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Best Things to Do in South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island in Texas has a bit of reputation for being one of the go-to spots in the Lonestar state to party it up on Spring Break, but you should know that there’s far more to do in this fantastic Texas locale than just bar hopping and beach parties. If you’re a nature lover or enjoy outdoor activities like hiking or boating, South Padre Island should be right up your alley.

The weather here is usually mild, and the water is always the perfect temperature for swimming. If you’re an avid bird watcher, you’ll be pleased to learn that there are numerous species to discover in the region. Both resident and migrant birds including warblers, pelicans and oystercatchers can be spotted, so don’t forget to pack your binoculars.

South Padre Island is a barrier island right off the southern coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s separated from mainland Texas by Laguna Madre Bay. Although the island has slightly less than 3 square miles of land area, it’s home to countless recreational activities.

To reach the island, you can get there by taking the Queen Isabella Causeway from Port Isabel.

If a trip to Texas is in the cards for you, keep watching to see what we think are the best things to do on South Padre Island.

Queen Isabella Memorial Park

One of the first things that you will see when exiting the Queen Isabella Causeway while on your way to South Padre Island is this park with it’s popular selfie spot, the “Welcome to South Padre Island” sign.

The park is located on the median right past the bridge and is a great spot to stop on your way in to get your bearings.

The welcome sign that everyone and their brother like to take a picture with is framed by beautiful palm trees, making it a very photo-worthy spot.

There are several other attractions at the park, including a bronze statue of Padre Balli aka Jose Nicolas Balli. He was a settler and Catholic Priest for whom the island is named after.

There is also a memorial that pays respects to the individuals that lost their lives when the causeway collapsed in 2001.

South Padre Island Farmers Market

For a taste of the local flavor or to merely stock up on snacks and picnic grub, make a pitstop at the South Padre Island Farmers Market.

Here you’ll find stalls and vendors offering items like fresh local produce, artisan baked goods, cheeses, preserves, freshly caught seafood, and plenty more.

It’s not he largest market we’ve ever been to, but there are so many fresh products here that help support the local economy. The market also often features live music and other entertainment depending on the day.

The majority of vendors offer free samples of their products which makes shopping a breeze. We were particularly fond of the market’s citrus fruits like grapefruits and oranges. The fruits we tried were all sweet, juicy, and delicious.

And of course, how could we forget the kettle corn?

The market is open every Sunday from 11am to 1pm and is held in the Shores neighborhood.

Island Adventure Park

Adrenaline junkies take heed, Island Adventure Park, located on the north end of the island, is a great place to spend the day zip lining, go-karting, horseback riding, or mini-golfing. And yes, you heard that right, you can actually go horseback riding on the beach! What could be more romantic than that?

If you plan on spending a session enjoying a little equestrian fun, we recommend going for an early morning ride before the beach starts filling up with loads of people.

The Island Adventure Park also has plenty of fun and engaging things for kids to do as well, including a petting zoo and pony rides.

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Laguna Madre Nature Trail

If yuu’re looking for the best way to experience South Padre’s wilder side, there Is no better way to do so than by taking a stroll down the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. This boardwalk connects the South Padre Island Convention Centre to the Laguna Madre Wetlands.

Along this route, you’ll find many fantastic spots to go bird watching. More than 300 species can be spotted in the South Padre Island region throughout the year, and this is one of the best places on the island to observe them in their natural environment.

The trail is open 24/7, and access is completely free.

Adjacent to the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. Here you’ll find South Padre Island’s Birding and Nature Center, which features a five-story viewing area and a theater that shows short documentary films.

Not only will you see a wide variety of birds here but butterflies and other wildlife can also be seen here. Admission is very affordable at 6 dollars for adults and 3 for children.

Sea Turtle Inc.

Calling all sea turtle lovers, Sea Turtle Inc, established in 1977, strives to protect all species of marine turtles. If you’re hoping to see these majestic animals up close, then this is a stop you should definitely add to your itinerary.

Presentations are presented by volunteers that educate guests about turtle conservation, and kid-friendly activities teach your children how they can identify various species.

Your little ones will also love the scavenger hunts put on by the center as well. If you show up at the right time of year, you might even get a chance to see baby sea turtles as they released back into the wild.

Check their website in advance for an updated list of activities and events – especially if you’re hoping to see a hatchling release.

Isla Blanca Park

Situated on the southern edge of the island, this park is home to some of the regions best beaches as well as some of the premier fishing spots, boating facilities, and playground areas.

It’s also home to one of the most popular attractions on the island, the Christ of the Fisherman statue.

Isla Blanca Park is a fantastic spot to go kiteboarding or snorkeling, and after spending the day having a blast, you can always grab a bite to eat at one the area’s many restaurants or check in to a room at one of the lodging options.

Museum of Port Isabel

For a nice little break from beach life, check out the Museums of Port Isabel. There are three popular historic attractions to explore, the Post Isabel Historical Museum, Treasures of the Gulf Museum, and Post Isabel Lighthouse. If you plan on visiting all three, there is a package deal that will grant you access to the trio at a discounted rate.

The Post Isabel lighthouse was built back in 1852 as a means to help guide ships through the Brazos Sontiago Pass. It’s since been opened up to the public where visitors can explore it’s ground’s keeper’s lodge.

Due south of the Lighthouse occupying a former dry goods store, the Post Isabel Historical Museum is home to one of the most significant collections of Mexican-American War artifacts. They also have a small theater and, of course, a gift shop. Next door you’ll run into thye Treasures of the Gulf Museum which is an absolute must-visit if you’re traveling with children.

The museum gives you a glimpse of what it was like to live aboard a ship in the 16th century. You’ll also get a peek at some of the sunken treasure that’s been salvaged from the Gulf seafloor.

Beach Park At Isla Blanca

Did somebody say waterslides? When you and your family need a little dose of excitement, there is no better way to spend an afternoon on South Padre Island than by visiting Beach Park at Isla Blanca.

This full-featured water park has numerous water slides and rides, a surfing machine, a massive sandcastle play area, and even a hot tub bar to keep Mom and Dad occupied.

The park’s concession stands serve up a variety of tasty amusement park staples while the Shrimp Haus Restaurant is a great place to stop and enjoy a nice relaxing meal indoors. If you’re on a budget, the park doesn’t mind if you pack a picnic. How often do you hear of that?

Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center

If Sea Turtles Inc wasn’t enough to satisfy your wildlife itch, the Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center is a great place to go to see some of South Padre’s other aquatic residents. This kid-friendly facility features touch tanks where your little ones can meet starfish and hermit crabs.

Daily the center has presentations that teach about dolphins and other marine life indigenous to the area. All animals are treated with respect and dignity, so don’t expect a Sea World-style experience. This isn’t a place where you’ll see flipper do a few cheap tricks.

The Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center is open 7 days a week from 10am to 3pm. Admission is just $3 per person, and that money goes to helping feed and care for the resident animals.

The Largest Permanent Sandcastle At The South Padre Visitor Center

Not only is the South Padre Island Visitor Center an excellent spot to learn all about the local attractions, dining options, and lodging facilities, but it’s also home to one of the most popular attractions on the island.

Outside of the center, you’ll discover the world’s largest permanent sandcastle prominently displayed. This incredible work of art has sculptures that depict things like castles, fishes, lighthouses, and dragons.

Information about the artists that contributed to the project can be found on a placard nearby.

So what do you think? Does South Padre Island sound like the perfect place for your next family vacation? If you’ve already had the pleasure of visiting the island, what are some of your favorite things to see and do there? Let us know in the comments.

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As always, thanks for watching, and Happy Travels!