them priceless, newspapers and magazines, the library of Universidad Nacional del Sur , also remarkable and open to the public, not only to the students, and smaller libraries in the different neighbourhoods, most of them assisted and supported by the City Council.
A very peculiar and quite interesting museum is the one organized by the Army at its local See Comando del V Cuerpo de Ejército at which a miniaturized recreation of the original Fortress is on display, made by César Puliafito, as well as a quite interesting collection of ancient maps, documents and pieces alongside one of the most important -and rather unknown- libraries of history in the region: this one and the one of the Salesians, at Inspectoría San Francisco Javier (Head of the Salesians of Don Bosco for the whole Patagonia) have fantastic collections with many priceless documents related to the conquest and civilization of Patagonia, almost completely carried out by the Army and the Salesians. The Army Museum of History of Bahía Blanca is open to the public with guided tours being available on appointment. All museums in the city have free admission.
Cinemas, discos, a variety of restaurants and pubs are available, many of them overnight. Frequent pieces of theatre, ballet and concerts are offered. Bahía Blanca has also two zoos: a municipal one, with a variety of species and permanent veterinarians and personnel looking after the animals, and a private one in the outskirts of the town. At the shores close to the city there are recreational places such as "Balneario Maldonado" and "Colón" . The Estuary has been graded and listed as The Natural Reserve of Bahía Blanca, Bahía Falsa and Bahía Verde, including the Islands Zuraitas, Bermejo, Trinidad, Embudo, Wood and smaller ones accounting for an area of 300 square kilometres, by Provincial Law 12101 effective since 1998 Fishing sharks is becoming an attraction for an increasing number of people, some of whom travel from all along the country to do it, in determined areas of the Estuary where it is permitted whether it be on boat or from small piers in the islands of the bay.
Those who are keen of pleasant beaches with sand and given the characteristics of the estuary -the soil is bay mud instead of sand or pebbles- must reach its south east limits located about 100 km (62 mi) away by road, where Pehuén-Có and Monte Hermoso are located. Both are popular beaches with warm water and available facilities for tourism, restaurants, hotels and properties to let during the summer.
People who prefer the mountains can easily travel to Sierra de La Ventana about 100 km (62 mi) to the North by road. The highest peak of this mountain range is Cerro Ventana of 1,134 metres (3720 ft) above the sea level. Parque Provincial Ernesto Tornquist , a natural reserve encompasses it. The area offers an interesting variety of touristic activities as well as restaurants, hotels and alpine-style cottages to let.
Facilities for playing football, tennis, rugby, golf, indoors swimming, indoors and outdors basketball and some other sports are easily available throughout the area.
There are two large indoors basketball stadiums with about 3000 to 3500 seats each and three important football stadiums close to the city centre, the largest one with facilities for hosting about 15,000 people There is one golf club with three courts of 9 holes each, driving range and putting green where courtesy for visitant players is observed. Two more golf courses are available in the area, one in a country club and the other in Puerto Belgrano. There is a variety of very good tennis courts and at least four rugby leagues. Swimmers can count on both ourdoors and indoors swimming pools, some of which have olympic dimensions being available the whole year. A variety of facilities for gymnastics, fitness, aerobics and other sports can be easily found.
Since the 1950s, Bahía has been considered the lead city of Argentine basketball. Well internationally known players are Emanuel Ginóbili (NBA, San Antonio Spurs, Texas) and Juan Ignacio "Pepe" Sánchez (who obtained a degree in History from Temple University, US, nowadays settled in Spain to play). Both of them are gold medal winners in the Olympic Games Athens 2004, and members of the Argentine Team who played the FIBA World Championship in Japan 2006 where they obtained the 4th position. Their coach -this last time- has been Sergio Hernández, also from Bahía Blanca. Former players Alberto Cabrera (deceased) and Atilio Fruet (retired) are also well remembered at national and local levels. The city's main football (soccer) teams are Olimpo and Villa Mitre. The first one played in the Argentine first division until relegation in 2006. Argentina national football team coach Alfio Basile is also a bahiense.
It is of continental type favoured by the location of the city by the ocean with warm superficial streams by the shores. Since the city is located in the limit between Pampas and Patagonia, it is warm and more humid to the North and varies rapidly to the South becoming dryer. Average temperatures are warm. Average rainfall is on the threshold of 550 mm/year. It does not snow during winter in the city (the last significant snowfall took place recently in May 2007. The one before was on July 9 1973), although perhaps it sometimes does in Sierra de la Ventana. Summers are hot. March, September, October and November are months when most of rainfall is expected. Autumn and winter tend to be windy. It should be kept in mind that the city is located in the southern (austral) hemisphere: summer starts on 21st December ending 21st March. Winter starts on 21st June ending on 21st September. Local GMT is not adjusted to daylight period according to the season, as it happens in most of the world. Hence, GMT -3 hours runs from the last Sunday in March to the last Saturday in October while GMT -2 hours runs from the last Sunday in October to the last Saturday in March.