South Padre Island Attractions and Events for Your Vacation

South Padre Island

South Padre Island has much more to offer than just surf and sand. Check out Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark, the Point Isabel Lighthouse in nearby Port Isabel, the SPI Nature Center, local museums and more.

Sea Turtle, Inc.


South Padre Island’s Sea Turtle, Inc. is dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating sea turtles, particularly the endangered Kemp’s Ridley. Sea Turtle, Inc. also offers education tours, giving visitors an up-close look at these magnificent creatures.

Sea Turtle, Inc. was founded in 1977 by Ila Loetscher, better known as “The Turtle Lady of South Padre Island.” STI was formed to aid and assist in the protection of Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle – and to ultimately restore the ridley population to a level that will ensure its survival.

Through the years STI has expanded its scope to actively support the conservation of all marine turtle species. To achieve its goals, STI provides educational programs to schools, tourist bureaus, civic organizations and new media.

Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark – South Padre Island

One of the top waterparks in the country, South Padre Island’s Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark is located right on the beach and offers a wide variety of waterslides, rides, pools and other ways to ‘get wet.’ Schlitterbahn Beach also features a restaurant, sports bar and evening entertainment during the summer season.

Offers a fun dining experience with spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre. Open 4 pm-10pm Monday – Friday and 11 am –Schlitterbahn Beach Water Park 10pm Saturday and Sunday. No water park admission fee required to dine at Club Rio Beach. Enjoy fabulous brick-oven hand-made pizza, seafood, steaks, burgers and more. 90 Park Rd, Highway 100.

Andy Bowie Park

At the northern end of the South Padre Island town limits. Travel north on Park Road 100 to the South Padre Island Convention Center. Next to the convention center is the popular Laguna Madre Nature Trail, a must for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers. Across the road from the convention center are the parks day use facilities. Completed in early 1994, these include two beachfront picnic pavilions, umbrella and boogie-board rentals, concessions, a unique children’s playground, shower facilities and a ranger station.

andy bowie parkAsk the Andy Bowie manager about group rental facilities for private beach parties. Further north in the park you will find horseback riding and a beachfront access road which opens up twenty miles of drive on the beach for the more adventurous. On the bay side of the park, you’ll find popular spots for windsurfing and wade fishing. Entry $4 per vehicle.

Museums of Port Isabel

The tiny town of Port Isabel in Deep South Texas is steeped in history. As one of Texas’ oldest towns, Port Isabel served as a strategic port during both the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. Today, the Museums of Port Isabel celebrate and spotlight the area’s rich history.

Gladys Porter Zoo

One of the top 10 small zoos in the country. The zoo is a 31-acre preserve with more than 1,800 mammals, birds, and reptiles. Located at Ringgold and Sixth streets in Brownsville. Open daily from 9 a.m. to sundown. Adults $6; children $3. 956-546-7187.

Palo Alto Battlefield

Over the years, the Rio Grande Valley has played an important role in Texas and US history. Palo Alto Battlefield, just north of Brownsville, was the site of the first battle of the US/Mexican War in 1846. Today, Palo Alto is open to visitors as part of the National Park Service.

Point Isabel Lighthouse – Port Isabel Lighthouse

The Point Isabel Lighthouse in Port Isabel served mariners along the Texas coast for more than five decades. Today it is designated as the Point Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site and is a favorite stop for tourists and history buffs.

Gladys Porter Zoo

Located at the tip of Texas, in the border city of Brownsville, the Gladys Porter Zoo has long been recognized as one of the nation’s best zoos. Easily one of the most popular attractions in South Texas, Gladys Porter Zoo attracts nearly 400,000 visitors on an annual basis.

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Located a short drive from South Padre Island, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge boasts half a dozen trails on which visitors can view an amazing variety of bird and animal life, including the reclusive Ocelot.

Isla Blanca Park

On the southernmost tip of South Padre Island, is the crown jewel of the system. Over one mile of clean, white beach along the Gulf of Mexico offers abundant waterfront recreational facilities, and our beachfront facilities make the clear gulf waters accessible to all. Enjoy our picnic and playground areas, the south fishing jetty, restaurants and clubs, Sea Ranch Marina, U.T. Pan American Coastal Studies Laboratory exhibits, and the Chapel By The Sea non-denominational church.

isla blanca parkThere is also a full service marina with daily charters, the world renowned Schlitterbahn Beach Water park South Padre Island, and a boat ramp. Support facilities include a laundry and retail shops. New webcams with live views of the beach. With nearly 600 R.V. spaces, we are not only one of the biggest parks in Texas, but also the best! Popular jetty fishing and surfing area. Entry $4 per vehicle before 5pm, $2 after 5pm

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

A 45,000-acre federal preserve for wildlife and bird watching on the mainland. Open daily from sunrise to sundown (about 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.). $2 per vehicle. 956-748-3608.

Laguna Madre Nature Trail

Next to the Convention Centre and Whaling Wall No. 53, the Laguna Madre Nature Trail is a 1,500-foot boardwalk that extends across four acres of wetlands. Containing informative signs about dune systems and bird species that frequent the area, the nature trail provides visitors with the opportunity to observe many species of birds and other wildlife in their natural habitat.

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife RefugeThe idea of the Laguna Madre Nature Trail was conceived by naturalist Ed Hawkins. It is dedicated to his memory. Both the Whaling Wall and nature trail are always open to the public free of charge and can be accessed through the circle driveway leading up to the Convention Centre. The South Padre Island Convention Centre is located at 7355 Padre Blvd. at the north end of town.

