South Padre Island Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Beaches in Texas
Credit

Courtesy of DavieJones13/Getty Images/iStockphoto

South Padre Island Area Map

Neighborhoods

Because of its small size, South Padre Island is often grouped with other towns along the Gulf Coast of Texas, such as Port Isabel and Brownsville, both of which make great day trips.

The town of South Padre Island is about 2 square miles and can easily be explored on foot in a day. The town's three main north-south boulevards — Laguna, Gulf and Padre — and the short cross-streets are littered with shops, restaurants, bars and hotels. Vacation rentals and beach homes are speckled north and south of town.

South of town on the tip of South Padre Island is Isla Blanca Park, a popular stop among outdoorsy travelers with numerous open campsites, an RV park, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, stunning white-sand beaches and a paved bike trail. The park's southern end is a favorite place for dolphin-watching. Isla Blanca is also decorated with monuments, including El Cristo de los Pescadores, a large statue of Christ.

If you're looking for a change of pace, Port Isabel — a small town perched opposite South Padre Island on Laguna Madre — is home to several small museums, shops and seafood restaurants. Port Isabel is a great alternative for a rainy day as well; it is easily accessible by car — via the Queen Isabella Causeway — or by South Padre's public shuttle bus, the Wave. For $2 to $9, travelers can access the Port Isabel Museums, which include the Port Isabel Historical Museum, the Port Isabel Lighthouse and the Treasures of the Gulf Museum (this museum showcases the riches found in three nearby Spanish shipwrecks). Kids will enjoy the Black Dragon Pirate Cruises where they can head to the high seas and learn what life was like as a pirate. Like South Padre, Port Isabel is small and can easily be explored on foot.

Approximately 30 miles southwest of South Padre Island, Brownsville is known as one of the most historic cities in Texas. Once the site of several battles during the Mexican-American and the American Civil wars, Brownsville — located on the border between Texas and Mexico — is currently home to several small museums, numerous chain restaurants, several parks and the Gladys Porter Zoo. Unlike Port Isabel, Brownsville is not linked to South Padre Island by public transportation and because it's a larger city, having a car will come in handy. If you're traveling as a family, Brownsville is a great destination for a day trip as many of its attractions, including the Gladys Porter Zoo and the Children's Museum of Brownsville, cater to kids. However, travelers should know that Brownsville's proximity to the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas means the area does experience some crime and drug cartel violence.

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