Wild About Padre Island, Texas
by The Vagabondish Team | January, 2013
Padre Island is a barrier island located in the Gulf of Mexico on the tropical tip of Texas. This long and skinny island stretches for 113 miles and is actually the world’s longest barrier island. Within the island is the popular resort town of South Padre Island. This town is easy to reach via a causeway on mainland Texas in Port Isabel. The island is also home to spectacular remote beaches such as the Padre Island National Seashore.
Getting Your Bearings
Padre Island is located in Cameron County, Texas. There are two major airports that offer easy access to Padre Island: the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport in Brownsville and the Valley International Airport in Herlingen. Padre Island is less than 30 miles from the border of Mexico. The location, at the far southern tip of Texas, is pretty isolated from other attractions in Texas. For example, driving time to Galveston is over seven hours and driving time to San Antonio is over five hours.
Introduction to Padre Island
Before you plan a trip to Padre Island, there are important things to know about weather and seasons. The best time to visit is from September through February. During these months, the very hot temperatures of summer have receded. With average daily temperatures in the 80s, the island is inviting for swimming and sunbathing in September, October, and November. Temperatures are a little cooler in the 60s from December through February, but many people still visit during this time to avoid freezing winters up north.
One of the most popular times to visit is during spring break from March through May. During these weeks college students from across the country flood the area. Travelers looking for a festive atmosphere might be drawn to the beach parties and nightlife while those looking for peace and quiet or traveling with families will want to avoid this period of time. Temperatures are hot during the months of June through August, and towards the end of this period, hurricanes can sometimes be a risk.
What to Expect in Padre Island
There are two very different sides to Padre Island. First, there’s the resort town of South Padre Island, home to frothy cocktails, crowded beaches, and plenty of adult entertainment from windsurfing to water skiing. There’s also a major more serene side to the island, as you drive further along the barrier island towards the protected Padre Island National Seashore. The island is also known as a paradise for bird watching enthusiasts with more than 300 recorded species on the island. Explore local eco-tourism by learning about the local sea turtles or book a dolphin tour to encounter these playful creatures in their natural environment.
What to See in Padre Island
Beyond the beaches, take time to explore the entire island. The quaint fishing village of historic Port Isabel is a lovely place for a sunset stroll. Check out the Port Isabel Lighthouse during your visit. Some visitors are tempted by the close location to Mexico and plan a daytrip. The vibrant border town of Matamoros is only 30 miles south of South Padre Island. Here you can check out local cuisine and art. One attraction that will appeal to nature enthusiasts is the Dolphin and Nature Research Center.
Festivals and Local Events
Padre Island hosts festivals throughout the year. Some of the most popular events include the Turtle Days Shellabration in May, the Beachcombers Fine Art Show in July, and the Sandcastle Days in September. South Padre Island also hosts a Fourth of July Fireworks Extravaganza, celebrating American Independence Day the traditional way with fireworks and music.
One of the biggest events of the year is spring break. During these weeks, there’s a variety of beach parties, volleyball tournaments, and plenty of nightlife. For other great ideas great things to see and do, check out the Padre Island Travel Guide.
Rainy Day Activities
With over 250 days of sunshine a year, you might not encounter a rainy day at all during your trip to Padre Island. Yet there are many indoor activities here including shopping and spas. It’s also home to unique shops such as Cactus Flower for furniture or art and Becky’s Place for women’s fashions and jewelry, or Paragraphs on Padre Boulevard, a leading independent bookstore. If you’re looking to plan a spa day, check out Sapphire Spa or Venus Nails and Spa.
Visitors will find a variety of lodging options with most accommodations centered in the resort town of South Padre Island. You can choose between big resorts, chain hotels, and South Padre Island rentals. Recognizable names include Comfort Suites, Holiday Inn Express, Hilton Garden Inn, and Travelodge.
Options for resorts and inns include the Isla Grand Beach Resort, the Palms Resort, and La Copa Inn Beach Hotel. Many visitors choose spacious South Padre Island Beach house rentals or condos on the beach and take advantage of extra space, privacy, and the convenience of a kitchen. Many accommodation choices are found on the South Padre Island Chamber website.