If you travel here in the winter months, there is a warm, inviting and enthusiastic welcome for all “Winter Texans” on South Padre Island (SPI) in Texas. This is a beautiful 34-mile long barrier island along the Texas Gulf Coast accessible via the Queen Isabella Causeway from the town of Port Isabel. Crossing the causeway affords sweeping views of the north and south ends of the island while being surrounded by the beautiful
turquoise and emerald waters of Laguna Madre.
The miles of gorgeous white sand beaches on the Gulf Mexico in SPI rival any in Florida or the Caribbean making it the perfect playground for kite & wind surfing, fishing, horseback riding, dolphin watching and, of course, swimming.
Time to eat in SPI
Plenty of restaurants and cafes offering every variety of cuisine from barbecue to seafood to Mexican to Italian and casual burgers & fries
will give you an excuse to eat out frequently. Chances are you’ll have live music to enjoy while you dine. PadreRitaGrille has the best
Mexican style shrimp cocktail while Louie’s Backyard offers a great seafood buffet including crab legs, baby back ribs and different
varieties of gulf shrimp dishes. If barbecue is what you’re craving, Smokey Tails BBQ is a good choice with a nice lean brisket and smoked turkey sliders. Try the sweet potato waffle fries & cheese curds, too!
If you’re in the mood for cocktails on the beach, visit Clayton’s Beach Bar & Grill, famous for being the biggest beach bar in Texas, right on the Gulf of Mexico with the ocean a step away. Sunsets over the bay on SPI are an experience not to be missed and Pier 19 offers a spectacular view while dining or enjoying a drink.
Sustainable South Padre Island
The island is also home to Sea Turtle Inc., a wonderful organization that rescues, rehabilitates and eventually releases injured sea turtles. You can visit this facility to gain a better understanding of their passion and see first hand how the turtles are thriving under their care. Most notable is Allison, the first sea turtle in the world to use a prosthetic device for a flipper.
If the temperature isn’t cooperating for water activities, Isla Blanca Park at the southernmost tip is the perfect place to enjoy a walk through this preserve and recreational park. Beachcombing is also a favorite pursuit along the one mile of beach. This county park is also home to a spacious RV park.
Just across the causeway in Port Isabel is the Dolphin Research & Sea Life Nature Center where you can discover many of the marine life native to the area while getting hands and having touch tanks to explore. The Center also offers Dolphin Tours on the bay.
SPI day trips
Don’t limit your time to just SPI, as the nearby town of Brownsville is worth the 25-mile trip to spend some time at the Gladys Porter Zoo. Animals abound as you make the 3/4 mile trek through the park encountering orangutans, Bactrian camels, zebras, lions, white rhinos, gorillas, giraffes and much more. Make sure you stop to feed treats to the giraffe and also visit Small World, where you can interact and feed baby Nigerian dwarf goats, miniature horses and potbelly pigs.
While in Brownsville, another great stop is the Texas Gold Shrimp tour. Here you learn about the Gulf Shrimp industry from a family who has been in the business since 1950. Included in the presentation is a dockside shrimp boat tour which gives you a feel of how difficult conditions are for the crew while out at sea. The crowning jewel to end the tour is a taste of fresh boiled gulf shrimp!
Since the average temperatures during December, January, & February can be between 60 and 75, this makes South Padre Island the perfect destination to escape wintery weather, bask in sunshine and enjoy the outdoors. Bring your whole group and have a blast on this sunny Texas island!
Patti Cotter is an avid traveler, taking her Class A RV across the U.S.A. with her husband. They have also enjoyed many experiences in the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands, South American and more. She calls New England home.