Laguna Station

Laguna Station Located on South Padre Island, Laguna Station offers a variety of exciting aquatics adventures to Boy Scout Troops and co-ed explorer posts. Fishing, sailing, scuba and Island adventures round out the opportunities.

Laguna StationLaguna Station also offers off-season camping and programs to church youth groups and other youth groups. For more information, call Glenn Harrison, director, at (956) 423-0250, or write: Laguna Station, Rio Grande Council, 1301 S. 77 Sunshine Strip, Harlingen, TX 78550.

South Padre Island Activities & Tours

Anytime is the time to visit Texas’ top beach, South Padre Island. Besides beautiful stretches of sand, and an array of impressive restaurants, SPI offers visitors a host of outdoor activities during the summer months. And even better deals in the off season. Enjoy our top ten list of things to do!

Go on a Dolphin Watch

Breakaway Cruises of South Padre Island offers dolphin watches, sunset cruises, fireworks cruises, snorkel trips, and more to make your South Padre Island vacation complete.

Breakaway Cruises

Breakaway Cruises of South Padre Island offers dolphin watches, sunset cruises, fireworks cruises, snorkel trips, and more to make your South Padre Island vacation complete.

Ride a Horse on the Beach

South Padre Island’s Island Equestrian Center offers kids and adults alike an opportunity to ride a horse on the beach on the desolate stretches beach on the north side of South Padre Island.

Fins 2 Feathers Cruises

Fins 2 Feathers Cruises of South Padre Island offers a variety of private sunset, dolphin watch and bird watching cruises and activities.

Island Equestrian Center

South Padre Island’s Island Equestrian Center offers kids and adults alike an opportunity to ride a horse on the beach on the desolate stretches beach on the north side of South Padre Island.

Golf the Gulf

The South Padre Island Golf Club winds along the placid Laguna Madre bay with spectacular views of the Island. It’s no wonder that it was selected as one of the Top 20 news courses in America by Golf Magazine when it opened in 1997. Each hole offers unexpected challenges just minutes from South Padre Island in Laguna Vista. The 18-hole, par 72 course is complemented by a 385-yard driving range, putting and chipping greens, pro shop and clubhouse.

South Padre Windsurfing

The Laguna Madre Bay separates South Padre Island from the Texas mainland and is recognized as one of the world’s top windsurfing destinations. The sailing season off South Padre runs from September through May. Water depth varies from three to five feet, daytime winds average 18 mph, and the average yearly temperature is in the 70’s. Novices and pros come to sail the bay, the Jetties, Boca Chica, and the Ditch, site of some of the fastest windsurfing speeds in North America.

Kite boarding

Kiteboarding is fast becoming the hottest new water sport and South Padre Island offers year-round, world-class kiteboarding conditions. consistent winds offer beginner to expert riders near perfect flat-water conditions to hone their skills. Advanced kiteboarders will enjoy riding the Laguna Madre and the waves of the Gulf of Mexico. Experienced, certified instructors are available to teach you about this exciting sport. For the fun of it call South Padre Kiteboarding.

South Padre is not Padre Island

We want you to know that there is a MAJOR difference from Padre Island to South Padre Island. The difference is approximately 160 miles. Padre Island used to be 150 miles long many decades ago. It stretched from Corpus Christi, TX. south to Port Isabel, TX. Approximately 4 or 5 decades ago a ship channel was cut through the barrier reef island approximately 36 miles north from the south tip of the island. This cut is now called Port Mansfield, TX. This allowed ship access to the inter-coastal waters. There was NOT a bridge constructed over this channel. The isolated south tip of Padre Island was now renamed “SOUTH PADRE ISLAND.” Padre Island was reduced in length to approximately 120 miles long.

The reason I am attempting to explain this is due to conversing with folks.  They would say where do you live?  I would say South Padre Island.  They would say I love that place we ate here and we stayed at this hotel, etc.  I would look at them oddly because the places they mentioned I had not heard of.  I would then say you were at Corpus Christ, TX. right?  They would say Right!  I would then explain to them that they were NOT on South Padre Island.  You were on Padre Island!  South Padre Island is 160 miles south about 24 miles from the Mexican border at Port Isabel, TX.  They would look at me with eyes full of enlightenment and say Ohhhh!

This has been a point of confusion to many vacationers.  People have made reservations on planned vacations on Padre Island thinking they were going to South Padre Island.  If they would have only looked at a map and followed Padre Island down to the south they would have plainly seen South Padre Island.

So don’t be confused.  Look at a map and get your facts straight.  Don’t say, don’t confuse me with the facts!  Have the facts!  I hope this clears up the distance between the two Islands.  They are most definitely two separate places many miles apart and that is about a 2 ½ hour drive!

Another good point in checking the location out is if you fly into Corpus Christi, TX airport you are arriving to vacation at Padre Island.  However, if you fly into McAllen, Harlingen or Brownsville, TX than you are vacationing on South Padre Island.  This depends on what airline you fly.  Mc Allen which is the furthest from South Padre Island has  3 airlines servicing that airport.  Harlingen which is the next closest airport to South Padre Island is serviced by Southwest and Continental Airlines.  The Brownsville-South Padre island International airport, which is the closest airport to South Padre Island, is serviced by Continental airlines only.

It’s easy to remember that Padre Island is located at Corpus Christi, TX.  South Padre Island is located across the bridge from Port Isabel, TX.  Always check your map!

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